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Listening to Learn
One of the classic illustrations of pregnancy is the mother sitting with a pair of headphones stretched over her belly, exposing her unborn infant to music. A beautiful expression of maternal feeling, but does it have any merit? Studies have shown that yes, unborn babies can hear. In fact, their auditory system is one of the first systems to develop. Newborns have been shown to recognize and respond to music and voices they heard before birth. But don't turn off the music once the baby is born. Listening to classical music as an infant has extremely positive long term effects. Music for babies is proven beneficial.
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Science has shown us that activity in the brain creates electrical connections called synapses. The amount and consistency of stimulation affects how many synapses are formed. Repetitive stimulation strengthens synapses and makes them permanent. By one year of age, so much development has occurred that the brain will more closely resemble an adult brain than that of an infant. Synapses that were not formed or that were not reinforced will be difficult to form in later years. This is why exposing your baby to music during infancy is so positive. But what music should your baby be exposed to?
Studies have shown that babies prefer music sung by familiar voices to music performed by strangers on a CD or video. Singing to your infant is a way to not only stimulate brain development but is a wonderful way to create a powerful bond. Babies tend to prefer soothing, classical music. It is easy to have this type of music playing in the background during any activity, even while the infant is sleeping.
Listening to Mozart stimulates the same neurons in the brain that play a key role in mathematical ability. But you don't have to limit yourself and your baby to classical music. There is a wide variety of music appropriate for children. Listening to different types of music helps nurture language development. Music has the same basic rules and structure as language. It is a fun, non-threatening way to learn new vocabulary and concepts. The rhyme patterns reinforce this new vocabulary, help with memorization skills, and develop auditory processing, which is so important in language development.
Music can also be used to create a feeling in babies. We know this instinctively, which is why we will sing softy to a baby who is upset rather than banging on the drums. Music from the Baroque period has been shown to lower blood pressure and stress hormones in medically fragile infants.
Classical music, and any style of music, is a simple, enjoyable experience you can share with your baby which will have emotional and intellectual benefits for him or her throughout a lifetime.
More information about music and baby brain development and the Mozart Effect can be found here.