Sing to your baby: The connection between music and brain development

Originally printed in the pages of Simply Family Magazine’s November 2017 issue.

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The sweet interaction between a mother and her baby when the mother sings to the infant is a universal behavior. And researchers now know that this simple, most natural activity is mutually beneficial to both mother and child. Singing provides the sensory stimulation that helps baby to focus attention-enabling learning, and the mother feels empowered as she creates a positive bond with her baby.

Benefits of Musical Experiences 

Studies are showing that a broad array of musical experiences can build connections in the brains of young children aged 0-6 and that these connections are vitally important for later learning of all kinds. Incorporating music into the fabric of your daily family life can bring social and educational benefits to your children in surprising ways.

  • Soft music can calm and soothe children - from fussy babies to high-strung older children - serving as a stress-reducer.
  • Music can help children focus attention, a necessary skill in any learning process.
  • Hearing music and responding to it accelerates brain development, especially in language acquisition, reading, and math skills.
  • Music provides healthy ways to interact with others, both adults and peers.
  • Moving to music builds motor skills and allows healthy self-expression.
  • Music interactions build memory skills.
  • Music provides a vehicle for the expression of many emotions, especially joy.

Early Brain Development  

Neuroscientists now believe that crucial brain development takes place in the early years between ages 0-6. These years offer a window of opportunity to build connections in the brain that will serve the child throughout a lifetime.

New connections are made in the brain based on what the child sees, hears and touches. Music is a crucial way to introduce new learning experiences to your child in both fun and productive ways. We now know that children who engage in musical activities from birth to age six have a head start on social competence, cognitive skills, and emotional well-being. Besides, music is fun!

Here are some games and activities to bring more music into the culture of your family life:

  • Play music for babies and toddlers. Encourage them to sway, bounce, clap and otherwise respond to the rhythms.
  • Make up songs as you go about your daily routines. They might relate to bath or nap times, meal times or play times. “It’s time for your bath, bath, bath,” to the tune of a favorite song.
  • Sing familiar songs and insert silly words. “Mary had a little ____.”
  • Play music and provide household items or simple rhythm instruments for your children to play.
  • Learn songs to sing together as a family. These work wonders during commute times in the car.
  • Sing “movement” songs to build simple dance routines. “Wiggle, hop and turn around.”

Have fun with music because, "In the first six years of life, a child's brain develops more and faster than at any other time in life. The early experiences a child has—the things seen, heard and touched, stimulate the brain, forming connections. Healthy brain development establishes a child's social competence, cognitive skills, and positive emotional well-being." (Quote from clinical psychologist Seema Hingorrany)

Let music of all kinds form a backdrop to your daily family life. Have some musical fun with your kids and build their brainpower.

about the author...Jan Pierce, M.Ed., is a freelance writer specializing in education, parenting and family life topics. She is the author of Homegrown Family Fun and Homegrown Readers. Find Jan at www.janpierce.net.