Is My Child Ready To Learn An Instrument?

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Learning an instrument is a brilliant hobby for your kids. It gives them something to be really proud of, to work towards, and to gain a real sense of achievement. It can help their social skills, their cognitive development, and their listening ability. Learning and instrument can have a positive effect on many other areas of their life, such as by helping their reading and maths skills. Perhaps more important than any of these things, it is fun!! But are they ready to learn an instrument? 

Most teachers won’t teach children younger than 5 years old, and often even 5 is too young. There are some schools of teaching, such as the Suzuki method, that does allow for younger children to learn, but not all teachers are able to offer this. If your child is showing an interest in learning an instrument, here are some of the main ways to tell that they are ready:

Your child is interested in music 

This sounds like an obvious one, but something that is often overlooked. In order for your child to successfully learn to play an instrument, they must want to do it. After the novelty of lessons has worn off, they are likely to get bored very quickly if the interest was not there to begin with. If they are not yet showing any interest in an instrument, wait 6 months and reassess. As a teacher, the best trial lessons are usually with the children who have been consistently asking to learn for a number of weeks or months.

How you can help:

  • Play lots of music at home, and encourage your child to talk about what they like. Let them select the music, and help them work out their favourite songs. Dance, sing, and have fun with music
  • Find youtube videos of people playing different instruments, and ask your child what they think. Talk about the different sounds they make, and see if your child would be interested in making these sounds as well
  • If possible, take your child to watch some live music. This is a great way to assess how interested they are. Point out the different instruments, and take note of which ones they enjoy

Your child can concentrate for 30 minutes

Most music lessons are 30 minutes long, taught once per week. Although the teacher will fill these with a number of different activities and games, your child will need to be able to stay focused and concentrate well. Depending on the instrument, they may need to sit for the whole lesson, without needing to run around or try something else.

How you can help:

  • Give your child the opportunity to run around and burn some energy before the lesson takes place
  • Turn off the TV and other screens when you would like your child to concentrate. Start with some reading, and encourage your little one to focus on the book, without the distraction of other stimulants
  • Make sure that your child has had a snack/drink/been to the toilet/etc. before asking them to concentrate. Ensure that they are not too tired or overexcited

Your child knows their alphabet

Music notes are named A,B,C,D,E,F,G. It is very helpful if your child is already familiar with these letters (and preferably the whole alphabet). They will need to be able to move backwards and forwards through these letters, sometimes in order, and sometimes missing letters out and jumping between them. The more comfortable they are with these letters, the easier reading music will be.

How you can help:

  • Sing the alphabet song, all the time! Singing helps us to learn, and the melody will make the letters far more secure in your child’s mind
  • Invest in an ABC mat, poster, fridge magnets, board games, books…anything to make the alphabet very familiar to your child. They learn best through play, and by repetition
  • Practise writing letters with your child. Make them using pipe cleaners. Paint them, cut them out, squirt them on the patio with a water pistol. Repeating the shapes, as you say their names, will help your child remember what each one looks like. (We use capital letters when teaching music notes, so be sure to learn these as well)

Your child can count easily, and perhaps even do some simple sums

Music is divided into beats, and notes all have different lengths or values. Your child will need to be able to count to 4 beats initially, and be able to add up notes to make 4. This later progresses to include half- and quarter- beat notes, but whole numbers are ok for now.

How you can help:

    • Sing lots of counting songs: One, Two, Three, Four Five, 5 Little Monkeys, 5 Little Ducks, 10 Green Bottles, etc.
    • Count everything you possibly can. Count toys, cars, stairs, cracks in the pavement – anything that gets your child to be vocal about numbers
    • Play board games such as Snakes and Ladders or Ludo. Rolling a die and asking your child to count the correct number of moves is great practise

Your child has time to commit

Learning to play an instrument is a fairly big commitment. You will need to purchase or hire an instrument for them to practise on, and lessons themselves will cost you around £15 per 30 minutes. Your child will be set a small amount of homework each week, and you will only see an improvement if you can set aside time for them to practise regularly. Make sure they have time to do this properly. There is nothing more frustrating for your child than the feeling of not progressing.

How you can help:

  • Set aside time in your diary to practise with your child. 10-15 minutes, 3 times a week will be perfect to begin with. It is best if the first practise session is not too long after the lesson, so that your child can easily remember what they have been taught. Try to fit your practise routine into the same time each day – after breakfast, for example. This will help your child to anticipate and remember that they need to practise
  • Make your child’s practise as important as doing their school homework. This is something that you are investing time and money into, so make sure they know how important it is

I like to offer a trial lesson to everyone who shows an interest, to make an individual assessment about if they are ready, and to give some tips on how to better prepare them. If you have any enquiries about your child, and their suitability for lessons, please feel free to email me at

For more ideas about how to prepare your child for music lessons, follow my 10-step plan to create a musical home. 

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