Get in Sync: How Music Can Really Benefit Babies

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By Anisa Arsenault, Associate Editor
Updated January 30, 2017
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Playing music for baby may not turn him into a baby Mozart, but bouncing him to the beat will definitely boost his E.Q.

That’s the verdict from a new study published in the journal  Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. “There’s this idea that if we just play music in the background, then our kids are going to grow up to be geniuses, and that’s really not what research is suggesting,” lead author Laura Cirelli tells “If there are benefits of musical activities, it really comes from active engagement in the music.”

In the study, 30 14-month-old babies were bounced on the lap of an experimenter — some in sync to the music and others out of sync with the music. The music of choice: an instrumental version of the Beatles’s “Twist and Shout,” selected for its high energy and regular beat. Those babies who were bounced in sync with the experimenters behaved more cooperatively with them. The proof: when the experimenter or a stranger who sat passively in the room “dropped” a block or marker, the child was more likely to hand it back to the person they had moved in sync together.

“This is a social relationship that’s being formed between them and that person," Cirelli says. "They’re thinking, this is someone I can affiliate with, this is someone who I can approach.” So if you’re already playing music for baby, keep it up. But remember that it’s actually your direct involvement and interaction that makes the experience meaningful.

A completely unrelated experiment in bouncing that’s already becoming an Internet hit: baby Ally being taught to bounce by the family dog, Day. And if the study holds true, once they get in sync, they’ll be the best of friends.

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