As a piano teacher, the number one question I often received from parents who are interested in lessons is: When can my child start piano lessons?
I have known many fantastic colleagues who have set rules about when they will take a student. Some have policies in place where they only take students at age 7. Others will only take children who can read. One teacher told me only when the child can sit still for thirty minutes (good luck!).
I completely understand having these types of rules. But, I also think that if we set too many limits on when a child is the magical age, we limit the child’s ability to access an early love of music.
Certainly this doesn’t mean you should sign up your 2-year-old for half hour private lessons. It does mean that you can seek out musical experiences (not limited to formal lessons) for your little one earlier than you may think.
Nurturing your child’s musical abilities is important to do at a very early age as the environment during those foundational years substantially impacts lasting musical potential.
Musical learning happens while your baby is still in the womb. At eight to nine months of gestation, fetuses can recognize the distinction between voices and music. The baby’s heartbeat reacts to music and some studies indicate that a newborn baby seems to recognize a piece of music that was played throughout the mother’s pregnancy. All this is to say, your child was already trying to organize and make sense of sound and music before he was born.
Between birth and age 5, the most appropriate thing to do for your little one is to provide a musical environment. Allow your child to move to music, sing and explore different instruments. While allowing your toddler to bang on the drums won’t necessarily sound great, it gives your child’s brain opportunity to make sense of music. This is musical development!
It makes sense, doesn’t it? We talk to our children often to help them develop their verbal skills. So why wouldn’t we want to also give them opportunities to listen and explore music to develop their musical aptitude?
So how exactly to we give our littlest ones these opportunities? Check out preschool programs at your library, as they often include nursery rhymes and finger chants. Music Together, KinderMusik and other early learning programs are geared towards pre-keyboard musical experiences. My Busy Preschoolers Do Music online program is an affordable, play-based option for young learners.
A qualified teacher will make sure she isn’t just turning on the music and telling your child to go nuts. She will encourage some age appropriate ways to begin to organize music. The teacher will help little ones recognize styles, find patterns, and move to a beat.
I, personally, take students for piano lessons beginning at age 4. This is younger than many teachers are willing to accept students. BUT I use a different curriculum with my early level students.
When I start a 9 year old in lessons, we work at a quick pace, and we spend most of our lesson sitting at the keyboard. With my littlest ones, I introduce keyboard using the Music for Young Children method. This method is play-based, involves puppets, listening, movement, large motor skills and lots of singing. Only a few minutes of each class are spent at the keyboard.
Look for a teacher who is experienced at working with kids at the keyboard during the preschool years and has a successful, unique approach. I am a big fan of beginning children young with some type of keyboard instruction. Understand that those lessons will look different than the lessons of an elementary school aged child.
AGE FIVE AND UP
Many teachers are willing to take students for lessons beginning around age 5. Typically, the instruments available at this younger age are piano and string instruments. (CLICK HERE for tips on finding a good teacher.)
Taking lessons is a commitment not just for your child, but for you as well! You will want to make sure that you are spending time at the piano with your child. You will be present to encourage, correct and give feedback in between lessons.
SO WHEN CAN MY CHILD START PIANO LESSONS? Let’s sum it up:
-Surround your little one with structured musical activities from as early an age as possible. Your child can learn to move expressively, identify styles of music, experience patterns and rhythm as young as the preschool years.
-Instruction on the piano or a string instrument can begin around age 5, depending on your teacher’s experience and curricula.