It's fun to dream about raising a mini-Mozart, but when are kids really ready to try playing an instrument? Some tips from Jean Newton, dean of students and faculty at the Music Conservatory of Westchester in White Plains, NY:
Your child is old enough if he can focus on a task for 10 to 15 minutes -- an activity that someone else has asked him to do. Generally, that means he's no younger than 4, though some music programs won't accept kids before age 5 or 6.
One good sign is that he's excited by an instrument that you or his teacher suggests to him. He'll be more likely to stick with it if he thinks he's playing something cool.
Two of the best instruments for beginners are violin and cello; both come in petite sizes that make them easy for little hands to hold. You might also consider starting your child off with the Suzuki method (which emphasizes learning through listening and imitation). Another good choice: the piano, since producing the right tone is as simple as tickling the keys.
The kinds of lessons in which little kids do best may be group ones. "Watching other children helps them learn, and there's motivation in being with peers," says Newton. Ask if you'll be allowed to sit in -- that way, you can help your child remember the teacher's instructions for practicing at home.