Practice. Somehow it’s linked to chores, expectations, and things we force upon children in the feeble hope that someday they will thank us.  Think again.  Remember taking piano lessons with the neighborhood cat lady? Do you recall the first time she told you to practice?  Chances are she told you to practice if you knew what was good for you. And of course, you didn’t practice.

Throughout all my years of teaching, I’ve had the benefit of seeing how different children and their families approach playing music at home.  The greatest success stories are defined by enjoyment and forging life-long connection to music.

Here are some ways to help your child continue playing long after the lesson is over:

  1. Easy access = easy practice.  Where is your musical instrument right now? Is it under your bed, in a case? If so, try moving it to a communal place, such as the living room or by the tv.  By playing while others are listening, kids not only get better, but also become stronger performers.
  2. Two heads are better than one. Think about it, if a child is sent to their room as punishment, then they associate isolation with punishment.  Practice is generally considered an activity for one person, but occasionally playing with your child can help them focus, spark excitement, and sharpen their skills.  Try asking them to show you how to play and mimic them. Ask, “how should I play this? “
  3. Get creative.  Learning to play involves other skills besides actually playing an instrument.  If your child wants to color, instead of practice- try drawing to music, practicing drawing music notes and instruments while you listen to tunes.  The more your child positively connects to music and music-related activities, the more likely they will practice and enjoy it.
  4. Tune in.  Turn off the tv and turn on the radio.  Kids who sing along, dance along, or play along to a variety of music are more likely to develop familiarity with all genres and in turn will be more willing to appreciate more music.
  5. Everything counts in small amounts.  When was the last time that your child voluntarily did anything for 30 minutes?  Chances are their attention span is maxed out at 20 minutes.  Instead of hitting you head against a wall, try practicing for 1-3 minute intervals, just long enough to focus on one task.  Remember its all about frequency, 1-3 minute intervals of musical activity about 3-5 times a day.  Listen to a song while eating breakfast, after snack play some drums, before dinner draw some music. The key is to use music as a break, a release from the monotony of homework and routine.

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