At what age are children ready to start piano lessons? The answer may vary from one child to the next, but many instructors say that the age of five or six is a good time to begin some formal but fun training.
However, it's not necessary to wait five or six years to start teaching kids about music in other, less formalized ways.
In fact, preschoolers and toddlers are wonderfully receptive to music appreciation activities. That is especially true when those activities involve movement.
Toddlers interact with and react to music in very natural and intuitive ways. If you are a piano teacher, then you might want to consider adding a preschool music and movement class to your curriculum. You can schedule it for the middle of the day when most of your other students are at school or working.
Remember, these toddlers are all potential piano students. If they have a foundation with a music and movement class, then they will be ready to go from their very first lesson because they have already developed a sense of rhythm and critical coordination skills. What's more, they probably have some familiarity with the geography of the keyboard thanks to their earlier instruction.
Don't let yourself feel overwhelmed or intimidated by the idea of introducing a toddler or preschooler movement class at your studio. You definitely don't need to be a ballerina to succeed.
One of the best ways to introduce toddlers to music is by letting them move. This enables them to play, experience the world and explore awareness of the body in critical ways that will inform any later music instruction.
If you're looking for a Music and Movement Lesson, we have a NEW & FREE Music and Movement song called the Tooty Ta that we think you'll love!
If possible, try to gather together a relatively large group of children from infants up to five years of age. Be sure to get the parents involved too. A music and movement class is fun for parent/child interaction as well.
Tips for Bringing Together Toddlers, Music and Movement
1. Don't Get Complicated
When you're starting out with these lessons and have some initial success, you may be tempted to pile on more and more features and components. However, it's actually better if you resolve to just keep things simple.
The most basic of rhythm instruments, a few picture books and perhaps some stuffed animals or puppets to use as props are really all that you need. It's possible to just keep using the same props and instruments each week. Because the kids only see and play with these items once or twice a week, they always seem fresh and new.
Keep your focus on making the classroom a warm, positive and inviting place, and you really don't need much else.
2. Chaos Is OK
What do you get when you introduce a group of a dozen or so preschoolers into a music studio?
Before your first class, simply accept that your toddler music and movement class is going to be noisy and rambunctious. Toddlers may run around, laughing, shouting and screeching. You may encounter fights and crying over who gets to play which instrument or hold a certain toy.
When these things happen, remind yourself that this is all normal. To adult eyes, toddler behavior can seem mysterious and irrational. Keep in mind that these little ones are going through developmental milestones, sometimes several of them at once. Some of them are just crawling while others are walking and running. One or two might be teething, and others seem to get bigger every day.
The result is that your classroom is going to be messy and will probably feel more hectic than peaceful. That's OK. In fact, that's one of the reasons why parents are essential to each session. They will probably be more successful at managing any fights or meltdowns so that you don't have to.
3. Have a Plan, but Be Flexible
While you definitely don't want to plunge into a session without having a plan, it's also wise to not stick to a plan at all costs. Keep your plan basic and short. You probably won't spend a ton of time on each activity. It's wise if you can make transitions from one activity to another relatively quick and efficient.
With each activity that you introduce, monitor the students to see how they are responding. When engagement seems low, get ready to move on to another segment.
Also, keep in mind that kids in this age group love repetition, so don't be afraid to bring up favorite activities repeatedly.
4. Break Down Concepts Into Components
Approach your music and movement class in the same manner that you would a piano lesson. What kinds of skills do you want new piano students to learn?
Toddlers don't have to sit at the piano to start getting familiar with these concepts. You can introduce ideas about:
- Keeping a steady beat
- Numbering of the fingers
- High and low pitches
- Black and white keys on the piano
5. Keep Communicating with Parents
Remember that the parents of your students are just as involved in these classes as their children. In fact, you are helping parents and kids find ways to enjoy and appreciate music together.
However, it is the parent who must bring the child to class and pay for the lessons. This makes open, effective communication essential. You might consider sending a follow-up email after each session that details the activities done and why they are important to the child's growth and development. This means that parents really have an opportunity to understand why music is critical to a child's development into a well-rounded individual.
6. Try Using Themes
Themes are a great, easy way to bring continuity to your lessons. Try to keep the theme broad in scope, using ideas such as:
- The seasons
- Making new friends
Enjoyable music is available for all of these and other themes, ensuring that everyone who attends the class has a wonderful time.
7. Observe Young Children
If you have young family members in this age group or friends who have kids who are toddlers, ask to spend a little extra time with them. If you have kids in this age group or older, then this step isn't so critical because you're already familiar with the patterns that are common at this age.
This will help you to remember or identify what is normal for this age group. Accordingly, you'll be better prepared to offer age-appropriate, engaging activities.
8. Consider Starting Small
If you think you might feel overwhelmed by a large group of toddlers and parents, then try starting with a small group of perhaps three to five pupils. Ask family members and friends to bring in their little ones, which may help you feel more comfortable.
Many groups grow organically from this stage as the involved parents begin to ask their friends to bring along their kids to the next class. Accordingly, you'll have time to gain confidence as the group blossoms.
9. Choose the Right Time
The optimal time of day for a music and movement class for toddlers is mid-morning. Kids have usually had a good night's sleep and a good breakfast so they are filled with energy and ready to go. Early afternoon can work too as long as it doesn't conflict with nap time.
10. Stay Up-to-Date with Resources
If you aren't certain where to start with activities or are looking for new activities to introduce, it helps to have some informative resources.
Check out our FREE Tooty Ta video on Youtube for a fun music and movement video for your little ones!