Develop Children's Piano Finger Instincts
You can develop children's piano finger instincts even though children are inept at first when it come to fingering. The best example is the index finger. The index finger is the first tool the child pulls out at the first piano lesson.
We piano teachers are much amused at this inevitable choice. It's like pulling out a teaspoon to bulldoze a mountain, but go with what the kid offers. See where it goes. Beyond that initial index finger, kids have wild ideas, instincts, about how to use their fingers at the piano.
Build On What The Child Offers
Rather than discourage these instincts, you should heartily encourage them, at first. If you approach it properly, children actually like fingering. For those who do not know, fingering is the process whereby a certain finger is chosen to play a certain key. It is the secret to playing quickly and accurately.
At first, children are annoyed by fingering. They want to return to the anarchy of playing with any finger at all. That's fine to start with, but soon becomes awkward as the complexity of the music increases.
Kids Understand Fingering If You Are Patient
Children quickly see that a clever usage of fingers is easy to accomplish. As long as the song is simple enough, they are able to keep their fingers in a row, the standard position.
But the truth of professional pianists and fingering is that there are many ways to finger a passage of music. Learning the concepts of “correct” fingering is merely a jumping off point.
Every Child's Hand Is Different
Every individual's hand has a different physiognomy, a different shape and length of fingers, and this must be taken into account, especially with children. Thus once children are familiar with the “rules” (all the fingers in a row) they are ready to start using their brain. Assuming a child can grasp the rules of fingering, it is acceptable for them to use the fingers in a row, any row.
If a child uses the fingers in a row, not just one finger, I praise them even if they are not using the “correct” fingers. Why? Because to use the fingers as a group in any configuration shows that the child is becoming aware of both fingering and their fingers.
A Fingering Game
Try a simple fingering game on our online piano below. Use the first three fingers, thumb, index and third, to play each set of three numbers. This game teaches kids to use their strongest fingers in the abstract, and not within the confines of a song.
Allow Them To Experiment
I offer the alternative of the “correct” fingering, and show it to them, but praise them for being creative and showing initiative. I don't insist. Strangely enough this approach makes them interested in the “science” of fingering, producing better fingering skills. This is because the child is thinking. And there is another added benefit to this approach: continuity.
Keep The Music Going
Playing the piano involves both painstaking stop-and-go work, and also the opposite approach. Sometimes one simply keeps going no matter how many mistakes one makes. There is no other way to learn how to play continuously. If we stop for every little mistake, the child becomes frustrated and bored. The child learns to be aware of their mistake, but to keep going.
A lost fingering is a small matter in the larger scheme of things. Keep laughing and pointing out their bizarre fingerings. Keep showing them the correct position, but don’t be negative or insist on perfection right away. Allowing the child to experiment with their fingers is the first step in gaining control of the hand. This increases their awareness of their fingers in general.