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When Should Children Start Learning Music and How to Play An Instrument?

Updated on January 29, 2019
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C. E. Clark home schooled her child from Kindergarten through high-school. Public and private education is high in importance to Ms. Clark.

WebMD quotes Carista Luminare-Rosen, Ph.D., founder and co-director of The Center for Creative Parenting in Marin and Sonoma counties, California: "Prenates [unborn babies about 3 weeks prior to birth] can see, hear, feel, remember, taste, and think before birth."

Since that is true, that babies already have the abilities listed above even before birth, it should not be hard to understand that they recognize music they heard before their birth after they are born.

"Babies can recognize music they've heard in the womb after they're born," says Luminare-Rosen. Indeed, studies have already proven that babies do recognize music they heard before they were born, (WebMD).

WebMD further says that according to research, babies prefer classical music, or soothing music, and anything that has a similar beat as their mother’s heart. The amniotic fluid surrounding the baby in the womb amplifies sound, and so hard rock and loud music is not recommended for a happy baby.

While I did not provide a lot of music for my baby before she was born, it was provided in the form of nursery rhymes and children’s songs on audiotape soon afterward. Just as I reported in my earlier hub that I began reading to my baby when she was just two weeks old, so music was a regular part of the day by that time as well (Give Your Baby a Head Start – It’s Never Too Early To Start Preparing Your Child For Success).

Listening to a variety of different kinds of music will help your child develop a love of music generally, and may very well foster a desire in him or her to want to make music as well. Research has shown that music in a child’s environment makes them more relaxed and receptive to learning.

My daughter after her first piano recital where she won a blue ribbon for her efforts.  Nearly 30 children of all ages, from 5 to 17, participated.
My daughter after her first piano recital where she won a blue ribbon for her efforts. Nearly 30 children of all ages, from 5 to 17, participated.

Music Has Positive Affects On Learning In Areas Besides Music

The American Association for the Advancement of Science conducted several studies at Brown University in Providence Rhode Island that looked at the effects of music and art education on very young children and their learning abilities. The conclusion of these studies showed a strong correlation between music instruction and emotional skills, intellectual achievement, and even reading and math ability.

Other studies conducted at the University of California and the University of Wisconsin showed that after three and four year old children were given simple piano lessons for a six-month period they did better on IQ tests than children who did not have the music lessons. Some of the children had computer lessons instead.

The children given piano lessons did 34% better than the children who did not receive piano lessons! That is significantly better. The children studied were from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds. The findings from these university studies were consistent with the findings from the Brown University studies.


Music Lessons For My Daughter

My husband was in law school and we were living in the Boston area from the time our daughter was two and a half years old until she was five and a half years old. Daughter and I spent that time reading together, making family visits to museums, going to children’s programs as a family (Disney on Ice, etc.), and at age four I taught my daughter to read and write (an upcoming hub).

If you have read some of my earlier hubs, you know that I homeschooled my daughter all the way through school, from elementary through high school. Music was a part of her curriculum for a while. This hub is written with home school parents in mind, but hopefully it can also be useful to parents who have made other education choices for their children.

It was not until we left the Boston area after my husband graduated from law school that I got my daughter piano lessons. She was 6 years old when she had her first formal piano lessons. Prior to her piano lessons I taught my daughter to read music.

During her practice for her piano lessons I would sometimes tutor my daughter, helping her find ways to perform a difficult piece easier, but for the most part I kept my hands off. I thought it was good experience for her to receive lessons from someone else, and to learn to be prepared for those lessons. She did extremely well, seeming to have inherited my talent for music, and won a blue ribbon at her first piano recital.

While my daughter was 6 when she had her first formal lessons learning to play an instrument (piano in her case), I think four is a good age to begin if a child is able to concentrate for a few minutes at a time, and if an instructor with endless patience is available and affordable.

Obviously lessons must be tailored to the age of a child, just as they should be when teaching very young children to read and write. I was fortunate to find a lovely well accomplished teacher for my daughter, but had that not been possible, I would have taught her myself just as I taught her all of her other subjects in home school.


Music Can Provide a Lifetime of Enjoyment Along With Improving Cognitive Ability

Music is something almost anyone can enjoy by one means or another. It does not have to cost a lot of money, even if the only thing you can play is the radio.

Being able to play one or more instruments can build self-confidence and self-value. Generally the more knowledge a person has in any area, especially a disciplined skill, the more positive their attitude and the more confidence they have in themselves.

If you can play an instrument, demonstrate that to your child(ren) and teach them to play also. Or get them formal lessons. There are many avenues of music instruction in most cities and even small towns.

The town we lived in was only 20,000 people in West Texas when my daughter started learning piano, and she had a first rate instructor. I received excellent instruction even though I grew up on a farm and the closest town counted only 367 people.

Look around and see what is available and give your child the gift of music. Start him or her on music lessons as early as age 4. Music is a gift that will last all of your child’s life.

© 2012 C E Clark

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