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date: 12 November 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Mothers sing expressively while caring for infants. Initially, such singing is for emotion regulation: for promoting tranquility, sleep, playful engagement, or stress reduction, depending on the context. Infants’ responsiveness to such singing encourages further maternal singing. Mothers act as singing mentors even though their mentoring is initially intuitive versus deliberate, emphasizing pleasure/comfort over precision. Their singing also has intuitive didactic aspects in its emphasis on pitch and temporal structure of songs. The face-to-face context provides infants with performances featuring distinctive visual/vocal gestures. As imitators, infants mimic maternal performances, prompting mothers to become deliberate mentors who coax increasingly complex contributions from infants. Initially, infants make single-syllable contributions to such duets, progressing to phrases and songs. Well before age two, many toddlers produce singing that preserves pitch contours, rhythms, and approximate range of familiar songs. Subsequent educator mentoring can build on these achievements if relationship building and maintenance have priority over skill building.

Keywords: mothers, infants, toddlers, singing, emotion regulation, mentoring

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