Is Your Child Too Young to Start Learning An Instrument?
As parents the thing that matters most to us in the world is giving our kids a good start in life. Many of us know how great learning a musical instrument is for kids: it can help them develop creative thinking and problem-solving skills, increase concentration and self-esteem, even help improve language and maths skills! But how young is too young to start?
Actually, there's no such thing as too young. While the myth that playing Mozart to your unborn child will turn them into a genius has been debunked, you can start giving your child a great musical foundation right from birth.
Music is like a language. You know how kids learn to speak all on their own just by being exposed to the people around them? It's largely the same with music in the early years. Research shows that some musical skills are innate - related to a young infant's need to communicate with a caregiver - but others are acquired simply by frequently hearing music. So start by giving your child as much exposure to music as you can. This can include playing them pre-recorded music - it doesn't have to be Mozart! Singing to them is another great way to help children develop musical skills, as well as being a fun way to bond with your child. Before too long you'll find that they'll start singing too, sometimes even before they can talk. I've known several children who could carry a tune long before they could sing the words to their favourite nursery rhyme.
By the time they are about 2 or 3 years old there is even more you can do to prepare them for formal music lessons. Some of the most challenging aspects of playing a musical instrument for small children are rhythm skills and motor control. While these skills generally don't kick in until school age, there are activities you can do that help them develop a little earlier.
From about 3-4 years of age many kids are ready to begin some formal music training. But this is where things get complicated. Many music teachers will refuse to teach children this age, and those who do accept them often just try to teach them the same way you would teach an older child - which doesn't work. The last thing you want is to take your child to a music teacher who doesn't understand how to teach this age group and turn your child off with a bad experience. Search around for a teacher who really understands and enjoys working with this age group. The important thing at this stage is keeping it fun! You want your child to develop a love for music that lasts them their whole life.
In general, shorter, more frequent lessons are best when children are not yet attending school. The work you do with them at home in between their music lessons is really important as well, so make sure you attend your child's lesson and get clear instructions about what they should work on at home.
Another myth that is commonly heard from music teachers is that children not at school can't or shouldn't learn to read music. In our experience at YMGP Music School this is absolutely not true. Learning to read music should not be given more importance than developing auditory skills, which is why singing with your child is so important. However, if a child is old enough to learn the alphabet, they are old enough to learn to read music. In fact, children who develop both auditory skills and note-reading from an early age do far better as students when they are older. Research shows that students who are good note readers are far more likely to continue learning long-term and become accomplished musicians than those who can't read music. We have seen so many students who have come to us from other music schools without acquiring good note reading skills, and often they will struggle for a long time to correct this problem.
What if you just can't find a teacher with experience teaching young children or someone you and your child feel comfortable with? Don't worry! Sometimes parents can be the best teachers at this early age even if you don't have much musical knowledge yourself. We offer online consultations for parents not in our local area to give you the guidance you need to be able to get your child started right away. Give us a call to book in a session.
Lastly, don't be discouraged if your child doesn't show signs of being a prodigy! Often progress can seem slow in the early years. But children who start young will often zoom ahead of later starters once they get a bit older. Even if they don't become a world famous musician, music will add so much richness to their lives. In the meantime, just to inspire you, check out this video of 5 year old Anke Chen below!