Every parent wants their child to be gifted and talented. We want our kids to be able to manage themselves throughout the challenges of the education process, which takes between 13 and 18 years. My kids have done that, and people who know them often ask, “What have you done to raise such gifted and talented children?”
Recently, I was at an event, where my son Tsoof performed a piece he had written in front of hundreds of people. After the event, some people came to me to congratulate me for his successful performance, and I stood there like a peacock, as if I had played it myself. It felt great, but the real benefit of playing music was in the development of his brain.
I specialize in children with learning difficulties, as well as gifted and talented children. After studying and doing Special Education work for many years, I developed methods to make sure my kids wouldn’t develop learning difficulties, and if they did, to get rid of them quickly (I am a great believer in the plasticity of the brain). But beyond that, I used these methods to make them gifted and talented.
Why? Because life is easier that way.
One of the easiest and most effective ways I’ve discovered was getting your kids to play a musical instrument. You see, I didn’t play a musical instrument, and I’m not in the category of gifted and talented. However, after raising three children and working with thousands of families, I know that regardless of their kids’ tendencies, exposing them to music increases their brain capacity and turns them into gifted and talented kids.
Music grows the brain
The science is very active at examining the brains of musicians. Although there is no research checking the brain of musicians from birth, there is strong evidence that musicians have 5 areas of the brain larger than those of non-musicians.
While most researchers think that the brain’s plasticity is greatest in childhood, they believe that, with practice, even adults can enhance brain performance through music.
One study has found that children’s brains show significant growth if they learn to play an instrument the age of 7. When they grow up, their brains do not lose this progress and retain the neural pathways created.
When adults learn to play music, however, if stop learning and playing their chosen instrument, their brains shrink back, their ability slowly fades, and they must then start all over again.
Neuroscientists have researched the advantage of learning music in the early years for two decades. They have found that people who play musical instruments think better and faster. They are better problem solvers, are more creative and have a significantly higher ability to solve complex problems. Their memory is stronger, and they are generally good at math and learning languages (music is essentially a type of language).
Importantly, musicians are more comfortable with uncomfortable situations. So, for them, life is easier.
Music cures learning difficulties
One of most common reasons children have learning difficulties is that their two hemispheres do not work well together. As you may know, when we use our right hand, we receive motor instructions from the left hemisphere and if we use the left hand, we receive motor instructions from the right hemisphere. This is the reason we find it hard to do one thing in one hand and another thing with the other.
Musicians practice their right-left coordination all the time they play.
I often assess how quickly people (mostly children) use their right and left side to perform simple motor tasks. Musicians, because they are accustomed to using both sides of the brain, are much faster in those tests.
When I work with children with learning difficulties, I know that introducing them to playing musical instruments at an early stage may rid them of the problem entirely.
Does it mean there are no children who play music with learning difficulties?
No! it means that if they are exposed to playing a musical instrument, the symptoms of the difficulty will not be so obvious, and eventually, because of the plasticity of the brain, it may sort itself out completely.
Music increases income
As it turns out, due to musicians having higher IQs, they generally earn more money every year. So, if you don’t invest in your child’s music tuition for the sake of their mental development, you should do it to improve their capacity to earn more money in the future. Over 60 years of their lives, we are talking about a lot of money!
However, one of the most important points for me is that musicians develop the ability to manage stress better than non-musicians do.
Music for health and wellbeing
I have dedicated many posts in this blog to health and wellbeing, and I would like to add music to this formula. The reason music is good for our health and wellbeing is that it activates functions in the brain that are healthy for us.
Since musicians feel more comfortable with uncomfortable situations, we know they can manage the stresses of life better than others. The good news is that even listening to music does great things for our brain functions!
Here is a short TED talk that explains why we should send our kids to learn a musical instrument.
How to expose your kids to music
- Talk to your babies in funny voices and use intonation
- Teach your kids to make voices
- Teach your kids to follow rhythms (play on the walls, on the table, on the body…)
- Listen to music you love. This will show your kids your joy and they will mirror it
- Teach your kids to whistle
- Teach through music and sounds
- Encourage dancing, because it is associated with music, so it exposes children to music even more. We used to have a dancing party in the living room from time to time
- Put on relaxing music before bedtime
- Have background music on in the house
- From as early as your children want, allow them to play a musical instrument. My son has played percussion since he was 4. Some people told me there was no way we could teach him something so complex, because he was too young.
However, I found a teacher who was willing to start early, and he was amazing.
Remember that your children don’t have to become musicians. It can be just for fun. It still does the job, even if they are not good at playing music.
Never force them to pick an instrument you want them to play. Let them It is OK to change instruments until they find out what is in their heart. Remember that singing is using your voice as the instrument, so that’s another option
- Play singing trivia. Sing parts of songs and ask your kids to name the song or continue it. This is a great activity to do at a party. Kids love it. Even 25-year-old kids…
- Play humming trivia. Hum a song and ask your kids to guess which song it is. Swap roles and ask them to hum a song for you to guess
- Use rhythm Adding a beat to anything and speaking with a beat can make written content come to life
- Use singing as a teaching tool
- Puppet shows, storytelling and role-playing activities are great for enhancing musical ability
- Expose your kids to music from around the world
- Take your kids to music festivals
- Take your kids to concerts
- Make musical instruments from recycled materials at home with the kids
To inspire your kids and help them become gifted and talented, the best thing you can ever do is play an instrument yourself and be a role model.