It has long been proven that music exposure is good for babies, but it remained unclear what the benefits of musical training at an early age may be. Now, researchers from the McMaster University, in Canada, state that musical training is good for babies as young as 6 months old. It not only helps to develop musical sensitivity but also social and communication skills.
The researchers conducted a six-month experiment with two groups of babies. One group attended musical lessons that involved playing instruments and singing, while the other was limited to music exposure.
‘Babies who participated in the interactive music classes with their parents showed earlier sensitivity to the pitch structure in music,’ says Laurel Trainor, co-author of the study. ‘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.’
The most surprising thing, though, was that babies in the first group were more socially active and showed better communication skills than babies in the second group. They smiled more and interacted more easily with the environment.
The findings, published in the journal Developmental Science, suggest that active musical training in infancy not only ‘enhances culture-specific musical acquisition’, as the authors write in their study, but also may be good for social and communication development.
Gerry D, Unrau A, & Trainor LJ (2012). Active music classes in infancy enhance musical, communicative and social development. Developmental science, 15 (3), 398-407 PMID: 22490179