Listening Fun with Music and Song

Now that your baby has access to sound provided by her cochlear implant, whether it is one or two implants, you are probably excited to start with activities to encourage the development of listening skills, speech and language. Many parents ask, “What can I do to help my baby learn to listen and enjoy sound?” Parents also ask, “How will I know when my baby hears a sound or how do I recognise a response?” Musical activities such as action songs, rhymes and finger plays are pleasant and fun activities to use with your baby from the very beginning. These activities encourage your child to listen, interact, vocalise more often, pay attention and imitate actions and sounds.

All babies will imitate actions from songs or rhymes before imitation of sounds and words. Feel comfortable using the ones you remember or know from your own childhood. Don’t worry if you “can’t sing well.” Your baby doesn’t care and the pleasure you both derive is well worth your effort. Repeat the same songs and rhymes over and over again. You will probably learn quickly which ones are your baby’s favourites.

After the child becomes familiar with the song, rhyme and finger plays, remove your actions and provide only the song or rhyme. Does your child initiate the appropriate action when she hears the song or rhyme only? If not, look expectantly at the child to cue her. If necessary, cue her again by giving one or two actions. This skill may develop before you hear many attempts to “sing along.”

Musical or sound toys and games are another way to stimulate your child’s early listening and sound awareness skills. We have provided a short video clip of a mother, her young child with an implant and an early intervention specialist as a demonstration.

Video Clips

Three short video clips that include “Itsy Bitsy Spider”, “The Morning Song” and “Five Little Monkeys.”

This mother has chosen to have the child sit in her highchair for the activity. This strategy certainly helps to keep the child contained and attentive. Some parents choose to have the child sit in their lap, at a child’s table, or together on the floor. The mother has placed herself beside the child which is a more advantageous listening technique than sitting across from the child. However, use strategies that seem natural and comfortable for you and your infant.

Cues for listening, such as pointing to the child’s ear, are helpful to establish a listening routine and to let the child know it is time to listen.

Pausing to give time for a response or reaction from the child is an important strategy for encouraging increased responses.

Imitation of the child’s actions or vocalisations by the parent can help reinforce the desired behavior.

Infant Responses

It is usual for babies to start to alert to sounds and learn to recognise some sounds within the first few weeks of implant use. The type of response you may see could include:

  • Swaying to the music or beat
  • Stopping activity or quieting
  • Eye widening / Eyes light up
  • Smiling
  • Increased activity
  • Watching intently
  • Imitating some actions (gesturing)
  • Increased vocalisations
  • Child using “listening cue” to parent (pointing to her ear)
  • Child indicates a loss of sound when the coil falls off (pointing to her ear)

Now, watch the video clips. What responses did you see? What did the mother do?
What else did you notice?

  • Does the Mother pause to allow child interaction or response time?
  • Does the Mother cue the baby?
  • Does the baby use the listening cue to indicate she hears?
  • Is the child attentive?
  • Does the child imitate finger actions at the appropriate time?
  • Do you see any reaction in the child’s face, i.e. smiles?
  • Does the child indicate that she hears the sound of the toy? How?
  • Does the child vocalise?

Video 1. "Itsy Bitsy Spider"

Video 2. "The Morning Song"

Video 3. "Five Little Monkeys"

Now, it is your turn. Try several short activities with your child. Repeat the same song or rhyme over and over and watch for changes in your child’s responses and interactions after a period of time. Make a list of responses your child makes over time. The songs and rhymes with finger actions such as the ones demonstrated help to hold the beginning listener’s attention. If you have a video camera, try taping the activity. You may see things you missed during the activity and other family members will enjoy seeing the tape.

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