June 5, 2020 — By Wendy Sachs
You know that just the right song at the right time can make an infant stop crying, make a toddler stop whining, make a 5 year old start dancing and make a teenager, well nothing can make a teen do anything but they do love their music. Music is important to all humans and it starts right from birth.
Studies have shown us that music affects nearly every part of development for children. Even music in the womb can lead to babies who are advanced in motor skills and linguistic and intellectual development. Infants are building pathways in the brain and listening to any kind of music makes a strong roadmap for the future. Classical music is more structured than other styles and babies as young as 3 months can puck out that structure and recognize musical selections they have heard before. This may lead to problem solving skills in spatial reasoning.
Toddlers learn coordination by moving their bodies and what better way to move than music and dancing. The rhythms that are laid out in music help children move in coordinated ways and strengthen muscles and they move. Giving kids instruments can increase coordination of those fine muscles at the same time.
What is the reason for nursery rhymes? One important reason is the songs with repetition and sequences of sounds that prime toddlers for learning languages. Scientists have also proven that exposing children to music from other cultures makes learning different languages easier later as they are exposed to unique sounds that they may not easily hear around the neighborhood. The repetition and call and response nature of those nursery rhymes teaches kids about sentence structure and proper conversational patterns and rules.
We do know that putting in a tape of Mozart and walking away from baby does not have the same results for babies as playing with your child while listening. Moving together to music triggers the release of oxytocin- the same hormone produced while nursing. They call this the bonding hormone and it will help the brain to grow. This social bonding increases the benefits of the music and helps keep kids calm and relaxed so the brain can do its work.
This is also why, now more than ever, we should have music every day. Music eases our stress. We are living in a time of chronic stress and its effects cannot be ignored. Kids and adults need to find ways to release all the overwhelming emotions and worry that are piling up on us. Whether it is jumping around the kitchen to Laurie Berkner, cuddling as we sing “Here Comes the Sun” or connecting with our 8 year old’s love of Taylor Swift, music is the key to smiles, deep breaths and peace.