Researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital determined that musical training doesn’t just make kids smarter generally – it boosts executive brain function specifically. This doesn’t necessarily mean a recorder-crushing first grader is destined for a life of boardroom dominance, but it does suggest that you might want to consider the toy piano over Thomas The Train.
Working with a group of 9-to-12-year-old kids who began playing instruments at an average age of 5, the study found enhanced verbal fluency and mental processing speed compared to similar kids who lacked musical training. They also displayed more brain activity in the areas that dictate how efficiently they switch between tasks. The study builds on existing evidence that musical ability correlates to reading and math ability, and the researchers spiked the football by pointing out that executive brain function is a better predictor of overall academic performance than IQ. Naturally, they also suggested that budget-strapped schools might want to reconsider their music education programs before putting them on the chopping block.
If all this piques your interest, the Guinness Book Of World Records determined both the hardest and easiest instruments to learn: oboes and French horns for those who like a challenge; banjos and ukuleles for people who want to play “Mary Had A Little Lamb” now. Or, if you hate yourself, just get Junior a drum kit.