Music is designed to invoke emotions. Upbeat tunes make us happy. Lullabies make us sleepy. Thoughtful lyrics make us ponder. Patriotic scores make us proud. The same is true for babies. Music can change a baby’s mood in quite the same way it can change yours. And beyond a mood enhancer, benefits of music for babies include being more communicative and joyful and having a better trained musical ear.
Next time your little one is having a crank attack, try putting on some jazz or pop music and see what she does. The upbeat tune may be just want she needs to snap out of her bad mood. A harmonious blend of uplifting music that your baby can hear, feel and – should you feel inclined to dance – see, is pleasing to babies and parents alike. Even before your baby can shake a musical instrument, sing a note or dance about herself, having singing and dancing parties with baby in your arms can be a fun, invigorating and rejuvenating activity for all.
And most parents know that soft lullabies are a great way to soothe a baby to sleep. Hearing the sweet sound of your voice, or a recording if you prefer, can take babies from extreme wakefulness to dreamland in just a short time. Playing or signing lullabies around bedtime can train your baby to associate these sounds with sleep, making an easier transition when you leave the room. An advantage of you singing to your baby is that she can feel the vibration of your voice during breastfeeding or skin-to-skin contact. This peaceful moment can sync your bodies and transfer calming feelings between the two of you. Singing makes a terrific bonding experience between babies and partners as well.
Babies can hear voices and music while in the womb. Researchers believe that babies can even distinguish their native language from this early exposure to sound. Almost any type of music is great for your baby and it’s good to expose babies to a variety of styles. Kids music, nursery rhymes and lullabies work well, and so does classical, jazz, pop, classic rock, religious and big band music. Experiment with sounds your baby likes to hear. Just like reading and learning, a love of music starts at a young age from repeated interaction and exposure.
While most children are not ready for formal music lessons until their early elementary school years, there may be more benefits of music for babies in an interactive learning through play setting. In an infant musical study, babies who took a music class in an interactive setting – doing hand motions to songs and playing simple instruments with the help of their parents – showed more early communication skills, greater emotional stability and were more social with their peers than babies who only passively listened to music. The interactive group also had a better understanding of the structure and pitch of music, which was determined by their preference to listen to songs in key than with stray notes.
The jury is still out on whether or not music can make babies smarter, but research shows music improves cognitive skills and test-taking in older children. In a study done with children ages 5-7, music instruction improved neurological communication between the right-brain and left-brain. Music also improves early math skills in young children due to repetition of counting beats, creating patterns and memorizing numerical finger placements.
The key to early music exposure is keeping it fun and consistent. Make music a part of your lives by incorporating songs into your daily routines, and having designated times for interactive musical play. As your baby develops and is able to grasp objects, encourage her to shake rattles, bang on drums and even play a few notes on a piano if you happen across one. Embrace opportunities to see live music at festivals, parades and other events in your community.
Music is a universal language that can bring much happiness into your home. Whether it’s soulful and sweet or a rockin’ good time, keep playing that beat and watch your little one blossom into a music lover.