Music & Little Kid's Brains

I’ve heard so much about exposure to music actually helping kids to be smarter in other areas, but is it really true? I know my two year old LOVES music, and she’s pretty darn bright (but I’ve been exposing her to the SD for a while now :)). I heard something recently, though (just a news snippet, I was too busy at the time to catch the whole story) that said that there may not be the connection that they thought there was.

I’m just curious here. I’m not trying to breed a “superbaby” or anything of the sort. My husband is a musician, so my kids are going to have music around all the time anyway. But will it actually do more for them scholastically?

I guess it depends is the best answer.

Let’s say you played the best music to your child from the time of conception to the time of their 18th birthday. But if you do not take them to school or teach them to read or even to play an instrument, it will do nothing for them. All they will be able to do is hum a lot of good music.

Do I think it helps? I sure do. We have played various classical pieces to my daughter before she was born and every night as she goes to sleep. She is very intelligent (for 2 1/2 years old), but we have also worked with her all the time. It seems that children who play music and are interested in music do better in Math and such related disciplines.

I figure it likely will not hurt her and seemingly it helps her (at least she will have some background in classical music, so hopefully she will be a bit more cultured than I was growing up). I will continue it and will encourage her to play some musical instrument when she gets older.


Two separate issues here:

“The Mozart Effect” is the cute name given to a theory proposed a few years ago that simply listening to various forms of music actually increased IQ. Only the original proponent has been able to reproduce her results consistently and a report in this month’s Science (I believe) works really hard to discredit the idea.

It has been shown that children who play a musical instrument seriously develop better in a couple of ways that I can never recall when I need to (hand-eye coordination? speech development?). “Better,” of course, is a relative term. Do they develop better than they would have without that activity? Or is there simply a statistical correlation between children engaging in that activity and children performing well in another activity while other factors have not been carefully ruled out, yet? I dunno.

It certainly will not hurt children to hear good music. I will (anecdotally) attest to one benefit of having children hear a wide range of music: my kids like a great many more styles or genres of music than their playmates. At out house, they hear new Rock, old Rock, Celtic, Folk, Symphonic, Show tunes, Blues, (a little Hip-Hop, a little Country, a touch of Jazz), and they like it all. Their friends who hear only one variety of music tend to like only similar varities of music.


(Yes, the stereo is just outside the bathroom).

The research is pretty clear that college students who listen to classical music before exams do better than the control group. However, it is unclear whether any other relaxation technique would produce a similar outcome. The only folks who believe that this can be extended to the future scholastic performance of toddlers are the people selling tapes to yuppie parents.

I’ve been reading to my daughters since they were born. My six-year-old is now reading on her own at a fifth-grade level, and my eight-year-old is off the charts. We have also taken them to museums, zoos, and plays since they could sit up. Instead of hoping that they would know what they were seeing by osmosis, we have tried to explain what they were being shown. We have had them take acting classes, ballet, and the older girl wants to take violin this year; we have encouraged this because we want them to be makers rather than passive observers.

Rather than go off and brag about my kids, let me get to my point (and I do have one). The way to bring out the fullest potential of your child is to allow him/her to try everything. Having her sit and listen to music passively is not going to do her any more good than having her sit and watch TV passively. There is no easy or fast way to raise a child who loves learning.

Also remember- you are not raising a child. You are raising an adult. There seem to be too manny twenty-something-year-old children out there already.

Dr. Fidelius, Charlatan
Associate Curator Anomalous Paleontology, Miskatonic University
Homo vult decipi; decipiatur

"I love you, you love me.
We’re a happy family!
With a great big hug and a kiss from me to you,
Won’t you say you love me CRACK – a shot rings out!!!

It all depends on the tune.

“…as a shot rings out,
and the body hits the floor,
no more purple din-o-saur…”

[brag] My girls tired of that show early, and much preferred Bill Nye, the Science Guy [/brag]

Akkkkkk!!! Holy shit!!! I forgot about music. My 2-year old son has been exposed to nothing but my favorites-- country/western and highly amplified '80s headbanger rock. Yikes, talk about arrested development. Is it too late for the Mozart? Oh well, the world can use a few more WWF fans.

“…send lawyers, guns, and money…”

 Warren Zevon

Hey, I been listening to rock since I was a child. And my branes are just fine, thank you.

Work like you don’t need the money…
Love like you’ve never been hurt…
Dance like nobody’s watching! …(Paraphrased)

A few years ago, a scientist put classical music into a computer and when translated it was nearly identical to the brain patterns found in your head. This was used to correlate the study that kids did better in tests of map skills and reasoning while listening to classical music.
But still this test was taken when margarine was considered healthy for you…

My daughter has been exposed to all sorts of music. We don’t sit her down & force her to listen with the intent of developing her brain, but it’s on in the car, here at home (tapes, radio, or good ol’ dad live in concert). She’s showing some preferences now, too. She enjoys surf music, the Beach Boys in particular (one of the first songs she started singing was “Barbara Ann”…I kid thee not!) She also asks for B.B King by name. But she really likes her musical Elmo doll too. We aren’t big fans of classical music, but we’ve got a lot of Django Reinhardt tapes…

Mr. Sparkle:

I remember a short story that ties in with your assertion. IIRC, it was by Arthur C. Clarke and found in his Tales from the White Hart. The mcguffin was that a scientist found the reason that some songs stick in your head; they resonate with your “brain waves”. He perfected the technique, played a tape of the music produced, and went catatonic. His brain was so full of the tune that no other stimulus could register.
Someone tell me if they had also read this story. Otherwise, I’ve got some typing to do, this one might even sell…

Dr. Fidelius, Charlatan
Associate Curator Anomalous Paleontology, Miskatonic University
Homo vult decipi; decipiatur

I consider music similar to a puzzle, where the creator of the puzzle challenges the listener to solve the puzzle and see the larger pattern as a whole. The end can have a specific meaning that the creator can alude to, or the listener can paint other interpretations. Either way, the listener is challenged to imagine and further create.

By this definition, complex music will have great potential to develop the brain, and simpler music will have the potential to make the brain slow down. I can only conjecture that highly repetitive musical phrases with very little content within the phrase as in some rock music will do little to challenge the brain, while classical music with long and varying musical phrases will challenge the brain. Some very complex music as in Jazz or Stravinski, etc., creates extremely complex puzzles, and I find that only after listening to it for some period before I can decipher the puzzle and begin to enjoy it.

I see music: listening, creating, performing, as very logical processes, with sets of mathematical like rules regarding harmony and what is acceptable to those who listen. I think it definitely helps develop the brain and make non-musical puzzles easier to solve.