Piano is considered an umbrella instrument, meaning, teaching kids to play piano helps them understand music more thoroughly, no matter what instrument they want to play later on. Even most singers first learn the basics of music theory and notation on the piano. Piano lessons at an early age lay out the basics of music-making in black and white (quite literally!). The great news is that you don’t need to know anything about playing piano to inspire your children to want to learn. Below are a handful of fun and easy games you can try out today to get them moving in the right direction. Using these homemade toys and games, you can make playing piano even more fun than sitting in front of a video game!
1. Mood Music
Kids instinctively know how to tell a story. When teaching kids piano, access this part of their young minds by asking them to think of a song to go with the mood of their favorite story. They can start by humming or singing melodies, or go straight to the piano and explore the keys! This will build their confidence in playing simple tunes and composing their own music.
2. Animals on the Keys
Most young kids enjoy learning the names of animals and the sounds they make. From the site Let’s Play Music comes a great suggestion that turns playing piano into playing with animal friends. On the octave starting with middle C, attach animal cartoons that begin with the letter corresponding to each note: Cat, Dog, Elephant, Frog, Giraffe, Ant, Bear. This makes it easier to remember which note is which. Now your child, like their elephant friend, will never forget!
3. Flash Memories
Have some fun with flashcards! For this piano game, create a set of cards covering an octave, with one piano key per card. Just write the name of the note on the back, and sketch out a visual representation of where the note is on the front. You can also make flashcards with notations, like clefs, key signatures, or tempo markings (like “andante”) for more advanced students.
4. A Keyboard for Little Feet
In the movie “Big”, Tom Hanks has to show adults how to have fun with a giant piano keyboard that he jumps on from note to note. Make your own keyboard rug out of construction paper or draw keys on an old white sheet, so they can “play” a tune with their whole bodies. Teaching kids piano concepts using physical play and allowing them to let out some steam helps them sit still later on during more concentrated lessons.
5. From A to G and Back Again
For kids who learn the alphabet through song, going backwards through a scale – G F E D C B A – can be confusing at first. But understanding these piano notes in a variety of orders is one of the main skills they will need to master for playing piano. To help them learn, use magnets or cut letters out of felt and help them rearrange the letters visually. You can also use these movable letters to lay out the notes for simple songs, like “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”
As kids progress through these games, you will learn what motivates them, as well as what areas need extra attention. In order for your child to truly excel, you may want to consider hiring a piano teacher at some point. For now, your goal should be getting them get comfortable and eager to learn more. Teaching kids piano can be the most fun you have together as a family with these simple games that make music fun from the very beginning!
Photo by Steve Karsch