How Do I Get My Child To Practice – 52 ways
The number one question we hear is, “how do I get my child to practice?” So we have come up with 52 ways (one per week) in order to make that happen.
Some are lifestyle suggestions and others are tools. Some can be used sparingly and some can be used all the time. Let us know what works best for your family! 52 ways in no particular order:
1–Listen to music – cd, mp3 in the car at home, live at the cottage listening is so important.
2-See Music Live – Not only the concerts of the latest pop performer but also locally at an open mic or weekly gig of a local musician. Go to the Opera for the experience or the symphony.
3-Take Up Lessons Yourself – It’s never to late to learn and by taking an instrument yourself you may find a new hobby. No, you’re not too old!
4-Practice your passions – Love yoga, Tae Kwon do or music yourself? Let your child see and mimic you. Sometimes practicing your passion when they are asleep or at school is a missed opportunity that you have goals with your hobby.
5-Know your child – What works for your sister’s daughter might not work for your child. Do what works and stop doing what doesn’t work.
6-Stop Doing What’s Not Working – Einstein said Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.. For your own sanity – Stop! That could be the time of day to practice to lecturing the benefits of piano. Changing your mindset could change your childs’.
-7 Avoid nagging – Our children get nagged enough – homework, choirs, activities, social time, school. Adding practice time to the list isn’t going to win favours
8- Rephrase nagging – Instead of using your usual tone/phrase sometimes changing how you say it gets results. Asking a question instead of demanding an answer can be successful.
9- Ask them to play for you – Some children need to feel significant, connected and loved. When you offer the chance for them to show you what they’ve learned it can be inspiring.
10- Help them! No musical knowledge is required in many instances. Sitting down and taking time to listen often you can hear what the problem is. Or see it with their hands. If not take a brief music class that can help you help your child.
-11 Have a mini-recital at home – One of the benefits of music is it can be shared with others. Setting up as many chances to perform will not only be fun for the family but also build confidence and make your child a better player.
-12 Sit with them – Some children just like their parents to sit and listen …. or
-13 Leave them alone – While you’re dying to know the results of what you’re buying some children, especially teens make music private. Give them space. No advised to helicopter parent.
-14 Make sure they want to learn x instrument – Often we hear at Footprints Music that a child wants to learn guitar but the parents register for piano lessons. Being a better pianist will not make someone a better guitar player. While the elements of music umbrella over each instrument the dynamics of each instrument are unique. Putting a born drummer in piano lessons for too long will build a negative connotation to music.
-15 Change the instrument – Once it’s established that your child is not Mozart but Axl Rose maybe it’s best to go from piano to voice or guitar.
-16 Balance other activities – Many children these days have other activities. If your child excels at sport or dance and has classes multiple times a week music may fall behind. That’s okay! Sometimes what’s learned in the class is fun and enough to keep interest for when time becomes available to practice. An ‘all-or-nothing’ approach isn’t a win for anyone.
-17 Be realistic in your expectations – ““Never discourage anyone…who continually makes progress, no matter how slow.” – Plato Need we say more? Okay, there is no magic formula to learning an instrument. Music is about feeling good not always about being good at it.
-18 Make it about your child – Yes, we have all had our fantasies of playing on stage with our favourite band. Or cursed our squandered opportunity to learn ourselves (Uhh it’s never to late! See Number 3!). Music should be what you child wants it to be.
-19 Allow for improvisation – Sometimes exploring certain note combinations can have a pleasing affect. While the dissonance might haunt you, a child may love it. Improvising in music has many benefits and builds skills to use in life.
-20 Let you child play the pieces they love – Two Things – a) Playing the old songs they play well and enjoy is still practicing and fun! b) If your child prefers Mozart to Coldplay then we say “let them play on”. Music is personal.
-21 Encourage, encourage, encourage – No explanation needed.
-22 Be wary of outside opinion – you know you child better than anyone. What works for your 11 year old nephew may not work for your 6 year old daughter.
-23 Playing in small amounts is okay – Daily practice is ideal. Practice that achieves a step towards a goal. In the beginning that can be a very small step and that’s okay. Temper age with skill to find the best results
-24 Solve a problem with the practice – As written above each practice session should solve a problem. Also there is a difference between practicing and playing for enjoyment. Analyzing all aspects from sitting position to dexterity to speed should be examined. This may include an issue that results with no playing.
-25 Not practicing is sometimes practicing – Has your little one experienced a tough week? Or have they found playing their instrument frustrating? Accomplishments on an instrument are not an even rise to success. It’s more like a stock market growth over a ten year period – there are going to be ups and downs. Allow the downs with grace.
-26 Use visualization – If you can help your child image what they want to sound like that is a great skill to have for any goals they want to reach. This can be done in the car or on the bus to school, on a plane or at home. There are no boundaries.
-27 Learn how muscles work – Learning how muscles (or lungs, lips posture) can optimize practice time.
-28 Try to not make it homework – Listing practice time in between math and a book report may not get the best results. Using it as a break between Math and a Book report puts the practicing into a new light.
-29 Get your child to teach you – Not only does teach reinforce what they have learned some kids revel in the fact they know something you don’t!
-30 Ease the pressure of achievement – The beauty in learning an instrument comes from the path travelled not the accomplishment. Falling short of a goal is a time to look at what is not working not for castigation.
-31 Say “play your instrument” instead of “go practice” – This simple change in wording can bring the best results.
-32 Make playing part of your daily routine – This is where the best players have the best results. As with brushing your teeth, eating, or an activity making a routine solves the problem of “when?”. It’s recommended to make it a routine and not a schedule for best results.
-33 Avoid comparing to other peers/friends/family – Uuse those people as examples not why aren’t you like them
-34 Talk instead of demand, listen instead of talking – Showing respect for the practice time as well as you child garners better results. Listening also breeds success
-35 Reward with a caveat – Do you want to go for Ice Cream everyday because your 8 year old practiced? Long term goals should be rewarded long term not short term.
-36 Displays goals and achievements – Putting up on your family board/ fridge the goals and achievements and goals can be a great motivator to push for more. It also allows your child to have visual result of their progress
– 37 Play as a family – Family jams are the best.
-38 Leave the instrument out – especially guitar or portable piano – putting your guitar away or in a room that isn’t trafficked will definitely decrease practicing. Out of site out of mind.
-39 Create a special space – A nice music stand in a part of a room with the metronome, comfy chair and nice lighting can entice even a 7 year old
-40 Watch YouTube – There are so many inspiring things on YouTube! And they’re free.
-41 Use the internet – While there are free things on the internet we do caution that you get what you pay for. There are wonderful things on Social Media, Blogs and websites to inspire.
-42 Ask friends who play to play or talk about practicing – Is there an uncle, grandpa or sister-in-law who is really accomplished? Ask her to tell her story – Unless it’s boring then go ask someone else.
-43 Have an encouraging teacher – Your path starts with an amazing connection with a great teacher. Just because someone has a goo reputation does not mean you child will connect with them.
-44 Talk with you music school/teacher – At Footprints Music we want anyone who has become lost musically to talk with us. Your music school should be the same way.
-45 It’s the journey – The journey of learning an instrument is the most important part of playing music. And that’s enough. Going for the grade 2 RCM exam may not be the plan right now….but it still can be. The end result is not the reason to play it’s the reward. According to Daniel Coyle author of, “The Talent Code” the “struggle” we feel while practicing is important and necessary for improvement.
-46 Explore different styles of music – Listening to Jazz and then learning it can inspire. I am reminded of the movie Crossroads with Ralph Machio. Studying classical but feeling the blues.
-47 Repeat 10 Times instead of playing for 10 minutes – playing something 5 or 10 times is always better that playing for 30 minutes. Provided the player is present and solving problems. A time limit isn’t going to guarantee that.
-48 Practice length for age/level – Young players often lose focus fast. As with the #47 30 minutes isn’t realistic for most (not all!) 5 year olds. An 8 year old playing for 2 years might want to play longer. Experiment and find the best mix.
-49 Take a break from lessons – Are you dragging your 11 year old to music class? Maybe it’s time for a break. Our daughter took a break last year for a few months and now loves it again.
-50 How do their hero’s practice? – It doesn’t have to be a musician. Athelete, dancer, artist they all practice. Sometimes reading or watching someone else find their rhythm can inspire your little one to do the same.
-51 Parallel to sports – Kind of like with repetition making practice like drills works for some children. Allow them to create and design the drills!
-52 Practice playdates – It’s fun with a friend to play together.