When to start and how
Benefits of learning as a child
It's never too late to start playing the piano! However, there are a couple of good reasons to start earlier than later. The first one is the natural flexibility of children’s hands -- young hands are naturally more pliable and flexible than older hands. And if you keep practicing your hands will stay flexible forever. Adult students need to work more to train their fingers to stretch more. It’s just like stretching any other body part and increasing flexibility there.
The second and more important reason is that usually young brains are easily adapted to new skills and information. When children are exposed to piano lessons at an early age, they form neural pathways that link the right hemisphere of the brain – the analytical thought – to the left hemisphere of the brain, which is where abstract thought and creativity originate. Learning music is similar to learning a new language -- the earlier you start, the less accent you will have, and only if you start very young you will be a native-speaker.
If you watch some interviews with concert pianists, you will notice that many of them came from families of professional musicians. They were exposed to music even before they were born. Their brain could already understand and process music at the age of 2-3. Some of them had older siblings who took music lessons, and they were just sitting in the same room (here is one more tip - let your younger children sit in their sibling's lessons... they may not talk or walk yet but they may start singing you Bach's fugues).
Young children under the age of 7 are not too busy in school yet, they are naturally very curious -- here are more reasons for you.
Benefits of learning as an adult
However, music lessons are good for you at any age. I had adult students who made very impressive progress, and the main reason for that is ... motivation! They often know what they want to learn, they value time and practice more efficiently, they are staying focused longer than younger students. I know some retired people who take piano lessons and it brings them a lot of joy. Which is the main purpose of piano lessons, right?
How and when to start teaching your child music?
I was a young beginner myself, I started asking my parents to teach me piano at the age of 3, then at the age of 5 I started taking violin lessons, and at the age of 6 finally switched to piano.
All children develop differently, but the age of 5-7 y.o. is on average a good age to start piano lessons. I would recommend to expose your child to music even earlier, around the age of 2. They are not going to play piano, of course, but let them listen various music (not only Baby Shark... give them some symphonic music, there are little pieces for kids, and even serious music -- you will be surprised that many children at very young age would be actually interested). Listening experience is very important in early age.
Do some simple rhythmic exercises (you do not have to be a musician to do it!) -- ask your child to repeat a simple rhythm after you or sing a simple melody or song. All of this helps to develop musical brain so later you kid may learn instrument easier.
Then start noticing when your child starts focusing on tasks more, follow simple instructions from adults, and count till 4 -- this is all you need to start piano lessons. Some children are ready at 4, some of them are ready at 6 or 7.
How to make music lessons enjoyable for your child
I strongly believe that children should learn to play an instrument only if it brings them joy. Not all kids will like piano lessons, and it is totally fine, they should try different activities and decide what they want to do. You should definitely try piano lessons though and see how it goes, but don't force it if after certain time your kid still does not enjoy it.
Every person has natural propensity to certain activities, however, you can unobtrusively teach your kids to enjoy music. There is a simple secret: while your kids are very young, they are very likely to enjoy the same things that you enjoy. They grow up in the atmosphere of your home, your hobbies and interests. If you want your kids to play music, you should listen to music yourself at home, make music more than just a lesson that happens once a week, but make listening a part of your daily life. It is like learning a new language: you have to listen to others speaking, you can't just talk to yourself alone.
Listening is especially important if you want your kid to play classical repertoire which requires some listening experience and understanding. You should not expect a 10 year kid to enjoy classics if he/she was never exposed to it at earlier age. This does not mean forcing kids to listen to classical music: just play some concert videos as a background sometimes, not just for educational purposes but because YOU enjoy it yourself and want to share it with your kids.
The lack of listening experience at early age is the main reason why children do not enjoy playing classical repertoire. Children at the age of 2-3 often enjoy classical pieces better than 10-year old beginners. Nowadays it is very easy to find interesting video performances for free on Youtube. Especially check out performances of young pianist (your kids will relate to them better), and especially piano concertos with orchestras. They are just beautiful! Here some piano concertos to watch with your kids (make sure to switch to HD quality when available):
Do not forget to attend some symphony and piano concerts. Here in Greenville SC we have a beautiful Peace Center where Greenville Orchestra often performs. Tickets are very affordable and it will be a great listening experience for your kids.