It may not sound musical, but a new study shows that letting your baby or toddler bang, tap, and otherwise make "music" while he plays could help his language development.
The study was conducted at the Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences (ILABS) at the University of Washington and recently published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Researchers observed babies playing over 12 play sessions, where some babies listened to some type of musical rhythm, like a waltz, while they played. Others played without the music.
Brain imaging reveled that the babies who listened to music while they played had sharpened brain responses to both music and speech in the parts of the brain which manage cognitive skills such as controlling attention and detecting patterns.
Researchers believe that listening to and mimicking music helped the babies recognize patterns. They believe this helped the babies recognize similar patterns in speech, and that can help with their language development. Study authors said this connection should demonstrate the importance of musical education and experience.
"Schools across our nation are decreasing music experiences for our children, saying they are too expensive," said Patricia Kuhl, study co-author and ILABS co-director.
"This research reminds us that the effects of engaging in music go beyond music itself. Music experience has the potential to boost broader cognitive skills that enhance children’s abilities to detect, expect and react quickly to patterns in the world, which is highly relevant in today’s complex world."