How do you help your child practice an instrument, without reverting to nagging them?
Learning to play an instrument is a brilliant skill for children that can stay with them for life. There are many benefits of learning for the child, including increased memory skills and concentration, improving fine motor skills and the creative fulfilment that comes with listening to and learning music.
But when it comes to practice, how often should they do it, and for how long? And as even the most dedicated of mini musicians can find it difficult to concentrate, how do you encourage them to pick up their instrument at home, without reverting to threats and raised voices?
Firstly, talk to their music teacher to see what they recommend when it comes to practice. They may have recommendations about the number of practices each week, and the length - for example, a local school’s music teacher recommends four short sessions a week of about five minutes each, when the child is young and starting to learn. This may increase the more they progress, and when your child is nearing an exam.
Set aside regular times for practice: Make sure you have regular practice times, both across the week and each day. Four times a week might sound like a lot, but you can easily slot in short sessions. Stick to these times so they become a regular habit.
Work out when works best for them: As you go along, identify the time of day that works best for them. Will they focus when they come in from school, before playing and TV? Will they practice better first thing in the morning? Or would a more relaxed weekend morning sound the best?
Set a goal for each practise: It might be that you get them to play each song a set number of times, or just play for five minutes or so - whatever works best. If they are more experienced, then there are different techniques you can employ, such as using practice beads on the music stand, or a stack of coins they can move across each time they get a passage right.
Have a reward chart: While reward charts might seem like they only work for toddlers, they may also work for regular music practise. It’s a good way of visualising how many times they’ve picked the instrument up that week and even a simple sticker may spur them on to practising more.
Find out where they will practice best: Would they prefer to be by themselves, in their room? If they are young and still need you with them, they might prefer a busier part of the home, like the kitchen. It might well be that they play better in a group, so you could find a local orchestra or music group.
Listen to music around the house: Try and listen to as much music as possible around the house to inspire and excite them, especially if they are only playing basic tunes to start with. Look for examples of famous musicians you can listen to or watch together - this might inspire them to practice more if they see an example of what they could become.
Leave the instrument ‘out’: If you’re able to have the instrument within easy access, your child is more likely to want to pick it up even when it’s not the practice time (make sure it’s in a safe space, though!)
Do you have any brilliant tips to help your child practice? Make sure you also enter our competition to win books from Annabel Karmel