Dr. Suzuki says we only need to practice on the days that we eat. Since this is hopefully most days, practicing can start to feel a bit boring. A bit “stuck in a rut”. It can also be exciting for students to mix up their routines a little! Whether you’ve been noticing your child’s interest in practicing waning, or just want to change things up,, here are some ideas for both parent and child!
Pick a good practice time! Some kids have the energy to practice right after school, while others need a break or would prefer to wait until after dinner. Some students (especially those in other extracurricular activities) would prefer to get up early and play before school instead. If your child is older, let them have some input on the practice time.
Be organized! This is especially helpful for young students. If practice time is always drawn out by pauses to search for materials or assignment sheets, a young student will lose focus, and practice time will feel like it takes forever! Having a special spot for your child’s materials and instrument, and making a list of practice assignments (if your teacher doesn’t hand them out) will help keep practice time moving along.
Make review a game! 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 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.
Make practice spots fun! Another great Dr. Suzuki line is “Knowledge is not skill. Knowledge plus ten thousand times is skill”. But ten thousand reps is no easy feat. Even five or ten a day can feel like a lot. Any turnbased board or card game can become a practice game! Your child earns a turn by playing the spot correctly. Another fun practice activity is building a lego set, where each time the child plays the spot correctly they get to add a piece. This also works well with a block creation.
Keep a positive attitude! If parents treat practice time like a drag, children will pick up on that feeling. Similarly, if parents don’t focus during practice time, their child won’t either.
Work with your child’s abilities! If your child can only focus for five minutes, or even one minute at a time, that’s okay! 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, five jumping jacks can be a good practice break. A calmer child might prefer reading a few pages of a book. Whatever your child prefers, make sure it’s something they can do for a short time and then come back to practicing.
Having a well stocked arsenal of games and activities and a positive attitude will help keep practice time a fun experience!
- Shannon Jansma, published in the April 2015 issue of the Ann Arbor Suzuki Institute newsletter