Will Listening to Mozart Make Your Kid Smarter?
This myth has mellowed out a little bit, but you can still go to any music or baby store and find plenty of classical music CDs that promise to make your baby smarter. Where did this come from? In an excellent article in Scientific American (September 13, 2007), Nikhil Swaminathan cites a 1993 study by Frances Rauscher in the journal Nature (1). Rauscher wasn’t even looking at babies. She assigned 36 college kids to listen to nothing, a relaxation track, or a Mozart sonata. She then had them try to figure out how pieces of paper that had been folded and cut would look if they were unfolded. The students who had listened to Mozart did better. People then ran with it, assuming it extended to general intelligence and babies. Georgia mandated that all new moms got a classical music CD, and Florida required daycare centers to play classical music through their speakers! Never underestimate parents who believe they can get the slightest advantage for their kids! But no research has ever shown that classical music helps babies to be smarter.
Music does seem to have other benefits for kids, however. Kids who play instruments have been found to do better with reading and get higher standardized test scores. Looking at newborns in Neonatal Intensive Care Units, researchers have found that live music performed by trained music therapists leads to lower heart rates, improved sucking and sleeping patterns, and decreased parental stress. (2) That’s pretty exciting to me. So music is awesome, but feel free to throw in some Rolling Stones, Taylor Swift, or Metallica in with the Mozart as well.
1. Music and spatial task performance. Rauscher FH et al. Nature. 1993 Oct 14; 365(6447):611.
2. The Effects of Music Therapy on Vital Signs, Feeding, and Sleep in Premature Infants. J. Loewy et al. Pediatrics. 2013; 131(5): 902-913.