I don’t want to!”… “It’s SO hard!”….. “I don’t like that song!”… Sound familiar? Hearing these words from an unmotivated “practicer” for what seems like the 100th time is enough to make any pleading parent question their motivation for putting their child into music lessons. Something’s gotta give, and unfortunately, more times than not, it’s the music lessons.
So how do we get our children to practice at home? Why will Mary play for her teacher and not for Mom or Dad at home? Some may think it’s a matter of having someone sit by the child the entire time they’re playing, but there’s a deeper matter – kids like to have fun!
Music teachers spend lots of time preparing fun and innovative ways to grab their students’ attention to ensure productive lessons.So how do we translate it to home? Here are 5 ways to make practicing fun and reduce the stress that comes with it:
1. Simon Says:
Ask your child’s teacher to help your child mark their song into different colors… Usually matching parts being the same color works best. As long as you know what colors your child’s song uses, you can be in a completely different room and say, “Simon says play the red section!” “Simon says play the last blue section with your eyes closed!” “Simon says play ALL of the orange sections!” The surprise element is what kids thrive on, and this fun game will have them excited to find out what to play next!
2. Post-It Maze:
With just a bit of creativity, you can cover your child’s lesson book piece with a maze made of post-it notes. As they take off a post-it note, they need to play that specific section before going on to the next part.
Again, you’ll need the help of your child’s teacher to divide the song into sections. Grab three pennies and put them all on the right side of their book. When your child, playing one section at a time, plays a section correctly, they can move a penny to the other side of the book. If they mess up the second or third time, they need to move all the pennies back and try again. This is a fun self- motivating and you don’t really need to do anything besides provide the pennies! You can even use candy like Skittles or M&Ms too!
4. Put down the instrument!
This surprising and effective practice can have very positive effects. Practicing without the instrument – like on the countertop or even their lap – can help students focus more on using consistent, correct fingering and help them hear their song in their head – which helps them to listen better when they are at the piano. For more tips on practicing without the piano, this blog post has some great tips!
This isn’t a game, but just as important – remember that this is practice. Your child is playing at home to get better, and the more they practice, the better they will get. As teachers, we don’t expect your child to play their pieces perfectly at home. Allow your child to make mistakes without immediately correcting them. Most mistakes work themselves out, and you can be reassured that we will address them at their next lesson. The best use of your time is to be their cheerleader!
Music lessons are a big commitment with hugely positive results. Turn forced practice into fun time with these strategies this upcoming week and see what difference it makes in your home!
-Kendra Nielson (Bravo Employee)