“Is my child ready to start music lessons?”
This is a question I hear all the time as a music teacher.
It’s a good question. How do we know if our child is ready for lessons?
There are many factors involved but I am going to touch on 3 things to consider before starting.
First, can your child focus for short periods of time on a task.
It can literally be 30-60 seconds at first. What I’ve found is that if a bit of focused concentration is there, we can build on that attention span. At first we might be stringing together little tiny bites of concentration, with built in tasks in between. Overtime we can stretch that out and your child will learn to focus and concentrate for longer periods of time.
Many years ago when I took training with Susan Kempter she recommended asking parents to observe their child doing an activity, like a puzzle. See how many minutes, or seconds, your child focuses on the task before looking away or getting distracted. This gives you the baseline for what to expect with practice and where you’ll start building from as practice sessions start.
A long as some concentration is happening you are on the right track for getting started.
Will your child interact with another adult who is giving them instructions?
The nature of music lessons, even for very small children, is to interact with another adult who is giving instruction. For many students this is the first time they will work in a close one on one interaction with someone who is not a parent or relative. Depending on the child, this may be no big deal or may be something that you will need to work on before lessons start.
For very young children I love to have parents take Suzuki Early Childhood Education classes before starting lessons because it sets up this framework of cooperation and interaction with a teacher, in the context of music.
Older students may just need to have an understanding that the teacher is going to work with them to learn the instrument and that both you, as the parent, and they as the student will listen and try out the task assigned in order to play well. This seems obvious but I have had students who have not been ready to take instruction and learn from a teacher, so it’s something to keep in mind and work on.
Finally, the most important consideration for if your child is ready to start music lessons is:
Are you the parent ready to undertake music lessons with your child?
When I polled other instrumental teachers about what indicated to them that a child was ready for lessons there were various answers about little details – but the overwhelming answer, which I agree with wholeheartedly, is that you, the parent, have to be ready.
Research shows that one of the biggest indicators of a child’s long term success in music is actually the parents long term commitment to music. (Read more about this in Daniel Coyle’s book The Talent Code).
I think it’s because we approach activities our children are “trying out” much differently than those we are committed to them doing long term. We put more time and emphasis on helping them form habits and stay disciplined about something we want them to still be doing years from now, for example.
Music lessons, and especially practicing with your child daily, takes a lot of time as a parent.
You will have a wonderful opportunity to bond with your child, understand how they learn, and help them to flourish and thrive. You will also need to find to make room in your family’s schedule to practice and perhaps sacrifice time for other things in order to practice daily with your child.
As the parent of grown children, I can tell you the time and effort is worth it. But I can also tell you it’s not something to be taken lightly.
- Can you get your child to a lesson, and group class, each week?
- Can you make time for listening to music at home and in the car?
- Can you carve out time to sit with your child and help them learn to practice, with your teacher’s guidance?
- Can you commit long term to this process? (You can read about why short term commitments to music don’t work here)
If your child otherwise seems ready, I hope the answer is yes.
If it is then your family is ready to start taking lessons.
Find the best teacher you can, create a positive practice environment, and enjoy the process of seeing your child learn to play an instrument.
It is so worth it!