Tonight, as I prepare for the coming school year, I know some of the families in piano lessons with me will appreciate the reminders of how to motivate their child to practice. I researched this evening and discovered some very basic tips that will help your child to stay the course this year!
Set a Goal
Each time your child plays at home, set a musical goal together that they should accomplish. Rather than setting a timer for 30 minutes so they can play their piece repeatdely with the same mistakes in each run through, have them work on mastering one small chunk of their piece that day. Accomplishing one small goal will motivate them!
Set a Time
By the end of the day, we are all tired and may not have the energy or focus to practice. Find a time of day that works in your schedule and for your child. Some of my piano families practice before school begins, as soon as they get home from school, or right before dinner.
Keep a List
If your child is working on independent practice, keep a to-do list posted on the piano. This will remind them of their playing options. If they work on their piece and aren't sure what to do next in their playing time, they can get an idea from the list without asking you!
Sometimes families get busy and decide to cram all their practice time into one practice session, the night before their lesson. That could be one of the most frustrating parts of learning the piano for your child. If their lesson was 6 days ago and they have not played since, they may not be able to remember what they needed to improve, where to place their hands, how to read the notes, or what their teacher said. Please, to avoid frustration and confusion, encourage daily practice and hold your child accountable. 10 minutes a day is much more productive than 60 minutes on one day.
If they practice consistently, they will see their progress and be motivated to keep growing!
Rather than calling their time at the piano "practice", try calling it "play". This will help the child to think of their time as an enjoyable event rather than a chore to complete before screen time or outdoor play is granted. Encourage them to include free play at each session. Reviewing their favorite songs they already know, improvising along with a recording, composing, or family concerts will help them remain connected to their passion for playing. Keep the books out and open so they can sit and play freely when they feel inspired!
Sit in on your child's lesson, sit in on their practice times at home, support them with encouraging words and give reminders when needed. Children need help with their practice sessions up until about age 10 otherwise confusion and frustration can set in which decreases motivation for playing.
Some days, the lesson plan may not be a good fit for your child. They may need to switch it up for the evening with a theory game on the iPad or some chord work on the piano. Keep some of our musical activities from lessons in mind to play with your child at home should they need a change of pace mid-week.
Depending on the temperament of your child and what they respond to, an incentive or reward program may work. Some parents have created reward systems at home that is a huge motivation for their child. Find what works for you and use a visual reminder (stickers, marbles, pennies) to represent how close they are to reaching their goal.
Stay the Course
Encourage, inspire, be creative, be consistent! You will see more growth and a motivated student because of it!