Studies show learning an instrument and making music part of your life helps to stimulate the brain and improve learning.

Einstein himself insisted it was his violin playing that fueled his pursuit of theories in physics.

But what instrument is the best one to start your child off with? And when do you know it's time?

Janice Reade, spokesperson for Music for Young Children in Kanata, Ontario, says the piano can be the best instrument upon which to build a child's love of music.

"(Taking piano lessons) gives the child a good pedagogical and practical knowledge of music which can help them if they decide to move on to any other instrument," says Reade. "We have found many of our graduates do move on to several other instruments."

Can Start at Age 3

The youngest age to start on an instrument should be three, she says. "The learning window is three to 10 years old, this is the ideal age to start a child in music lessons," she says. "The circuits formed by learning to play an instrument during these years last a lifetime."

While most children likely won't be the first to express an interest in taking piano lessons, Reade says it is worth getting started early. "With the parent making the decision and giving their child the opportunity to experience lessons, the child will have an increased intellectual and social development, better marks at school, better special reasoning, improved memory and a better emotional equivalent," she says.

Alejandro Céspedes is a percussionist and teacher at the Regent Park school of music in Toronto. He has played in and worked with orchestras in Cuba and Canada, including the Amadeo Roldan Conservatory Youth Symphony Orchestra and the Children Symphony Orchestra of Havana.

He suggests parents try to get their children started on their first instrument -- piano and violin are best -- by Grade 2, or age 7. "At this point they already know how to read and can manage to understand any literature the teacher assigns, even the teacher's notes," he says. 

Guitar, Sax Can Wait

Other instruments like the flute, guitar, percussion, trumpet, saxophone and clarinet can follow at age ten as they require a level of physical skill and muscle control that isn't there before this age, he says.

Giving children a choice of instrument is a good idea too, he says. "Kids shouldn't choose the instruments the parents like, they should pick what they (the kids) like," he says. "In order to find this, listening, visiting (concerts and performances) and discussing a variety of music genres and instruments is critical. However, be aware, if a child's hand is too small to play for example the bassoon, then it shouldn't be forced, since the frustration of not playing it correctly/easily may just discourage the student."

  • Walk to the Beat Your kids can pick different musical instruments to take on a walk with Gisèle and see what fun things happen in this online game teaching music.
  • Kids Can Watch Your preschoolers can learn all about art and music with these educational videos featuring Gisèle and her Big Backyard friends.