Do you want to be smarter? Just grab a pen or pencil. According to The Wall Street Journal, more and more studies show that good-old fashioned handwriting boosts brainpower in everyone from kids to seniors. Researchers say writing by hand could help you do everything from expressing your ideas faster and clearer, to learning to play music, to learning a new language.

Indiana University researchers studied the effects of handwriting on children, using an MRI to measure brain activity. One group of children simply looked at letters. The other group looked at letters and copied them down. The result? Activity in the areas of the brain connected to thinking, language, and memory lit up in the kids who wrote out the letters, but not the kids who simply read them.

Another study linking handwriting and brain power focused on adults, and measured how much people remember when they’re studying new words. The result: Adults who wrote out new words, instead of typing them on a keyboard, remembered more of them and for a longer period of time. This means you’ll learn to read music or a new language faster and better if you write it out by hand. 

So, why is handwriting the brain’s best friend? Lead researcher Dr. Karin Harman James says manually writing and drawing the things we see reinforces the material in our brains. It’s like a double dose of learning. If picking up a pencil and paper seems too old school for you, just download one of the new smartphone apps, like “WritePad.” You simply use your finger to write words on the screen, and it instantly converts them to text so you can email or Twitter away. There’s “ABC PocketPhonics.” Kids can draw letters with a fingertip on the screen, and correct movements earn them cheering pencils. One mom mentioned in the article says her 4-year-old son refused to practice handwriting, but now he’s addicted to handwriting because the app feels like a game, not a boring lesson. If you’d like to go further, check out “WritePad” and “ABC PocketPhonics” on iTunes.