One of the questions I am probably asked most often by parents is, “Is it normal for my kid to not want to practice.” The answer is yes. Unfortunately, I have not had many students who do enjoy practicing, and I certainly wasn’t the exception to the rule. The process of practicing is usually not nearly as fun as just about everything else when a child is 7, but when the student sees things getting easier and pieces becoming a little bit more interesting, this will usually change. For my students ages 6-9, I have some tips that might make practice time a little easier for everyone.
1. Create a routine. Make a specific time each day for practicing, just as you would dinner time and bath time. The more automatic it becomes for a child to go to the piano, the more independent they will become in their practicing.
2. Sit with your child. It makes all the difference in the world for you child to know that their practicing is as important to you as it is to them. They may need help learning the note names and placing their hands on the correct keys in the beginning. It is important for the parents to be encouraging and provide support when the child gets frustrated. The more practice time becomes a chore, the less willing your child will be to participate in lessons.
3. Let your child teach you. One of the best ways to learn is to teach others how to do what you do…I know from personal experience! Not only will you be able to help you child practice, but you will also be able to see how much they know and what they may still need to work on. It is fun for children to be able to teach their parents, for once!
4. Break up the time. Younger children often have trouble sitting through an entire 30-minute practice session while still maintaining focus. Try having them practice 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the evening, or 15 minutes right when they get home from school and 15 minutes after homework. 30 minutes of practice can be accomplished in many different ways. Give your child options, and they will be more willing to put in the time they need at home.
5. Give them a free day. When I was little, my teacher used to give me one day a week that was dedicated to practicing old pieces or pieces I had already finished. Not only was it a much needed respite from the typical practice day, but it also ensured that I would always have something to play when people came over and helped improve my long-term memory!
6. Ask questions! If you are not sure what my notes mean or simply need me to explain what I have been doing with your child in the lessons, then please feel free to ask! Even if you do not read music yourself, it is easy to learn the very basics in order to help your child. Please come to me with any questions or concerns about your child’s progress!
7. Make it fun! The most important thing a young child can learn about music is that it is supposed to be fun! While we all know it is hard work, that work is 10 times harder when you’re not having fun. Make games out of some of the information I ask the students to learn and keep it light-hearted!
Thank you all so much for your time and dedication to your children’s musical endeavors! I am always amazed at just how much young children can learn when they are encouraged and pushed in a positive direction. Music is a great escape, and it will stick with your children for their entire lives. Thank you!