The most common question we hear is, "when is my child ready to play an instrument?" We usually reply, "how many songs does your child know?" Musical development unfolds differently for everyone depending on many factors including desire, ability, and exposure. Playing an instrument not only requires physical skills but it's also important to remember that an instrument is a tool used to communicate. When a child knows many melodies, can sing the resting tone of songs they know, and has the physical skills required to hold an instrument, a child is ready to play!
To prepare a child for an instrument parents should create a music rich environment that includes:
1. Singing with your child constantly (in child friendly keys like Eb)
2. Listening to quality live music as often as possible
3. Moving and dancing to live music
Once you think your child is ready for an instrument there's no need to rush out and buy an common instrument such as violin or find a private lessons teacher. Let your child play with an instrument such as a kazoo or glockenspiel. Play and sing through the songs your child knows. There is plenty of time in a child's life for formal learning. Think about when your child first began speaking. Did you rush out and find a language tutor and begin learning sentence construction? Too often, this happens in music, which creates a gap between skill and understanding. For every time we've been asked "when is my child ready to play an instrument" we've been told stories of parents/children that used to play an instrument but quit because they had a negative experience. Keep it fun and keep it engaging by focusing on the music environment you are providing your child.
Below is a TEDx talk by Dr. Christopher Azzara discussing how we learn music.