Are there any good evidenced-based guidelines on introducing music to children? For instance, is it better to start with solo instrumental recordings or is complex music fine? How much music is too much? (My gut tells me that children need silence as well as noise but I don't have anything to base that on.) Are there certain activities it's better to pair music with than others?

My 1-year-old gets a lot of background music in daycare. I'd like to expose him to music we like when he's home. However, I'm a little worried about music overload.

asked 13 Apr '10, 16:05

Kiesa's gravatar image

Kiesa ♦
accept rate: 26%

Kiesa, I wonder how much background music is played in daycare? Can the daycare provide that info to you along with the type of music that is being played?

(22 Apr '10, 21:32) Emi

In the infant room, it seems pretty constant. It's on almost every time I visit which throughout the year has been a wide variety of times throughout the day. As to music choice, it depends on the tastes of the main provider. Some lean towards children lullabies and others are just soothing music like Enya. So, there doesn't seem to be a "plan" per se.

(23 Apr '10, 00:38) Kiesa ♦

A book I've mentioned on here numerous times, Bright from the Start by neuroscientist Dr. Jill Stamm, addresses music from a neurological development standpoint. The author suggests that babies should indeed be exposed to music, even before birth while still in utero. She explains that playing music for a baby before birth can give her something to anchor her to that time and that playing that music back after birth can have a calming effect.

For newborns, she advises playing simple music with just a main melody, and perhaps some harmonies, but not anything more complex that has counter-melodies or elaborate instrumentation. At the newborn stage, the baby's brain is still learning how to process the incoming sounds, and deals best with (as you might guess) the human voice. She suggests the best form of music is your own singing voice. Newborns don't care if you can carry a tune, instead they love to hear the voice of their parent. Plus, singing is free, doesn't take batteries, is portable anywhere you go, and helps to deepen the emotional bond between you and your baby. Playing something like modern pop music doesn't tend to work well for newborns, as the brain isn't mature enough to process the layers of sound, and she imagines it ends up sounding like random noise (although I note that my parents complained that my favorite rock music sounds like noise to them, as well ;-).

As the baby gets out of the "fourth trimester", as the age of 0-3 months is often called, you can start to introduce more complex music with percussion and rhythm backing the main melody.

Regarding the issue of whether exposure to classical music can make someone smarter, an article published today in the journal Intelligence presents strong evidence that does not support that claim. From the analysis of this article by website ScienceDaily:

The University of Vienna researchers' key finding is clear-cut: based on the cumulated evidence, there remains no support for gains in spatial ability specifically due to listening to Mozart music.

If you enjoy classical music, by all means, turn on the Bach and Mozart, but if you wouldn't listen to it for personal enjoyment, don't force it.

The idea of having "quiet" time is also brought up in Bright from the Start. Babies' brains need time to process all of the information they've taken in, organize and reorganize things, and give the senses and executive cognitive areas of the brain a rest. This happens mostly while babies sleep, which is partly why they sleep a lot, but they also need quiet awake time. The author also says quiet awake time is needed to help them develop the ability to concentrate and to let them choose what to focus on.


answered 20 Apr '10, 00:16

Scottie%20T's gravatar image

Scottie T
accept rate: 15%

edited 11 May '10, 19:08

Hah, I'm actually reading that book right now. I just didn't realize there was a music section later on. Thanks :)

(20 Apr '10, 13:46) Kiesa ♦

+1 - Excellent, Scottie T comes through with the evidence!

(21 Apr '10, 06:46) Neen

Thanks, @Kiesa and @Neen. I really enjoyed this book, but I will say this is just one book by one author, so it should be taken for what it's worth.

(21 Apr '10, 13:43) Scottie T

+1 Great post! very informative. (With us we realized that soft jazz tunes went down very well with our little one, when she would smile each time a particular track was played)

(22 Apr '10, 21:28) Emi

Arrgh, I can't find anything "evidence based", everything I find is either trying to sell you something, or says "Recent studies show" without linking to the study! That drives me craazy..

So, my humble opinion, the background music at Daycare is just that most of the time, backgound. There's a lot going on, and he isn't really paying attention to the music. I think playing the music you love at home is a gift for your little guy. It's sharing something beautiful that you love with him.

Both of my parents lost their Mothers while they were in their late teens, and I've seen them both stop dead and stare at the radio and say "I remember Mom singing that song...", and you know that they are not talking to you. I think having a song spark a specific rememberance of when you were very small and on your Mothers lap when you're 75 years old, and shes been dead for 50+ years is an excellent legacy to give someone, in and of itself, and I wouldn't worry if it going to raise his IQ too, or not.

And a great hint one of my friends gave me on kids needing quiet, turn the radio off in the car. Pretend it's broken, (or break it), when your kids are bigger if you have to. If they need quiet, they're quiet, if they need to talk to you about something, they'll talk, and they're more likely to talk about important stuff, or stuff that's bothering them, because neither of you have to look at each other. (We don't have a car, I make my older boys do dishes with me, works pretty much the same way.)


answered 19 Apr '10, 08:04

Neen's gravatar image

accept rate: 30%

Thanks for looking and thanks for the suggestion about the radio in the car!

(19 Apr '10, 13:07) Kiesa ♦

My daughter (almost 2) loves music and from a small baby music has always calmed her down if she is upset. Now if I put on music she loves to dance to it.

I take her to a preschool music session once a week. There we sing kids songs and get play music instruments.

At home I put on music I like (read not childrens) generally classic or Christian music. I try to chose something with a good beat She has a tamborine and some shakers so when I first put on a CD either we find the instruments and play along or we dance. After the first few songs I leave her to it

Both my kids will turn on the musical toys to have some music while they play with another toy.

We do have a certain amount of time without music not sure if it is silent when my son (nearly 4) is at home.


answered 15 Apr '10, 09:14

K%20D's gravatar image

accept rate: 13%

edited 15 Apr '10, 20:03

+1 for music variety and with good beat!

(15 Apr '10, 15:40) Emi

Honestly, I introduced music to both my children in utero. I would occasionally play some Mozart on my portable, and I had a broken headset that allowed me to press both ear pieces up against my belly. Many of the books I read during pregnancy and since have recommended classical music at all stages of brain development (which continues until age 18-21). The complex patterns and changes encourage quicker and more complex firing of the synapses.

Silence will always be there, and I'm sure you aren't going to play music every minute... but I don't think there's a realistic danger of too much of it.

I try to go with classical music if we're doing homework or relaxing and more "popular" upbeat music when we're cleaning a room or just looking to work out some energy. The radio is usually fine, but I've noticed the top 40 stations allow a lot more questionable lyrics these days than they used to.

Sure I'm biased, but both my kids are now geniuses. I'll give Mozart a little of the credit.


answered 16 Apr '10, 14:52

MaryMomentum's gravatar image

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From my reading, it seems that classical music is only statistically linked to higher IQ because people with a higher IQ tend to listen to classical music. I've got nothing against listening to classical music, and I enjoy it myself on occasion, but I don't believe there is a causal link between Mozart and IQ.

(19 Apr '10, 23:47) Scottie T
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Asked: 13 Apr '10, 16:05

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Last updated: 11 May '10, 19:08