How to get kids to practice an instrument

how to get kids to practice an instrument

How to get your kids to practice an instrument, by me.  That is the most off-the-wall title coming from my household.  Laughable, in fact!  I suspect that our less-than-enthusiastic practice sessions of the recent past are the norm for child piano players across the map.  To paint a clear picture, one of my little maestros would actually drag a blanket to the bench and go boneless.  Really.

And so, with our fall reorganization of schedules and plans, I finally got a clue that these children needed some incentive.  They are expected to help out around the house, but practicing piano, well, that falls into a unique category of its’ own.  This is an activity that the kids are doing because it’s the only instrument mom can teach (thus lessons are free and we don’t even have to leave the house for them!)

Yes, learning an instrument is very educational and it can be rewarding unto itself, but it is not a necessity to keep this joint running.  And mastering a piece of music can be pretty frustrating at times.  If the kindergarten teachers can get away with bribing with candy, I may as well throw in a little prize bribery myself.

piano practice beads

Enter:  the beads, a take on an idea found while perusing Pinterest.  It is a pretty sight to behold atop the piano:  Mama’s full jar of beads with the tightly screwed-on lid and the little jars holding just a few proudly earned beads.  The excitement when a bead is earned and plinked in their individual jar is contagious.  My son acted uninterested at first, but was thrilled when I placed a jar for him beside his sister’s.

To get a bead, they are to practice focused for 12 minutes in the beginning, and we are gradually working our way up to 15 or 20 minutes.  In the past, we were going along the lines of longer practices, but I am now convinced that shorter, harder-working ones are most efficient.

The prize levels are marked on their individual jars.  The first mark earns a prize- a little (hopefully useful) knick-knack for her and an app for him.  Second level is special time with mom- whatever reasonable activity they would like to do one-on-one.  Third level is a date with dad.  Those prizes are the best.  We cannot wait to give them!

Do I think their begging for a morning practice slot will last?  Oh, no.  We will just come up with something else when this is officially “done for”.

Please do tell:  how do you get your little musicians to tune into practicing?

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2 Replies to “How to get kids to practice an instrument”

  1. Thank you for this post. We will give this a try at our house. One practice incentive that I have used is to allow my daughter to record herself practicing. I direct her practice “recording session” by telling her that I want her to play this page or that song 3 times, then turn off the recorder and let me know that she is done. We listen to the “recording” together. Because there is a clear direction and a she can see that there is an ending to the task, she goes about it with more enthusiasm. Just telling her to “go practice for 20 minutes” makes it into a chore, whereas making a recording gives her a short-term goal.

    1. Thank you for this tip to record them….we can use all the advice we can get on this!

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