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What Music is Best For Babies?

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a baby holding a violin

You want to give your little one every chance to excel, so when you hear that classical music can turn babies into math wizzes, of course you want to jump on board - even though you'd rather hear Beyoncé! The good news: There is no concrete evidence to support claims for the so-called Mozart Effect. Still, while playing classical music to babies does not necessarily make them any smarter, hearing music - including Beyoncé - can help your child develop in many important ways.

Beyond the Mozart Effect

Music is an essential part of us. It gives joy, connection and togetherness," says Ted Rosenberger, a Seattle area infant music instructor. He adds that when babies are exposed to music, as they grow they are more likely to want to make their own. At the very least, he says, early exposure to sounds they can appreciate helps babies grow aesthetically so they can "appreciate all arts that touch the human spirit.”

Here are a few more reasons to make the right music a big part of your Baby’s life from day one:

  • Music helps build the whole brain. That's because listening to music involves both hemispheres at once and so exercises the part of the brain that deal with language as well as the part that processes numbers.

  • Music may help with memorization, which helps with reading. Songs and rhyming lines are commonly used to promote a healthy memory in people of all ages.

  • Music can help develop a sense of rhythm - especially  when it involves chanting, clapping or dancing.

  • Enjoying music together helps you and your baby to bond - of course, that's true of  any activity that you both enjoy.

  • Music changes moods. If she’s cranky, singing a silly song could put a smile on your baby's face.

  • Music can be calming. If it’s near bedtime, a lullaby can lull a fretful baby to dreamland. You can buy or download a rich selection of American and lullabies from all over the world, but the ones sung by Mom or Dad are the best.

Add Music to Playtime

"Music is an essential part of us. It gives joy, connection and togetherness," says Ted Rosenberger, a Seattle-area infant music instructor, adding that when babies are exposed to music, they are more likely to want to make their own as they grow. At the very least, he says, early exposure to sounds they can appreciate helps babies grow aesthetically so they can "appreciate all arts that touch the human spirit.”

  • Sing to your baby! Any song will work. It’s not about the words; it’s about Baby hearing your lilting voice. Don’t worry if you’re not musically inclined or don't know all the words to “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” - your little one won’t judge you.

  • Turn on the radio and dance with Baby in your arms.

  • Keep a radio, mp3 or CD player in the baby’s room so that music is available at any time of day.

  • Bang away on pots, pans, boxes and any other upside-down containers that can become drums. Turn on some music and, if your baby's already sitting up, show her how to beat out the rhythm.

  • Buy musical toys. Rhythm sticks, shakers, bells and a xylophone are excellent options.

  • Introduce Baby to songs with rhythmic chants and hand gestures like “Itsy Bitsy Spider,” “Pat-A-Cake” and “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” An older sibling can have fun joining in.

  • Many books about musical activities for babies and children are available, including those by Dr. John Feierabend, who is an authority on music and movement development in early childhood.

Create Your Baby’s Playlist

It’s a great idea to expose your baby to different types of music. Most likely any style will have a positive effect, and varying the genres will keep things interesting for you both. You never know, your little one may develop a particular liking for T.I. or Bach. It’s good to experiment.

While your selections don’t always have to be traditional lullabies, some things may not be as appropriate or pleasing for small ears. Here are some tips and suggestions:

  • Avoid playing anything too loud, and steer clear of music that sounds chaotic.

  • Stick with music that has basic melodies and rhythms, but varying tempos to keep things interesting.

  • Try dance music you can groove to. Rosenberger recommends dancing with Baby to the big-band sounds of Benny Goodman and Fletcher Henderson!

  • Babies seem to enjoy a lot of world music - from African dance to reggae and Latin sounds. Rosenberger suggests the Smithsonian Folkways series of global folk CDs. Putumayo Kids also has a wonderful selection of lullaby and dance CDs from around the globe, and The Rough Guide's selections are also worth trying.

  • Plenty of companies sell music created specifically for children and babies. For example, Rockabye Baby! specializes in lullaby versions of your favorite rock and alternative music tracks. Lovely Baby CDs offers diverse genres and music styles, including classical and contemporary.

  • Best of all, play Baby some of your favorite sounds. Classic rock, indie, reggae, R & B, Latin and pop tunes often have steady beats and melodies that are perfect for the very young. And there's nothing better than sharing what you love with your child. 

 
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