David B 4-years-old is really young. You'll have to decide if you'll be like the Tiger Mom/Dad and force the kid to play an instrument, or let it develop naturally if they are inclined, and be willing to accept that their interests my develop elsewhere.
No. Actually 4yo is very good, and 3yo would be perfect. Think about technically: build a robot that plays the piano, vs a robot that walks, what's harder? Walking! Actually even standing still on two "legs" is a big challenge! As soon as one can walk, he/she/they/whatever can do many more things. More on that later in the message
burkey What worked for my daughters was this American music class called 'Music Together'
I second that. Both my daughters did it and the oldest now play piano and violin, whereas the youngest has played piano and quit, but now plays clarinet
CyberGene My daughter can spend hours in replaying Disney princess fairytales with her barbies,
How did she get that? TV? Who gave her the dollies? You? Other kids at daycare (but you said it's COVID isolation since pretty much she started walking right? Think hard about that!
vagfilm You nailed it… The behaviour you describe is the typical 4 and 5 years old behaviour. Some kids become more attentional focused at 5, others at 6, at 7 or only at 42…
No. That is because what we adult EXPECT from them and they comply. Granted, don't expect them two solve high degree partial differential equations, but playing simple piano, reading simple books, doing simple math? Yes, they can do it if taught. If you expect them just staying out of the way doing whatever when we do our business, that's what they do, entertaining themselves with what they find (e.g. idiotic Disney-like stuff, sorry if this offends anybody).
spanishbuddha I agree with vagfilm, the attention span of a four year old can be short.
It can be short, but it can be long too: like playing for hours on the marital life of barbies…
@CyberGene The root of the question is EXCITEMENT, and SPARKING interest. Disney knows this very well (and many other toy companies do too) and they built a business model on selling fried air just giving it the right amount of EXCITEMENT, and SPARKING interest. Look academically at their products and what they do to spark interest and excitement, sometimes to the point of being tedious in that regard. You have to do the same thing for piano. Try to "spray excitement from all your being" (sorry for the Italian idiom) every time you use your instrument. And every time she tries too. Let's make a comparison with walking and talking, which I assume she has learned to do at least to basic level.
How did you (and your wife) react at her first step and word? That wasn't much, was it? But you were so excited about it. She saw you walking and talking all the time and thought (the concept, not the words): this must be a great thing to do, let me give it a try! She did, and how did you react? Fantastic success.
She saw you playing the piano. From how you described the experience in some other post of yours, it did not "spray excitement" in the house. But anyway she was interested and she tried a few notes. How did you react? You don't say, but if you are like me (who learned these things too late, sight) you said something like "no, that's a wrong note and by the way that semiquaver could be more vivid". Sure thing she went to play with the dollies! So my suggestions are:
- see if you can get access to Music Together, nice program which will outsource some of your efforts
- try to force yourself (and your wife and your mother-in-law) to be more visibly excited when playing music or when listening to it, especially the one which you love most and you'd like her to love most (if you are like me, you become lost into the music and from the outside you'll look like a zombie, not something a kid will relate to). Example, say that your mother-in-law comes to your house and plays your piano: show a great appreciation with clapping, jumping, hugging or whatever is appropriate but clearly enthusiastic even for somebody who would not know your language (since language "enters" the brain in a different way and muffles emotions, which you don't want to do when spreading "love for the music")
- never force your daughter, but instead give her opportunities to play. Make them special prizes, not something that can be gotten for free all the time
- be excited about her results, however poor they are without being paternalistic. Think about her walking to grab that toy across the room: how many time she fell? what did you do about it? the toy (playing something good) is the reward and she knows it. She can hear the difference, no need for you to point out, unless she asks "how can I do this better". She will not get it right at first try (she fell and hit her head, rather than getting the toy) so what did you do? Told her "daughter, you need to raise your leg with a slight better forward angle"? Course not. Think about that constantly and you'll be on the right track.
- see if you can get a great teacher with experience in this age group, and not your mother-in-law, both because a teacher needs to be such and not a family member, and both because of what you said about her. See if you can find somebody like Ingrid Clarfield in your city. Watch her webinar at https://www.claviercompanion.com/article-details/from-ok-to-wow (sorry behind a paywall, but pretty inexpensive and very well worth it)
There's more to it, but that's a very solid basics which can give you a nice start.
To learn more, there is a set of books for parents on the topic of teaching very young kids in different topics. It is "teaching your baby to read" (and math, and swim and a few other) by Doman. Regarded in Italy, very despised in the USA (the opposite of Montessori, Nemo propheta in patria, but I digress). Then there is of course The growth mindset, The self-Driven Child, the Gift of Failure and (more generically useful for adults too) the power of habits. All highly recommend.
Best of luck!