Students complain about practicing because it means they are trapped on the bench for the next half hour. In sports, no one wants to be the one stuck on the bench. While it’s vital that they take time to practice at the piano, let them step away for a minute. Kids sit around for most of the day when they are in school. Sitting for another 30 minutes will make it seem like a chore. If they seem a little rowdy or lose interest in practicing, let them step away from the music for a moment. Let them watch a YouTube video of the song they are practicing. Give them time to do jumping jacks to the rhythm of a song; whatever it takes to get them off the bench and moving. After five or ten minutes, have them return focused.
Apps on a tablet or phone can engage your child faster than anything. Kids instantly pay attention to watching a YouTube video or using an app. Download some of the apps mentioned in my previous post or any other music app. Allow five minutes during practice or as a reward for practicing for half an hour.
Be excited yourself
Christina Greenwood, a piano major and teacher says she gets her students excited about piano by being excited about music herself. She says, “I’ve found that as I show enthusiasm and a love for music, and try to make it fun for them, they realize how enjoyable music can be. It stops being only a chore and starts to be a game and something they can express themselves with.”
Rewards can go a long way in motivating kids to play. Ultimately, you want the incentive to be beautiful music, but until they get to that point you can use stickers or charts to help. If you are on a budget or just don’t want to spend money, take time to create something together, like painting small rocks with glitter or creating other small rewards. When your child practices for a certain number of days each week, they are rewarded with one of their creations to add to their collection.
Expose them to different kinds of music: my family and showtunes, listening to dad’s weird music, concerts.
Remind them what got them excited about music in the first place. I’m grateful for my parents who introduced music to me. We always listened to The Phantom of the Opera on road trips and my dad would play really weird songs no one had ever heard of. I didn’t always like all the music they showed me, but I was able to decide for myself what I liked.
Kids like to make decisions like that. They are still finding themselves, and music can play a big part in that. Throw a musical soundtrack in the car and listen to it while you run them to school. Take them to community concerts. Make maracas with beans and paper plates and play them with each other.
Let them play with their music not just play it
As they are exploring music, ask them what a piece would sound like if it was played for Halloween. See if they can create a song that sounds like wind or rain. Whatever you do, encourage them to be creative.
Take one of these ideas and run with it. See what happens, and let us know in the comments below.
Annah grew up in Minnesota, but now lives in Rexburg. She is a visual communication major at Brigham Young University - Idaho, and also works at Love Family Piano. She grew up helping her family with her piano playing skills by editing songs her mother had written and writing duets for her clarinet-playing brother so they could play together. While serving in the Utah Salt Lake City West LDS mission, she accompanied a mission choir under the direction of Marshall McDonald, along with accompanying solos and group numbers. Annah has also served as pianist and organist in her local congregation. She loves being able to mix her love for communication and piano. Visit her personal blog and see what else she is up to.