We all know babies love when we sing to them. More and more, scientific evidence points to this not only enjoyable for babies, but also helping infants developmentally.
Music, when you boil it down to the fundamentals, is math. There are pattern structures, incremental tones, combinations for harmony and disharmony. While we may not recognize music as math, it is key in helping us learn pattern recognition- even at a very young age.
In 1990, Carol L. Krumhansla and Peter W. Jusczyk published Infants’ Perception of Phrase Structure in Music in the Psychological Science journal. Their research, based on the visual preference procedure, showed that infants ages of 4 1/5 months and 6 months, preferred music was divided into segments that completed musical phrases. This basically showed that infants are able to recognize patterns and complete phrases. This article has since been the basis of numerous articles linking baby’s preference for music with recognition of harmony. It has also been sited in articles showing that infants recognize complexity in music (orchestra versus single instrument) and will recognize songs after two weeks of hearing them.
But, what does this mean, in practical terms?
Well, for starters, a baby will recognize a musical command before a spoken command by associating music with actions. Think Itsy Bitsy Spider and the movement associated with it. This also means dancing, moods and other behaviors though. So, if you sing to your child while he is calm, try singing the same song to him while he is fussy or wiggling around on the changing table to get a similar reaction out of him.
It also helps baby to learn patterns and phrasing. This in turn helps them to learn mathematical patterns and enunciation. It also helps in creating complete sentences and in the long run may help the child form complex sentences and thoughts by instilling the urge to avoid atonal and ‘chopped’ phrases.
So, in essence, music builds healthy brains. (Okay, it really just helps the brain make connections and pathways…but those can be considered healthy.)
So, what sort of music should you sing or play for your baby?
It doesn’t really matter. Music with strong beats and harmonies tend to be preferred over more chaotic rhythms and improvisational music. However, these chaotic rhythms and improvisational melodies help to develop anticipation and moment to moment monitoring of a situation.
Try classical, jazz, reggae, swing, be-bop, Motown. Find out what your baby likes! This is a time to explore with your child, to find their preferences and joys.
My child prefers swing music and jazz- preferably with horns and a good back beat.He also enjoys reggae, rock, and classical (he leans toward Tchaikovsky and Ravel for the big, sweeping phrases and rhythms). This is a chance for you to bond with your baby and instill some pattern recognition- not only for math, but also for actions and attitudes.