Have you ever sat down with your child or a piano student for a lesson or practice and he’s had “ants in his pants”?
Sometimes students may have a diagnosed disorder such as ADHD or ASD, and other times — kids just have busy brains and busy bodies and need some guidance focusing.
Here are three ways to help a busy kiddo get focused for piano practice.
heavy work warmup
When I taught group piano classes I had a group of 7 boys and had to learn quickly how to help them get their wiggles out so they could regulate.
The key ingredient? Heavy work. Technically speaking, it stimulates their sense of proprioception and helps kids relax, calm down and get organized. Here are a few things we did at the beginning of each lesson:
- Army crawl across the room
- “Hold up” the wall (lean into the wall with both palms pressed against the wall and arms straight, as if holding the wall)
- Chair push ups
Using a visual timer on your phone, set up intervals of piano practice work followed by a reward or games. Here’s what that might look like:
5 minutes of focused piano practice followed by watching a favorite song on YouTube.
5 minutes of focused piano practice followed by a note naming game.
5 minutes of focused piano practice followed by a chance to play a favorite song.
Practice off the piano bench
Look for opportunities to practice concepts from a piece away from the piano. Stand up and play the rhythm of the piece on a tambourine or rhythm drum. Draw a picture of an image the piece creates in your mind. Watch a video of the piece being performed on YouTube. (Check out this post for more ideas.)
It’s important for students to be able to move their bodies when they need to move their bodies. Sometimes this might mean a piano lesson or practice looks a little out-of-the-box. Sometimes this might mean a piano lesson or practice isn’t filled with constant piano practice.
However, if it means that your student has a successful and fun piano practice and learns focusing techniques — I think the trade-off is worth it.