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Practice Makes Perfect: Tips to Motivate Kids to Practice Piano

two kids sitting at a piano

Starting out on the piano at a young age can help children potentially learn at a much quicker pace than starting later in life. However, there are many factors that play a role in a student's progression and interest. There comes a point in lessons when perhaps a student starts to get weary with routine or lack there of. Here I offer some practice tips and tricks to motivating the little ones to keep practicing the piano.

  • Try keeping a practice log/chart

Parents and/or students can keep track of practice sessions during the week by logging it in a practice log or marking it on a chart. The log or chart can be put on the fridge or next to the piano, wherever it is in clear sight everyday. A practice session could be 5 minutes up to 30 min depending on child's piano level. I do recommend starting off with a short practice time of 5 minutes daily to encourage building a routine. There are times when a beginner student will not need to be told to practice when lessons are brand new activity. However, most children need reminding and encouragement from a parent during the week.

Make the practice log look visually appealing and fun to mark! I offer a few practice charts that can easily be downloaded and printed at home. You can pick either a weekly chart or a monthly chart. Put a cool sticker on each day your child practices or mark it with a heart or smiley face. Your child will see the practice chart as a weekly game with something to look forward to for the effort put in. This leads to the next tip of implementing a reward system with your child.

cat practice monthly log
monthly cat practice log

weekly practice log
weekly practice log with cats underneath

  • Reward system

In combination with a practice log, pairing this with a reward system can be the golden ticket to successful daily practice!

Examples of rewards can be:

-X number of minutes with the iPad at the end of the week

-X number of minutes playing video games on the weekend

-A sweet treat like ice cream at your favorite ice cream shop

-Buying a small toy of his/her choice

Let's say a student practices 5 consecutive days during the week and you as the parent monitor and mark these days on the practice log. Because there was consistent practice during the week, on Saturday the student will gain access to the iPad for 30 minutes. The parent can set the number of days their child should practice during the week and the duration for each practice session. If you are looking into a monthly practice log for your child, a bigger reward may be given at the end of the month such as a toy from the toy store or a new video game. An example could be making sure your child practices at least 4 times per week for the whole month. There are many ways you can implement the practice log and rewards to motivate practice time every week.

  • Check in with the teacher

Ask your child's teacher what he/she suggests for practice tips for kids. Perhaps your child practices more when there is a certain style of music that is assigned for the week. In the past, I've worked with students who really enjoy video game music or jazzy music. Check in with the teacher to get a "progress report" on how your child is doing within the lessons and how you can support at home. The lack of practice might also be from your child not understanding fully what is assigned or hitting a wall when things get hard. Having that constant communication with the teacher is so important, as the teacher only sees the student once a week for a small window of time.

  • Daily routine check

Just like brushing teeth before bed is a learned routine, taking lessons and practicing consistently is a routine that will take time to adjust to. I tell parents to find a time during the day when their child is most alert/focused. This could be in the morning before heading off to school, practicing right after school, or before dinner. You will need to experiment with which time frame works best. Once you find a time that works, stick with it!

  • Piano environment

Where is your digital or acoustic piano stationed in the house? If it's in the garage, this will certainly make it harder for your child or anyone for that matter to practice daily in there! I've had some families place the piano in their child's room, however, I find keeping it in the living room is the best place. This allows you to easily monitor the practice sessions. Also, this prompts for little "performances" (if the student is up to it) when guests come or other family and friends.

  • Parental involvement

In the points I mentioned above, parental involvement is a must for greatest success in your child's piano education and practice outside the lessons. Some children will need their practice monitored closely by the parent to make sure assignments are accounted for. Sitting next to the student (with students younger than 6 or 7) or close by will also help your child feel a connection in that you are both collaborating together in an activity.

  • Student schedule

When I was a kid, I only had dance and piano as my activities outside of school. These days I'm noticing that more and more families are overbooking their children in too many activities. Baseball, tennis, coding class, gymnastics, horseback riding, and the list goes on. It is great to immerse your child in different activities to see what sticks. However, when you enroll in music lessons, please keep in mind that there needs to be time outside of the weekly lesson to practice. Parents must also account for their own schedule in taking your child to the weekly lesson, dedicating time during the week to practice with your child, etc.

  • Plan small and big performances

If your child is taking private lessons, most likely their teacher will hold a recital as least once a year. This is a great opportunity to gear towards a big goal where practicing consistently is important for a successful performance in front of an audience. Students usually will ramp up their practice sessions as the recital date gets closer. I always recommend students do a "practice recital" in front of friends and/or family at home in preparation for the studio recital to work through any nerves or shyness with playing in front of people. You can also video record the student's performance on your phone and view a playback together. Send the video to a grandparent or other family member who would appreciate watching the performance.

  • When you've tried everything?

When you've tried all the tips, but it has resulted in months of trying to get your child to practice, it might be time to try out a different teacher to find a better fit or take a break from piano. It could be that your child is just not ready for private lessons and will need more time to grow before taking up the instrument again. There also is a possibility that the current teacher is not the right fit for your child. If you must take a break, it is still beneficial to expose your child to music whether it's playing jazz in the car on the way to school or going to a live concert.

Final Thoughts:

I hope these tips help you motivate your child to practice! As a parent, it's frustrating to enroll your child in an activity where you envision growth and fun, only to struggle with getting them to practice. But with time, patience, and a solid practice rhythm in place, most children will learn to practice on their own.

And if you have any other helpful tips, please share them in the comments!

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