Eva Benmeleh is a licensed clinical psychologist with a specialization in the 0-5 age range.
According to experts, music is more than a simple pleasure for developing brains. In fact, listening to and engaging with music can have developmental benefits for your 9 month, 3 week old. Bundoo Child Psychologist, Eva Benmeleh, talks about how music can benefit your toddler.
Bundoo: Is there an age at which babies and toddlers start to recognize music as music? How can parents tell if their baby is actually listening to music?
Eva Benmeleh: There are many studies that have found that babies actually prefer (and remember) music they heard while in their mom’s womb after about 20 week’s gestation, or the last couple of months before birth. Babies have a preference for music, that is “baby like,” meaning soft toned, conversational, repetitive, and consonant. Babies recognize when music is off key or if there are different versions of the songs being played, like how your baby may react differently to a remix versus an original song.
Parents can tell if their baby is listening by focusing on their cues: are they grooving to the music? Bopping their head, flapping their hands and feet? Are they focusing intently on the source of the music? Smiling? Were they crying, and did this particular song calm them down?
Research has shown that music can help babies in a number of ways, from helping them get to sleep, to forming tighter bonds, and even gaining weight. Is there any truth to the idea that music can also help make a baby “smarter”?
Though the “Mozart effect” gained a lot of popularity in the 1990s, limited studies found that children who listened to classical music performed better on IQ tests, subsequent studies found no correlation and any improvement was short lived and mostly limited to spatial awareness. It’s important to expose your baby to different sensory experiences and let the different musical styles affect their overall brain development.
Do you think it matters what type of music babies are exposed to? Some parents swear that classical music is better, while others are happy to expose their babies to whatever they’re listening to. Does it really make a difference if it’s Mozart or rap or jazz?
Not necessarily. It’s great to expose your baby to all types of music and see what resonates more with their style. Babies have innate music preferences just as adults do. Also, it helps the parent-child relationship if you can share your musical preferences with them and groove together to the music.
Can listening to music in a different language help a baby actually learn that language?
Yes, but that cannot be the only thing a parent does to immerse the baby in the second language. Books, conversations, cultural events, and other means of exposure to the new language must be implemented consistently and constantly for the baby to learn new words and solidify a new vocabulary in another language.