As a mom and a piano teacher, I constantly am faced with motivating students to practice. Many parents of students will call or e-mail with the age-old question: “How do you get your child to practice piano?”
If you have a child at home that you are constantly battling with over practicing, here are some tips that I’ve picked up through the years.
Make a careful match of your child and teacher.
While this isn’t necessarily the magic bullet, chances are that if your student actually LIKES his teacher, he will want to please her. If you have a teacher who is shaming your child, rather than giving constructive criticism along with plenty of praise and encouragement, your child might become discouraged and frustrated and give up or become apathetic.
Make practice part of your daily routine.
My most successful students are the ones who build in practice as a regular part of their day. For my own child, we have found that after school she needs time to have a snack and play outside before she’s ready to sit down at the piano bench, so we tend to practice after dinner. Some students get up fifteen minutes earlier in the morning to get it DONE. Whatever works best for your family’s routine is great, as long as you’re consistent.
Practice with your child.
Relegating your child to a different room from all the “action” might feel more like punishment than practicing! Get your child to practice piano by doing it WITH him. If you’re in the room, you can also help keep your child on task and make sure he’s actually working through the assignments his teacher gave and not just goofing around or playing whatever he feels like playing. If your child is a self-starter and a little bit older, it can still be helpful to read a book in the same room. Simply being present and showing your child that you are invested in his music education is very powerful. (And if you’re enrolled in a course with Busy Moms Do Piano, you’ll be an especially fantastic asset to your child’s learning!)
Find music your child likes to play.
Use your child’s teacher as a resource! After Frozen came out, every one of my students wanted to learn Let it Go. Suddenly, they were all excited to practice! I’ve had students learn The Beatles, Harry Potter movie tunes, the Star Wars theme and favorite hymns. Obviously my students still have to stick with theory and technique and other music that develops their skill set (even songs they may not always like). But if the Peanuts Theme Song is what will get your child to practice piano, I’m all for it! (Saving these favorites as a “reward” for the end of a practice is also helpful.)
Don’t just sit at the bench the entire practice.
If you have a little wiggle worm, don’t think that you need to spend the entire length of the practice sitting on the bench, playing music from beginning to end. Practice playing the rhythm to the music on the drum or tambourine. Sing the solfege of a melody together. Lie on your stomach on the floor together and name the notes in a piece. Have your child march to the beat while YOU play the song. Make the practice interactive!
Make sure your child has performance opportunities.
Videotape your child’s performance to send to a grandparent. Encourage your child to participate in the school talent show with a piano solo. Nothing like throwing a live audience into the mix to get your little one to work more diligently!
Get creative with practicing.
Use sticker charts. Roll the die (or dice) and have your child play his song the number of times that the die lands on. Light a candle on a cupcake and have him practice until the candle burns down. (He can even eat the cupcake as a reward!) Have your child work towards a special outing if he completes 20 practices in a month. Think of what works for your child and your family and go from there!
Attend musical events with your child.
This helps your child understand that what he is learning is relevant! Check out the ballet, the Children’s Symphony, student concerts at the university, or a local musician at the coffee shop. So many fun opportunities to enjoy family time while inspiring your budding musician!