Kids & Practice: 10 Tips to Help Keep Them Motivated

Aug 31, 2016

blog - Kids & Practice 10 Tips to Help Keep Them Motivated

Anyone with children can tell you how challenging it can be to get them to do something that they don’t feel like doing in the moment. Parents will tell you that, if in the right (or wrong) mood, this applies even to things that they like to do. Everyone, parent and child alike, start out excited with their music lessons, but this initial excitement is all too often short lived, especially for the kids. Kids are bombarded with an ever growing list of interesting and engaging activities vying for their attention. Friends, sports, school, it can be hard to keep them focused on one thing for long. Persuading them to practice their music can often be like pulling teeth. But consistent and smart practice is an essential part of the growing musician’s routine. The earlier you are able to help them develop strong habits, including a regular practice routine, the more likely they will be to continue playing through their childhood, and into maturity. To that end, we’ve got 10 tips to help you motivate your young ones to practice!

1. Make Practice Part of the daily Routine

Structure helps build routine and habit, so the best thing you can do to help them is make practice a daily part of the schedule – at the same time every day. Let it fit as naturally into your daily routine as possible, even in the morning before school if that is when you have the time. If your child practices after school, make it before the fun stuff (TV or video games) so they don’t get distracted. Completing obligations before playtime is an important lesson for any child.

2. Set Realistic Expectations

How much your child practices should really be dependent on their age. Don’t expect a 5 year old to practice for a full half hour. Let them practice for as long as their attention span allows. Pushing too hard too early may cause them to lose interest. Instead, slowing increase the amount of practice time as they age.

3. Treat Music Differently

If your child thinks of practicing music in the same way they think of doing their homework, its going to be tedious. You, as the parent, are in the best place to change this attitude before it develops. Your child shouldn’t see music as a “forced” discipline like history or English, and the best way to avoid this is by allowing them to choose their instrument. It is much easier to be excited about playing if they are playing something of their choosing.

4. Give Them Some Control

An extension of the last tip, try giving your child a bit more say and control over their music making. Most kids will not want to do something if they are told to do it. If you let your child in on the planning of their practice and playing schedule they will be much more interested in doing it. Start with that goal in mind, and help them towards the decision to practice on their own. After they “have the idea” to practice, you can help them discover how often a musician practices, then help them to build a schedule.

5. Go With What They Love

This doesn’t just apply to the instrument they choose, but also the genre of music. This is a very simple motivational strategy. If you allow them to play at least one familiar song from their favourite genre as part of their weekly routine, they are much more likely to stay engaged with the music. Most musicians get into music to play music they like, after all. Who wants to play someone else’ boring, old music?

6. Practice With Them

This is especially useful for children who are a bit younger, but it can still be done with older kids. Kids love extra time with their moms and dads, especially when it is spent doing something you both enjoy, together. If you sit with your child and show them the love and enjoyment you get out of making music they may be much more eager to continue it on their own later in life.

7. Give Them an Audience

If you can’t play an instrument yourself, or if you aren’t able to practice with them on a regular basis, there is still something you can do: be an appreciative audience! Kids love extra attention, and if you cheer and applaud something they have done all by themselves it helps to reinforce the good feelings they get from performing.

8. Praise Effort, Not Results

There is a ton of research out there that supports the idea that praising effort is a lot more effective at encouraging progress than praising results. When you praise them for putting in the effort, it says to them that just making the attempt is a positive experience. This will help them to value the journey of making music, and to understand that what is important is that they are enjoying themselves while they progress. On the other hand, praising results puts too much emphasis on repeating their performance. This can actually make practicing an anxious experience for them. Anxiety has caused many a budding musicians to put down their instruments for good.

9. Challenge Them

Asking your child to just practice is a good way for them to get bored and lose interest. Instead of simply telling them to practice for 30 minutes, help them set specific goals. These can be small, “bite-sized” goals for each individual practice session, as well as larger goals to work towards. A few examples might include: working on a fingering for a certain set of measures, gradually working on speeding up a section, or playing a part from memory. Working towards both small and larger goals on a daily basis is far more important than the actual amount time spend practicing every day.

10. Help Them Learn to Appreciate Music

Learning to play an instrument is a privilege than not all children are entitled to. Help them to learn to appreciate music in all its forms, and all it has to offer them in their lifetime. Show them how it can enhance nearly every aspect of life. An appreciation of music helps them feel like a part of something bigger.