Over the past few years, making music with ‘early years’ children (0-5 years old) and their parents has become a core part of our Learning & Participation programme, with projects like Musical Rumpus continuing to flourish and introduce hundreds of babies and toddlers to opera.
Working with this age group sprang from recognising a need within our home borough of Tower Hamlets to bring music to the youngest of ears, as well as a wish to research further into how music can be used in a child’s development.
Lullaby was our first project with babies and toddlers. It began in February 2010 on the Mary Northcliff Maternity Ward at the Royal London Hospital, and was part our ongoing partnership with Vital Arts, the arts organisation for Barts Health NHS Trust, charitably funded to deliver arts projects for the well-being of patients, staff and the wider hospital community. It’s a project that we have continued to develop and has provided inspiration for much of our early years work.
Lullaby worked with the families of 52 newborn babies, we encouraged parents to learn and create lullabies of their own to sing to their children, cementing the understanding that a parent’s voice is the most important and beautiful sound to their child.
Although some were initially apprehensive, all of the mothers and families of the babies soon joined in, and by the end of the first session had created a couple of their own songs. Parents were also encouraged to share traditional lullabies from their various backgrounds, including: Bengali, British, Polish, Russian and Somali. This encouraged parents to interact, share experiences and support each other.
Staff and parents alike learned from the sessions, as Christine Wood, Baby-friendly co-ordinator at the Royal London said:
“Many new mothers often lack the confidence that they are able to soothe and calm their own baby, so helping them to realise that they can by singing to their baby is a real morale booster. Postnatal wards are noisy and busy, and mums, babies and staff benefit from a more calming environment. When musicians come onto the ward, there is an immediate, perceptible change in atmosphere – it becomes quieter, calmer and everyone seems at ease – and the effect lasts well after their departure.”
As part of the project we produced CD and songbook collection of the lullabies created and shared by the parents. You can listen to some highlights below.
Our work with families at the Royal London and our partnership with Vital Arts has continued to develop, with recent projects such as last year’s The Song Weaver. We’re looking forward to returning to the hospital continuing our work with children aged under 5, their families and the staff at the Royal London Hospital in 2014-15.
Lullaby was in partnership with Vital Arts and was part of an action learning project supported by EYT Early Years Forum and Youth Music.