Preschool Piano Games

Welcome to Walden Pond Press

Preschool piano games are usually derived from skills the kids need to learn. Here are the areas from which games must be fashioned.

  • What is left and right at the piano? It has to be second nature.
  • What is up and down at the piano? Up/down and left/right are inextricably mixed on the piano keyboard.
  • What is happy music? What is sad music? What is mysterious music? What is dangerous music? Get the child to distinguish these four crucial emotional qualities. Play it yourself or get a CD.
  • Try to find Middle C on the piano.

try pbn 2

Those are the first four skills to explore. Kids repond to gathering around the piano and playing games with the keyboard rather than listening to a dry lecture or performance. They want “hands on.”

For example, rather than try to start reading music, how about a quick game of finding the groups of two and three black keys, a skill upon which reading music depends?

Keyboard with 2 and 3 blacks
Keyboard with 2 and 3 blacks

Show, don’t tell, and get the kids to try playing things, no matter how simple.

Preschool Piano Book Package

preschool kids smiling

For the youngest of kids, the activities may not even occur at the piano, but around it, and reacting to it.

FUN ACTIVITY 1

Play a jaunty beat, ala Chico Marx, and get the kids to show how you march to a marching beat. This makes rhythm physical.

FUN ACTIVITY 2

Make the music angry and dark, and pretend there is a storm. Do the kids feel the storm? Where can they hide?

MORE ACTIVITIES

Play a glissando up. Sweep your fingers over the white keys as you move to the right/up. Ask the kids what it was like, and if it was up or down.

Now do the same but move down.

WATCH VIDEO: PRESCHOOL ACTIVITIES 1

Now I would concentrate on the two black keys, and get kids to compete to find the most groups of two black keys.

Ask if anyone sees a pattern in the black keys. Ask them to come to the piano and show the other kids.

Now point out the most important note on the piano is called “C” and it is always the white key to the left of the two black keys. Ask someone to find a C. Then ask someone to play every C they can find.

Pretend you’re a carnival barker and have the kids form a line, then each kid has to say “2” or “3” as you point to different groups of black keys. Like a carnie, say, “Hurry up kid, there are other kids waitin'” to speed up the game and speed up their brains.

Copyright © 2017 Walden Pond Press

REFERENCES

Games for the Piano

Teach Your Toddler Piano

Preschool Piano Roadmap

Shop Now

Free USA Shipping

Printable ebooks

Outside USA? Get a download!

Piano By Number

Play Along CDs and DVD

Home Button

Flowered divider Boy with violin

Piano for Babies

Welcome to Walden Pond Press

Piano for babies? People actually ask me if they can start piano with a two year old. It depends on the two year old, and I’m not being snarky.

If your two year old is Mozart, go ahead, but if your two year old is like most kids that age, they will have no idea what symbols (letters, numbers) are.

Only certain skills (there are still some that are purely physical and do not require symbols) can be taught to a child that does not understand symbols, and cannot connect them with real objects like piano keys.

Let’s assume that we are dealing with an average two or three year old, and they have a dim but incomplete view of the numbers 1-10.

Let’s further assume that the child is so young that they have to be taught visually, and cannot use symbols with facility.

try pbn 2

THE MAIN SKILL FOR A YOUNG CHILD

You must find a way for the child to enjoy coming to the piano. It cannot be a place of criticism. It has to be a place the child associates with joy.

You can use candy, money, praise, rewards, toys. But the child cannot feel uneasy or out of control while at the piano.

THE LENGTH OF THE LESSON

Are you prepared for a six minute lesson? The lesson is over when the child says it’s over, no exceptions.

You really cannot go against this rule, or you risk the child not wanting another lesson. Let them lead the lesson, at least apparently.

Games for the Piano Book By MailFINGERING

If you get past the index finger, it is a miracle. Pretend it does not exist.

RHYTHM

It exists in the simplest form: you produce it, and they feel it. Don’t expect a three year old to understand it the way even a six year old does. See the FOURS piano game.

CHORDS

Can you get the child to skip a white key? That is a chord. Forget them being able to name chords, move between chord. Teach them what a chord is, most likely a C chord.

BLACK KEYS

Way too confusing unless the child expresses interest. Try playing all the black keys in a row, going up.

COUNTING

Easy and natural to do, just don’t make it complex. Counting to four is hard work if anything is expected at the same time. Once again see the FOURS piano game.

HAND POSITION

Irrelevant, since they cannot control their fingers. If you insist on it, you will only frustrate them. If nothing else, just make them aware of it. Many kids this age offer the “karate chop” position, the hand on its side. Laugh. Move on.

SITTING PROPERLY

You’re going to have enough trouble getting them not to fall on the floor. Seriously. Little kids this age have trouble balancing.

PRACTICING

There is only one method: THE SONG. Find a song they are crazy about and they will not stop playing it. For a two year old, this is practicing.

ATTENTION SPAN

I would assume five minutes, anything more is gravy. Never force the length of the “lesson.” When their fleeting interest has passed, it’s over. Wait for next time.

Remember, in conclusion, that five minute lessons may take 6 times as long for the child to learn as compared to 30 minutes lessons.

Go slowly, glacially, expect nothing.

You may be pleasantly surprised.

Copyright 2017 Walden Pond Press

Shop Now

Free USA Shipping

Printable ebooks

Outside USA? Get a download!

Piano By Number

Play Along CDs and DVD

Home Button

Flowered divider

 Boy with violin

Best Age To Start Piano

Welcome to Walden Pond Press

The best age to start piano is up to you. The classic age is 6. That is when a child’s brain is just beginning to develop the connection between the two hemispheres. At 4, there is less connection. At 8, there is more.

From my experience, there is a slight advantage to starting later, allowing the brain more time to develop.

However, there is the process of instilling habits, which is best begun early.Try Piano By Number Online

Any child who can count to ten is a good candidate for Piano By Number, the best starting platform for kids. Say, four or five.

But counting to ten is only a starting qualification.

Other skills, having more to do with maturity, are necessary as well.

For example:

  • The ability to complete a task.
  • The ability to concentrate intensely for a short period of time.
  • The ability to make mistakes and take constructive criticism.

Make sure that you separate the tasks of playing music and reading music. Kids can play music for a long time, but can summon up the mental wherewithal for only a few minutes of music reading.

Piano By Number

Age 2 to 3

For this age group you simply want to convince the child that the piano is a fun place to be.

There are few skills kids this age can absorb, except maybe up and down.

You’re really looking for a psychological victory, not an educational one at this age. Convince them that they want more.

Your pace should be glacial, never ever pushing the child, but laying out games and seeing if they bite at the bait. If not, move on.

It will be practically impossible for them to go from the page to the keys, as they will lose their place almost instantly. Concentrate on the keyboard.

Age 4 to 5

Kids can now go from looking at the page to looking at the keys, so it is possible to play actual songs. If not, continue to concentrate on the keyboard, getting them used to the geography.

Find their favorite songs and translate them into a form that is transparently easy for them to play.

You may be able to introduce the black keys, flats and sharps, but I would concentrate on finding the white keys 1-12 at first.

Fingering is only dimly understood at this age, but encourage them to use specific fingers if it does not frustrate them. It’s a good age to let them explore “crazy fingering,” wherein they try any combination that strikes them. It often helps them feel the logic of the “proper” way.

Age 5 to 6

Numbered Keyboard for kids
Numbered Keyboard

At this age, the child’s brain is finally ready for more complex tasks, and is ready to try to complete tasks.

You must still lower the bar and keep a game feeling to the lessons. It should seem more like a fun half hour with a sympathetic adult rather than a lecture.

You can try playing with both hands, and fingering. But you must know when to back off and let the child simply do what comes naturally. Later, you can convince them there is a better way.

KINDERGARTEN PIANO

Now begins the process of bait and switch, between Piano By Number and reading music.

Motor skills take a jump at this age and kids are able to control the hand with more assurance.

The proportion of numbers/games to reading should be about 8 parts numbers to 2 parts reading.

The child, now about six, has had the opportunity to play games and have fun and play familiar songs. They are ready for a little work on reading music, as long as the exposure is short but often.

Copyright 2017 Walden Pond Press

Shop Now

Free USA Shipping

Printable ebooks

Outside USA? Get a download!

Piano By Number

Play Along CDs and DVD

Home Button

Flowered divider

Boy with violin

Piano Activities Kids Find Comfortable

Welcome to Walden Pond Press

You need to find piano activities that kids find comfortable. This comfort zone is a retreat from the rigors of reading music.

Some things drive kids crazy with frustration, and some things are so easy and fun that they will do them endlessly with no resistance.

The secret is to find how to make them do everything with no resistance.

Your first job is to find the state of the child’s mind and mood that day. Sometimes they will try anything willingly, sometimes they are tired and you will have to be very careful.

Try Piano By Number Online

Trying to get a tired or moody child to concentrate on something complex is a recipe for disaster. When a child is in that mood, you need to back off and find something that is exactly at the level they wish to offer today.

If the level they wish to offer that day is the index finger alone and single notes, laugh, and start there.

One time, I suggested to an ill-tempered kid that he play only with his pinkie. This delighted him, and five minutes later he was happily having a regular lesson, using all his fingers.

Perhaps part of the zone is tacitly letting the child know that if it gets complex and difficult, we will digress into humor for relief.

I never push too hard for too long. I push too hard for a very short time so the child knows it will be over soon, and thus they give their full effort.

For example, if we are exploring fingering, the going gets tough, and the kid needs relief for a moment. So I play something with my nose.

This of course delights the child, who is dying to stop the complex activity that hurts his brain, and he starts playing with his nose.

At this point I bring up the famous Mozart story.

THE FIVE C WAGER

Mozart was at a party, and bet a very wealthy man that he could play five C’s on the piano. Mozart was known as a practical joker, so the wealthy man tried to consider it from every angle.

Since each hand can only play two C’s, two hands can only play four. So five C’s is impossible.

The wealthy man takes the bet.

Mozart leans down to the keys, plays four C’s with his two hands, and then, giggling, he played the fifth C with his nose.

Kids, of course, insist on a demonstration.

All of this digression takes two or three minutes and now the child is in a better mood, ready to play.

Copyright 2017 Walden Pond Press

Shop Now

Free USA Shipping

Printable ebooks

Outside USA? Get a download!

Piano By Number

Play Along CDs and DVD

Home Button

Flowered divider

 Boy with violin

Why Is Middle C So Important?

Welcome to Walden Pond Press

Why is Middle C so important? Because it is the center of a kid’s musical universe.

How do I know? I can see inside kid’s heads.

To them, a page of notes is a sea of ants with no rhyme or reason. And the piano keyboard is another mystery to them, and they are expected to find some relationship between the two vastly different graphic systems.

They barely look at the black keys.

You have to get them to look closely at the keys. That is, in fact, the job of the pianist, music aside.

Try Piano By Number Online

So Middle C is important because it is the center of the musical universe for kids. Kids need this center, this reference point to navigate the difficulties of sheet music. Home base.

Staff with Middle C

Above is a five lined “staff” with the note Middle C.

Teach the child to be an observer of the staff.

  • How many lines are there?
  • Point to a space.
  • Point to a line.
  • Note that Middle C is on its own, little line.

Middle C

Naming the notes will follow naturally from this familiarity with the staff and keyboard. If they know where C is, D E F and G can’t be far away.

Now get the child to distinguish between Middle C and notes that are on lines or spaces, as in the drawing below:

Notes on lines and spaces

Now take a page of music and ask if notes are on one of three choices:

  • On their own little line (Middle C.)
  • On a space.
  • On a line.

Part of the importance of Middle C is that kids seem to calculate other notes in relation to the “home base” of Middle C.

Going back to numbers, we place the number 1 on the same key as Middle C, because, numbers or notes, it is still the center of the universe.

Numbered keyboard

To begin the process of finding Middle C, look through the page below and find all the Middle C’s you can. I run my index finger under the line of notes, and have the child ring a library bell when they see a Middle C.

Here's a page with lots of Middle C's for you to find.
Find the Middle C’s

In terms of reading music, don’t proceed further until the child unfailingly grasps the idea and look of Middle C.

A prepared child is ready to understand new methods.

Copyright 2017 Walden Pond Press

Shop Now

Free USA Shipping

Printable ebooks

Outside USA? Get a download!

Piano By Number

Play Along CDs and DVD

Home Button

Flowered divider

 Boy with violin

Piano By Number Basics

Welcome to Walden Pond Press

Piano By Number basics are the same as conventional piano basics, except that they are expressed in numbers instead of notes. Kids find this much easier to get started.

Reading music is not the best starting platform for kids, and many find it confusing. For kids, it prevents them diving into the fun sport of making music right away.

Try Piano By Number Online

Academics will argue that piano cannot be simplified for the sake of anyone. Perhaps that is why 90% of the kids who use the conventional method will quit within a year.

Numbered Keyboard
Numbered Keyboard

In the drawing above, Piano By Number puts numbered stickers on the keys as a reference point. It is transparently simple to a child.

In contrast, look at the drawing below, which shows the mysterious tools your child is given to start reading music on their first lesson.

Five Lines Above, Keyboard Below
Five Lines Above, Keyboard Below

The second drawing, (“five lines above, keyboard below”) is infinitely more confusing, involving conflicting geometric planes, dimensions that a child cannot even imagine.

This conventional method has a 90% failure rate. Piano By Number has a 10% failure rate.

Piano Is Easy Book By Mail

So what is it about musical notation that kids and almost all adults find so confusing, especially in the beginning?

The problem is dimensional: conventional sheet music requires the child to immediately think in several, abstract dimensions such as left-right, up-down, time-space, plus a myriad of other conceptual problems, like where do your fingers go, what finger do I use, what shape should my hand be in? The list is endless, at least to a six year-old.

Teachers make almost no allowance for a child’s confusion and push these concepts at them, repeating the ideas again and again until the kids are dazed and confused. Then, the lesson is over and we do it all again next week.

And you wonder why the kids quit.

Piano by number is extremely one-dimensional and easy for even disabled children to pick up immediately.

Copyright 2017 Walden Pond Press

Shop Now

Free USA Shipping

Printable ebooks

Outside USA? Get a download!

Piano By Number

Play Along CDs and DVD

Home Button

Flowered divider

 Boy with violin

Piano By Number Is The Missing Step

Welcome to Walden Pond Press

Learning the piano is simply a series of steps. Like Mount Everest, the higher you go, the harder it gets.

So conventional lessons start a child out at step #1, let’s call it.

Let’s say the teacher goes through the first ten steps in the first ten lessons.

Suddenly, you notice the child is unengaged, uninterested and bored.

Why?

Because none of those ten steps included the missing steps.

The missing steps are:

  • Enjoy coming to the piano and playing simple, familiar songs.
  • Establishing that the teacher is a positive, creative forcek, not just a harsh critic.
  • Playing the piano at the child’s level, at their own pace.
  • Enjoy exploring music that they can understand

The only habit needed to begin the piano is the desire to be in front of one. Conventional piano teachers destroy the child’s motivation to play by making it too complex, and going too quickly.

Try Piano By Number Online

Kids need a buffer zone, a period of time in which the normal expectations of piano lessons are discarded, and the child is taught, by any means, to enjoy coming to the piano.

Unless you establish this sense of trust between piano, teacher and student, all the billion steps leading to the top of Mount Everest are useless.

The easiest way to do this is delay reading music, and number the piano keys as in the drawing below:

Numbered Keyboard
Numbered Keyboard

Having established that all you must do is push the numbered keys in order to play a song, the child will accept this language immediately, and begin playing dozens of songs, on their first lesson.

Of course, it’s more complex than numbers, but don’t tell them that.

At first you are establishing a positive relationship between the child and the piano. Until you do that, you will have sub-surface resistance all the time.

ARE THEY READY TO READ MUSIC?

If you have given the child a chance to start by this “soft” method, then in a month or two, you can try to slowly introduce the elements of reading music.

If you sense resistance or confusion, back off, and come back another day to try again. Your main goal at first is to not have the child say, “This is too hard for me.”

Copyright © 2017 Walden Pond Press

Shop Now

Free USA Shipping

Printable ebooks

Outside USA? Get a download!

Piano By Number

Play Along CDs and DVD

Home Button

Flowered divider

 Boy with violin

Personality and Kid’s Piano

Welcome to Walden Pond Press

Personality is a huge factor in a kid’s piano experience.

“Sure, let’s start little Bobby with piano, he’s only five, but he’ll be great.”

Unfortunately, Bobby’s worst enemy at the piano is his own bubbly, engaging five year old personality.

He can’t sit still, but he smart as a whip. He chews the furniture with excess energy, but he knows his numbers and letters, and can read.

But all his intellectual accomplishments barely prepare him for what the piano requires. Temperament.

The piano requires the most intense concentration of almost any activity. Five year olds have an attention span of approximately 12 seconds. Guess what’s going to happen.

It really is a question of temperament. You may be very smart, but unless you’re willing to sit still for a few seconds and watch what the teacher is showing you, you could fall seriously behind.

Try Piano By Number Online

Unless of course you have a sympathetic, creative piano teacher who has seen this all before and knows how to deal with an explosive personality.

I have a kid right now, six years old, and he goes 250 mph with everything. He is obsessed with the Minecraft game and his mind is occupied with a thousand things other than piano.

He jumps like a flea from subject to subject, but is always eager to tell some endearing, childish story in the process.

So what is the solution? If he goes 250 mph I get in my jet and go 3500 mph. He can’t possibly keep up and starts to calm down and watch.

I move through 20 activities in 5 minutes so that he cannot possibly have time to sink into his personality. He’s too busy with the piano.

Now he needs a rest!

This is exhausting for the teacher, like herding cats. But like a sheepdog, I have to slowly lead the child back to the center and not break their spirit while doing so.

There is no other choice but patience with a child like this, for he was observant enough to catch me starting to get mad when he continually wasted time with constant digressions.

“Are you getting annoyed with me?” he asked.

I lied and said no, for there is no advantage to be gained in that admission.

Later, I thought perhaps I might have said, “No, but I want you to learn so you need to pay attention a little more.” But he still got the idea his behavior was a little off without me getting mad.

If guilt has a power of one, love has a power of ten thousand.

Patience always wins, just as a child’s stubbornness often wins.

As soon as you give in to impatience, the child’s stubbornness wins.

Copyright 2017 Walden Pond Press

Shop Now

Free USA Shipping

Printable ebooks

Outside USA? Get a download!

Piano By Number

Play Along CDs and DVD

Home Button

Flowered divider

 Boy with violin

Visual Preschool Piano

Welcome to Walden Pond Press

I use many methods to teach kids piano, not just numbers, and not just notes. In fact, the most effective method I’ve found with the youngest kids is simply to show them visually what to play.

For all the difficulties that younger kids have with mental abstractions, they are very good visually and make good observers. Watch them with a video game or at sports. They know where to look.

Numbers, notes, pages, books, they are all abstractions to a five year old. But the white keys of the piano? They are buttons, quite tangible to such a child. They make a pleasant sound (or noise) and are fun to push down.

I’ve taught hundreds of four year olds, even younger, usually the youngest of a group of siblings who watched their older brothers and sisters play, and now wants their turn.

Try Piano By Number Online

What’s the first thing I do with such a child?

I find out what song they know and love. It is almost always Twinkle, Twinkle.

Numbered Keyboard
Numbered Keyboard

Twinkle, Twinkle

1 1 5 5 6 6 5      4 4 3 3 2 2   1

I say, “One , one,” the first two numbers in the song.

“Huh?” they say. I take their index finger and make it play 1 1 . “One, one.”

Now they get it. They play it over and over again. I say, “Twinkle, Twinkle.” They are delighted.

Now I say, “Five, five.” The keys are numbered so it’s not hard to find (unless they are unsure of the symbol 5, in which case you have a different problem.)

So they play 5 5. Now I say, “One, One, Five, Five. Put it together.”

It’s hard for them to put it together. I gently take their index finger and play 1 1 5 5 for them. “You have to find the distance between 1 and 5.” I move their finger over and over, 1 1 5 5 1 1 5 5 1 1 5 5 1 1 5 5.

Sooner or later they get it, and realize they have just learned the first line of Twinkle Twinkle. Ask them to play it while you sing.

Now ask them where six is.

Ask, “Play 1 1 5 5 6 6.” The rest of the song follows this scenario depending on the age and abilities of the child.

All this has taken 5 minutes at most. Their “lesson” is done. Next week, I will ask for exactly the same thing, see if they remember, and, if they do, add more.

Never criticize if they have forgotten: it’s in there somewhere. Just try again with humor, as if the mistake and forgetting never happened.

You might not get further than this song, or you may be able to show them more songs.

As long as they are coming to the piano happily, you have a viable student.

Copyright 2008 Walden Pond Press

Shop Now

Free USA Shipping

Printable ebooks

Outside USA? Get a download!

Piano By Number

Play Along CDs and DVD

Home Button

Flowered divider

 Boy with violin

What Age Should You Start Piano?

Welcome to Walden Pond Press

It’s generally accepted that musical skills should be started early. Yet there is nothing wrong with waiting, in fact, the older a child is, the greater their intellectual abilities, and thus the greater their chances of success.

The reason for starting earlier is that the brain is in an earlier stage of development, and thus may absorb more. That is only a theory.

There is one rule, though. The younger the child, the gentler the approach must be. The actions of the child themselves will tell you what they are ready for.

Try Piano By Number Online

I have studied this subject mostly through exposure to families with a group of siblings of varied ages.

When the older kids take piano, the youngest ones usually want to be included. I always let them, not only as prospective customers, but because their enthusiasm is so real.

But what exactly is a three year old capable of? I’ve found that all you can really do is establish that the piano is a fun place to be, thus we always play games, as silly as possible.

For one three year old, the lesson of three minutes consisted of him being able to find Middle C, not hard when it is marked with a big red sticker. But still he was delighted with this task, and slowly we built upon that, finally creating a rendition of TWINKLE TWINKLE that he loved to play.

He played with his index finger and I never asked for more: his brain was occupied with finding the keys.

Sometimes we played FOURS, a silly piano game. Eventually he learned chords and could play C F and G.

This took, at three minutes a week, about two years. Yet, at the age of five, he requested “real” lessons. And he got them, since he was so well prepared.

I tell all of this about the three year old because I want parents to see how age-related practically every piano skill is.

Asking kids to do things that their brains cannot do is a recipe for frustration and disaster, yet almost all piano teachers persist in this madness.

So that is why age is a crucial factor in deciding whether or not to start piano lessons.

The other factor is curriculum: the younger the child, the simpler and slower lessons shall be. More complex ideas are for older kids.

So make sure the curriculum and teacher fits the age of the child. A child who cannot count and barely knows the letters is ready for a little fun at the piano, but not serious lessons.

You can start at age three, but you will have to be tremendously patient.

Copyright 2017 Walden Pond Press

Shop Now

Free USA Shipping

Printable ebooks

Outside USA? Get a download!

Piano By Number

Play Along CDs and DVD

Home Button

Flowered divider

 Boy with violin