It can be awesome or really hard to teach children piano - as well as points in between the two.
I've developed some ways to teaching kids piano that help my lessons stay positive, engaging and keep me from losing my patience!
Kids may really want to be able to play the piano but their attention spans are a bit on the shorter side, they lack filters and have a lot of enthusiasm. It sure makes a lesson interesting!
On this page, I’ll share with you some of the things I’ve learned that have helped me to teach children piano. Teaching piano can be really fun and rewarding. To help piano teaching to be as great for you, I’ll give both some practical advice and some general guidelines.
There is one main rule I try to use in every lesson with kids and that's my "up and down" technique.
What this means basically is that lessons aren't all based sitting at the piano. Sit down, then stand up. And repeat.
I always start out a lesson playing the songs learned from last week and moving onto the new material. After this, I try and include an activity that would get kids to do something different.
Examples of Standing Up Activities:
This is the general outline of what piano lessons look like in my studio.
To teach children (and adults for that matter) piano, what I have found most helpful is a whiteboard. With a whiteboard, you can create lots of different activities. You can practice naming notes, rhythm, and other things.
You can have a big one on the wall but a smaller one you can use right at the piano is more important. Different coloured whiteboard markers (Amazon link) are also great. Don't forget an eraser too!
Along with a white board, I also used rhythm sticks and other rhythm instruments to practice rhythm. It’s good for kids to move around and I’ve found it especially helpful for the students playing.
I have a few different types of rhythm sticks but my favourites are a similar to these rhythm sticks on Amazon. They have a crisp sound.
Kids do tend to like different coloured rhythm sticks as well. Bells can also be good - especially if you are teaching more than one student at a time. (A bit easier on the ears!)
An other of the materials I always have close by is a staff that is magnetic. There is so much you can do with this and it works well for adults and kids.
Use a magnetic staff for things like learning notes, scales, intervals, chords, you name it. It's very versatile.
When I first got mine there wasn't a whiteboard option but now you can get a magnetic, white board staff and it's really handy. (It can be time-consuming and a bit annoying to always have to draw lines. Plus, they're never straight!)
Another very useful tool is a program to manage your studio. If you'd like to easily manage billing, scheduling, taxes and a website, check out Music Teachers Helper. It's the best way I've seen to keep things organized.
One of the things that is great about this is it allows you to take credit card payments. You can also keep track of missed and make-up lessons which can easily turn into a jumble!
To teach children piano, it’s good to have an idea of what piano books are good. Parents will always ask you about books and it's important to have a plan in mind.
My favourite piano books to teach with have been the Alfred series and more recently the Piano Adventures Series. I always try to use a lesson book and a theory book. The theory books make a huge difference!
Children will show up to their lessons with all sorts of books. You can choose if you want to use these or have them start in the books you prefer. I usually continue in the books they have and then switch them over to something different when they finish those books.
I've found that to effectively teach children piano, it's important to remember that every child is different.
I know that you know this but it’s easy to develop a method of teaching and focus on that instead of the individual student.
I have found that students have different strengths and focusing on those creates a good lesson. When you build on a child’s strengths, they come to believe that they can do it – piano is not so difficult. Then, when introducing those things that they struggle with, they already have a feeling of accomplishment and success.
Here’s a practical way to do this. Start and end the lesson with something they like or something not too difficult. If you know that they like scales and like to play them, end with playing some scales. They’ll leave feeling like they learned and can play something.
To teach children piano, there is another thing I have found essential. This is not about the actual teaching or the piano student, but about me – the teacher. It’s important to have a sense of fun.
If you enjoy teaching, that comes across to the student. If you’re having fun, they’re much more likely to have fun. We need to get away from that image of the piano teacher with the ruler in her hands rapping the knuckles! Piano is fun!
There are times for fun but unfortunately, there are some times when you need to be strict. Try to do this with a smile and the attitude of helping (rather than punishing). Some parents will tell you to be stern or strict with their child. They know their child and it is good to follow their advice.
Behaviour problems do happen in piano lessons although I have found not frequently. Children are usually respectful and nice.
I usually find that if a student is not behaving well, they are bored. If this happens, I try to mix things up. For example, if we are sitting at the piano, I try to come up with an activity that is more active. Then after that is finished, we try to go back to what we were doing.
If you have an issue you cannot handle in the lesson, talk to the parent. Find a way for the two of you to resolve it. If things are really a problem to the extent where you can’t get anything done in the lesson, I have one extreme solution. Ask the parent to come to the lesson. If the parent really wants the child to learn to play the piano, they will need to be there to help control the child. I’ve never had to do this. It’s just one option in extreme cases.
I have taught piano in two different countries (Canada and Australia) and I've definitely found a difference between the two. In Canada, parents never came to a piano lesson. It was always "drop and run".
In Australia, things have been a bit the opposite. Parents often come to lessons. I have generally found this positive. Kids tend to behave a little bit better when their parents are in the room. It can make things easier.
But should they come to the lesson? I'd say no unless they're really little - like 5 and under (which isn't really great for teaching anyway).
I have a number of different pages on my tips for teaching piano.
If you’d like some more information on teaching group lessons, go to teaching group lessons.
You can see what my typical lesson outline at how to give piano lessons.
And if you want to know more about teaching beginners specifically, check out teaching beginner piano lessons.
I hope this was helpful for you! Happy teaching!
A really popular resource for piano teachers is this online studio organization tool for:
To check this out, visit Music Teacher's Helper here.