Responding to music during toddlerhood

Filed under: Toddlers Preschoolers, Development/Milestones: Babies

My 22 month-old, Devon, gets excited when he hears some kinds of music. He will, in fact, listen over and over again to some songs until the rest of us want to scream. Recently, a number of contributors to the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences took a closer look at how music evolved and how we respond to it. Contributors to the volume believe that animals such as birds, dolphins and whales make sounds similar to music out of a desire to imitate each other. This ability to learn and imitate sounds is a trait necessary to acquire language, and scientists feel that many of the sounds animals make may be precursors to human music. One study in the volume looked at whether music training can make individuals smarter. Scientists found more gray matter in the auditory cortex of the right hemisphere in musicians compared to non musicians. They feel these differences are probably not genetic, but due to use and practice.

Listening to classical music, particularly Mozart, has been thought to enhance performance on cognitive tests. Contributors to the volume took a closer look at this suggestion and found that listening to any music that is personally enjoyable has positive effects on cognition. In addition, the use of music to enhance memory was explored; research suggests that musical recitation enhances the coding of information by activating neural networks in a more united and thus more optimal fashion.

Other studies in this volume look at music's positive effects on health and immunity, how music is processed in the brain, the interplay between language and music, and the relationship between our emotions and music. All of this leads me to ask: what personal experiences do you have in observing your baby's responses to music? Are there any songs you think may have a big impact on your child? Perhaps on other children? I don't think that it will be the music of Marilyn Manson, although listening to him may improve your baby's startle response (particularly if the volume is turned up high enough).

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.