I played my first song when I was three, by ear, on the accordion as my mom pulled the bellows. I didn’t actually have official lessons till I was 8 years old. I saw someone playing the piano one day and said to my parents (I was 6) - I WANT TO PLAY THAT!!! I kept hounding them till they got me a piano. Finally, when I was 8, my parents purchased me a brand new upright piano! I was SO surprised and enamored. I LOVED it. I still remember the little shoes on the different pedals. They were so cute. I sat down and started making up songs and playing immediately, before I even had lessons. This was a great start, because I actually had a valuable instrument to play. It made a BIG impression on me that music was important to my parents, and that they cared enough to get me this lovely instrument.
When parents want young students to learn (4 or 5 years old) I ask that the parents help with the students practice and make music a daily fun and happy time (15 - 20 minutes) - more about sharing music and making the happy habit of playing music, than actual goals. This works very well, because after a short while, depending on the student, I can have them reading music. The lessons HAVE to be tailored to this age group - Music for Mozarts, and Tales of a Musical Journey, as well as My First Piano Adventures are great books to teach this age group. If you are at ALL musically savvy, you can start your child yourself in the My First Piano Adventures book. Parents who want to start their student in piano before the age of 4, I ask parents to consider bringing their child to Music for Young Children - (the best program in my opinion) or MusicGarten or Kindermusic. They learn about keeping rhythm, and learn to enjoy music there as well.
If a student wants to play violin, let them play violin. If they want to learn guitar, get a guitar teacher, or teach them guitar. I recommend get the instrument YOUR STUDENT WANTS! This will make them really motivated. If you get a piano, make sure all the keys work, and it’s in good shape. If it’s a guitar, make sure it’s a REAL guitar - student model, so that it’s not too big for them to play. A lot of instruments, including accordion have student models you can get for your child, but do NOT get them a small Costco keyboard or a plastic guitar and expect them to learn to play with that. Make sure it’s a REAL instrument, not a toy.
I ask parents to get keyboards with 88 keys, weighted, so that the student isn’t limited on the range of things they want to play. You can get a Yamaha digital piano (14 Best Yamaha Digital Piano Reviews 2019 - Best Yamaha Keyboard) for under $1000 that has all of the different sounds, and it comes with all of the necessary pedals. Often I tell students to also get a volume pedal similar to an organ pedal, so that they can take advantage of the organ sounds in a proper manner.
A child learning an instrument requires three things: Parents who are committed to their student learning, teachers who are dedicated and love what they do, and students who are willing to learn. We call it the 3-legged stool. This is even more crucial when the student is very young.