One hour a week to a cleverer child? It’s a no-brainer with music education!

Most of us have heard about the Mozart Effect; the idea that playing Mozart to our children improves their IQ. However, studies have long since disproven this media-hyped phenomenon. Listening to a genius does not make your child a genius, no more than watching world-class athletes compete on television will make us fitter.

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But there’s something intuitively appealing about the idea that music could help boost our children’s brains and over the past ten years, science has established that music can indeed do magic. That is, not merely listening to music, but learning music. Going back to the athletes comparison, it is when your child learns the core music skills of rhythm, melody and notation that they do indeed gain the brain boost we’ve all been dreaming of since the Mozart Myth first made it into mainstream media.

 

This year, it will be the 10-year anniversary of the University of Toronto study that was the first revealed in 2004 that when children gain some music training for just one hour a week, their intelligence improves over double the amount it would otherwise. Since then, other studies have confirmed the very same finding, showing that learning music boosts the IQ by as many as 7.5 IQ points. To put this in perspective, this intelligence boost is over twice as much as what breastfeeding gives, and no other activity, from flashcards to science training, increases a child’s natural intelligence even one bit. Music training is unique in its IQ-boosting power.

 
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But why does music training, and not any other activity, boost our children’s intelligence? This question led me to research and write my book The Music Miracle: The Scientific Secret to Unlocking Your Child’s Full Potential. I was surprised to find that since the development of advanced brain imaging technologies of the 21st Century, neuroscientists have discovered that creating music activates more parts of the brain than any other activity. It engages the brain’s regions related to memory, language, higher-order thinking, emotion, movement and mathematics alike.

 

Evidence shows that humans made music in ancient times as long as 500,000 years ago. In comparison, humans only developed language and speech 200,000 years ago, and mathematics, reading and science were only invented a measly 4000-6000 years ago – a blink of an eye in terms of human evolution. The biology of our brains has formed around music skills, in fact it is the understanding of rhythm and melodies that provided humans with the gift of speech in the first instance. Our brain development mimics its evolutionary history to this day for example, babies understand music from birth, and they come to learn language based on its musical properties. This explains why babies who learn music develop their language skills much faster and better than babies who miss out on musical activation.

 

95% of human brain growth happens between the years 0-7 of a person’s life. This explains the fact that although music training does have brain benefits for all ages, it is only between the first seven years that it will improve IQ. This is when the majority of connections between brain cells are made. Higher intelligence is, after all, largely just better and faster processing of information. Early music training builds these extra pathways between the different areas of the brain that it activates, and thus makes information travel faster. It’s the natural brain upgrade. Think of a 1980s computer compared with today’s laptops: the faster processing and larger working memory is the reason why the laptops of today can do things that 1980s computer engineers would have considered miracles.

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This is why I named my book The Music Miracle. There are no miracles in science, but as a parent myself, I find it miraculous that with just one hour of music training a week – less time than it takes to give my son a bath – I can help my son unleash his full brain potential. All children love music, and music training does not have to be gruelling. In Finland, where I’m from, practically all children engage in music training since they’re in their nappies (I did, too). Consequently, Finland is famed for its students topping the charts for international comparisons in abilities in mathematics, literacy, language skills and scientific skills alike – all of which benefit from the early music boost.

 

With the UK is faring below average in the OECD’s international student assessments, it is about time that we start a music movement in this country. From Beatles to Blur, this is the country that created all the great music of the recent generations. Us parents need to wake up and realize that learning music is not just for future musicians. We are all born musical, and giving our children the gift of music will be of immense help to them, no matter what it is they decide to do over the course of their lives. Because who wouldn’t want just a bit more of that extra brain power in today’s fast-paced world. We are eager to upgrade our computers and smartphones – let us take heed of the scientifically proven, completely natural brain upgrade that is available for our children.

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