One of the most popular questions I get from parents is at what age should I start my child’s music education? One of the most important aspects of a child’s music education is to understand what the goal of the lesson is. Children ages 2-3 (toddler) can grasp some very basic musical concepts. Playing a musical instrument for your child or to starting to get them to sway on beat with you are just a couple of examples of how to begin introducing your child to music.
By 4 years old a child has strong sense of rhythm, meter and melody. However private lessons require both self discipline and fine motor skills that a child has yet to develop. Signing your child up for music classes and working on exercises such as identifying the beat and the melody in music as well as identifying different instruments in a song or piece. A program called Kidzrock is for ages 4-7 and is great for age group.
At age 5 most children’s gross motor skills are developed enough for drums, violin and piano. The most common Ukulele and recorder have also been taught to this age group with positive results. I personally am a believer that starting a child on piano is the best physical experience to start with. Children will be able to make the transition to guitar around age 6 or 7 with greater ease than at age 5. Suzuki programs and Kidzrock are great for this age group.
Once a child has a homework routine private practice is more of a possibility. At this age it’s important to look at the individual and their ability to focus as well as their desire to play an instrument. Group classes are still recommended if you simply want to expose your child to playing an instrument. Jr. Rockerz which was created at Dave Simon’s Rock School is a good program to explore. Jr. Rockerz is now offered in elementary, middle and high schools in the st. Louis area.
Many children are in group classes at school where they are introduced to instruments other than the piano. Instruments like violin and recorder enable students to play in a group setting. This class experience is a fantastic introduction to the idea that music is mostly a group experience, one that you can share with your friends. “The only drawback that comes from these types of group lessons is that children needing extra help on their instrument are sometimes too timid to ask for it, or the instructor’s schedule does not allow for extra time spent with students, which can lead to discouragement.” – Children’s Music Workshop
After teaching private and group music lessons for the last 7 years I have noticed the development of these skills at an early age has a lasting impact. When I am really impressed with a kids musical abilities at the age of 7 or 8 I tend to find they have been in music classes for several years and have been introduced to several instruments already.
One important aspect of musical development is the part a parent plays in their child’s musical education/development. What I am mainly talking about here is nurturing a love for music at home, outside of the classroom. Try to turn your child onto whatever music they may be drawn towards. Even if this music may be something you do not love, you want your kid to be excited about music. Just having music on in the car and at home will expose your child without them even realizing it is happening.
PBS reports, “There is a “window of opportunity” from birth to age nine for developing a musical sensibility within children. During this time, the mental structures and mechanisms associated with processing and understanding music are in the prime stages of development, making it of utmost importance to expose children in this age range to music.” -PBS