Learning to play a musical instrument is a wonderful gift to give children. Not only does it promote their brain development, it also demands the habit of regular practice to see improvement, helps children learn patience, builds physical coordination, helps them to listen, builds their attention for detail and provides a creative outlet — to name just a few benefits. Even better, children don’t have to be prodigies to experience the advantages — participating with music is enough.
The trick is to find an instrument they will enjoy. You can use their dominant sense to help narrow the choices.
Tactile children will enjoy group lessons, and probably will choose instruments that are physically demanding, such as trombones, tubas or cellos. They like being able to wrap themselves physically around an instrument and have a good laugh about it with friends. Tactile children are comforted by rules, and will try to follow them whenever possible, making them great band and orchestra members. They will love being part of an event such as a concert, and find a performance with an audience exciting and fun.
Visual children prefer order and perfection. They do well with instruments such as the piano because they can see the keys and make the visual connection between their fingers, the keys and the musical notes. Further, in piano, how the musician plays and looks is very ordered, which is a comfort to a visual child. Even better, being able to play the piano is an impressive skill, one that friends and family will appreciate and praise — something very important to visual children.
Auditory children will respond to the freedom of a string instrument. They are equipped with the skills to know — better than their classmates — when a finger is off, making a note sharp or flat. Auditory children will enjoy the freedom of being able to create their own music, or being able to replay what they hear on the radio, rather than practicing off a score. Try to allow your auditory child this freedom in his or her musical learning.
Taste-and-smell children respond to magical-type instruments. They will like the flute or harp, for the way it feels, or because it might remind them of a special movie. Your taste-and-smell child may choose an instrument that her favorite cousin plays, or one Grandma likes the sound of. You can use music to teach taste-and-smell children another way they can express their feelings. Music can be a great outlet for their special brand of sensitivities.
There may be a little trial and error — it’s very common for children to switch instruments — but isn’t that also a good life skill? Your child will learn to adjust, restart and find what he or she truly enjoys. These are skills even we parents may need to learn.
Priscilla Dunstan, www.childsense.com