So I ranted a little while ago about our bad day and I’m happy to report that we had a breakthrough with her piano practicing. She’s starting to read some of the notes and it’s no longer ground hog day with the flashcards!
I knew when we decided to start piano lessons that there would be ups and downs but never thought the motivational issues would start so soon and be so much work for the parent! Especially at this young age where she’s not disciplined enough to go practice on her own or be able to read the written homework sheets provided by the teacher, I have to be very involved.
Right now, we are practicing between 10-25 minutes per day depending on her level of focus, 5 days a week. Consistency and making it a habit has helped with progress. It’s now an expectation that unless we have another activity (like going to the baseball game tonight), we practice every night. This routine blended into all of her other routines like brushing her teeth, going to school etc. has really helped with her resistance to practicing. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s still work to get the practicing in but the one thing that has worked for us is to make the practicing as fun as possible. Fun in this case still means learning but in a way that a 4yr old would be engaged with and also to help minimize focus issues.
Here are few things we tried to help keep up the interest level:
1. Don’t expect to cover everything all in one practice session. Spread the material over a few days unless of course you have one of those nights where they want to keep going! I made this mistake thinking I needed to cover everything in one practice session. It only ended up being a fight and practice ended up being a negative experience.
2. Make it fun and get involved. She got a karaoke machine for Christmas so we incorporated that into our practice sessions. For each piece of music, one person plays the piano, one person sings and one person dances to the music. Ella, my husband and I take turns performing in each of the three roles and it ends up being a lot of fun! (Some of this could be because we’re terrible singers with no rhythm or moves whatsoever!)
3. Mix it up. We sit at the piano for no longer than 10 minutes at a time and try to move onto written theory, writing and clapping the song before we play it at the table or anything that doesn’t require sitting at the piano. A change of scenery really helps with the focus and interest level as you will lose them if you keep doing the same thing for a long period of time. I’m sure we all remember being in school and trying to read a homework textbook and although you read the word, nothing sank in after a while as your focus would wander. Imagine this at 4yrs old when their attention span is not that long at the best of times!
4. Incorporate games. We are lucky that our piano classes use games regularly to help teach some of the concepts. We bring this home with us as well. For example, if we are learning to read the notes on the grand staff, we turn it into a hangman type of game for short words (ie. CAB, ACE etc). Or we have a rhythm card in let’s say 4/4 time and have separate cut outs of notes and have Ella make a rhythm to see if one of us can clap it back correctly. She loves trying to make the rhythm “hard” to see if my husband gets it right or not (he’s doesn’t have any piano background so she loves being able to trump him!).
5. Have them be the teacher. All kids especially the younger ones love to be the teacher or feel like they know something you don’t so why not take advantage of this. Ella loves teaching us one of the concepts she’s learned. This definitely helps reinforce the concepts and ensure they really know their stuff.
I am happy to report that we are having fun and motivating practice sessions now. And the more she practices and sees progress, the more motivated she gets which is a nice cycle to get into. We’ve even had a few days where she’s gone to the piano on her own without any prompting to practice!
Do you have any other tips to help with motivation? Comment and share below.
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