It’s More Than Music to Your Baby’s Ears
Do you remember as a child the first time you picked up a seashell and listened to the sound of the ocean inside it? How calming and soothing and wonderful it was? We have many pleasant associations with sound. But sounds, and music in particular, play a much deeper, more meaningful role in our cognitive and emotional development than we realize.
We are born with hundreds of billions of neurons, electrically excitable cells in our brain. While we will always have around the same number of neurons, a baby is born with its neurons in a largely “unwired” state. The paths that connect these neurons and determine or personality, our intelligence, our creativity and so on have only begun to form by birth. These connections, which will remain with us for our entire lives, form rapidly in the early years, making the first few years of life a critical time to introduce the right stimulation into a child’s development.
According to Lorraine Wallach of the Alliance for Early Childhood:
“Stimulation for infants, toddlers and preschoolers begins with sensory stimulation and includes language, motor and cognitive activities that incite the neurons to connect to other neurons…If proper stimulation is not available, children’s brains do not grow to their full potential. Then the complexity of the neuron connections is reduced and that, in turn, influences intelligence.”
There is strong evidence that music is among the most powerful of all forms of stimulation that positively affect cognitive development. Nearly 20 years ago psychologist Dr. Frances Rauscher, previously a concert cellist, did a series of experiments in which laboratory rats actually performed better in a maze after listening to Mozart. This worked formed the basis for “The Mozart Effect,” the phenomenon that listening to music stimulates the abstract reasoning center of the brain in a way that measurably increases intelligence.
Subsequent studies with human subjects yielded similar results. In one study, students who listened to Mozart while taking a trigonometry exam performed demonstrably better than a similar control group taking the same exam without listening to music.
While this work is relatively new in the field of child psychology and development, specialists generally agree that listening to music in the first years of life can have a hugely positive and lasting effect on a child’s development.
Here are a few ideas to help you take advantage of the power of music to enrich your baby’s development and make the most of your time together during those important early years.
Play and Share Music With Your Baby
You can make time with your baby at home, in the car, or out for a walk even more enjoyable by making music a regular part of your routine. Make a commitment to take advantage of the positive effects music will have on your baby. Plan your baby’s musical experiences by having both music playing devices and musical instruments available, choosing the right music, and deliberately setting aside time to enjoy it.
Be Thoughtful About the Music You Play for Your Baby
Studies have found that classical music, particularly the string music of composers like Bach, Mozart, Vivaldi and Strauss, will have the most positive effects on your baby’s development. You might prefer Mötley Crüe, and later on you should introduce your child to all of the music you love, but in the formative years you should carefully consider the music you choose and the effect it will have.
Use Your Smartphone for Music
Use music, and your smartphone, as positive forces in your daily life. We live in a time where we take our phones with us everywhere we go. Many of us are obsessed with staying in touch with friends and family through Facebook, Twitter and text messaging. Our phones can contribute to a degree of isolation from those around us, even our children. Instead, use your phone to share music with your baby with the Lil’ Jammerz musical friends. You will be contributing to your infant’s cognitive development and bringing the two of you closer together.
Integrate Music and its Appreciation into Your Baby’s Life
There are so many ways for you and your baby to enjoy music together. You can join up with other parents and listen to music as a group. Encourage your baby to play with noisemakers like rattles and drums, and when your child is ready, bring musical instruments and lessons into the picture.
Of course, always sing to and with your baby. (We all know how powerful a lullaby can be.) And even in the earliest years of your baby’s development, you can find ways to listen to live music together at local performances and child-friendly concerts.