Ashley Cox, teacher, Let’s Play Music

Think back to a certain lesson taught or important skills you learned at a young age. Are any of those things connected to a song or music? Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said, “Music is the universal language of mankind.” It reaches people in different ways, pulls on heart strings, helps pump you up for a workout, comforts you during a hard time, teaches you the alphabet, and reminds you how to tie your shoes.

I am not alone in believing that music is so important for children’s social, mental, and physical development. A child’s brain is most receptive to learning music between the ages of 2 and 9 — a period called “the music window.” Kids learn by involving their whole body. Research shows that the more senses involved in the learning process, the more the concepts are internalized. Music can be used to encourage discovery, imagination, stories, games, and laughter.

Playing a musical instrument can cause fundamental changes in a young person’s brain, shaping both how it functions and how it’s physically structured, researchers say. “Listening to and making music is not only an auditory experience, but it is a multisensory and motor experience. Making music over a long period of time can change brain function and brain structure,” said Gottfried Schlaug, MD, PhD.

The following are three benefits that musical training has on the brain, according to Psychology Today.

  1. Musicians have an enhanced ability to integrate sensory information from hearing, touch, and sight.
  2. The age at which musical training begins to affect brain anatomy as an adult; beginning training before the age of 7 has the greatest impact.
  3. Brain circuits involved in musical improvisation are shaped by systematic training, leading to less reliance on working memory and more extensive connectivity within the brain.

Music is the only thing we do that exercises the entire brain — left, right, front, and back — simultaneously. Bottom line: Playing a musical instrument is like giving the brain an aerobic workout accompanied by fireworks.

So, there you have it. If you want to build a bigger, better brain — one that functions at a higher level; one that helps children learn to read; one that increases language development; one that boosts memory; one that aids in the learning of math and science; and one that enhances motor skills, then start learning music. It will be the best thing you do for your brain — and your overall wellbeing. Plus, it’s just plain fun!