It's never too early to start encouraging your child's love for music! Children can enjoy a singing, dancing, and playing with musical toys from before they can walk. Fun group classes are available in most areas for infants and toddlers, and are a great way to foster a love for music from a very young age.
When to start learning in a more serious context depends on the child, the instrument, and the amount of involvement a parent can commit to. To benefit from private instruction, a child needs to be able to sit still and concentrate for the duration of the lesson. They need to be verbal enough to understand instructions and basic musical concepts. Size and dexterity are important. Some instruments demand more strength and coordination than others. On the guitar, for example, you need to press down a thin string at a specific point with the left hand, and play or strum with the right hand. That's quite a bit more difficult than finding and pressing down a piano key! Also, the parent should consider that the younger the child is, the more parental involvement will be needed during practicing and, if appropriate, during lessons.
As a guitar teacher, I find that by age 8 almost all children are ready to begin the instrument. I do accept students younger than eight if the child is interested and focused, but parents need to be present during online lessons and be committed to the practice process.
Toddlers and Preschoolers - fun, group music classes are best. At this age, the important thing is keeping it fun and playful. There will be plenty of time to learn discipline later on!
Early Elementary (ages 5-7) - Piano is a great option, for obvious reasons. All you have to do to make a sound is press down a key. Having the notes right in front of you makes it a great instrument for learning the basics of music theory too. Keep in mind you don't need to buy a full-size piano for your child to start. An electronic keyboard is a much more affordable option, though check with the teacher on what sort of keyboard is best. Simple percussion instruments like drums and xylophones are good for young beginners. They teach the basics of rhythm and don't usually require much strength, size or coordination to at the beginning stages. Recorder is also a great starter instrument. It's popular in school music classes precisely because it is small, easy to play, and inexpensive.
Later Elementary (ages 8-10) - This is a great time to begin violin and other string instruments, though many students are able to start these instruments earlier. It's also a great time to begin guitar, as by this point students will be big enough to hold a guitar stable and be able to coordinate two hands doing different things. Though, as I mentioned above, many younger children can begin the guitar earlier as long as they have the desire and basic coordination
What do other teachers think? What is the ideal age to begin? Has any student started playing an instrument at a very young age? Some violinists, for example, begin as young as three or four years. How did it work for you? Also, when is a good age to begin other instruments? Woodwinds like flute and clarinet? Saxophone, trumpet, trombone, or other instruments?