As a piano teacher, a lot of parents reach out to me asking about piano lessons for their preschoolers. While there are some rare cases where preschool-aged kids are ready for piano lessons, I almost always direct parents to my movement-based preschool music classes. Here’s why:
Young children are (and should be) spending the majority of their time learning how to move and control their bodies. Playing the piano requires very fine motor skills that often aren’t fully achieved until children are at least 6-7 years old and beyond.
Move From Big To Small
With children, it’s most important to focus on movements from big to small. Full-body, gross motor skills should be prioritized early on, while honing in on finer motor skills can happen later.
Let’s think about everything thing that goes into a child playing the piano:
They’re asked to place the smallest part of their body, their finger, on a relatively small piano key. They are then told to move their finger, in a very specific way and in a very specific place. They have to do this for each finger, on each hand.
As adults, we can easily take for granted how complex this skill is. For a child, it can be impossible and really frustrating.
The good news is that most kids will naturally acquire these skills by the time they reach their early elementary school years, so it’s not something that has to be pushed.
In the meantime, the best thing that kids can be doing is practicing their gross motor skills and coordination. This is where preschool music class comes in. Preschool music classes provide many perfect opportunities for kids to practice these important skills consistently while inspiring them to have fun and to stay curious about music. It’s a win-win because it physically sets them up for success when it’s time to start piano lessons and they gain a natural curiosity and interest in music. Music lessons don’t have to be forced.
How To Prioritize Gross Motor Skills In Young Children
The younger the child, the larger their movements.
For example, think about how for a baby under the age of 1, it’s a really big deal when they learn how to roll over. That is a movement that uses their entire body. Clapping their hands is another big skills that babies develop. While their arms and hands are tiny and it may seem like a small movement to an adult, it’s a huge milestone that a baby can learn to move their entire arms and hands in order to clap them together.
Kids spend their toddler years learning how to run, jump, and move their entire body at once. It’s completely exhausting for adults to keep up with a toddler on the move, but it’s also important to understand how important every one of those movements are for their development and well-being.
Parents can rest assured that the fine motor skills will fall into place over time. Kids will naturally start to focus more on smaller movements when they are ready. Fine motor skills develop at a different pace for any child, so don’t worry if your child seems to prefer larger movements for a while.
How To Use Music To Develop Motor Skills In Preschoolers
Music is the perfect medium to help children move from big to small movement. There are plenty of ways that they can practice larger movements that will set them up to use smaller movements down the line.
Here are some specific ways that to incorporate large movements in with music:
Xylophones are a great tool for young children to use to learn and experience music. Children can grasp a mallet using their entire hand, so there is no stress of having to hold the mallet a certain way or to use specific fingers. They will move their whole hand and much of their arm in order to tap the mallet on the xylophone keys, which is perfect for babies and toddlers. While the movements with the mallet may seem sporadic at first, over time, they will learn to strike just one key and eventually play them in order.
This type of activity is a really ideal way for young children to experience music and you can see how the movements can become more focused over time. But, there’s no rush to make that happen. It’s perfectly normal for a child to practice hitting random keys on a xylophone.
Move To Music With Large Body Movements:
Think of all of the ways kids can move their entire bodies or large parts of their bodies such as arms and legs:
These are just a handful of movements children can make. It’s so simple to turn on music and to encourage children to move their bodies along with the music.
Many of these movements will help them to internalize the music and feel the steady beat of the music. All of these movements can be refined into finer motor skills later on. For example order kids will learn to tap their foot along as they hear or play music. At piano lessons, it will be crucial for them to feel a steady beat and if they have already practiced moving to a beat for their entire lives, this is no big deal.
Tap and Clap Along With Music:
Using small hand drums or even just tapping your knees or clapping your hands along with music is a great skill to practice. While this is still a gross motor skill, you can see how clapping and tapping is a smaller, more controlled movement than the full-body movements listed above.
This is another way to help kids internalize a steady beat. As kids get older and are ready to develop fine motor skills, you can refine these skills even more. You could create clapping and tapping patterns for a child to follow along with. You could tap individual fingers instead of the whole hand.
This is another area where there is no specific timeline to follow. You can follow cues from your own child and challenge them to try something new when they are ready.
Don’t Rush The Process
As adults, we’re often anxious to see children reach the next step, but developing motor skills takes a lot of time and the timeline it happens on will look different for every child.
It is most important to give children plenty of opportunities to practice doing what they can do right now. It may seem overly-repetitive or boring as an adult, but kids don’t get tired of practicing their gross motor skills day in and day out.
When you notice readiness for a new skill, be mindful that that new skill could still be many months away. The more we force or push children to develop new skills the more they will resist learning them and trying new things. Let learning happen organically and on your child’s terms.
Other Articles You May Enjoy:
- Movement-Based Music For Preschoolers
- Why Preschoolers Thrive On Repetition
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- Make Your Own Musical Sandblocks
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