A question that comes up all the time when I present seminars to piano teachers: what about the students who are too small to reach the pedals/the extremes of the keyboard?
The answer: Standing-Up Music. This is the same music as the normal kind, but you (the teacher) decides when the physical reach of the child requires the music to be ‘standing-up music’.
Move the piano bench away from the piano, and let the child find their own standing-up position that allows them to access the bits of the piano they otherwise could not, and they’re away.
Don’t be concerned too much about posture in this circumstance – the goal here is complete engagement with the instrument, and working towards an ideal sitting posture that the student will use in diploma examinations and the like is a completely inappropriate goal/fixation. Work with the body of the student the way that body is today. Teachers with experience know that once students hit that adolescent growth phase much rebooting of the technique is required – hands grow so fast that students need a while to relearn what an octave feels like, for instance, and that’s just the start of the adjustments. Young beginners will benefit many times more from engaging with the whole instrument than they will in attempting to look like mini-me professional recitalists.
Standing-up positions enable the pedal to be depressed, the extremes of the piano to be played, and comparatively rapid movement around and between those extremes. The kids love it, there’s more practicing going on, and best of all, there’s more exploring going on. And more exploring means the student is falling in love with the piano, and the relationship starts getting serious.
Devices for small children such as pedal extenders or footstools enable even more exploration. But don’t let the absence of equipment disenfranchise your students from using their whole bodies across the whole of the piano. Get rid of the seating, and get into the possibilities!