• Give your child a say in choosing the instrument. Take her to a music store or look for instrument "petting zoos" where local music schools allow children to try different instruments.
• Consider your child’s size before deciding on a particular instrument.
Don’t fret if your child insists on drums. A beginner can learn everything he needs to know on a rubber drum pad. If he remains enthusiastic, you can always purchase a set of drums – and earplugs – later.
Picking a Program for Your Child
• Take your cue from your child about when to start formal lessons on an instrument. Experts agree that if interest comes mostly from the child chances are she will stick with it and have better results. Some programs, notably Suzuki, start children as young as 3 or 4 years of age. Others recommend waiting until the child is at least 7 or 8 years old and has solid reading and math skills.
• Choose between group and private lessons. Beside the cost factor, weigh the value of having peer group support versus the one-on-one attention a child gets in private lessons.
• Find the right teacher. Seek recommendations from music stores, the music teacher at your child’s school or friends and relatives.
• Take your child to meet prospective teachers. Finding the right match is critical. Note the teacher’s temperament and enthusiasm. Young children usually respond to a teacher who is warm and friendly. As your child progresses, she can switch to someone more demanding.
Music educators agree that parents’ ongoing participation is critical to children’s long-term success with music.
• Never force music on a child. Do not be disappointed if your child’s interest wavers. He or she may decide to switch instruments occasionally. This is a natural part of the exploration process and it will make the child’s musical talents more diverse.
• Encourage goal-setting. It’s much better to practice something 10 times than to practice it for 10 minutes.
• Treat practice like homework. Keep it consistent. Provide a comfortable, quiet, well-lit space and make a designated time for practicing every day. Don’t relegate it to the basement.
• Avoid correcting every mistake. Provide positive encouragement.
• Stay involved. Try not to miss your child’s musical performances and always be supportive and acknowledge his or her accomplishments.
The value you put on music lessons will be picked up by your child. If she senses that you don’t think much of the whole thing, chances are she won’t either. If you freely switch lessons or practice time to fit in other activities, it sends the message that the whole undertaking isn’t very important.