Meredith LeVande is a musician who writes and performs music for children as young as one-year-old. Many parents tell her that her music has a very calming effect on their babies, and research Meredith has done online supports these claims!
Babies and Music
Meredith recently talked to LoveToKnow Baby about music and children.
Please tell us about yourself.
My name is Meredith LeVande, and I'm a singer/songwriter. I started the earlier part of my career touring colleges and performing at coffeehouses. The topics that I used to write and sing about seemed to feel heavy after awhile, and I was looking for a way to step outside myself a bit. One day I was performing for a town festival that had several young children and families in the audience. I started improvising traditional children's songs and absolutely fell in love with seeing how responsive children are to music.
How did you get interested in forming connections between children and music?
After this experience piqued my interest, I started learning more children's songs and became interested in developing my own material. In retrospect, the leap from mainstream music to children's music makes sense considering the topics I used to write about in my adult music. I was always interested in the pursuit of one's true identity and one's authentic self. Since kids haven't gone through life's filtering process, they just want to hear what's good. They are closer to a source that I try and access when I perform and write.
Why should children be exposed to music?
More and more studies expose how influential music is on the human brain. Although there are some specialists reticent to say that there is a direct link between music and other areas of academic achievement, I have no problem saying that this correlation absolutely exists. Granted there are other variables that go into an equation of high academic success, but simple observation of any early childhood classroom demonstrates firsthand how effective music can be at just getting kids to focus.
Children learn when they can focus. There is something extremely magical about seeing children respond to music and its effects are instant. Just last week, I was walking on 6th Ave. and there was an early childhood teacher trying to get toddlers to walk in a line. She corralled them all by singing "Little Bunny Foo Foo." They immediately began to do what she needed them to do. Thus, music brings about order. Since music was a part of human evolution, children have a very primal connection to it.
How can music positively affect babies, especially premature infants?
Parents often contact me to perform for their child's first birthday party. They reach out to me often because their children are already highly responsive to music. These parents often spend time dancing with their babies and singing to them.
People mistakenly believe that because infants can't remember things outright, that they may not be receiving the full experience of the music. However, music is the one art form that children immediately access and experience in the moment. One of the things I feel great about is how many moms tell me that, when they put on my CD, their baby stops crying.
Anything that can soothe a baby organically is a good remedy. I'm not an expert on premature infants, but there are mothers who play music for their babies in-utero. When babies are born, the first thing they recognize is their mother's voice since they have heard it so intimately for the duration of the pregnancy.
I believe that all mothers should sing to their babies and not be self-conscious of their voices. There's nothing more pleasing to babies than the sound of their own mothers-they are mommy's biggest fans and the voices that their children want to hear. On another note, a dear friend of mine just had her first baby a few months ago; he is a fussy baby. The minute we started singing to him (over the phone!) he stopped crying.
What is Monkey Monkey Music?
Monkey Monkey Music is the name of my project which is always evolving and growing. I decided to call my children's music Monkey Monkey Music because when the kids would respond to the music they reminded me of fun, adorable, happy monkeys. To me, monkey is a term of endearment but also signifies our interconnectedness to one another and to the past, present, and future. Both monkeys and children are uninhibited. With my music, I want everyone to "monkey out" and go back to that primal place.
What are some simple ways in which parents can include music in their children's lives?
The best thing one can do as a parent is encourage music making as both a separate activity and just something to fill the spaces in-between our everyday lives. It doesn't have to be a grand thing. It can be as simple as singing a lullaby or paying attention to the music in your everyday surroundings. You don't have to play an instrument or be a performer. Just sing to and with your children.
Do you have any other tips or advice you'd like to share with our readers?
If there is a tip I can offer to parents, particularly when they are in group situations, whether it be at a party, or at a class, or a concert, it's that parents really play a crucial role in whether their kids will connect to music.
One of the biggest challenges I personally face is getting parents to understand that little ears don't have the ability to discriminate background and foreground noise. When parents talk to other parents while there is someone trying to engage their children in music, the children begin to hear the talking and not the music. Thus, the parents can often be an obstacle in these situations.
So, if you're having a musical party or gathering, I definitely recommend having a separate one space for the parents who don't want to participate in the music so the kids can really absorb and remain engaged in all the fun. I also find it sad how culturally we've really moved away from allowing a collective conversation and exchange to happen. Children model what their parents do. If parents are engaged, their children will form a connection to the music.
For more information on Meredith and her music, visit Monkey Monkey Music.