By: Tony Bello

Though already accepted as conventional wisdom for many years, some recent studies show strong evidence that babies’ early mental development is greatly influenced by hearing music. Parents that play their children music while the child is still in utero or even during infancy encourage the child’s brain activity to increase, acting as a kind of introductory mental exercise. The music played is usually placid and calm. For example, the practice of playing some classical music, with its soothing melodies and complex arrangements, has for decades been used by some expectant mothers to both pacify and stimulate their children’s minds.

Now science is catching up, both in research and technology, providing parents with the means to stimulate their child’s brain’s neural network with specially designed music and sound effects for use both pre-natal babies and within the nursery. Comprehensive studies by child psychologists in both the United States and Great Britain suggest that babies often remember the music played to them in the womb for as much as a year after birth – contradicting conventional wisdom that held babies’ memories extend only a few months. Moreover, babies in a study performed by Britain’s Leicester University responded equally well to classical, pop, and reggae music.

Several expectant mothers were invited to choose a type of music to play in a comfortable setting. When tested a year later, babies responded more favorably to the songs they remembered compared to similar pieces of music. 

Researchers believe babies can hear as early as 20 weeks after conception. As the babies develop inside the fetus, the mind reacts to the stimuli provided by the music. Doctors participating in the Leicester study said children react to the pace of the music, not its type. Slow rock music or jazz is just as effective as slow classical, so long as the pace and beat remain consistent. The complexity of the music is also important, doctors say, because the more the mind is stimulated, the more the child is likely to retain a healthy neural network after birth or later in childhood.

With babies in the nursery, however, parents should exercise caution that the child doesn’t become over stimulated and “shut down” – become immune to the music’s stimulus. Warning signs your child has reached the point of indifference to the music include many of the same body language cues as boredom in adults – restlessness, playing idly with various objects, looking around. If children exhibit such warning signs, doctors say, better to retire the music to another session. Try again all by means, but don’t let the process become tedious to the children.

Several product designers have developed toys and teaching aids to help parents nurture their infant children with music. A giant selection of CD’s and albums prepared especially for children has been released, including classical, jazz, and pop music compilations meant for playing while the child is still pre-natal. For the nursery, a number of combination speakers, night-light, and plush animal combinations are available to both comfort and stimulate the baby while he sleeps.

The Corner Stork offers a wide range of unique baby gifts, baby gift accessories, and gifts for the nursery and playroom.