5 Strategies to Get Your Kids to Practice:
Sometimes getting our kids to practice their instrument is like pulling teeth! But practice is so important—vital even, in growing as a musician. So, the question is, how do we get our kids or students motivated to practice, and stay in a consistent practice routine?
Continue reading to find out more about my five techniques that I use with my students to help them be consistent with practicing, without shedding any tears!
1. Perfect Practice Plan:
I recently created a weekly practice calendar for my students, so that they can have more effective practice sessions. Effective practice habits are a learned skill, just like studying, and often times students don’t know how to practice, so they just end up playing through their assigned songs a few times, and calling it a day. With this practice calendar, I write down specific, and individualized practice steps for each student. I have them practice different warm-ups and scales each day, with specific directions for each, and they focus on certain parts and sections of their song, with detailed directions. This helps them know exactly what and how to practice, and eliminates some of that practice anxiety of not knowing what to do. It also helps their practice time become more efficient, and even more fun, as we switch up activities more frequently and add some fun assignments. See the picture below for an example of the Perfect Practice Plan!
2. Practice Check-in Chart:
You can either use this as an added material to the Perfect Practice Plan, or for students who already practice efficiently, but just have trouble being motivated to practice, and staying consistent, you can implement this simple Practice Check-in Chart, to provide students with some direction for their practice time. This chart is pretty versatile, and for younger students it could be as simple as having the Practice Check-in Chart printed out and posted by their instrument, and having your student place a sticker or stamp on each day he/she practiced. For older students, the teacher can write more specific goals, techniques, and songs to practice, and the students can either check-off, or write the amount of time they practiced each item, each day. Make sure that you, or the student’s teacher are setting goals with your child/student for how many days in a row they should practice, and check back in to see if they’ve reached their weekly goal.
3. Enticing Incentives:
You can take the Perfect Practice Plan, or the Practice Check-in Chart one step further, by adding an incentive each week. When your child’s teacher sets those weekly goals, you can come up with an incentive, between the parent, student and teacher, for your child to work towards achieving. For instance, if the student practices 5 days in row, for 20-minutes each day, and marks off the time in the Practice Check-in Chart, he or she will get an agreed upon prize. (i.e. game day, treasure chest prize, deciding what they want to do in their lesson). Make sure the incentive is something the student really wants and will work for!
4. Student’s Choice:
Make sure to include songs to your students’ repertoire that they actually want to play! When students learn a song they really love, they will want to practice it. If your student can’t think of a song right away, have them listen to various songs, including different genres, to find out what they like. You could also pick out several songs for the student to choose from, and see if he/she connects with any of the songs you picked out. Once they find that song they love, watch the practicing magic begin! (Just make sure they are still practicing their other material along with their favorite song.)
5. Routine Reminder:
The best way to get students to practice is by creating a daily practice routine. I’m going to reiterate, daily practice. When students add practice time into their daily schedules, it becomes part of their normal routine. They already know that every day after dinner, for instance, they have 20-30 minutes to practice piano. This eliminates a lot of the grumbling and making excuses for not practicing, when it becomes a part of their normal routine. Just like students complete their school homework after school, they should also be practicing their instrument throughout the week. Write down your child’s practice time on a calendar, and remind them when their scheduled practice time is. This might be your job as the parent to remind your child to practice, for a while, until they get the routine down and it becomes a habit. When students put practice into their daily routines, they are already expecting that they need to practice each day, which eliminates a lot of the negotiating about not wanting to practice. It will also encourage them, because they’ll see themselves improving a lot faster!
Another really important aspect of practicing is making sure parents, students, and the teacher are all on the same page with practice expectations. Talk with your teacher about how much time per day your student should be practicing. Then, come up with a good time your child can practice each day, and write it on the calendar. Make sure to continue to remind your student about their practice time. Discuss a practice incentive with your child, and have them pick what they want the reward to be, then print and post their practice calendar next to their practice space. You can turn around your child’s views on practicing their instrument! Just stay consistent, positive, and creative!