Learning to play a musical instrument offers more benefits to children than just skills in playing songs. In fact, studies show that musical instrument lessons given early in life imbue a child with study and discipline skills that directly translate to success in school and life.
The basics of musical instrument benefits.
As most parents whose child plays a musical instrument are already aware, the manual dexterity needed to fret chords on a guitar or strike piano keys greatly enhances a child's hand-eye coordination. This allows children greater finger and hand strength, which will help them in any number of activities. Greater finger dexterity and hand-eye coordination also allows children an easier time learning to type and operate machinery.
Musical instruments present a healthy alternative to sports.
Some studies show the motor and concentration skills learned while taking music lessons is equal to the same levels learned by children who play sports. For children unable to participate in athletics because of health issues, learning to play a musical instrument presents a strong alternative with comparable benefits.
Reading music builds problem solving skills.
Experts point out that learning and memorizing sheet music symbols helps children think critically and quickly, building problem-solving skills they can use in their education. Reading the sheet music while playing also builds concentration and multi-tasking discipline.
Learning to practice.
Of course, the main detriment to musical instruments (especially from the child's point of view) is the time investment required to get adequate practice. In fact, without sufficient practice time the financial costs of the lessons are often wasted.
But learning to practice is a skill in and of itself that spins out into even more worthy skills. Practicing requires patience, and the self-discipline to apply oneself to a goal. Playing a music instrument – playing it correctly – offers the child immediate gratification, as well. They need only compel themselves to practice enough to learn and then perfect the piece they're working on to feel rewarded.
Music teachers recommend children begin their musical education on the piano, since its basic operation and structure can act as a gateway to playing other instruments, particularly the guitar. Piano requires students to learn both bass and treble clef music, which also opens a whole range of stringed instruments.
Determining if the child is ready for lessons
Playing a musical instrument lacks the "cool" factor of most sports – at least among young boys (that changes in high school and college, of course!) But some children are ready for lessons as soon as three years old. Others have to wait until later, though ideally parents serious about a musical education shouldn't wait later than when the child is eight years old. It's up to the child and the opinion of the music teacher if lessons are a good idea; each child is unique, after all.
Parents can determine if lessons are a wise investment by monitoring the child's attention span and their comprehension of letters and numbers. Some children demonstrate a natural affinity for music and musical instruments, too, making them "natural" choices.