A mother of 5 children on a blog I love to read often writes about how she desperately wants her kids to be readers, but found she rarely ever sat down to read herself. She chastised herself, saying that how on earth could she expect her kids to randomly immerse themselves in a book if they never saw anyone model it for them. Consequently, she is trying (trying, being the operative word) to read more, and read in front of the kids, so that they it might rub off on them.
As a piano teacher, many people ask me what age is right to start music lessons for their children. Really, I field this question all the time, along with "when will you start to teach your kids piano?" The answers to these questions are all tied up in my love of music.
The answer to the first question is that it depends on the child. Generally, for formal-sit down-30 minute piano lessons, I advise about eight years old. It's best if the child can already read, has a basic understanding of math, has more than basic fine motor skills, and can sit for at least half an hour with a mostly undivided attention span. I have taken younger children, but more often than not it's a battle with the child and a waste of money for the parent.
The answer to the second question about my own children is that I will teach them an instrument when they ask or show interest.
That is not to say that there is not music constantly in our home, or that they aren't learning music in other ways. While I do not advocate formal lessons until the kids are older and only if they are interested, I firmly believe in early exposure to music of all kinds. The reason I can say that I want my kids to show an interest in music, is that I'm fairly certain that they will ask. Because I am trying to model playing music for them. I sit at the piano and play and sing, I bring out the guitar, I practice the flute and violin. I hone my skills on instruments I have played for a long time, and work away on ones I'm just learning. I have my instruments in the play room, on display, and ready to play and ask about. I allow the kids free play at the piano, and to hold and try out any of the band instruments when I have them out. I have a toy guitar (missing two strings!) they can use. I have a drum that sits in the corner. while they may not be sitting down and getting a lesson, they are certainly learning a lot just by being around music.
If I had one suggestion for any parent wanting to start their kids in music lessons one day, it would be to play an instrument now. If you don't play one already, learn one. Let you kids hear you playing the piano or strumming on the guitar. If you don't have an instrument yet, I'd suggest getting a guitar. I love the guitar because you can play almost any simple song (kids songs, folk songs, and spiritual songs) by learning 4 chords. The guitar is easy to get out and take with you, or have the kids pull up around you while you play and sing. I will play for 30 minutes or more, and the kids will come and go as I play. Sometimes they'll sit with me, sometimes they'll grab the kids guitar and play with me, sometimes they'll sing or dance, sometimes they'll just keep building Lego. But they are still taking it all in and soaking up that music into their souls. Then one day when you suggest music lessons it won't be foreign to them at all. They might even relish the idea to play a duet with mom!
After being asked by the kids' teachers at school, I'm thinking of getting a group of moms together who want to learn guitar and helping them with the very basics. I'm by no means an expert, but I know what I need to in order to play for the kids, which is perfect for me. Plus there is nothing I love more than sitting around and playing/singing music, which I don't get to do with friends very often!