Building Baby’s Brain: The Role of Music (continuation)

See first part of post here.

Researchers think the complexity of classical music is what primes the brain to solve spatial problems more quickly. So listening to classical music may have different  effects on the brain than listening to other types of music.

This doesn’t mean that other types of music aren’t good. Listening to any kind of music helps build music-related pathways in the brain. And music can have positive effects on our moods that may make learning easier.

What Can You Do?

Parents and child-care providers can help nurture children’s love of music beginning in infancy. Here are some ideas:

  • Play music for the baby. Expose the baby to many different musical selections of various styles. If you play an instrument, practice when the baby is nearby. But keep the volume moderate. Loud music can damage a baby’s hearing.
  • Sing to the baby. Hearing your voice helps the baby begin to learn language. Babies love the patterns and rhythms of songs. And even young babies can recognize specific melodies once they’ve heard them.
  • Sing with the child. As children grow, they enjoy singing with you. And setting words to music actually helps the brain learn them more quickly and  retain them longer. That’s why we remember the lyrics of songs we sang as children, even if we haven’t heard them in years.
  • Start music lessons early. If you want the child to learn an instrument, you don’t need to wait until elementary school to begin lessons. Young children’s developing brains are equipped to learn music. Most four – and five – year olds enjoy making music and can learn the basics of some instruments.
  • Encourage the child’s school to teach music. Singing helps stimulate the brain, at least briefly. Over time, music education as a part of school can help build skills such as coordination and creativity. And learning music helps the child become a well-rounded person.



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What it Means to Be “Fit”

Fitness means a well-conditioned cardiovascular and muscular system. Both your heart and muscles need regular workouts to stay fit. You’re fit if you can:

  •  Carry out daily tasks without fatigue and have ample energy to enjoy leisure time pursuits.
  • Walk a couple blocks or climb one or two flights of stairs without becoming “winded” or feeling heaviness or fatigue in your legs.
  • Carry on a conversation during light to moderate exercise such as brisk walking.

If you sit most of the day, you’re probably not fit. Signs of deconditioning include feeling tired most of the time, being unable to keep up with others your age, avoiding physical activity because you know you’ll quickly tire, and becoming short of breath or fatigued with walking a short distance.

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Building Baby’s Brain: The Role of Music

Music has a powerful effect on our emotions. Parents know that a quiet, gentle lullaby can soothe a fussy baby. And a majestic chorus can make us swell of excitement. But music can also affect the way we think.

Babies are born with billions of brain cells. During the first years of life, those brain cells form connections with other brain cells. Over time, the connections we use regularly become stronger. Children who grow up listening to music develop strong music -related connections.

Does Music Make Us Smarter?

Not exactly. Music seems to prime our brains for certain kinds of thinking. After listening to classical music, adults can do certain spatial tasks more quickly, such as putting together a jigsaw puzzle.

Why does this happen? The classical music pathways in our brain are similar to the pathways we use for spatial reasoning. When we listen to classical music, the spatial pathways are “turned on” and ready to be used.

The priming makes it easier to work a puzzle quickly. But the effect lasts only a short time. Our improved spatial skills fade about an hour after we stop listening to the music.

Learning to play an instrument can have longer-lasting effects on spatial reasoning, however. In several studies, children who took piano lessons for six months improved their ability to work puzzles and solve other spatial tasks by as much as 30%.

Why Classical Music?

The music most people call “classical” (works by composers such as Bach, Beethoven or Mozart) is different from music such as rock and country. Classical music has a more complex musical structure. Babies as young as 3 months can pick out that structure and even recognize classical music selections they have heard before.

See post continuation here.

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