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It’s no big surprise that most kids love music, but hate practicing. We often sell practice negatively, whether we mean to or not. We paint it as work (which is true), but fail to emphasize the room for discovery, improvement and fun within that work.
Like any good habit, practicing won’t be fun or convenient every single time your child picks up his or her instrument. However, with the right attitude, it can be not only enjoyable, but a creative outlet, a stress reliever and a channel for personal growth!
Here are a few quick ideas to help your young musician stay on task.
1. SCHEDULE PRACTICE TIME ON YOUR FAMILY CALENDAR. We understand how busy a week can get, but don’t let practicing fall through the cracks! Writing something on the calendar reinforces the importance of practicing to your child. It will also remind you, the parent, to check in and keep your child accountable!
2. BUILD UP TO LONGER PRACTICE TIMES. Is your child a wiggle worm? Start by having them practice in small increments and build up the time as they become more self-motivated. Even ten minutes a day can make a big difference! As your child can handle more time, add five minutes to the clock. Can you build up to twenty minutes a day? Thirty?
3. ENCOURAGE THEM TO EXPLORE — AFTER THE WORK IS DONE. If your child is playing the same two or three songs in lessons, he or she might be getting bored. Help your child find something fun to learn on his or her own–maybe a pop song or a clip from a movie soundtrack. After they’ve practiced their assigned songs, let them play around with the “fun music.” You can even encourage them to make up their own tunes! A bit of creativity can make practicing more fun–and your child will be refining his or her technique along the way.
4. HANDLE “BURNOUT” CREATIVELY. Everybody’s brain checks out eventually. Would a healthy snack help your child focus? What about stretching beforehand? If your child has had a long day, maybe he or she needs a “wiggle break” in the middle of practice time. One of my students practices 20 minutes per day–ten when she gets home from school and ten after dinner. Her parents have found that when they split up her practice session, she spends more time focused on the music and less time watching the clock.
5. FRAME PRACTICE AS A PRIVILEGE, NOT A CHORE. Instead of “You have to practice more,” try saying, “You get to take a break from homework and play some music!” If you frame practicing as a break, reward, or enjoyable task instead of one more thing on the laundry list, your child may be more enthusiastic about that thirty-minute window.
6. BE A CHEERLEADER. Total disclosure–even music teachers get tired of hearing the same song 75 times a day. It can be easy to “check out” while your child is playing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” in her room for the seventh day in a row. But don’t! Instead, find honest ways to praise your child– “The song is much smoother now!” or “I like that melody!” A little bit of praise goes a long way!
7. TALK TO YOUR CHILD’S TEACHER. If you’re really struggling to “find a groove” for practicing at home, reach out to your child’s school instructor or private lessons instructor. Most teachers interact with dozens of students per week–including kids who don’t practice much. Ask those teachers for advice! I guarantee they can help.
At Learning Allegro, we encourage students to love music in every situation, including school bands, private lessons, and independent study. For more information about toddler music classes, private instrument lessons and art sessions at Learning Allegro, visit our website.