Teaching a 5 year old?


Junior Member

This is one for all the teachers out there: What's the best way to go about teaching a five year old?

I'm relatively new to teaching but have started getting the hang of things, but all the students up to this point have been at least 11.

Ive just booked in a five year old, and was wondering whether anyone out there has had any experience with someone this young and could offer maybe some ideas for the first lesson or just some general tips?

Thanks everyone


Pioneer Member
I've never taught anyone that young, sorry. But maybe you could keep mentioning that you also teach Spongebob or Dora the explorer and they LOVE the drums and practice everything they are shown everyday. ;)


Senior Member
My son will be 4 in Oct and he's 'playing' drums...right now I just let him do what he wants and it's hard to keep him off the kit. I don't know that many 4 or 5 year olds would have the attention span to do paradiddles. Some do of course, but those kids are the exception.

Even though my son isn't doing anything much on the drums...even at less than 4 he is FAR better than anything by 11 year old son or my 6 year old daughter can come up with. I think he's going to be a decent drummer if he wants to keep up with it. The kid is amazingly coordinated.

Just Drums

Silver Member
We teach a few that young and honestly I'm not sure a single one of them has the attention span to sit thru a 15 minute lesson much less a 30 minute. At that age, there's is plenty you can teach but in general, you have to make it much more "fun" and game like.

wy yung

I have a few youngsters, including a couple of 5 year olds and this is what I've learned.

1. The most important thing to do is keep things fun. This will help keep the attention level up. I do this in a number of ways.

1 a. First lesson. I ask the child if they want to have a bash around and make lots of noise. The usual answer is a shy yes, followed by a hesitant bang on a few things. I then suggest they can hit more things and make even more noise. This usually gets a smile followed by what I suggested. A comment such as "Playing drums is fun eh?" said with a big smile usually garners a positive reaction.

1 b. I then show them how to hold the stick, but I am not dogmatic about them holding it exactly correct. I usually work on this over the following weeks in a very easy going manner. I figure the kid wont have fun if I am obssessing over his or her grip.

1 c. Using the right book. I enjoy using the Drumming from A to B junior edition. This book has cartoons, BIG WRITING and lots of helpful hints. It can also be used as a coloring in book. The kids love this aspect of this work. I have had great results using this and highly recomend it.

1 d. Colored marking pens are incredibly useful with small children. I assign different colors to each limb. Children seem better able to read when they recognise the colors; e.g blue for the right hand, orange for the left etc. NOTE It helps to keep the colors very different. I use red for one hand and blue for the other. Not a combination of blue and green or anything similar.

2. Pacing the lesson.

2 a. Each child is different. I have found that I must be flexible, very flexible when teaching small kids. I am happy to move on completely from my lesson plan if the childs begins to drift. One youngster who began with me 2 years ago at 5 years old is still with me and was playing along to Booker T tunes just yesterday. But when he began 2 years ago his lesson was at most 15 minutes long followed by 15 minutes of bashing around while I kept time for him. Anything to keep the interest and fun levels up.

Another child however was better able to keep his attention and more devoted to practice and his lessons were more serious. Yet still fun. He too is still with me and plays all kinds of advanced rhythms, New Orleans funk, Latin, and other assorted grooves. Yet....He doesn't really like technique. He thinks of grooves as songs and tires of paradiddles and such. So, I hide paradiddles within grooves and fills and whether he knows it or not, he practices them. So you see, a little creative deception can get results.

2 b. Another advantage I have found is to involve the parents and sibblings. I have no hesitation of getting them into the room as soon as a breakthrough of any kind is made. This excites the child and makes the parents proud and all that follows is positive. I mentioned on this site recently that I had a family dancing to a young man's first lesson. You should have seen the kid's face! His mother and sister dancing to a single stroke roll. I kid you not. Drumming bliss!

2 c. Try to remember everyone's names! Always appear excited to see the child and parents. If you can get to a position of trust by being friendly and positive, the results can be overwhelming. I have drawings on my fridge that were presents from young students. I even had a 6 year old call me when his football team won their final match, on his birthday! So excited was he to tell his drum teacher.

3. Using music that the child likes.

I always find out what songs the kids like. Often at this age they don't know individual bands, but they do know songs. I get them to bring in CDs and help them play along. This playing along may only be clapping on 2 and 4, it doesn't matter how correctly they play it. I also use shakers and lightweight tambourines. (I've also used a quica to make funny noises to Wiggles tunes. This always gets an hysterical laugh. Especially if the sound is similar to the kids dad breaking wind) Of course a quica is not a necessity, but fun is the idea. You get the picture.

The bottom line is to keep them coming to lessons and keeping them interested. There is no hurry. If the child returns week after week, he or she will learn. If they get bored and quit they wont learn anything. I love teaching these little kids. I know a lot of teachers hate it. I'm lucky, I've always been loved by dogs and small children. ;-)

Good luck with it and I hope you can enjoy it as much as I.

The Colonel

Silver Member
I used to teach a 6 year old kid with some natural ability. His dad's a music manager and always had music on - the boy loved Keith Moon, so any time he would struggle with something he would just started playing fast all over the kit. So I took off my belt and -

Just kidding. He actually preferred Bonzo.

Okay, seriously...

When I showed up for the lesson, he would be all excited. Gonna learn new things! Gonna get closer to playing like Keith Moon, his dad would say. I think his dad hampered his growth by constantly saying that. At that age, you just want results without having to work for them. So like I said - when he struggled he would just abandon what we were working on and play the one thing he did really well. (Kid had one really good beat and one really good fill that he would do over and over)

One thing that worked really well was to always show him something cool you could do with what you were showing him. We worked on some easy stickings (first 13 in Stick Control - I wrote them out larger with colors in a different manuscript book) and then work on some variations - like "every time you use your right hand hit the bass drum at the same time" "now move your right hand to the hi-hat" He started hearing "beats" rather than "exercises" and he was into learning the stuff way more.

Stuff like that. Then I'd come back two weeks later and he'd have all/most of it down cold. His parents have this big gorgeous house in the Palisades out here, so after the lesson we'd go outside and play a bit - or he'd show me his new video game.

It was a fun gig till the wife made a pass at me, and things got weird so I bounced.

So I guess I'd also say "Don't hook up with the mom"