Sometimes, practicing can be a struggle. Either it’s difficult to motivate your child to begin to play, or it’s hard to keep your child on task. Here’s some ideas on how to make practice run more smoothly:
If your child has trouble at the beginning of practice:
Give ten minute notification that practice time is approaching! Often, children need a bit of time to change gears mentally. If they have a chance to anticipate practicing, they will be more likely to go into practice time thinking of their instrument, rather than what they were doing before. Some families like to put on the CD right before practice time, to give kids a heads-up that practice time is approaching. This is a gentle way to let your child know it’s almost time to practice, and it gets your child’s brain thinking about their repertoire!
It is also important to give age appropriate choices in practice. This helps kids feel more connected with what they’re learning, and they may be more eager to begin playing if they know they’ll get to begin with a favorite song or activity. However, make sure that the choices reflect your child’s developmental level! Just as you wouldn’t let a child pick between ice cream and soup for dinner, it is important to curate your child’s choices to their age level. Younger children can pick from a limited list of practice games, or choose what order to do assignments in. Older children can begin to take a more active role in their learning, by picking techniques to focus on in review or finding their own practice spots in polish pieces.
If your child has trouble staying on task:
Make sure you have a good outline of what your child is working on, and that you or your child know where all their practice materials are located! If the flow of the practice is broken up by having to search for music or lesson notes, your child’s focus will be broken.
Games! Often, families will not make time for games in home practice. It feels more efficient to simply do the assigned pieces and techniques, rather than taking those extra minutes to play around. This may work wonderfully for some students, but others will benefit from that little extra motivation of getting to play Candyland, Tic Tac Toe, or whatever activities they prefer. For children who tend to stall out on taking turns, it’s important to choose a “fast” game, like Tic Tac Toe, rather than something more involved such as a puzzle. In the long term, it’s much more efficient to reinforce the idea that practice is enjoyable, even though it may take some extra time right now.
These are just a few options to help practice time run smoothly at home! Remember to speak with your individual teacher for more ideas!