Music for Baby

Jasmine: I shall not go down Andrew’s route of promising that this shall be a “short’” post only to have it turn out to be essay-length. (Andrew: I was intending to keep that post short, not expecting you would add so much to it!) Although I am a big fan of DIY toys and un-toys (household/ untraditional objects used for babies’ play), I am willing to spend on one category of toys, namely, quality musical instruments.

Why? Well, this is not musical training- “training” being a word I’m wary of especially when used in relation to very young children, because I’m not out to raise a Mozart, and I don’t believe in forcing a young child to learn an instrument before he is developmentally ready, and more importantly, interested. (Andrew: I am hoping my children will love music and learn how to play an instrument. I’m personally quite sad that I never persisted in my piano lessons or continuing my er-hu after I left school!)

However, studies have shown that infants can recognise tunes from as early as two months old! Moreover, infants can not only differentiate good music from bad or out-of-tune music, but exhibit earlier communication skills and are easier to soothe with frequent musical exposure. Thus, we have amassed a small collection of musical toys for Dylan’s enjoyment!

IMG_4568 While in Bali, we bought him a hand drum and thumb piano from Ubud Market. Check out the intricate dot designs on both!

1. Drums

Dilly loves drums, or for that matter, any chance to make a loud noise. We have two drums. This hand drum was a souvenir from Ubud Market which cost a few dollars…

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And the Lollipop drum from Remo, a well known percussion company. Dylan adores drumming on this with his hands or with the mallet, as it has a resonant sound. It’s interesting that he has been playing with this drum for months now, whereas his interest in the Balinese drum was somewhat shortlived, probably because the sound quality of the Lollipop drum was so superior.

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Oops, hit his eye instead.

Andrew: The way he plays with these instruments also shows him slowly growing in his hand-eye coordination skills! Initially he used to only be able to bite on the drum sticks and we had to stop him from stuffing them into his mouth, especially the one from Ubud. Then he moved on to using his hands to smack on the drums or hold the drum and smack it against the floor, and now, he can hold on to the drum stick and hit the drum with it! Looking at him play with it though has also taught me how restricted we can be as adults – we see a drum and a drumstick and can only think of ‘one correct way’ to play with it, but for babies, there are so many ways to do it, and ultimately with the same result – making sound (or noise)!

Jasmine: Yeah anything that makes noise is a guaranteed baby-pleaser. Dyl is just as satisfied clanging on pots and pans, or yesterday, a set of metal biscuit tins. I was beating out a rhythm on four Redondo biscuit tins, and he was clapping and dancing (putting both fingers in the air and swaying his body, as you’ll see in the video later) along to my beat!

2. Thumb piano (kalimbas)

Jasmine: We heard from our Balinese driver that this thumb piano, or kalimbas, is a popular instrument played to help the Balinese relax. It has several metal prongs, each of which produces a vibrating sound when plucked. Interestingly, when one prong is plucked, its vibration sets off the prongs next to it, which vibrate in different tones as well, giving the thumb piano a very unusual, slightly discordant quality.

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Jasmine: At six months old when we bought it, we thought Dylan would be too young to pluck it, but he gamely figured it out.

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Jasmine: I love picking up musical instruments on our travels, even if they’re just tourist souvenirs, as it exposes Dylan to music of another culture. Plus, erm, they’re really cheap. My ultimate dream would be to buy Dylan an angklung– I’ve always enjoyed its timbre.

Andrew: This was his favourite toy when he was 6 months old when he couldn’t quite sit up straight yet and we had to prop him on the sofa, in between two cushions. I guess he liked this toy too because it gave him some ‘support’ to prevent him from falling forward. Heh. Anyway, I have too many shots of him playing with this ‘piano’, because he always looks so intently at it and plucks it with such vigour, as if he really thinks he’s playing a masterpiece.

 3. Xylophone

Jasmine: Or Glockenspiel, as it is otherwise called. Again, I’m happy to invest in quality instruments, as they stand the test of time (and toddler tantrums) and sustain a baby’s attention much longer due to the clear musical tones. There were many baby xylophones available on Amazon, but reviews noted that they were not in tune or had a tinny, shallow sound. This glockenspiel from Hohner, however, plays a full octave accurately and echoes nicely when struck. I’ve even heard Andrew try to play whole songs on it.

Agnes came over for a playdate and this was one of the first toys that both babies gravitated to (the others being my sensory basket of balls, and my lava sensory bottle, which I am very gratified and pleased about haha).

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Jasmine: The Hohner glockenspiel also comes with an easy-to-tote plastic bag and scores with a variety of popular jingles. The yellow stick for hitting the glockenspiel can also be attached to the back of glockenspiel so you don’t lose it- you can just about make it out in this picture, behind the red key.

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Andrew: Once again, Dylan’s progression and growth can be seen in the way he interacted with this toy. In his younger years (or, I mean, months), all he could do was smash it and bite the stick, but now he can take the stick and slam it on the keys – I think he knows he is making music. He used to love the colours too and would always crawl towards it when I started playing it. Well, now he also uses this as an ‘alternative’ walker – putting his hands on it then pushing it all around the home. Basically, anything that he can put his hands on to give him some stability to ‘stand up’ becomes an instant walker with him. 

4. Maracas

Jasmine: These bumblebee maracas were an accidental find when The Better Toy Store opened a booth at Parkway’s atrium. They had a “buy 2 and get 1 free” promotion, so I got these maracas, a bottle of German bubble solution and a coloring ball (crayons embedded in a ball for easier manipulation by baby fingers). Total cost was about $22 for all 3 items? These maracas are such a hit with Dylan because the reward from shaking it is so immediate. I kinda wish I had bought more to give away.

Agnes liked it… When Steffy said “party time!” Agnes started shaking one, then both maracas like a pro.

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And here’s Dyls having a blast with it. Sometimes he examines the bumblebee faces, and sometimes he just treats the stick end as a chew toy…

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Andrew: What an adorably cheerful boy! I remember he had a great time with the maracas at Blue House, and when we got him his own, he loved them a lot too! This was the toy that he used ‘correctly’ immediately, no chewing, no slamming – just immediately shaking it!

5. Piano

Jasmine: But of course, there’s no better thing than the real thing. Dylan loves the piano in my mum’s house, which must be at least 20 years old, as both my sister and I played it when we were in kindergarten and primary school.

Dylan loves sitting in Ee Ee’s lap while she plays the piano. He also likes standing at the piano like a maestro and banging on the keys with his hands or feet while Char plays.

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Andrew: And recently, he’s gotten into dancing too! Check out the video below!

Jasmine: Even when we don’t have musical instruments, Dylan loves for us to sing and dance with him, as we do the waltz, swing him around or throw him in the air. It’s a great way to bond!

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