Even before children can walk or talk, musical training benefits the minds of babies according to researchers at McMaster University.
They found that one-year-old babies who participate in interactive music classes with their parents smile more, communicate better, and show earlier and more sophisticated brain responses to music.
“Many past studies of musical training have focused on older children,” says Laurel Trainor, director of the McMaster Institute for Music and the Mind. “Our results suggest that the infant brain might be particularly plastic with regard to musical exposure.”
“Babies who participated in interactive music classes with their parents showed earlier sensitivity to the pitch structure in music,” says Trainor. “Specifically, they preferred to listen to a version of a piano piece that stayed in key, versus a version that included out-of-key notes. Infants who participated in the passive listening classes did not show the same preferences. Even their brains responded to music differently. Infants from the interactive music classes showed larger and/or earlier brain responses to musical tones.”
Babies from the interactive classes 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.
“There are many ways that parents can connect with their babies,” says study coordinator Andrea Unrau. “The great thing about music is, everyone loves it and everyone can learn simple interactive musical games together.”