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The Bunch Guide to Little Kids + Music Lessons from new contributor Dana Baitz.

I didn’t put my son in music lessons so that he could become a great musician — I’m a musician myself, so I know there are more important things. But I’ve discovered that helping with practicing can be a great way to interact meaningfully with your kid. Their fears and joys become clear as day. They look to you for support and advice. And you might be amazed at what they can do.  

When I help my son practice, little bits of wisdom get tested out and even get ingrained. Here’s what we’ve learned from music lessons, aside from “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.”

1. It’s about the process, not the outcome

Things might sound bad. Your kid may not even get to the end of the song. They might drop their bow. But achieving a particular result is not what the lessons are about. They’re about trying – doing what you can to improve your corner of the world. They’re about concentrating for just a bit longer. They’re about noticing that positive results come even when you’re not ruthlessly chasing them down.

Lessons also show that you can’t control how everything turns out, so might as well just focus on your own actions. And that’s not to say that good results can’t be celebrated! It feels good when things go well.

2. Know When To Go Easy

When doing a lot feels overwhelming, try doing just a little. It feels reassuring to start off somewhere safe.

3. Know When To Stop

Some days, it just don’t work out. When practice gets frustrating, Step Away From The Instrument.

4. There’s No Such Thing As Perfect

Since it doesn’t exist, you don’t have to aim for it! Remember that a few flaws don’t make the whole thing bad. A song — or a person — might be great even with a few slip-ups.

5. Do One Thing At A Time

Playing with toys and practicing music is a confusing multiple-choice exercise. Make it simpler and bring the toys out after practicing. That being said, stuffed animals make a great audience for special occasions. When you feel vulnerable, approving nods from your friends can feel super.

6. Leave Time For The Silly Stuff

Kids need the release valve — and you do, too.

more than twinkle, twinkle


Oh, and one last thing …

7. Wash Hands Before Playing

 Kids have sticky hands, so wash them. Also, take away the instrument when they start licking it or crying into it.

No matter what the music sounds like, applaud the effort. It is incredibly difficult to play an instrument. I’m still amazed by all the simultaneous skills required. At practice time, my son looks to me for support and guidance; practicing together truly builds trust and love.

Now the psychology behind getting a five-year-old to sit and concentrate is a whole other matter…

Dana Baitz is a pianist and doctoral musicologist.

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