For an accomplished musician, the joy that music brings them is something that they often want to pass down to their children. Indeed, for children, learning an instrument can be beneficial to development and give them a skill to cherish for the rest of their lives. However, parents looking to involve their kids in music education have a lot of factors to consider before getting started; approaching the subject incorrectly can backfire and alienate kids that may have otherwise enjoyed playing an instrument.
It’s critical that any parent remembers that, like learning a sport or other skill, that learning an instrument takes discipline and practice. Almost no children will be performing professionally at five, and there’s no sense in holding them to such high standards. Expose them, but be open to listening to the things they want. There’s no sense in wasting time and money on lessons if your child isn’t particularly interested in learning.
Exposure is the first step to gauging interest in music. Kids won’t want to learn an instrument if they never see it in their lives. If you play an instrument, perform for them! You don’t have to be a world-class musician to bring joy to them in this way. Outside of this, put on (family-friendly) tunes around the house, and look into local concerts to bring your children to. There are always events, free or paid, that your kids will enjoy.
If your child displays interest in learning an instrument, give them room to figure out what the best way of learning is. If you happen to have a piano in your home and they love experimenting with chords and making their own music, then that’s great! However, this level of freedom may not be possible in many cases. Lessons geared toward children can help them find an instrument that they enjoy playing, though your results may vary. Group music lessons allow for less individual guidance but can lead to better friendships, whereas private lessons can be tailored to your child’s needs but may be more expensive.
Regardless, it’s important that, if your child wants to learn, that they learn an instrument that they enjoy. For younger kids, string and percussion instruments are usually better fits. The dexterity and endurance necessary for wind instruments usually come about a little later. Consider their attention span; if your child lacks the focus to read, he or she is probably not about to sit down and learn the methods necessary to excel at an instrument. If they try an instrument and dislike it, it is entirely possible that it’s just the wrong instrument. Still, in the end, the decision to learn is entirely their own—don’t push them too hard if they’re adamant about not learning.
Despite that, when they do decide to pursue an instrument, help them create the discipline that they need to stick with it. Set times for practice, and work with them outside of lessons to identify areas of improvement and what they can do to get better. Sometimes, just sitting and listening is enough encouragement. It should be an effort on your part as well—kids are more likely to stick with something if they feel that they are receiving positive feedback and a push to improve.
The benefits of music—from better coordination to social skills—are certainly well-documented, but not every child will want to learn. Still, as a parent, getting involved in your child’s music education is vital to ensure that the option is open to them if they are interested. If they’re determined, music can blossom into a wonderful, lifelong passion for them!