Piano Lessons for Toddlers?
Music teachers often recommend ages 6-8 as the perfect time to start instrumental lessons. There are developmental reasons to wait as, at this age, children are more capable of handling structured, formal educational settings. Fine motor skills such as the ability to move fingers independently are also stronger at this age.
However, it’s perfectly possible to start playing an instrument earlier. The Hoffman Method can also be used with very young children, with some adjustments!
A Note About Hands
One of the main first concerns with starting a toddler or preschooler on the piano is hand size. Fine motor skills – the ability to control finger movements – is in the early stages of development at this age. Therefore, moving individual fingers can be tricky for a 3-5 year-old. However, small hands are not an insurmountable obstacle! Here are three tips for encouraging good form for those small hands:
- The “Chicken Head:” Gently touch fingertips to thumb to form the shape of a “chicken head” and “peck” the keys. This encourages the use of arm weight and moving along the keys. Let them use this “pecking” motion for songs while their fingers develop independence.
- When they begin to use their individual fingers, gently shape their hand with your own for form a natural curve. Encourage them to use a “soft hand” and a dropping motion into the keys, rather than stiff or straight fingers. Hot Cross Buns is a great song to practice this motion with, since it uses the three longest fingers.
- “Ride my hand” – Have your child lay their hand over yours while you play. Then, have them imitate your movements.
Why this age?
Why have piano lessons for preschoolers in the first place? Well, this is the age when learning really takes off. From ages 3-5, children go from absorbing their environments to interacting with them. They begin to join classrooms and participate in both structured and unstructured social settings. They are insatiably curious and often want to do whatever their older family members are doing. With music, this is especially the case when an older sibling or other family member is already taking lessons.
When the desire to learn is present, take advantage of it. However, the learning process will look different for a 3-5 year old!
A Different Approach to Learning
Formal lessons might be a little too intense for very young children, unless done with a teacher who specializes in that age range. Even then, an informal approach to learning can be highly beneficial in both preparing your child for lessons later and setting up a meaningful relationship with music.
This makes Hoffman Academy the perfect way to start! Our lesson videos are short and cover one song or concept at a time. Mr. Hoffman’s approach and personality delight and engage kids of any age – he’s even become a celebrity of sorts in some households! Here are five ways to use Hoffman Academy with your toddler or preschooler:
- Let your child set the pace. It’s perfectly normal at this age for children to want to do the same activities over and over again – it’s how they learn! Watch the same lesson video several days in a row. Let them decide when to move on to the next song or concept.
- Avoid pressuring your child to practice or perform. Some structure is helpful, like having a set “piano time” for watching lessons and doing related activities. However, stay away from the classic “sit down for thirty minutes at the piano” method! Forcing too much structure at this age can lead to resentment and actually make your child resist learning later on. Instead, treat piano time like you would arts and crafts or reading – a fun activity that just happens to involve learning.
- Be an active participant! When you can, watch lessons with your child. Play the games with them. Be their audience and cheer on their efforts and successes. By being an active participant, you’ll model an inquisitive, playful attitude about learning for them, and show that their musical journey is important to you.
- LOTS of games! Whenever possible, turn practice into a game. We have several posts with ideas for this, including Piano Practice Games, Six Great Games for Piano Students, and How to Make Piano Practice Fun. Be sure to check out our Music Learning Resources for more ideas and downloadable materials!
- Keep sessions short, and switch activities often. Attention spans at this age vary, and it’s perfectly natural for a child’s attention to wander from task to task. Rather than fight this tendency, work with it. A “practice session” for a toddler or preschooler might look something like this:
- Watch a Hoffman Academy lesson.
- Play the same song 3 different ways, and/or
- Play a floor game such as Alphabet Towers, and/or
- Take turns making up melodies at the piano.
Finally, consider becoming a Premium member. We’ll be honest – you might not use the funsheets and songs sheets right away, but the other materials will prove invaluable! The audio files, online games, and downloadable materials will create a truly interactive experience and prepare your child for a more formal music education later on.
If you have a preschooler who learns from Mr. Hoffman, we’d love to hear your stories! Leave a comment below and share your experiences.