Sound and Listening for Newborns

I was listening recently to a podcast from the Suzuki Association of the Americas about the power of listening. The Suzuki Philosophy is founded on learning through immersion in listening, so we as teachers are always thinking about how close listening will guide our students. In this episode, they excerpt a Radiolab podcast where they talk about how newborn babies experience sound in a similar fashion to how they experience touch, and it made me appreciate our Suzuki ECE class even more deeply.

We’re always pointing out how development and learning is happening under the surface, just like our “Carrot Seed” book.  Development isn’t always easily visible by adults, but we know and trust that it is happening because of the environment we provide.  When we point that out in class, we might notice a student who isn’t yet playing the instrument all by themselves, but is looking intently at an instrument or at the people around them. We often use their eyes to give us a sign that they are learning.  But when newborns and babies in their first months are working on their developing eyesight, we as teachers and parents can’t rely on their eyes to show us that they’re learning. We know, even if they can’t show us, that their brains and bodies are learning from their sense of hearing and touch.  It might not be obvious to us as adults who are looking for visual signs of their development, but we know and trust that it’s happening!

The Suzukie ECE curriculum is designed with the youngest of babies in mind, so most activities rely on movement and touch in conjunction with musical sounds, to provide newborns (and all children!) a rich learning environment.  We go up and down with the glockenspiel, we keep the beat on their bodies for many rhymes and songs, we go around in circles with the beat of the drum and in and out with verses of songs, we draw on backs, we bounce to the beat, just to name the first few activities that come to mind. Even if their eyes don’t show it, we often see newborns and young babies moving their bodies towards sound, kicking their legs or using their muscles as they take in and process all of the sensory experiences around them.

Next time you’re in class, think about all of the multi-sensory experiences babies and children are having, and see if you can find new ways to observe signs of their growth!

SAA podcast:

Radiolab podcast:


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