How to choose a piano or music teacher for your toddler
For any parent the choosing of a tutor for their children is rather serious and important for the development of the child and the love of what they are being taught. Here we are talking about music, and specifically the piano. The child needs to be happy and the parent as well. Here are some aspects to take into consideration in your choice as a parent in considering piano tuition (or music tuition) for a toddler:
Natural love and ability with little children
The first important thing in selecting a teacher for your toddler is to find someone that has a natural love and ability with little children. Someone that your child can “click” with, and feel happy and safe with. This will differ from child to child. Some children are naturally shy and will need a more sensitive approach. The teacher needs to know how to work with children and toddlers in specific. The teacher preferably should have been trained in this area or have a natural way and ability with children.
A properly trained piano teacher or musician
The teacher needs to be properly trained in music and in this case of searching for a Piano teacher, the teacher needs to be specifically trained as a pianist and as a piano teacher and not just ‘happen’ to know a little bit about music or ‘play a bit of piano’. She or he, will as a fully trained musician and pianist, have a schedule or a goal to work towards, and not just keep the child busy. A trained piano teacher has mastered the basic problems around technique, note reading and theory and will be able to teach the toddler from the start the necessary and important skills needed to master the piano over the years. Remember children always mimic the teacher, therefore the properly trained teacher will be best, so that the child can see the correct hand positions, seating etc. The teacher must also be able to always use discretion, keeping the child’s concentration span into account, the child’s ability to participate and the child’s interests.
Sitting in the lessons
Teachers well-suited for toddlers will normally automatically sit down or go down on their heels to be the same height as the student, this way engaging the student as a person in their own right. One must make sure the teacher has a genuine interest in the toddler, and not just the remuneration. To feel the heart of the teacher in this regard is therefore important to the parent, and it is recommended that parents sit in on some lessons, or at least when doing the initial vetting. Some music schools do not want parents to sit in as the teachers feel the children are distracted. The best approach, in my view, would be that parents should be made at ease to sit in on lessons, as it can usually only benefit the child in the long run, and make the child feel secure. Older children might sometimes not want parental “oversight” (which will usually be conveyed by the child in no uncertain terms). Each case has to be dealt with on merit and with a lot of sensitivity, and transparent and clear communication between all the parties are usually the best way forward. If a child (or parent) should not feel at ease with a specific teacher, a good school will usually go out of their way to get a suitable teacher for a specific child. In the unlikely event that a teacher might not have a good vibe with a child, the school’s management will deal with the situation in a personal and sensitive way, in order that the right persons are involved in your child’s education.
Sometimes over keen parents may get too involved and the child may feel unduly pushed. Such a situation is not good for the child, and where it occurs, the school should take it up with the parent to look for a solution to allow the toddler more breathing space by e.g. attending more group classes alone, or letting parents sit in, in the neighbouring room, or a waiting room with an open door. This too will be handled with the necessary tact.
The studio where the toddler is taught should be simple with only the main instruments that are taught. Too many instruments could be distracting. The student should not be trained in a place with many people and distractions.
A good teacher will also do some written or “paperwork” with the toddler student, in order that there might be some sense and proof of accomplishment. A good teacher should try to expose the toddler to a few instruments, to establish as soon as possible which instrument(s) to focus on. A toddler (1-3) is at the right age to start with piano. The sooner the better, even if the child is not able to read yet, the child can learn notes on the piano, dynamics and sometimes much more than is expected. Most people advise children only to start playing piano at the age of 5 or 6 seeing that they can read, but I personally think starting as soon as possible, can only be good. Reading of notes can be introduced at a later stage when the child is ready, but learning, playing keys and feeling music at an early age, learning more by ear than eye, can only be absolutely beneficial!
Patience of teacher
A good toddlers’ teacher needs to be very patient, and never scream or show any aggression or anger towards a toddler, no matter how lively the child might be. This can be very challenging to the teacher, but it is very rewarding to see and experience how the young toddler starts to develop and bloom and eventually really start to enjoy playing music, and develop into a proficient adult musician. There is no guarantee that the toddler will perform or study music as an adult,(but according to studies undertaken at Universities the chances are very good). However that may be, it is an awesome privilege to have this kind of training and experience as a toddler.
Changing of teacher
If you choose a school to train your toddler, you are not stuck with your initial teacher as is clear from the context above, but you also have the added dimension of the school arranging music events, and the opportunity of more senior teachers being involved in the later development of your child. This can be discussed with management at the appropriate time.
It will be worth your while and money!
Lastly, do take heart as a parent. There are amazing wonderful teachers available even for toddlers. These teachers are extremely kind and normally full of fun and love towards children. I trust you will be able to find an outstanding teacher for your child. Today people more and more understand the importance of starting to train the child from a young age and it is not seen as a waste like in past days. It will be worth your while and money!