Advice on the effect of musical stimulation on child development with information on the Mozart effect and in utero baby stimulation.
Music provides a fantastic source of entertainment and stimulation for a young baby and listening to music together is a fantastic way to interact and bond with your baby whilst helping their development. Although on its own music is unlikely to turn your baby into a genius overnight, exposing your baby to different types of music is a fantastic way to teach them about the world.
Music In Utero
Foetuses develop the ability to hear around the 5th month of pregnancy when they start to become aware of stimuli outside the womb. Many believe that in utero exposure to music (especially the classical variety) results in enhanced intellectual development.
Research findings such as those that suggest newborn babies recognise music played to them in the womb and that foetuses move and breath in time with music they enjoy have been taken as evidence for an 'increased level of cognitive development' resulting from in utero exposure to music. However, the evidence itself is widely open to interpretation (how do we really know what kind of music a foetus enjoys?) and other studies have found no association between pre-natal exposure and intelligence.
Having said that, exposing your baby to different stimuli when in the womb isn't a bad thing by any means. If you do choose to directly expose your baby to music in utero, either by stretching headphones over your tummy or by holding a radio at stomach level, you should limit this to gentle music, played at a low level, for a maximum of one hour a day to avoid overstimulating your unborn baby.
If you would like to expose your baby to music in the womb but would prefer not to take such direct measures then don't worry, your baby will be able to hear any music that you do (as amnotic fluid is a good conductor of sound waves). Having a radio playing as you go about your day or sitting with your feet up and listening to your favourite CD, will sufficiently expose your baby to the rhythm of the music.
Babies and Music
Although claims that simply exposing your baby to classical music will make them more intelligent are unsubstantiated (and incredibly unlikely!), music does provide a fantastic avenue to help develop your baby's emotional, linguistic and motor skills in a non-pressurised, enjoyable way.
Playing nursery rhymnes and song tapes to your baby will help them get a feel for the rhythm of language long before they can understand what is actually being said. As they grow older, new information set to music will be more easily remembered and song provides a great fantastic way to teach your infant colours, numbers and letters.
Rocking or swaying your baby in time with music can be incredibly soothing and provides a great way to bond. Additionally, encoraging your baby to move and dance in time with music not only provides a fun form of exercise (for you and baby!) but also helps to build baby's confidence and body awareness.
Many find that playing soothing music during the evening helps to settle baby before bed. If you find that baby wakes up when the music stops, try stopping the music just before baby falls asleep so they don't become too dependent on the sounds. If you find a particular song that works, try playing it in the car to help baby take a nap when you embark on a long journey.
The Mozart Effect
Most of they hype about playing classical music to children resulted from the misinterpretation of a study designed to test the effect exposure to music would have on the performance of college students. Although the study did find a temporary increase in spatial intelligence skills after listening to one of Mozart's sonatas, this effect was never tested on children, let alone babies.
Despite the irrelevance of the findings, the results were taken by many to mean that exposure to a program of classical music from a very young age would enhance mathematical ability. The reasoning behind this assumption was that as the mathematical area of the brain is situated in close proximity to the music centre, development and enhancement of one area would have a similar effect on others nearby. Unfortunately this does not seem to be the case.
Although playing music to your baby is not guaranteed to turn them into a genius, it will actively encourage their development and is a far better source of entertainment and stimulation than television. For a baby, interaction with Mum and Dad has a far greater effect than routine exposure to any other stimulation could hope to. So regardless of the type of music you enjoy and whether its considered to be good or bad for development, put on your favourite CD and sing along - your baby will appreciate it!
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