First of all, is the violin for toddlers? A few years ago if you had told me that I would start my boy out on the violin while he was two, I probably wouldn’t have believed it. But that was a few years ago. As I have studied early childhood development from authors such as Maria Montessori, Glenn Doman, and Sidney Ledson, however, I have adopted a different philosophy, one of creating a learning environment for my children. When I read “Nurtured with Love” by Shinichi Suzuki a year ago, I knew that I wanted the violin to be a part of my children’s education.
The method, especially at first, relies a lot on the ear. I think a lot of the reason students fail with this method is because this method relies a LOT on parental involvement, with the mother taking lessons with her child and they learn the instrument together. It also involves creating an environment that encourages musical growth. Just as all Japanese children learn to speak Japanese, this approach teaches much by the environment of the child. I have decided that this is something I want to do with my own children, in conjunction with note reading via the Kodaly method, which can also start in the toddler years.
I am also very grateful to track 18, which says “Please tune your violin to the following tone.” It is only because of this track that Peter will surrender his instrument long enough for me to tune it. “No, Mommy. It’s MY violin.” Yes, Peter, it is indeed yours. In spite of some of the less-than-gentle treatment it receives, Peter is very careful and gentle with it his instrument when he puts it in it’s case. It is so endearing to see my little boy love his gift so much.
In light of preparing the environment, I found an article about finger games for the violin for toddlers which may be helpful.
This is a picture of my full sized violin next to Peters. It looks so tiny, but in his hands it is easy to see that it is just the right size. Getting the right size is crucial to your child’s enjoyment of the violin, and is fairly simple to do. Simply place the violin under your child’s chin and see if they can comfortably curve their fingers around the scroll. The right size for your child is the largest size with which they can comfortably do this. We tried a 1/16 at our local music store and it was too large for Peter so we knew that we wanted a 1/32. We would have had to ask the store to special order it for him, or we could order one ourselves. If children are given a violin which is too large for them, it can be very uncomfortable to play, and being forced to play it could even turn them off to playing the violin forever. It is not worth it. But giving them the right tool for the right job with the right environment with proper encouragement is bound to bring good results, and a positive experience for your family.