Myths abound about the myriad ways you can influence your baby’s intelligence. For some, it begins before birth and you’ll see enthusiastic parents eager to produce a prodigy playing music to the expectant mother’s belly. Once the baby’s born, the education continues with background classical music playing while the infant is drifting off to sleep, and also during bath time and meal time.
Whether or not classical music is able to influence a human being’s intelligence at any age is something scientists commonly debate. What’s more clear is that babies truly enjoy music for its rhythms, its varying pitches and the general mood-enhancing qualities that come along with it.
Nature or Nurture?
Author Marcus Buckingham in his book Now, Discover Your Strengths explains that intelligence is something that is developed even before birth, but there isn’t any real evidence to suggest that its influence can be greater or lesser just because there is lovely music playing in the outer world.
Many things in a human’s development are learned. Sucking one’s thumb is an instinctive behavior that takes place even in utero, the same as for scratching, yawning and puckering lips. Punters over the generations have even tried to claim that thumb sucking is variously a sign of high, or low, intelligence, depending on whom you ask. That’s hardly fair, is it?
The key to the benefits of classical music for babies seems to be more about creating a positive environment in which learning is easier and more enjoyable. Musical scientists could extol the virtues of complicated compositions and try to have us believe that if a baby tunes in to the depths and complexities of the arrangement, his intelligence will benefit. The question is, how is such a thing measured?
Another argument is that babies commonly fall asleep while listening to classical music. That’s not entirely a bad thing … particularly for his parents, desperate for a few moments’ peace. But one thing that has been proven is that sleep is enormously beneficial to brain development and if a classical piece can lull a restless child to slumber land, then one can attribute better intelligence to symphonies and arias.
Playing classical music in the home or car as a consistent aural backdrop pays dividends in other ways too. If the other occupants enjoy it, a naturally calm and pleasant ambience will be the result. A happy home is one where children thrive and whose brains are not cluttered with negative messages, hindering the way for learning and understanding.
Furthermore, when a baby is exposed to positive sensory experiences, the enrichment of parental and sibling bonding is enhanced.
One of the nicest things about classical music is that it comes in a wide array of styles. You probably wouldn’t play Wagner to your infant unless you want a cranky, ill-tempered child on your hands. But pop a CD of the Masters such as Bach, Mozart or Strauss into the stereo and watch your tiny loved one thrill to the strains of some of history’s most amazing musical works of art.