Babies taking part in a study showed better early communication skills like pointing at objects that are out of reach or waving goodbye.
Socially these babies also smiled more, were easier to soothe and showed less distress when things were unfamiliar or did not go their way.
“Our results suggest that the infant brain might be particularly plastic with regard to musical exposure” says Laurel Trainor, director of the McMaster Institute for Music and the Mind.
In the study two groups of one year old babies and their parents spent six months taking part in one of two types of weekly music instruction.
One music class involved interactive music making and learning a small set of lullabies, nursery rhymes and songs with actions.
Parents and infants worked together to learn to play percussion instruments, take turns and sing specific songs.
In the other music class the infants and parents played at various toy stations while recordings from the popular Baby Einstein series played in the background.
Before the experiment all the babies had show similar skills and none had participated in other baby music classes.
Babies who participated in the interactive music classes showed earlier sensitivity to the pitch structure in music preferring to listen to a version of a piano piece that stayed in key.
Those in the passive classes did not show the same response.
Even more surprising, however, was the non-musical differences between the two groups in the areas of communication and social skills.
While both class types included listening to music and all the infants heard a similar amount of music at home, a big difference between the classes was the interactive exposure to music.
“There are many ways that parents can connect with their babies,” says study coordinator Andrea Unrau. “The great thing about music is, everyone loves it and everyone can learn simple interactive musical games together.”
The study is published in the scientific journals Developmental Science and Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences.