The answer varies depending on each child. Some considerations parents should make before enrolling their young child into lessons are:
- Can your child read?
This is not necessary but helpful. If the child cannot read the parent(s) should be extra involved in practice time during the week. I like using easy-to-follow method books for young children. At the moment my top choice for young children is the Alfred All-in-One series (book one).
- Can your child differentiate between left and right?
Student need to know which hand to use while playing pieces, particularly those pieces that switch between the left and right hands. At the moment I have a student who didn’t know the difference between his right and left hand when we started lessons, so sometimes before he starts a piece I tell him, “raise your right hand” or “raise your left hand.” He seems to enjoy it when I ask him to do this.
- Can your child obey instructions and sit still?
Parents can prepare their students for piano lessons by training them to behave at home. Between the ages of 4-6 children process and soak up new information very quickly, so if a young student is obedient and listens well to his/her piano teacher, the lesson time can be very profitable!
I would recommend 20-30 minute lessons for most young children. For me it’s handy when an older brother or sister is also taking lessons because then I can vary the length of the younger child’s piano lesson. If 20 minutes is plenty for the younger student, I just add on 10 minutes to the older sibling’s lesson.
Kinesthetic activities are very helpful to keep things moving and interesting. I have young students do theory pages during class. Flashcards which involve questions about note values are also useful. Also, since young students love touching piano keys, I have them find and play individual notes (ex. “find a C/do, please;” “please play an A/la for me”).
Young children have a lot of potential, and especially with parental involvement they can profit from music lessons at an early age. Teachers who give lessons to this age group need to have a lot of energy! However, having young students enrolled in lessons is a fun and unique journey where both the student and teacher will learn a lot.