Tips for Making Practicing More Fun (It’s not cheating to have fun!)
Ideas Submitted by Teachers AND Parents
–1 Star/2 Star/3 Star Practicing
Stickers can go a long way in terms of motivation. Have your child decide what kind of practice session he or she would like to have (depending on how much energy they have, how much time, etc…). One Star practice where they focus on one issue versus Three Stars where they tackle a lot! You can keep a sticker chart so they can watch their progress.
Version 1: Light a birthday candle while your child practices. Keep practicing until the candle goes out!
Version 2: Buy a tall candle in a jar. Light it every time your child practices and blow it out when they complete a practice session. You child can watch his/her progress by seeing the candle descend to the base.
Often times, children just want to feel that they are being heard. Give them a choice in their practicing. Do you want to practice in the living room, or in your bedroom? Do you want to have your snack before you play, or after?
Have your child pick one aspect of technique on which to concentrate (or look in the notes from the most recent lesson. Set a timer for 3 minutes. Allow them to focus on that aspect for the 3 minutes while playing review pieces, then stop. Then move another part of your practice.
Take a stack of index cards and write activities on each card, both instrument related and otherwise–jump up and down 5 times, play Song of the Wind, blink your eyes twice, play 5 4th finger exercises, give your teddy bear a hug, etc. Then let your child pick a card at random and as you go through the stack the “hard” practice demands will be interspersed with silly and fun moments.
Sometimes you need to think outside the box when offering instruction. If your child is raising her shoulders, ask her to imagine a dragon sitting on her shoulder and not to disturb it! If your child is forget to lift his hands off the piano at the end of a piece, tell him to pretend his hands are butterflies taking off!
Put two plates in front of your practicing child, one with M&Ms (or Skittles, Cheerios—something desirable!), the other empty. Set a goal for your child’s practice session. Every time they complete a task towards that goal, they get to move an M&M to the empty plate. Let them have all the M&Ms they’ve earned at the end of the session!
–Pass the Quarter
Sit opposite your child while they practice with a quarter between you. If your child follows instruction or does something positive in his playing, pass him the quarter. Offer feedback on his playing. If he feels you are offering helpful advice, he may pass you the quarter. If he thinks you are being too critical, he can take the quarter back.
–Discuss vs. Play Block
Somewhat similar to “Pass the Quarter” in terms of giving the child control of the situation. Create a sign, or block, or some visual with two options. One option is “Discuss” the other is “Play”. If you child would like to play uninterrupted, he will choose to use the “Play” visual. If he would like to have a discussion, he will indicate using the opposite visual.
As your son or daughter completes tasks in their practicing, construct a visual. Try completing a drawing of a face by adding one feature for every repetition of a piece or section. This could also work with building Legos, stacking blocks, etc.
Know a successful game or technique not on this list? Please submit your idea in the comments section, or to firstname.lastname@example.org!