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Music Has Noteworthy Benefits

February 12, 2015
By Betsy Bethel - OV Parent Editor ( , OVParent

Don't buy into the baby-genius baloney: Piping Beethoven into the womb through headphones and enrolling your child in music classes before he cuts teeth does not ensure he will become the next, well, Beethoven - or Stephen Hawking or Steve Jobs.

Having said that, studies have shown early exposure to music benefits babies in a variety of areas - music, of course, but also language, math and listening.

"Early exposure ensures early reaction and response (to music)," said Robert Troeger, choral music director at Wheeling Jesuit University and music director St. Matthew's Episcopal Church, Wheeling. Troeger heads a children's music class called Musikgarten, held at the church and open to the public.

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"Typically we invite parents with babies that are at least 6 months old to come to our Musikgarten classes, but actually exposure can begin much earlier, including in utero," he said.

Judy Bischof, of Kindermusik with Judy, also offers public classes and play dates at the Kruger Street Toy and Train Museum in Wheeling, beginning with newborns. (Kindermusik and Musikgarten were created by the same German teacher, Dr. Lorna Heyge.)

Bischof noted her infant class is "a special time for parents and their little ones, and one that I enjoy being a part of as we sing, clap, dance and rock the babies to the wonderful world of music."

Activities train the babies' ears to recognize and, in some cases, imitate animal sounds, various musical instruments and the voices of adults singing and humming.

"This ability to detect and attend to sounds, and to distinguish between them, sets a baby on the path to fine-tuned listening and receptive language," according to information from Kindermusik.

In addition, babies learn to pick up on patterns.

Noted Troeger: "In most cases, children develop with music a sense of sequence, order and structure; these elements are to be found in all learning disciplines from math to history to cooking, etc. Children are particularly aware of changes that occur in music/songs and if these are listened to and incorporated with movement there can be profoundly enriching and freeing effects that result."

Movement is another big part of learning music and cementing it into babies' brains; it also supports fine and gross motor development. And, using objects such as scarves and bells further helps "internalize the experience," Troeger said.

Classes also provide caregivers with a support system as friendships develop before, during and after class. Some continue to attend classes with their children up through age 7 or 9. Bischof said helping parents is important to her.

"I also enjoy sharing child development information with parents in class, providing them with useful resources to use at home," she said.

Parents are encouraged to listen to music at home and are sometimes provided with take-home books, CDs and/or small instruments as part of the class fees. "Even gentle swaying back and forth with babies has important effects that children often want to repeat and do over many times," Troeger said.



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