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Has your child recently started playing an instrument for school? Does the practice log drive you crazy? Are you constantly wondering why he/she wanted to take Band when there is no desire to practice at home? You are not alone! My son started 6th grade Band in January. He decided he wanted to play the trombone and there was no looking back. I have been very impressed with how quickly he has learned the notes and several songs. The school even had a concert in the spring that was very impressive. Here are some things I have discovered to getting kids to practice an instrument:
Getting Kids to Practice an Instrument without the Fuss
1. Make a plan together. Ask your child when he/she feels is the best time of day for practice. Does he like to practice better in the morning or afternoon? Does she prefer to practice right after school or right before bed? Listen to the information you receive. This will help your child feel more in control, and we all know kids thrive on having control of their lives.
2. Don’t push him/her to practice any longer than the teacher requires. This is an argument that is better left alone. Even if you don’t think that 10-15 minutes a day is long enough, don’t sweat it. Trust the teacher to set the correct amount of practice for your child.
3. Break up the practice if it is too long. If the teacher requires 20-30 minutes of practice daily and your child just can’t handle that, break it into smaller blocks. Have them practice half of the required time. Let them take a break for other homework, sports, TV/video game time, or any free activities. Then, have them return to the instrument later in the day to finish the other half of practice.
4. Sit down and listen to your child practice from time to time without any distractions. We are all busy. I know how hard it is to take any time for yourself, much less sit down for 10 minutes and do nothing but listen to your child play an instrument. It is hard, but try to think of it from their perspective. If you are requiring the child to put in the practice time, show them how important you feel it is by pausing your to do list to hear them play. They will think, “Wow, Mom must really feel like this is important if she is taking her time to listen to me.”
5. Make it more fun with songs they will want to play. Simple songs like Hot Cross Buns, Mary Had a Little Lamb, and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star are quick and easy to learn, but they can be boring to play over and over. Use the many resources available on the internet to help your child find songs he/she will actually want to play. Help her find a video of someone teaching the notes of her favorite song. Help him find sheet music from his favorite movie. We live in a great time for free resources at our fingertips. My son will quickly run through what he is learning in school but spends great amounts of time teaching himself Happy Birthday and the many theme songs from Star Wars!
6. Encourage, Encourage, Encourage! This is the most important tip! Try to keep your words kind, no matter what sound is coming out of the instrument. At times it may sound like an animal being tortured to death, but it will get better! If you are sitting with your child from time to time, like recommended above, this will be an easier task. When they finish a scale or a song, comment on how they are improving, how much better it sounds than a few days before, how much progress you can hear overall, etc. Comment on new songs or notes when you hear them. Let them know that you are recognizing their hard work and improvement, even it it is the tiniest bit of improvement you think is possible.
Follow any or all of these tips, and I am sure you will see a reduction in the fuss over instrument practice at your house. Remember, it takes time to get into new routines so don’t stress if your child is having trouble finding the dedication he/she needs to give to a new instrument at first. If you stay positive, they are much more likely to stay positive as well. Happy Listening!
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