Is my child ready to learn an instrument?

As parents, we’ve all been told that learning a musical instrument has many incredible benefits for our children. We all want the best for our children, so of course, we want to give them every opportunity to grow and develop to the best of their potential, and we know that music can play a very important role in this.

We know that music can play a vital role in developing motor and verbal skills. Learning an instrument can help improve hand-eye coordination as well as facilitate left and right brain thinking. Cognitive skills such as focus, memory and thinking are enhanced.

Learning an instrument is an effective way of learning how to overcome social anxiety or stress and being a musician teaches social skills such as perseverance, overcoming fears, working towards goals and achieving through practice and at times sacrifice. As a teacher I have seen countless ways music has also allowed children to find their own unique creative outlet – a space for them to find a way of expressing themselves when perhaps they haven’t had the words. What a gift to give our children.

So how do we know when is a good time to start?

We’ve all seen the YouTube videos of the child-prodigies playing music beyond their years and some of us may have our own expectations of what we would like our children to achieve through learning an instrument. Truth be told, the starting age for each child is very much dependent on the individual child, as well as the role and support of their parents.

From the age of 3 children are already showing an interest in music activities and this is a great time to incorporate fun music and body movement games and group activities.

Generally, from the age of 4 to 5, children are able to listen to short performances or recordings and have started to gain an awareness of lyrics and the messages in songs. This means lessons in music appreciation or even learning to play an instrument could definitely be a good option. The main focus would be creativity and fun (something I encourage at all ages) but learning need not be too structured at this age, as it is generally from around 6 that learning music with structure is recommended.

By this age, children have a concentration span that allows them to focus and also means their fingers have developed sufficiently to play an instrument and develop muscle memory and the ability to read.

As a teacher, I do believe that each child is different and what your child can achieve and might be ready for, may differ from their peers. The various teaching styles available would also impact what age would best benefit them to start, so choosing the right teacher and a style that best fits with your child is crucial.

If you child does enjoy music and you’re keen to explore whether or not they may be ready to learn an instrument, then perhaps you might be interested in doing an online course I developed. It is based on the idea that it introduces learning the piano using some techniques that many teachers would likely be incorporating, but giving some ‘quick wins’ and giving you as the parent the opportunity to get a very real sense of how your child is responding to each new concept.

The course does start to incorporate music notation, something I refer to as the ‘secret code’ and it gets them playing their first songs, so you can see how their little fingers manage to hit the individual keys. I’ve used the piano as a basis because this is a great foundational instrument to learn as it effectively teaches right and left co-ordination and is an instrument that does require the reading of music in two separate staves. An instrument that would then provided a good basis to allow an easy transition to learning another instrument. This course means you don’t need to spend a fortune on signing up for lessons and buying instruments, you can join me for the assessment course and do it with your child so that you can determine where they are at and make an informed decision before taking tuition further.

If you’re keen to start the journey, click on the link below and I look forward to working with you and your child.

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Toni Crichton (BMus.PGCE)

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Toni Crichton
Toni is passionate about sharing her love of music. She values the role of music in education and the role music plays in the development of each individual. When Toni is not teaching at her home studio in Cape Town, she also consults for the movie industry and is a regular performer at some of the top hotels and venues in Cape Town.
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