Dear Naomi, At what age is it appropriate to enroll a child in lessons (eg. art, music, sports)? What are your concerns with structured lessons?
The only way to know when to provide private lessons is to listen to the child. There is no proper “age;” There is only a particular child, a particular interest and a fitting teacher. If the child initiates taking lessons of his own free will (nagging for it as he would for candy) and is enthusiastic about every moment with the teacher and loves to practice what he learns, go for it only for as long as he wants to.
The above scenario is unlikely. A young child wants to play freely all day. Music, arts and sport can be part of play. Provide exposure and tools of expression and let your child play, run, sing, dance, act, paint and observe others doing the same. If a child displays exceptional talent, I suggest that you speak to me privately by phone for specific ways to nurture the talent without quenching it with teaching. You can register for a phone session here: http://naomialdort.com/guidance.html
I am all for artistic enrichment in the early years, but I hesitate to put young children through lessons. Most lessons are designed to lead the child on a prescribed path.
This misses the wonders of what the path the child will create on his own, with a spirit that is free of pre conceived ideas. There is always time later, when the child is interested, to provide instructions that lead to specific outcomes. In addition, young children are very susceptible to becoming depending on living up to adult expectations. This robs them of the freedom to discover their own passions.
You can read my full account of my musical children’s development in Life Learning Magazine July/Aug 2006. I also offer a phone session that provides you with musical games for the early years. These are games children can play by themselves and in their own ways. You can sign up for this session on the same page posted above.
The summary of my answer is simple: The child will decide. Expose but don’t impose.
Warmly, Naomi Aldort, www.AuthenticParent.com