Child development music brain

I will admit I believed all the hype about the supposed baby “Mozart effect,” that is, that listening to classical music helps to develop a baby’s brain. I didn’t so much as put the headphones on my pregnant belly, but I would definitely put on NPR when I was driving around with my baby on board.

Researchers at the University of California at Irvine first documented the Mozart effect in 1993. Their study reported that college students who listened to a Mozart sonata for a few minutes before taking a test, that measured spatial reasoning skills, performed better on the test than students who listened to another musician or to no music at all.

In reality, the effect on the students’ cognitive abilities was temporary, lasting only 15 minutes. And, in recent years, many scientists have debunked the Mozart effect and all the corporate hype.

However, that is not to say that listening to classical music—or to music in general—does not benefit infant brain development. Exposure to the complex sound patterns in classical music (which the baby’s developing brain must decipher) may help later on in life when it comes to deciphering language, math, and science in that both processes use the same spatial reasoning pathways. According to Diane Bales, PhD, “During the first years of life, the baby’s brain cells form connections with other brain cells. Over time, these connections that are used regularly become stronger. Children who grow up listening to music develop strong music-related connections which will help with other subjects that use spatial reasoning.”

Any form of positive stimulation is a good thing for a baby’s development, and music is particularly wonderful. Singing to your wee one is a beautiful way to communicate and bond with your baby, and it is widely accepted that there are benefits of actively playing music in the early developmental stages of childhood.

A child is naturally curious, and their first instrument may be as simple as a rattle. They instinctively react to music, and as any of you with a toddler knows, they love to move and dance to the beat.

In the early twentieth century, a German composer recognized the benefits of playing music in early childhood and created a music education program for children, known as the Orff Approach. The only person I know on the island who follows this approach is Miss Aubrey from La-ti-Da Music. Her music class for babies and tots (ages three months – two years) is great, and her piano class for kindergarten-aged kids is awesome. (Piano encompasses many techniques that help improve coordination and develop both sides of the brain. It also involves abstract reasoning skills necessary for learning math and science.) On a personal note, I have seen my six-year-old blossom with confidence and grow in Miss Aubrey’s class.

The positive effects of listening to and playing music in your young child’s life are numerous. Not only is it enjoyable, it facilitates bonding and is developmentally very supportive.

Image Credit: Malia Akinaka

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