(Yes, that's me at age 6 plunking around on our first piano. I never took piano lessons because I chose violin but I still love picking out tunes if there is a keyboard around. Nice hat, eh?)
Later, when I had my own children, we bought a second-hand, electric piano and my Dad built a stand for it at child height. They both loved to explore and pick out tunes. When we went over to "Grandma and Papa's" the boys were allowed the same musical privileges that I'd been given.
(My younger son, Lachlan, - at age 4 - playing on Papa's piano.)
The point I'm trying to make with this walk down memory lane is that music and rhythm are fundamentally important to the development of young children. Children should have access to rhythm and musical instruments from the very beginning of their lives.
Here, S. bangs on a tambourine. What a lovely sound! Later, Mom can play music on the stereo, take up her own tambourine, and they can keep time to the music together.
Pianos are large and expensive so it isn't always feasible for a family to have one available to children. As far as I'm concerned, any instrument will do as long as the child is taught how to handle it with respect. Here is a picture of E. exploring a violin.
Experimenting with different kinds of instruments adds to a child's development and love of all things musical. Scouring thrift stores or swapping/joining with another family are great ways to give your child different musical experiences. In the next two pictures, C. is having a wonderful time playing a steel drum with some family friends.
When my boys were small and money was even more scarce than it is today, I would cover the coffee table with a blanket and put out all the lids from my pots and pans on top of the blanket. Then, armed with wooden spoons, the boys and I would bash in time to whatever music they wanted to hear. At other times, we would make our own instruments.
(That is my older son, Calum - I think he is about 5 here - with his own guitar.)
Music and rhythm are wonderful ways to bond with children. Just look at this photo of M. and her Grandpa making beautiful music together!