Some still believe that listening to classical music will make your children smarter, which is true, sort of. Turns out that just listening to classical music only stimulates your brain for a short period of time and the effects can only be seen for around 20 minutes. So if you need to study for a test or get a quick burst of brain power listen to classical music, but if you want there to be a long lasting effect you have to go a little further.
To get long term benefits kids must learn and acquire the skills that are needed to play music and not just listen to it. The same can be said for a variety of things from sports to public speaking, but for now we will concentrate on playing an instrument. A child who learns to read music and play an instrument, or two, benefits a lot more than a child who just goes to watch the concert. Students who learn music and play in school perform better on standardized tests than their fellow classmates and have fewer disciplinary actions against them and fewer absences from school later in life, even if students stop playing after a few years.
A German study, out of the University of Munster, showed that music lessons during childhood enlarge the brain, since musicians are able to access more neurons that are needed to process sounds. The earlier a child starts taking lessons the more dramatic the effects on the brain. There is also a social impact to taking music, choir, or drama lessons since the students can make life long friends in all of these activities. While the social interaction isn’t unique to just artistic learning, the learning capabilities can be. A study conducted at the University of Wisconsin divided a group of three year olds into separate groups and either taught them to use the piano or another skill. When the kids were tested again the ones who had been taught keyboard skills and reading music scored higher on spatial-temporal reasoning than the other children, who had been taught different skills.
Sure, there are a variety of studies that indicate learning music at any age can make you smarter but it also adds a lot more to our lives and helps us enjoy a wide range of things we might not have before. Your child doesn’t need to be a musical prodigy to benefit from learning how to read music and play an instrument.