This is a question I am often asked. There are many possible answers and a number of variables to take into consideration, and I will give you my best shot at some answers here. I’ll go by age from the youngest upwards.
- One of the best things you can do to get your child ready for the piano under 4 years of age is have them listen to a wide range of music. Listen, listen, listen.
Here is 2 month old Naomi listening at the piano with the help of Gran and Grandad. She was making a lot of happy sounds (with arms and legs in action!)
- If you are a pianist, then play as much as you can when your child is around. You don’t have to engage them actively if they are not interested, but they will notice that you do this thing of playing the piano so they will have a natural interest.
- Make the most of any opportunity for them to see other people playing the keyboard or piano. There is so much in the way of recorded music that sometimes children can grow up without realising music doesn’t just come from a machine.
- Give them shakers or other percussion instruments to play along with live or recorded music.
- Involve them in some sort of social musical play such as Music and Movement.
4 years old
I started my son Isaac at the piano at the age of 4. He had been listening to the Suzuki piano tapes as a baby and I was often playing the music when he was up and around. One day he came up to me and asked if he could do it to. We took it from there. I began a Suzuki piano class with him and a few of his friends.
With this approach it is crucial to have full parental involvement both at lessons and at home. If you want to use this method you should be sure the teacher understands the Suzuki philosophy.
5 years old
At this age there is a lot going on as the child starts school (or kindergarten in the USA). If they are going to start piano lessons that involve any music reading, there are five areas to be in place:
- The parent needs to have some sort of music reading experience/understanding.
- The child needs to be able to read words, at least a little.
- The ability to stay focussed. Try seeing if they can stay focussed on a written page of words for about 15 seconds without their eyes looking anywhere else.
- They need to be able to sit still while learning a new activity for at least 5 minutes.
- They need to be able to repeat an activity in order to consistently play something the same way again on request.
This can be a big ask for some 5 year olds and it may be better to wait a bit before starting them. Keep up the sorts of activities mentioned above for those under 4 though.
Next week we will look at things to bear in mind when older children start piano.