Successful, consistent practicing is so important to your child’s growth as a musician. Here are some ideas about how to make or keep practicing enjoyable for everyone!
Pick a good practice time! Some kids have the energy to practice right after school, while others need a break. Some would prefer to wait until after dinner. Some students (especially those students who are in other extracurricular activities) would prefer to get up early and play before school instead. Whenever you pick, keep it consistent! A routine is much easier for everyone to stick with and remember.
Help your child get into a practice mindset! Some children need a 5 or 10 minute warning before practice time to disengage with whatever they are doing. This is especially true when your child is especially involved in their activity on the computer/tablet/xbox/etc! Give them some time to finish up and switch gears. Playing the CD is a great way to let them know that practice time is coming up, and more listening is always great!
Use games! For review, students could draw piece names out of a hat, roll a die or two for a piece number, or earn a little prize (such as a skittle or sticker) for each piece or practice spot played correctly. There’s a popular version of name drawing called the “fish game”, where families cut out little fish shapes and write review pieces (and sometimes the teaching point of the piece) on them.
Then, with a “fishing rod” made of string and a tape ball, the child “fishes” for each assignment. Any turn-based board or card game can become a practice game! Your child gets to take a turn after each correct repetition. Another fun practice activity is building a Lego creation, where each time the child plays the spot correctly they get to add a block or two. For more literary-minded children, you can make up a story together, adding a new line after each repetition.
Work with your child’s strengths! If your child can only focus for five minutes, or even one minute at a time, that’s okay! Focus is something that is learned and improved over time. Practice without focus isn’t worth much. It’s better to give your child a little break and then come back to practicing. For an energetic child, jumping jacks can be a good practice break. A calmer child might prefer reading a few pages of a book, or taking 20 second “nap” breaks! Whatever your child prefers, make sure it’s something they can do for a short time and then come back to practicing with a refreshed mind!
Having a well stocked arsenal of games and activities will help keep practice time a fun experience!
- Shannon Jansma, published in the May 2016 issue of the Ann Arbor Suzuki Institute newsletter