Last night, while surfing the web, I ran across an article on MSNBC.com that fascinated me. It was originally published June 2, 2005, and I have tried to determine the original author, but have been unable to do so. So, please accept my apologies for any mistakes in reproducing parts of it below. Any errors are entirely my own. If anyone knows the author, please let me know so I can give them full credit.
Recent research shows that just by doing what comes naturally – dancing around with your baby – you help wire your child’s brain to perceive rhythm. Gently bounce your baby while you sing, and you’ll usually get big smiles and squeals of glee. But it’s not just fun for both of you – there’s something more important going on here. Feeling the beat will actually help wire your baby’s brain to hear rhythm.
Everybody knows that babies love music. Around the world, parents and caregivers sing to infants in a way that is totally different from those used with older children. It’s usually done with a distinctive high pitch that’s soothingly slow for a lullaby and a totally different voice that is elaborately bright at playtime.
Just watch and listen as adults meet and greet babies. Even grown men will find themselves singing slowly with a higher-than-usual voice to soothe a fretful baby. I know for a fact that my own voice rises with excited inflection to respond to my students as they enter the class room. And these babies catch on quickly, “able to perceive differing aspects of melody and recognize different beats at just a few months of age.”
In the article that I read on MSNBC.com, it was reported that babies were studied on how they perceive music, and it was noticed that parents hardly ever sing to them without bouncing or rocking or playing with their feet. Researchers wondered if that movement was somehow important developmentally.
Research has now proven it to be true. Using multiple senses helps the brain learn about rhythm — “how we move indeed influences what we hear.” According to Laurel Trainer, psychologist, of Canada’s McMaster University who was quoted by MSNBC.com, “It’s wiring the sensory system. That early experience that parents do naturally is probably really important for learning down the road.”
Research also shows that “stimulating multiple senses is important for brain development.” When babies are learning about their world, they are learning in a multisensory context – through all of their senses – seeing, hearing, and feeling – through touch and movement.
In another study, 7-month-olds were tested by having them listen to music made by a snare drum and sticks that had an indeterminate rhythm — with no accented beats. Half of the mothers were instructed to bounce the infants on every second beat, in a march-like rhythm, and the remaining half on every third beat, in a waltz-like rhythm.
Then the researchers played the music again, this time with the beats accented in either the march or waltz pattern. The babies preferred the pattern that matched how they’d been bounced.
Watching someone else bouncing to the music didn’t work, either. In another series of tests, the babies picked out a rhythm only if they’d been moved to that beat while listening to the original, nonaccented tune. Nor was vision necessary. Blindfolded babies picked out the rhythm, too, as long as they’d been bounced to that particular rhythm.
Okay, so now you may be asking, “What if I don’t dance or bounce with my baby?”
No one needs to bounce all the time, and certainly just passively listening to music isn’t bad for anyone. But to obtain the full experience, there should be some bouncing with the music. Research indicates that you’re better off to do music in an interactive way – just as we do in our Kindermusik classes! And it doesn’t matter if you listen to one kind of music more closely than another, because all kinds of music will work to wire the brain.
So, check out our class schedule for our next Village class – the Rhythm of My Day – which begins on Saturday, March 31st, at 10:45 AM.
This 8-week session will help you bring more rhythm and routine to your baby’s day, as well as help her develop lasting learning skills. We’ll show you how and tell you why music can help your little one soothe herself and helps to build a strong network for learning in her body and mind. With weekly developmental information in your home materials and a CD of music from class, you can bring home those same stress-free play and relaxation techniques from class, and incorporate them into your daily routines.
To read the article referenced above in its entirety, please visit MSNBC.com.