The Enriching Effects of Playing Music for Babies

Updated February 13, 2022
Father Playing Guitar for Baby

Music is revered for having numerous positive effects on human beings, babies included! Knowing the ample benefits of exposing your tot to song will inspire you to infuse your kids' younger years with notes, lyrics, and sound. There are plenty of wonderful reasons that prove playing music for babies will enrich their lives. So bring on the beats!

The Power of Music for Babies

Music is a powerful thing; just ask established singer/songwriter and creator of Monkey Monkey Music, Meredith LeVande. LeVande says, "I decided to call my children's music Monkey Monkey Music because when the kids would respond to the music they reminded me of fun, adorable, happy monkeys. To me, monkey is a term of endearment but also signifies our interconnectedness to one another and to the past, present, and future. Both monkeys and children are uninhibited. With my music, I want everyone to "monkey out" and go back to that primal place."

LeVande turned a career of performing, touring, and entertaining adults with her music into a passion that revolved around focusing her talents on reaching younger crowds. She says, "People mistakenly believe that because infants can't remember things outright, that they may not be receiving the full experience of the music. However, music is the one art form that children immediately access and experience in the moment."

The Social-Emotional Benefits of Playing Music for Babies

Babies might not be able to linguistically describe their emotions quite yet, but they can use music to start putting together the most basic pieces of social and emotional learning. Interesting facts about how babies are influenced by music:

  • Music helps babies learn self-regulation skills in a rudimentary sense. Self-regulation involves one's ability to soothe themselves. Parents who play calming tunes for upset tots often see their babies calm down right before their very eyes. The mere process of this is self-regulation skills at work. Babies are learning to calm themselves with the help of music.
  • Music helps babies understand different emotions. Songs bring about all sorts of emotions, and these feelings are not lost on infants. One study highlighted the idea that babies as young as five months-old could discriminate between a happy and upbeat piece of music and a sad one.
  • Musical babies are happy babies. A study out of McMaster University notes that babies who participated in some type of music class before age one tended not only to be better communicators, but they also smiled more.
  • Music helps babies bond with their caregivers. Whether you are singing sweet lullabies, clapping and engaging in finger play, watching sing-song videos, or waltzing around the living room with your babe, you are engaging in bonding rituals that are drawing you and your child closer together through music.

Playing Music for Babies Offers Physical and Sensory Benefits

Senior couple playing music for baby

Babies are busy developing gross and fine motor skills at rapid rates, and music provides a perfect avenue for them to do both. Babies who are exposed to music:

  • Learn to better coordinate purposeful actions through instrument play. They bang, tap, and shake instruments, working to recreate the sounds that they make while played in songs.
  • Develop a comfort level about loud or abrupt noises and learn to discern varying sounds in musical melodies. Music can ease issues with auditory sensory input.
  • Engage in moving their bodies. Music and movement go together like peanut butter and jelly. Babies know this! Use finger play with songs like The Itzy Bitzy Spider and Where Is Thumbkin? to show tykes how to move their muscles. Dance and sing in your kitchen and watch your baby rock side to side, bounce up and down and clap their hands to bring out those gross motor skills. Music is a movement motivator, and if you keep the tunes coming, then you just might find your tot dancing alongside you in the kitchen soon enough.

Music Boosts Baby's Brainpower

Music has a particular effect on infant cognition. Young children who have music in their lives often:

  • Have a leg up with language - All exposure to language helps babies develop this skill. Singing is certainly a lovely means of conveying language, so crack open your favorite jams and sing to your baby. It doesn't matter that they have no clue what the words mean; language exposure is language exposure, and it is all good and helpful in infant development.
  • Receive a brain boost - A study out of the University of Washington's Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences found that music improved babies' brain processing of both music and new speech sounds. The study revealed a baby's ability to connect rhythmic patterns in music could improve their ability to make predictions about rhythmic patterns in speech.

Is There a "Best" Baby Music Genre?

For years, experts believed that the best genre to expose babies to was classical music, specifically that of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, because of its complex compositional makeup. While cueing up Mozart and Beethoven is a perfectly fine choice for parents, other music genres prove themselves to be equally valuable to a young child's growth and development.

Aside from classic tunes, jazz music has been shown to aid in soothing infants, relieving distress, and improving memory. Upbeat music has shown to be effective in boosting energy and releasing endorphins in young children and teens. Each genre seems to have a different benefit and effect on children, so why not mix it up, playing all different types of tunes for babies and beyond?

Listening to music clearly affects human development, but for parents raising babies with music, playing music down the road will benefit them even more. Studies show that children's brains actually develop faster when they are trained to play music. Start your infant's life with music exposure, but don't forget to sign up for those piano lessons down the road!

In short, listen to music, play the music, make music an integral component of your life, and you will undoubtedly be a head above the class.

Adding Music to Your Baby's Life

Infusing your baby's life with music is not as challenging as it sounds. Yes, you can sign up for baby music classes or learn to play the violin or piano for your baby, but LeVande thinks there are even easier and more practical ways to expose infants to music. She suggests parents try having specific timeframes during the day where music is the focal point, but also that families simply play music throughout the day, allowing it to exist organically in a child's world. She encourages parents to sing, dance, and let the tunes roll.

LeVande adds, "I believe that all mothers should sing to their babies and not be self-conscious of their voices. There's nothing more pleasing to babies than the sound of their own mothers. They are mommy's biggest fans and the voices that their children want to hear."

Introduce Baby to Music Early to Reap Many Benefits

As you can see, there are ample benefits to exposing babies to music. You can even start singing to them and playing music to them while they're still in the womb. Adding tunes to your family routine is certain to result in uplifting, inspiring and healthy bonding time everyone can enjoy together.

The Enriching Effects of Playing Music for Babies