Whether you sing lullabies to your child, play a classical music CD in the nursery or crank up your own favorite tunes on the radio, research shows that introducing your baby to music has long-term developmental benefits.
In a 2013 study in the journal Pediatrics, researchers found that live music and lullabies can improve a premature baby’s vital signs while fostering parent-child bonding. Singing lullabies to these fragile infants also helps ease Mommy and Daddy’s stress during this difficult time.
Similarly, investigators from McMaster University in Canada reported that 6-month-old babies who were placed in a participatory music class (like Kindermusik®, Music Together®, or Gymboree® classes) boasted superior communicative gestures and social behavior compared to babies not experiencing the music class.
Music also improves cognitive skills, teaching even young children about patterns and sequencing, counting, body awareness, and memory. In one study, babies as young as 8 months old recognized snippets of a song two weeks after hearing the song.
Music can also help babies and toddlers—who don’t have the language skills to express their emotions—describe how they’re feeling. In fact, in a 2008 study, even 5-month-old babies were able to differentiate between happy and sad music.
To help your infant or toddler experience the powerful benefits of music, try some of these strategies:
- Play music when your child is experiencing stress—at naptime or bedtime, on your way to daycare or any time your baby needs help calming down.
- Let your little one play with instruments—everything from maracas and tambourines to dry beans inside a tightly closed water bottle—will help show cause and effect (shaking the bottle causes it to make noise).
- Sing songs that incorporate hand gestures, such as “The Wheels on the Bus” to help babies learn hand control.
- Choose songs that teach your toddler about body parts and improve coordination, such as “Hokey Pokey” or “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.”
- Music can help calm a child at bedtime or in stressful situations.
- Infants and toddlers can benefit from playing with instruments and noisemakers.
- Everything from simple lullabies to structured music classes plays a big role in a child’s development.
- Sing! It is good for your baby and for you.