Long before he can clap along or dance, your baby learns about music by moving in time to it in your arms. In a study published in Science, researchers played a rhythm while bouncing one group of babies on every second beat (like a march) and the other group on every third beat (like a waltz). When given a preference test based on a head-turn response, the babies indicated that they liked listening to the rhythm with accents that matched the way they had been bounced.
"Combining music and movement wires a baby's brain to integrate the senses," says study author Laurel Trainor, Ph.D., director of the McMaster Institute for Music and the Mind, at McMaster University, in Hamilton, Ontario. "It helps your child learn to connect perception and action, which is an important skill that will serve him well throughout his life." Infants begin to understand that what they see and hear are connected to what they do, from crying to get your attention to learning to shake a rattle.
Help Your Baby Benefit
You don't need to host hourly variety shows for your infant. Placing your iPod in a docking station and holding him as you sway to the beat, bouncing him on your knee to your college fight song at game time, or rocking him while you sing to him at bedtime will all encourage him to connect music with movement.