How to start teaching music to toddlers

said: Aug 26, 2006
 4 posts

I have a 19 month old son, and I’d like to know what I can start doing at home between now and when he’s 3 years of age to prepare him for formal music lessons at a Suzuki class.


Heidi said: Aug 27, 2006
Suzuki Association Member
33 posts
  1. Have your child listen to Suzuki recordings everyday.
  2. Read “Nurtured by Love”.
  3. Go and observe lessons, both private and group lessons, either by yourself or with your child, if the teacher is willing. The Suzuki approach is heavy on parent involvement, so the more you understand, the smoother it works. Enjoy!
Gabriel Villasurda said: Aug 27, 2006
Gabriel Villasurda81 posts

In addition to the list given by “upbeat”, I would add:

  1. Sing regularity to the child; get the whole family to sing togther. Choose a repertoire of 5-10 songs (nursery rhymes, etc.) that you visit regularly.
  2. Invite the child to sing along; any level of participation (clapping hands with the beat, moving anything, vocalizing anything) is to be encouraged.
  3. Play music CDs. Choose music you want the child to love his/her whole life (you can’t go wrong with Mozart, Bach, etc.)
  4. When you (and family) sing and listen, do it with a level of ENGAGEMENT. Put on a favorite CD yourself; sing along with abandon, dance, conduct in the air. Give the impression (it’s got to be sincere) that you yourself really love music, that music is an mportant part of your life, that you really “get into” music.
  5. If you play an instrument yourself or have friends/relatives who do, play or practice “in public”. One of my earliest memories is of my Uncle Dan visiting around the holidays; he always brought his violin.


Gabriel Villasurda
Ann Arbor MI

Laurel said: Aug 27, 2006
Laurel MacCulloch
Suzuki Association Member
Langley, BC
120 posts

Can you find a Suzuki based Music for Babies and Toddlers near you? It’s a great introduction and a wonderful bonding time for parent and child.

Other good programs would be Kindermusik or Music for Young Children. MYC tends to lead toward piano/keyboard, but still introduces excellent musical skills.

Good luck!

Nobuaki said: Aug 27, 2006
Nobuaki Tanaka
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Mount Prospect, IL
115 posts

I highly recommend enroll “music together” program. I have several students who was in the program and many have good rhytmic and can sing in tune. They also have good memory skill.

thank you

Jennifer said: Oct 23, 2006
Jennifer Moberg Pforte
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Islamabad`, Pakistan
71 posts

this may sound crazy to some, but in my studio i have 3 sets of parents who desparately wanted in, but their children were too young. so they are taking the lessons themselves! it is quite amazing- the parents are learning to play their twinkles, and the kids play in the background, absorbing all the music and knowledge the parents are getting. every once in a while the children will wander into the lesson area and spontaneously sing the rocket song with us or take a bow or do ‘head head shoulders shoulders.’ these kids can also already sing all of the twinkle sandwiches, because they hear mom and dad practicing at home.
this is a big committment on the parents’ parts, but if you are really dedicated to your child’s (suzuki) music education, it’s really the best way to go about things. it will also make practicing much easier when your child starts, because he/she will have already had the exposure to someone practicing, they’ll be familier with the songs, and you will know how to teach them more effectively at home, as you’ve been through it already.

other than that, listen listen listen!!!

“Music exists for the purpose of growing an admirable heart.”

Kirsten said: Oct 30, 2006
 103 posts

Hi Jennifer,

Do you have both husband and wife taking the lesson together? Do all three families come at the same time? I have found it really hard teaching either an adult or a child with a toddler in the room (even just one toddler), but I think your situation is really ideal. I would love to hear more about how it all works.


Jennifer said: Oct 30, 2006
Jennifer Moberg Pforte
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Islamabad`, Pakistan
71 posts

hi there kirsten—

one of the families has both parents taking lessons, and a nanny to look after the child as she “observes.” bear in mind she is only 2 1/2 or so, and pays attention for about 20% of the lesson!

another family it is just the mother taking the lesson, (dad learned to play the cello with the older siblings) and again, a nanny in the background to watch the child.

in the third family, it is mainly the mom who is learning to play, but the dad tries something each lesson as well. the boy is a little older, and can, for the most part, pay attention during the lesson without too much coaxing.

the three families come separately for their private lessons, but are all in the same group class. i’ll be interested to see what happens when these children start doing the lessons themselves. with two of them, the parents have already begun a few bad habits like never cutting their nails (and the moms have nice long manicured nails that i comment on every week…) and strange resulting bowholds. we shall see!

“Music exists for the purpose of growing an admirable heart.”

said: Nov 16, 2006
 2 posts

Suzuki wanted the parents to learn too. I didn’t start before my son, but I am familiar with the 3 ring circus that doing lessons and practising with a 3 year old and baby entails. I’ve played with my baby asleep in the sling on me, the teacher has played the piano with her on her lap (with interesting accompaniment as a result), she has slept through lessons, and climbed up my leg in others. Recently I have been asked to play in the annual concert, and play in group classes as a result. After a scary first group class, I bring a nanny along to both individual and group classes, so I can concentrate on playing. I don’t want to leave the baby behind, because I want her to be exposed to the classes.

Suzuki mom to
DS (born April 2003)
DD (born Jan 2006)

said: Nov 26, 2006
 8 posts

You might want to check with your local Suzuki group to see if any of the Suzuki teachers also teaches Music Mind Games. My grandson has not been through the program but his teacher uses elements of it to help him with basic musical concepts. She is also a Music Mind Games teacher. When our granddaughter is 2, we will start her there.

said: Dec 12, 2006
 5 posts

ms jennifer,
I’m confused right now. My 2,5 year old son started violin lessons 2 months ago. He seemed to be interested & eagerly participated , but now he starts to lose interest.During our weekly practice he’s doing good, but when the teacher comes in he barely listens to him & refuses to follow the instructions. Should I wait or keep practicing & see how he’ll do?

Thank you, Tosha.

said: Jan 27, 2007
 7 posts

Hi Eesi,

Wow, you’re great. There aren’t many parents thinking about music that early. Your son is blessed.

Before your son turns 2, start ear training. People will think you’re crazy, but you don’t have to tell them you’re doing it, and it works. Get a small xylophone with only about an octave. Make sure it’s a real one from a music shop rather than a toy store. Play a note, and then say its name. Do this with two more notes. When you finish, applaud and say “Yaaaaay!” like the world’s happiest cheerleader. Repeat this process with all three notes three times per day. Your child will be busy doing something else. You will do this in the background—in a conversational, very happy voice, with the CD player and other noises off—so that he can hear it.

Your child will want that xylophone. Don’t show it to him, and don’t give it to him. After 5 days, trade one of the notes you have been playing for a new note. Your child will notice. Continue rotating through the notes of the xylophone until you have done all the “white keys.” Then go through the “black keys” as sharps. Then you can start reviewing some of the white keys with the sharps, and then do the flats, go to thirds, fourths, and on from there. Your son may start saying, “I hear an E” as you drive down the road; it’s probably the sound of the engine or the sound of the tires on the road. Some people call this “perfect pitch.” I call it learned pitch, and if you start before about age 2, they do learn it.

You can start Kindermusic from birth. We found it when my son was 18 months, and we started as soon as we could get registered. He loved it, and we continued until he was about 5. Mommy didn’t know much about music, and she spent all day with my son anyway. So Daddy went to Kindermusic with him. It was a great chance for us to spend fun time together. As a techno-geek, I didn’t know how to have fun with a baby. Kindermusic was a big help.

About age 2, the child wants to do what the older siblings and parents can already do. I hear that it’s ideal for the parent to start a month or more before the child.

My son and I started Suzuki violin lessons together just before his fourth birthday. I did play at the recital—right after my son. I have only been that nervous a few other times in my entire life! But trying it yourself teaches you how big a challenge your child is tackling. It helps you ask better questions from the teacher. It put some reality into my perspective on what should be applauded as progress. Everything should be applauded as progress.

So I’m in the group that would strongly encourage you to take lessons, too.

By the way, the two of us took one half-hour lesson from the teacher, so we only paid for one half-hour period per week when we were both being taught. My son at age 4 couldn’t joyfully focus for more than about 15 minutes. Some days I had my 15 minute lesson first. Other days, he went first.

Remember—whatever you do, keep it fun.

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