Can Listening to Music Make Your Baby Smarter? Experts discuss the impact of music
Like many first-time parents, Caitlin Abber, 37, never imagined her foray into motherhood would include a global pandemic. So when the mother first had to take care of her daughter, Simone, and work from home, the anxiety and overwhelming was high. But just as COVID-19 has brought a host of unforeseen challenges for moms, an unlikely source of support has also arisen: music.
“Our daughter started walking this winter when we were really stuck inside so we started having what we called ‘parties’,” Abber told TODAY Health. “Basically we would put on music, bring snacks and the three of us dancing for as long as possible. She absolutely loved it.
Abber said some type of music can be heard in her house most of the time, and much to the delight of 15-month-old Simone. “She’s rocking her hips side to side, and sometimes she stompes her foot,” she said. “Every now and then, she clings to the TV cabinet and does a modified twerk. She also enjoys clapping and bouncing up and down. At this point I can say, “Simone, are you dancing? And she will do any of the above, music or not.
Whether it’s happily jumping on their parents’ early emo favorites or being mesmerized by another rendition of “Elmo’s Song,” babies seem to have a natural fascination with everything music related. But what happens to a baby’s brain when it listens to music, and how can parents use music not only to soothe their child, but also to help them reach key milestones? physical and cognitive development? TODAY spoke with a few experts to explain why music benefits babies and parents, even under the most difficult circumstances.
What happens to your baby’s brain when it listens to music?
“The biggest thing we know about what music does to the brain is that music increases blood flow,” Cheryl Gelber, early childhood educator and director of the New York Center for Infants & Children told TODAY. Toddlers. “And what the research has found is that when children are engaged in teaching music, we can positively influence the way brain signals flow and how the brain processes information. has music and the brain activates, all parts of the brain activate. ”
A 2016 study by the Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences at the University of Washington found that music improved the ability of 9-month-old babies to process both music and new speech sounds.
“This means that early and engaging music experiences can have a more holistic effect on cognitive skills,” said Christina Zhao, postdoctoral researcher at I-LABS and lead author of the study. And a 2012 study from McMaster University found that 1-year-old babies who participate in music lessons “smile more, communicate better, and show earlier and more sophisticated brain responses to music.”
Just like going to the gym regularly helps build muscle, listening to music regularly helps babies’ brains experience what Gelber calls a “complete brain training” that can help your baby in a number of ways.
“Because their brains are still developing, you allow this reinforcement to help develop their language skills, cognitive skills, social understanding and emotional functioning,” explained Gelber. “So that almost prepares them and makes them more apt to learn from other experiences that also promote those areas of development. “
Can listening to music help a baby roll over, crawl, walk, or take other physical steps?
Abber said that to her surprise, the music actually helped her baby learn to move his body better. “I actually think her toy piano was a big factor in how she learned to sit, stand and now climb,” she said. “She loves using it as a piano, but also as a stepladder.”
Gelber noted that listening to music can actually help a baby improve his understanding of his body and how he can move his body.
“Music makes you dance, bang, shake, shake or squirm, so you develop body awareness,” she said. “They learn how their body parts move, and if they dance, they learn gravity and balance. They simply gain better control and understanding of their body by engaging in these movements as they engage in music.
Does Listening To Music Really Make A Baby Smarter?
If you’re a parent, you’ve probably been told at least once that playing Mozart, Yo-Yo Ma, or other types of classical music will make your baby smarter. But is it true?
“Basically, yeah, I guess you could say that,” Gelber says. “But the truth is, listening to Mozart or listening to music stimulates brain activity. It promotes healthy brain activity. So we really need to think about what it means to become ‘smarter’: we can be smart in different ways and our brains get activated and all these different parts of the brain get stronger. So yes, you could say that listening to classical music makes you smarter, but in reality it strengthens the brain and makes those areas of the brain work healthier and stronger.
Can music help soothe your baby in times of stress?
During the pandemic, Abber said they have to test her 15-month-old baby for COVID-19 on more than one occasion – a process any parent of a young child will tell you is less than ideal. But music, once again, came to the rescue.
“Raffi’s ‘Bananaphone’ was a song that always made her smile, so we played it in the car while she was getting dabbed,” she explained. “It helped distract her and cheer her up every time.”
A 2020 study published in the journal Nature Human Behavior found that infants relaxed when played a lullaby, regardless of the language in which the lullaby was played. And a 2015 University of Montreal study found that singing a song to soothe baby kept a baby calm for twice as long as when a parent simply talked to their baby.
“The sounds of music, the temperature, the intonations, the volume or the softness or the speed, can all create a certain mood and this helps children learn what it feels like to feel turned on or what it feels like to be. feel calm, ”Gelber said. “Music can help understand emotions in this way. “
Music also releases ‘feel-good’ hormones like oxytocin – a hormone linked to positive and happy feelings – while simultaneously suppressing toxic hormones, like cortisol, which is often associated with stress and can decrease function. cerebral. “We know that cortisol and stress on the brain can inhibit brain development,” explained Gelber, “so engaging in music can help reduce the release of these toxic chemicals and promote the release of chemicals. ‘more healthy chemicals, which then makes the brain activate in a healthy way.
Why should you join in the musical fun
Gerber said that by listening to music, your baby makes connections that turn into memories. When you join in the fun, they associate the feelings they get from listening and dancing to music – joy, happiness, excitement – with your presence.
“When people make meaningful connections with a baby, perhaps through music, dance, instruments or singing, babies make those connections and their brains develop more, creating a positive association with people,” he said. explained Gelber. “It strengthens social understanding, it strengthens emotional understanding, and it really helps promote long-term healthy mental health for babies.”
What you should consider before playing some tunes for your baby:
While any music is good for your baby, Gerber said there are a few things to consider when selecting songs or a baby-friendly playlist. These things include:
- Pay attention to words and what suits your child’s developmental level.
- Choose songs with repetition, so children can practice the words.
- Choose music that matches their range of vocals.
“Sometimes what we find is that children learn to sing before they learn to speak,” added Gerber.