Today, many studies show that listening to and playing music affects a child’s ability to learn. Music also helps children express emotions, gives them a sense of identity and self-confidence, and exposes them to other cultures.
Lasting effects: Studies of children who play piano show higher levels of interest in academics (and exhibit higher GPAs), higher scores on cognitive competence tests (including math and reading), greater emotional growth, learn languages easier, and display better attitudes and behaviors.
Skills gained: Children who study piano are working skills such as: fine and gross motor skills, attention span, self-esteem, math and reading skills, self-expression and communication, concentration levels, discipline, listening skills, logic skills, abstract thinking, memory, willingness to learn and creativity.
The Mozart effect: In 1993, college students who listened to 10 minutes of Mozart scored 8 or 9 points higher on a spatial-temporal test than students with no music. In work with preschool children and keyboard lessons, researchers found that the children that received keyboard training performed 46% better on spatial-temporal tests than the other children. Spatial-temporal reasoning is a key to the higher brain functions required for mathematics, physics and engineering. This training could not be accomplished on some other instruments, such as strings, due to the long time that children need just to gain a decent sound on a string instrument.
The “Window of Opportunity”: As a child’s brain develops, connections are being made between trillions of neurons. If the brain does not use some of these neurons, it begins to eliminate them. The richer the environment of the child, the more developed the pathways of the neurons. The most powerful period of this development for both verbal and musical abilities occurs from birth to about age nine. Although this does not mean that a child cannot learn music after that age, the child will probably not develop as great an ability as they would have been able to had they been exposed to music earlier.
We have heard a lot about how our thinking changes as we grow older, about how our brain easily gets “stuck in a rut” and how the decline of cognitive thought is common. But it does not have to be a normal part of aging. The way our brain works and ages can be effected by us by keeping our brains limber, or elastic.
The theory of brain elasticity has gained acceptance in the world of education. As we age, our brain elasticity becomes static. Our traditional education is over and we’re probably good enough at our jobs that we’re not learning new skills. Our brains, then, are coasting on cruise-control and looking forward to a lazy retirement. But not so fast. With a little brain gymnastics, we can ensure a longer, more rewarding life. By keeping your brain active and challenged, by involving it in thought you can stave off brain decline. One of the best ways to do this is to involve the brain in thought processes that use different parts of the brain simultaneously. Playing piano is the perfect activity for this purpose and it also happens to be a lot of fun.