When my kids were babies and toddlers, I took them to just about every storytelling and mom-and-baby class available.
I wasn’t sure if they’d derive any benefit from the classes at such young ages, but I was hungry for the companionship of other moms and figured it couldn’t hurt them to be around books and music.
Now a new study from researchers at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, suggests that even children as young as 1 year old can benefit from exposure to music classes. The study found that babies who participated in interactive music classes with their parents “smile more, communicate better and show earlier and more sophisticated brain responses to music,” according to a university press release.
The study was published recently in the journals Developmental Science and the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences.
Previous research has shown that music can positively impact development. These researchers wanted to find out how early in life that can happen, what the effects might be and whether kids would be affected differently by different types of music.
The study involved parents and babies who took weekly music classes for six months beginning when the kids were 6 months old. One group of the parents and babies took an interactive class in which they learned to play percussion instruments and sing songs together. The other group played at toy stations while listening to music.
Researchers found that the babies in the interactive class showed a sensitivity to pitch, preferring to listen to music that was in key. But more surprising to the researchers was that these kids also “showed better early communication skills, like pointing at objects that are out of reach, or waving goodbye. Socially, these babies also smiled more, were easier to soothe, and showed less distress when things were unfamiliar or didn’t go their way,” the researchers reported.
Study coordinator Andrea Unrau noted that babies’ ability to connect with music doesn’t have to be limited to a class setting. “The great thing about music is, everyone loves it and everyone can learn simple interactive musical games together,” she said in the release.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Early Years blog.