Should You Make Your Child Play A Musical Instrument?

child learning to play a mandolin

Most parents want to expose their child to as many different interests and activities as possible, including music. Many children enjoy learning to play a musical instrument, but it is not for everyone and you may be wondering whether you should force your child to play or stop the lessons once and for all. Let’s talk about why children may dislike playing a musical instrument, why it is good for them and how to encourage them to play one.

Should you force your child to play a musical instrument?

There is no doubt that learning to play an instrument comes with a string of benefits for both children and adults. That being said, your child may not want to play a musical instrument and they might take some convincing to try it out.

It is not advisable to force your child to play an instrument, however you can take steps to encourage them along the way. If you do force them you risk straining your relationship with your child. It is probably better to let them take a break from playing and encourage them to pick it up again in a few days, weeks or months.

Why do some children dislike learning an instrument?

Some children simply may not be interested in learning an instrument and prefer to do different activities instead. Other children might find it difficult to pay attention and take the time to learn to play. Learning to play an instrument comes with a steep learning curve in the beginning and this can be hard to overcome for anyone, including children.

Children become frustrated when learning new skills and this feeling might stop them from wanting to play an instrument. Like with all activities, some things come to us more easily than others and while some children might take to playing an instrument really well, others may need more time, practice and support to pick it up. During this process they may express dislike for playing or drag their feet about practicing.

How can you motivate them to practice?

The first thing to try is to talk to your child about the benefits of practice and how it will help them in the short and long run. For younger children this could be to learn that if you practice playing your instrument you will be able to play a song they like. For older children you could go further and explain that they will become a better musician over time and playing will start to feel more natural each time. When they do practice, ask them how they feel afterwards and give them positive feedback on their efforts.

You can also try giving incentives for them to practice such as eating their favourite meal for dinner or choosing the movie for family night. The only thing to remember is that your child might expect this every time so choose your rewards with care! It may become an expectation that practice is always followed by a treat.

What are the benefits of learning a musical instrument?

Learning a musical instrument is good for children in so many ways including:

  • It is fun. Many people enjoy playing music together or with friends.
  • It feels good. The sense of achievement from learning to play a musical instrument is real and only continues over time as their playing improves.
  • Improve social skills. Being in a music class, band or choir are great ways to make friends, socialize and work with others.
  • It improves language and numeracy skills. Studies have shown that playing a musical instrument helps children learn to read and develop basic math skills. This is because playing music exercises the left side of our brain. Learning music helps with our memorization skills through rhythm and rhyme too. This is another tool for learning well at school and beyond.
  • It stimulates the brain leading to brain growth and development. Studies have shown that children who learn to play a musical instrument have faster brain development than those who do not.
  • It forms positive lifelong habits of learning new things and the discipline and commitment that go along with that requires.
  • It can teach communication skills as they work alongside others in bands or with a teacher at practice.

Does it increase your child’s IQ?

There is evidence to suggest that the brain develops faster in children who learn a musical instrument. This development can help a child’s brain to function and process information faster thus supporting their learning journey. It may not necessarily increase your child’s IQ but it will support their brain growth and set them up well for their education.

What are the disadvantages of learning a musical instrument?

Learning an instrument takes time and energy. To really hone your musical skills it is important to put in the work and time to get the hang of it. It can also be expensive. Between the costs of lessons, the instrument itself and replacement reeds, music sheets and so on you will have to shell out some money.  

What does playing an instrument do to your body?

There can be physical benefits to playing an instrument. For example, someone in a rock band may burn energy performing on stage. Playing music is helpful for fine tuning your motor skills and keeping your memory sharp as well.

In addition, playing music boosts your mood and increases your energy levels. Some people find listening to or playing music relieves stress and makes them feel good. All in all, music is good for us and playing an instrument has numerous positive effects.

Can it help with depression?

Yes, for some people playing a musical instrument can boost their mood and relieve stress. It can complement other treatments for depression and be a huge help for many people. It is a good idea for someone with depression to take up playing an instrument and see how it makes them feel. It might be a great way for them to unwind and feel better.

What is the hardest instrument to play?

This ultimately comes down to personal opinion but many agree that the hardest instruments to learn are the violin, the french horn and the bassoon. Many instruments have a steep learning curve when you are learning to play in the early days and then after time things click into place.

Which is the easiest to learn?

There is of course the recorder, the classic first instrument for many children. They are inexpensive and simple to learn but many parents find the sound to be more than a little bit grating! Other good options are the piano, the flute and the drums. It’s not easy to learn any instrument but these ones might help you or your child get off to a good start!

Which is the most expensive?

A piano is the most expensive instrument to buy, but you can buy electronic ones which are a bit cheaper. The double bass, cello and large brass instruments tend to carry a heavy price tag too. Look for second hand instruments to save money and think about ways to share particularly pricey instruments like a piano.

There was a lovely recent story about a family who had a piano “open house” of sorts and the children in two other households down the street were able to learn using just this one instrument. It might be worth asking around to see how you and other families can help each other.

Which is the cheapest?

In general, the cheapest instruments to buy are the guitar and ukulele, but quality guitars can also cost a lot of money. It is always worth looking to buy a second hand instrument to save money and give it a new lease of life. There are plenty to be found at garage sales or online.

The benefits to learning an instrument greatly outweigh the disadvantages of doing so. It’s good for your child’s physical and mental development plus it is usually a fun activity for them. You may find you need to remind your children to practice and chase them to do it sometimes, but it will be worth it overall.

should you force your child to play a musical instrument