Why Do Our Brains Remember So Much Music? NPR Story, Brain Facts, & Your Little One’s Early Learning !

This week I was slightly late for an appointment because I couldn’t stop listening to this story that ran on NPR. (It’s not a super long clip, just was bad timing for me!)  The title was as capturing as the information that followed: Why Do Our Brains Remember So Much Music?

Here are some of my favorite learning moments and quotes:

“…There are a few reasons we remember music so well. Some of it has to do with how our brains are hardwired to latch on to repetition and rhythm. “
“There’s also a small element of muscle memory…When you sing along to a song enough times, muscle memory between your brain to mouth kinda kicks in.”

“…There’s something about music that hits us on an emotional level. And that especially aids in memory.”

“So our brain recognizes these very human emotions and helps us remember what prompted those. And our brains are just good at remembering and reciting lyrics, thanks to these emotional bonds often when we hear music, even music from years ago, it can take you back to a specific point in time.”

Have you ever noticed this with your little ones at home? Part of the reason I was a few minutes late was that I heard this story right after a pretty surprising solo from my little one. This week he started singing a song that I realized I had never sung to him before.

“Are you listening, are you listening, come to carpet, come to carpet..” to the tune of Are You Sleeping (Frère Jacques).

When I thought about it a little more and put some context into the song he was singing, I realized he was repeating something he had heard in his previous daycare center months ago. The last time he could have possibly heard that song was more than 3 months ago. But he not only remembered the tune, he knew the words with hand gestures too!

Since we sing in this house ALL THE TIME, I was really surprised when he soloed at dinner the other night. When did he hear this? How come he can recite this whole thing now while he never sang it at home before? What will he continue to remember?

For as long as I have been a teacher, I’ve known one of the core reasons to work in early childhood education is because of the foundation this sets for future learning. What really hit home for me this week after hearing this NPR story was just how important music is for the brain!

Think of all the songs you sing with your little one, whether is pop music on the radio, kids’ songs you wish they wouldn’t request anymore, or something made up  (“Now it’s time to wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands. Now it’s time to wash your hands and eat dinner.” Can you guess the tune ??)

Not only are they learning musicality, rhythm, beat, pitch, and vocabulary, but they are also storing this information for future use.

And in those memories of you singing with them, they will have the emotional tie back to you. I wonder how far into the future you can sing a song to your then-big kid that will bring back feelings of happiness or love! We talk about bonding with your little one through music now, but it was so exciting to hear that these emotional bonds will last long into the future whenever familiar music is played.

Here’s the link to the whole NPR story. Enjoy!

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