Let’s be honest when the sun is shining, the birds are singing, and there are so many awesome things to do and see, practicing music is usually the farthest thing on your kids’ minds. This obviously makes getting them to practice seem like a massive chore for yourself… and undoubtedly for them too.
Consistency and focus are key when it comes to practicing, and is a formula for success. I would like to offer you 10 tips and tricks that I’ve learnt in my 25 years of teaching and in motivating my own son, Fox, to practice.
Amount of practise. 10 minutes, 6 times per week is recommended for a beginner in their first year of learning. Practising small amounts more often is far more productive and achievable than one large practise for the week.
Creating habits. This can take time but habitual behaviour is key to routine. Find a time each day and make practice part of a larger sequence of tasks. I’ve found morning works best for many kids as they are fresher and more focussed, however I’ve found the inverse to be true of Fox who practices better in the evenings. Find the time that works best for them and run with it. Keep their instruments out so they’re accessible for when motivation and inspiration hits, a packed up instrument is an unplayed instrument.
Good practice is intentional practice. The saying goes that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert in a particular skill However, I tell my students, Playing the wrong way is worse than not practising at all. I explain to them that if you program your brain with the wrong information then it is more difficult and time consuming to retrain your brain to the correct way.
Setting goals for each practice session, however small, will give your kids something to work towards. It creates a finality to the session, rather than the arbitrary, open ended notion of “Go Practice.”
Invest your time. Every child is different and they’ll all have their own unique journey and experience with music. Experiencing the high points of joyful inspiration and passionate ambition can be achievable if you are able to commit to supporting their musical studies and invest your time. You can't expect your child to always want to practise... you actually need to enforce the playing at home... there is only so much we can do as educators when we only see the students once a week. Our most successful students are those who have parents who expect regular practise. If their interest and motivation is waning change it up and try something different. You could set new goals, try a different motivation technique or even switch up instruments.
Make it fun and enjoyable. Make a game of their exercises or challenging parts of a piece.
Our teachers here at Kidko encourage repetition, by playing 'first to three' or noughts and crosses. The student receives a point for correctly playing the phrase. If they don't, the opponent receives a point. Whether they win the game or not, they have mastered the challenging section and also learnt the important life lesson that you don’t always win.
Improvisation is an incredibly powerful tool in making music fun. Toss the music books aside and let your kids just make up their own music. A University of Queensland study found that informal music making at home can lead to better literacy, numeracy, and social skills in children.
Connecting with your teacher. For those doing daytime lessons we are aware that there can be a 'disconnect'. We welcome you to connect with your teacher- this can be done via email or through our wonderful Student & Parent Portal. As you know every child also has a homework diary which can be used as communication between parent and teacher - feel free to add a note or question here.
Terminology. The term ‘practice’ can come with the connotation of being laborious and boring. Instead you could try using positive terms like play, rehearse, and improvise.
Rewards and bribery. The prospect of a treat or reward will create much better motivation. My mother is a master of this one (she still loves teaching music after 40 years) and I’ve also used big and small rewards with my son, Fox. The reward should be proportional to the task/goal. At Kidko we use stickers and certificates to reward students when they complete their homework tasks, perform in a concert, finishing learning a piece, complete a reading or theory book, or when they have excellent behaviour and a great attitude.