How good are toy pianos to get your child started at the piano?
Toy pianos are marketed to toddlers and preschoolers by Schoenhut and Fisher-Price.
There are many more brands, but they all use the same technology, and all sound more or less the same.
Many parents are attracted to them.
They like the look and the size, saying to themselves, “Oh, that would be perfect for my child. It’s so cute!”
But have you ever tried a toy piano?
While they may be cute and fulfill a need for a certain kind of toy and nursery furniture, they may leave much to be desired in terms sound and providing an instrument for musical development.
Let’s see if the advantages of toy pianos outweigh the liabilities.
I’ve taught children who had toy pianos at first, and there is never any damage done, far from it, if a child plays a toy piano. I think they enjoy it simply because it makes pretty sounds. Anything that interests them in music and piano is good for their intellectual development.
But that is not our point today, but rather to see if there may be an alternative for toddlers that works better in providing a musical instrument adequate for musical development.
First let us enumerate the advantages of toy pianos:
They are attractive and this alone may interest the child in music.
They are inexpensive and portable
They have a standard keyboard setup with groups of two and three black keys.
They are mechanical devices, so you don’t have to worry about electrical connections, outlets and safety issues.
The younger your child, the more appropriate a toy piano may be.
The only real alternative besides a real piano is the electronic music keyboard, such as the inexpensive Casio brands you see for around $99. You see them at Target and Walmart and electronic appliance outlets as such as that.
Here is a comparison of an electronic keyboard versus a toy piano:
Children’s electronic music keyboards have real width keys, ¾ inch wide, while toy pianos often have “mini” keys to accommodate their tiny hands. It may be better to have the child get used to what real piano keys are like. On the other hand, anything that attracts your child to touch a musical keyboard is a good thing, correct width keys or not.
Electronic keyboards make a wide variety of sounds besides the standard piano sound of a toy piano. This may attract your toddler, or may confuse them. More sounds are available on a small keyboard but not usually on a toy piano, although undoubtedly there are products out there called “toy pianos” which make sounds in addition to something piano-like.
Toy pianos produce a sound made on what are usually small bell-like surfaces called “tines.” It sounds more like chimes than a piano. An electronic keyboard’s piano sound is usually very faithful to a real piano sound.
Electronic keyboards must be used with batteries to get around the safety issues of outlets, power cables and connections. Toy pianos usually are mechanical devices that require no power, and therefore have the advantage of safety and convenience.
Whatever choice you make, a toy piano can be a great introduction to music, which will eventually produce many benefits such as increased math scores and better handwriting.
Better to get a toy piano at first and then upgrade than not get started at all. Music skills develop at a very young age.
Copyright 2008 Walden Pond Press
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