Let me begin by saying that there is no one age that is perfect for all children. Anyone of any age who wants to learn, and puts in the hours of practice, can still reach a high level of skill and enjoyment. There have been many studies concluding that children who start learning the piano before aged seven benefit from advanced cognitive skills later in life. That said, is it ever too early?
How young is too young?
It’s true that you don’t have to look very hard to find videos of three year olds on YouTube playing Mozart Piano Sonatas these days. However, that doesn’t mean that every three year old who likes plunking on the piano keys should be signed up for lessons. Most children under the age of five who show interest in the piano should be allowed to explore and learn on their own timetable. They probably won’t respond well to adult-imposed learning structures. Always active and curious, toddlers might pay attention to an adult for around three minutes. So, as you can imagine, a lot of a teacher’s time would be spent redirecting the child’s attention, which isn’t an effective use of your time and money.
What do I recommend?
My favourite age to start teaching a student is 6 (in English school years, around halfway through Year 1). At this age, children are used to adult directed learning. They’re like sponges with information; their brains pick up languages and build new connections at an amazing rate. Also, their hands are flexible, but agile enough to start really honing their fine motor skills by playing the piano.
Is my child ready?
The best thing to do is to ask an experienced teacher to give your child a couple of lessons to see if they are ready to begin their piano journey. Here’s a short checklist to help before you get in touch with a teacher:
1) Size of hand
Pianos are big old things to a small child! Can they easily place their five fingers on five adjacent white keys? For some, that’s a real stretch. Make sure your child’s hands have grown enough to be comfortable using a keyboard.
2) Finger Independence
If you ask your child to hold up their hands and wiggle, for instance, only their left hand middle finger, can they do it? Before beginning piano lessons, children need to have some control over their individual fingers.
3) Interest in music and desire to learn
Probably the most important thing! If the motivation to learn comes from your child, it will help them overcome all sorts of difficulties that they might encounter. Not to say that young children won’t need some encouragement from you now and then. Being an interested ‘piano parent’ is extremely helpful and vital for your child to fulfil their potential.