Is your toddler showing an interest in the piano? Four year old likes to sing a long with all her Disney favorites? Does thismean they are ready for lessons? Maybe, maybe not. There are a few things you should consider before enrolling your young child in lessons:
1. Every child is different. As a teacher, I do my best to individualize lessons for younger children and their temperaments. I have taught children who are very self-motivated at a young age and do three instruments for a whopping hour and a half lesson. This is the exception, not the rule. Most kids can handle a half hour lesson if it is presented the right way, and well structured. There may need to be some physical movement involved, for example, stomping your feet to a rhythm in a song. However, the younger the child, the more naturally disciplined and focused she or he must be. Four year olds need a lot of stimulation, and some are simply not ready for formal lessons. In this case, you should:
2. Consider other alternatives for music instruction until your child is ready for the commitment and focus that formal lessons entail. Take your child to music events, have them listen and dance to music with you. Play together on the piano and practice naming the keys with letters of the musical alphabet. Exposure is key at this age. Parent/child music classes are a great way to do this! Check out Little Music Makers led by DoRayMi Lessons Teacher Rosalind Hayes if you live in Chester County.
3. Under four is usually too young. Kids at this age usually do not have the focus that music lessons entail. Some methods of instruction do work with this population, including the Suzuki method. This method essentially trains children through playful “babbling” interactions on the instrument, which eventually become structured into music, until the student is ready to read music. This requires teachers to have a specific certification to practice.
4. The goals for young children in music lessons are much different than for adults, teens and even older children. First and foremost, the goal should be for the child to have a fun experience. You want to encourage a lifelong appetite for music instruction. Early experiences play a big role in this. I have met plenty of adults who are hesitant to take lessons because someone told them they weren’t good enough at a young age. Anyone can learn, and everyone should be encouraged to! For voice, we want to work on matching pitch, breathing from the right place and muscle relaxation. For piano and guitar, we want to teach notes and rhythms and gain basic motor coordination when playing.
5. Young children have special challenges in lessons. Usually they need more time motor coordination at first on keys or strings due to having small hands and developing the dexterity needed to move fingers independently of one another. Many also cannot read, which makes sequencing notes, or remembering lyrics difficult at first. Frequent repetition is very important in these cases. Some also confuse high and low with soft and loud. You should gently explain that animals in nature can make high and soft sounds (like chicks) or loud and low sounds (like elephants), and that instruments are the same.
If you think your child is ready for formal instruction, please check out lessons with us at doraymilessons!