I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing

During several of our recent GGK Preschool trainings we’ve been showing the video the Long Reach of Early Childhood (beautiful, culturally diverse video by the way – here’s the link if you’re interested: https://youtu.be/SSwpPfjmqBo ). In the video there is a section where a Latina mother is singing a traditional lullaby to her baby and every time we play it, several of the Latina participants in the training have started to sing along. They shared that this is a very important part of their culture. Most cultures have traditional lullabies that are used to soothe babies, but have you ever wondered if there is any science behind that? This past week, one of the GKI founders and Board members, Betsy Dew shared some recent research that we thought you might find interesting. The research was conducted at the University of Montreal and their findings indicated that babies remained calm two times longer when they were listening to a song than they did when listening to someone talk (Corbeil, Trehub, & Peretz, 2015). The researchers were interested in finding out how singing affected babies’ emotional control in comparison to spoken words. In order to assure that the infants were not influenced by other factors like their mother’s voice, facial expressions, tone of voice, or the words spoken, they used recorded voices in an unfamiliar language (Turkish) while the mother sat behind them so the baby could not see her face. So here’s how it worked. With the mother seated behind the baby, they waited until the baby was calm, and then they played the Turkish recordings (normal adult type speech, baby talk, or singing) until the baby made a “cry-face.” Here’s what they found: when they played the Turkish song, babies stayed calm, on average, for about nine minutes. Corbeil said that “For speech, it was roughly only half as long, regardless of whether it was baby-talk or not”(AlphaGalileo Ltd, 2015).  “The lack of significant distinction between the two types of speech came as a surprise to us,” she added. (AlphaGalileo Ltd, 2015) They then also repeated the conditions with mothers using a familiar language (French) and got the same results. The researchers explain that this research leaves little doubt about how effective singing nursery rhymes is for keeping babies calm for longer periods. Researcher Peretz claims “These findings speak to the intrinsic importance of music, and of nursery rhymes in particular, which appeal to our desire for simplicity, and repetition.” (AlphaGalileo Ltd, 2015) The researchers believe that singing could be particularly useful for the parents who are challenged by adverse socio-economic or emotional circumstances. “Although infant distress signals typically prompt parental comforting interventions, they induce frustration and anger in some at-risk parents, leading to insensitive responding and, in the worst cases, to infant neglect or abuse,” Peretz said. “At-risk parents within the purview of social service agencies could be encouraged to play vocal music to infants and, better still, to sing to them.” (AlphaGalileo Ltd, 2015) Thanks Betsy for sharing this research with us. So Home Visitors…what do you think? There is speculation that Western mothers in particular speak more than they sing to calm their babies. Do you think their babies might be missing out on the emotion-regulating properties of singing? How might you incorporate these findings into your work with families? As always, feel free to email any topic suggestions or questions to danabroadway@greatkidsinc.net . Be sure to add Great Vine ideas to the subject line of the email.

Works Cited

AlphaGalileo Ltd. (2015, October 28). News Release – All Regions. Retrieved from                  AlphaGalileo.org: http://www.alphagalileo.org/ViewItem.aspx?ItemId=157788&CultureCode=en

Corbeil, M., Trehub, S. E., & Peretz, I. (2015). Singing Delays the Onset of Infant Distress. Infancy.      doi:DOI: 10.1111/infa.12114      

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