Getting children motivated to do their instrument practice can be daunting. As parents we have our hands full juggling work and home commitments. Our kids too, are almost as busy, with many after school activities requiring attention. In this hectic busy schedule we need to motivate ourselves first, in order to be of help to our kids.
Here are some tips to bring back the fun to practice. It does require a little effort on your part, but it will soon become much easier.
1. Set a Daily Practice Opportunity Time Slot
Work out with your child a time of the day for practice It needs to be the same time every day. From it as their "opportunity" to practice rather than it being a chore. The idea is to establish habit. You want them to be self motivated so they don't need constant reminding.
2. Focus on Quality Not Quantity
Explain that there is no set amount of time that must be completed. Together you want to find the quickest way to practice well. A short time of meaningful practice is what works best. You will find that by removing time limits your child will begin to practice more, not less.
3. Plan How to Practice the Instrument
Your child needs to know how to practice, a strategy, a simple method. Here is one that works and is easily explained to younger children. The child should play the piece through as best they can and identify the trouble spots. They then play those bars over a few times carefully and finally play the whole piece again.
4. Praise and More Praise
We all respond best to praise. The very best motivator your child can have is your approval. Compliment them on their playing, often. Praise them when they sit down to begin. Tell them how much you enjoy listening to their pieces. Make a big fuss.
5. Provide an Audience
When you can, give your child the chance to perform for you and other family members. Take older siblings into your confidence (they’ll love it) and explain the need for positive feedback! By giving them the chance to show off their skills, they not only feel special, but will want to practice in order to give a good performance.
6. Liaise With Their Music Instructor
Chat with their teacher often to get a feel for their expectations and suggestions. It allows you both to work together to achieve the best for your child. Also, review the quarterly DMA updates for each student. This tracks their progression, while usually offering additional at-home suggestions.
7. Reward Your Child for Practicing their Instrument
Some children respond to rewards and incentives. These can be useful. The most effective are ones which relate to their instrument or music in some form. (For instance, rewarding them with a trip to the music store for new strings, drumsticks, piano music for a new song, or a CD they want to learn a song from.)
Playing an Instrument Should be Fun
Playing an instrument is a skill which can bring you and your child lasting pleasure and enjoyment. It is meant to be fun. It is meant to be joyful. Motivate them by encouraging their natural playfulness, in making up tunes and experimenting with sounds and harmonies. Continually offer your support and words of encouragement. Our modern kids want to play modern music. Being able to play the latest pop song to their friends may prove to be the best motivator of all!