The Benefits of (Classical) Music for Babies
The Importance of Music
Music is a part of human culture regardless of geographic location, cultural preferences or access to new technologies. We use music to tell stories, to record events and mark significant occasions. It represents and interprets the full gamut of human emotion and experience. We hear it almost every day of our lives. Music represents the joyful aspects of life and helps us through difficult times. Many of us will recall memories that have their very own soundtrack.
Babies are no different. There is plenty of research available nowadays indicating the importance of music for babies’ and children’s development. Studies have shown that a child’s exposure to music can positively impact brain development, most specifically enhancing language development and reading skills.
Music in the Womb
A fetus begins to develop the ability to hear at about 18 weeks, and from then on the womb is a noisy place. Their first perception of sound is of their mother’s heartbeat, and at around 24 weeks an unborn baby begins to actively listen and respond to sounds from outside the womb.
Research has shown the music played to a baby before birth will be remembered by the child up to 12 months after being born, showing preference for music they have heard pre-natally. Some researchers believe that playing music to your unborn child enhances bonding and development between mother and baby.
Introducing Children to Music
Babies and toddlers can be exposed to a variety of different music genres and lyrics needn’t be censored as highly at younger ages. In fact, the wider the musical pool, the better. Your little ones are completely unique and different kids will respond positively to different rhythms. Start with your favorite tunes as a great spring-board and you’ll love the bond you begin to develop over the same musical playlists.
Once your child is really improving their vocabulary though, you’ll likely want to shift to music specifically aimed at kids or songs and pieces that don’t have as many lyrics that might require age-appropriate censoring.
The Mozart Effect
First brought to worldwide attention in 1993 by researchers at The University of California at Irvine, the so-called ‘Mozart Effect’ hypothesized that listening to a piano sonata by the famed composer would temporarily increase the intelligence of its young listener. When the research was released, it caused a pretty big wave and multiple (but unprovable) claims dictated that classical music would make your child smarter.
The research and results have always remained controversial though and while classical music is often and effectively used to soothe a baby or young child to sleep (or away from a tantrum), there is little concrete evidence that your child’s intelligence will be permanently or significantly raised. Further researchers have been unable to duplicate the findings.
Once you’ve successfully developed a culture of listening to and appreciating music at home, you might be thinking of introducing your child to learning a musical instrument. Many of us have lousy memories of being forced to learn an instrument we hated though and every musical parent is keen not to repeat history with their own children.
Lots of kid-friendly music schools will offer pre-instrument classes where children can get to hear, touch and listen to the instruments before they even pick one up. Another great option and enjoyable for the whole family is taking your kids to live musical performances.
And lastly, one of the easiest instruments to introduce your child to is their own voice. Encouraging your child to hum or sing along in the car or at home will get them comfortable with how they sound and start to teach them about harmony and tune. And the best part? It’s free.