Most children love playing. However, not many enjoy practising, which requires a lot of attention, focus and active learning. Here are some ideas how to make it easier and more fun for them!
1) Instrument at hand
Getting going is often hardest thing, so the easier it is the better for the practice session! Try to think of a place where the instrument is in sight and within easy reach, so they can pick it up easily whenever they find themselves in the room.
2) Plan (a long way) ahead
Have a chat about what would be the best time to practise – before breakfast? After coming back from school? Before their favourite programme on TV (which gives you also a negiating tool)? Perhaps you can make a fun practice timetable together? Let the child decorate it how they want and decide where to hang it – let them make it truly theirs! Once the time is scheduled and agreed, gently remind them about it well in advance of practice time. Or you can have an alarm clock going off to remind you both!
3) Quiet home
Try to avoid a situation where the rest of the family does something fun and relaxing while the young musician is required to practise. If the siblings are already done with their homework organise a quiet activity for them which will not distract their brother or sister.
4) Practising together
Not only remind your child about the homework, but be with them when they are about to do this. If needed, help to locate the music, practice notebook and anything else that may be needed. Experiment with varying your involvement. Sometimes your child will appreciate you sitting with them, reading out loud the tasks from the notebook and ticking them off. Sometimes they will prefer to do this on their own. Another time, they may want to show off with a finished piece at the end of the practice. Have a chat before practice about their plans and aims to find out – this will also help them to focus on the task ahead!
5) You can learn a lot from them!
Let them teach you a piece they are playing or exercises given by the teacher. Ask how their instrument works – how on earth they know which string is which?! Allow them to be the the one with the knowledgle – let them show off and express your admiration at their skills!
– In your timetable allow space for stickers, magnets or anything else (let your child choose) which will mark a successful practice session that thas happened. Agree on a number of collected stickers that will earn them a bigger reward they can choose!
– Try associating the practice with something fun, especially when it is more challenging. Have a sweet snack waiting until the slightly tricky bit has been practised for a few minutes.
– Agree to read a story together after the practise. Good practice – longer read of the story! Leaving the story telling session on a cliff-hanger will encourage the next day’s practice.*
7) Reading music
Many children don’t like practice and learning new pieces because they find note-reading difficult. You can help them overcome that by practising this skill away from the instrument. In most music shops you can buy sets of flash cards. With a little imagination, you can come up with a game you can play together using those!
8) Be with them during the lessons.
And be interested! Make sure to praise afterwards something they did well – it can be a little thing, like „you focused really well today” or „the second line of the new piece sounded really good after having a few goes with the metronome”. The more specific you are the better.
Most of the teachers tend to use a notebook where they write down indications on how to practise. Things said in the lesson can be quickly forgotten and with such a „recipe” students will be able to easily check what they have been asked to do between the lessons. Ask the teacher if you can start making notes in the diary during the lesson – they will be more than pleased to let you do this!
Have you tried any of those already? What worked best for your child? What challenges is your child facing when it comes to practice? If you leave a comment I will do my best to help you find a solution!
* Source: Practice Guidance for Junior GSMD by Imogen Barford