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My son is nearly 3 years old and is clearly showing an interest in the piano. I've been playing around with him, mainly encouraging him to mash the keys, try to play a single note, and so forth. Really just exploring the instrument more than anything. However, I have a feeling that there will come a time soon that he will want to actually start playing the piano. Eventually we'll get him a teacher, but presumably I'll be the first one to teach him things.

Are there any things I can do accidentally that might cause serious problems for him later? Personally, my first piano teacher wasn't very good and by the time I got to my second teacher, who was fantastic, I had a lot of things that needed correction. I'd very much rather not do that again :-P

closed as too broad by user19146, Richard, guidot, Dave, Carl Witthoft Jun 20 '17 at 12:14

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    There is an infinitely long list of things you could "do wrong". I voted to close this as too broad (it's also likely to get list-based answers, and be too opinion-based). – user19146 Jun 19 '17 at 13:51
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    Perhaps it might be best to focus on the things you can do correctly. I think a correctly instilled enthusiasm and appreciation for the instrument will allow him to overcome whatever future obstacles he may encounter. – Richard Jun 19 '17 at 14:14
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    I'd me curious to look at the list of things to do as well! To answer the question, at this age learning has to be fun, so anything you do that will take fun out of it is high up the list of things not to do. – Michael D Jun 19 '17 at 15:13
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I wouldn't be too concerned about it. Exposure is the fundamental thing for a child of that age. As Todd says, it's difficult for a 3-year-old to develop habits at all. It would take a lot more attention span than a child of that age has to be able to develop a repetitive-motion injury, in my opinion.

A child with talent will typically spend time listening to how the notes interact, playing two notes at a time, that sort of thing. When you see that sort of concentration, encourage it. That same child will also spend time banging around as well. You can usually tell if he's getting frustrated, and when he is, distract him.

If you're going to be the first one to teach him, I would recommend that you familiarize yourself with the Suzuki method (although I wouldn't fully embrace it). Traditional teaching methods (teach reading from day one, starting with middle C, quarter notes and 4/4 time) generally aren't very effective with children under the age of eight or so. There are just too many things to learn in that method before a younger child can dive in and start making music, and they tend to get frustrated and tune it out.

The Suzuki method emphasizes the idea of a child learning music in much the same way that he learns language, through imitating what he hears. However, practitioners often go a bit too far in that direction, to the point of de-emphasizing reading music. It's not uncommon to see older Suzuki students who play with better than average technique, while having worse than average reading skills. So I would read up on it to get some ideas, but I wouldn't recommend that you put your son in a Suzuki class.

Once a child starts talking, he can start trying to play music, too. Once it's time for him to learn to read, he can start learning to read music, too.

The traditional method books which I use with my students are the Alfred books. If you pick up the very first one (Prep Course: Lesson Book A), you should be able to get an idea of when your son can get use out of it.

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The summary answer is you could teach him bad habits. Those can range from benign habits that make his learning process longer when we has to retrain those habits in order to be able to use a certain technique, all the way to ergonomic bad habits that could lead to a repetitive motion injury.

At the same time, he might be too young to develop habits at all.

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