Can music really make our babies smarter? Many parents and educators believe music certainly has the power to stimulate the growth and development of all areas of a child’s brain.
Music can boost emotional development by calming and soothing a baby; it can stimulate language development through exposure to repeated, elongated words and syllables, pitch and tones. Rhythm can also encourage coordination of physical movement. But does it justify the so-called Mozart effect?
The Mozart Effect
Scientists from the University of California at Irvine first reported the Mozart Effect in 1993. In their study they found out that college students who listened to a Mozart sonata for a few minutes before taking a test that measured spatial relationship skills did better than students who took the test after listening to another musician or no music at all. The effect in the students was temporary – it lasted between 10 to 15 minutes.
The results of this study has always been controversial. The media and various ‘experts’ have since claimed that listening to Mozart’s music offered numerous benefits. Even if the original study did not look at the effect of Mozart on babies, a popular notion was born that infants would be smarter if they listened to classical music.
Even Frances Rauscher, co-author of the original study and now assistant professor of cognitive development at the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh, agrees with her critics on one point: There is no evidence that playing Mozart in the nursery is going to raise an infant’s IQ. The researchers who did the original study in 1993 never claimed it would.
Music beyond the Mozart Effect
The Mozart Effect implies an immediate and miraculous boost in brain power. This is not true nor relevant, but this doesn’t mean music is useless. The benefits lie in continuous exposure which stimulates the baby on different levels, encouraging him to learn and interact.
Teachers report that babies who were exposed to baby music classes (like Gymboree and Kindermusik) are able to discriminate sounds more easily and at a more sophisticated level which leads to advanced language skills. The dances and movements done in class likewise help develop balance and coordination which leads to early development of motor skills like crawling and walking.
Music + Mommy
Music is even more powerful when it is coupled with parent-child bonding. For babies, all learning occurs when they are emotionally connected and involved in an experience – what better way to stimulate and activate our children’s learning than through beautiful music that can awaken the soul and mind, while creating positive, powerful connections between parent and child through something as simple, but poetic, as a dance, an embrace, and a song.
photo from wired.com