The How and Why of Practice Games
Pulling out a game is a great way to make a repetitive task more enjoyable! You can use them for any technique your child must repeat many times - a practice spot, a correct bow hold, good finger placement, et cetera. Whenever your child needs a little extra motivational push is the perfect time to bring a game into practice.
Why use games at all? They’re certainly not a requirement, and you may not need a game every practice, but especially for beginning students there are a few marked benefits. The first is that games can bring fun into a practice session where your child is struggling to focus, or struggling with the difficulties of their instrument. Practice can at times become tedious, and a game will help your child work through that feeling. The other big benefit to using a game is that it ensures a more complete repetition, including postural set up. Some children will try to rush through repetitions, playing quickly and without focus. This is less beneficial, as they aren’t thinking through the new technique completely each time they play it. Games can force children to slow down and internalize new techniques more completely, so that each repetition leads them to a bigger improvement!
What makes a good practice game? There are a few important considerations. First, pick a game that’s easy to set up, both to save time and to help your child stay focused. If your child must sit and wait during a lengthy set up, their mind may begin to wander. Games that don’t take a lot of room are also ideal for places with limited space. Another consideration is how long each turn will take - you don’t want to end up spending half the practice on complex moves, so games like Connect 4 or Tic Tac Toe are better than Monopoly or Scrabble. Other fun simple games are matching games like Memory or Spot It, or spacial games like Jenga or Cat Stacks. That being said, some children may dawdle with even the quickest games, while others can manage longer or more complex games. Whatever game you choose, there is one requirement that must always be met - that your child enjoys it!