1) Teach an Old Dog New Tricks -
One of the most powerful learning tools is teaching someone else. Ask your child to teach you, and make a point of truly taking an interest. Be an attentive student. Enjoy being in the position where they (for once!) know more than you do about something. Ask pertinent questions, and watch them delight in sharing their knowledge with you. It’s okay if you don’t learn much… it’s about the process not the product. Make this a regular event – choose a day of the week where it is your regular piano lesson time with your child. They’ll love it!
2) Gather around the piano –
Bring back the days when there was no TV, iPods or Playstations and instead gather around the piano for your entertainment. Ask your child’s teacher to give them some music to learn that you and your family can sing along to. Rock out to the Beatles, Herman’s Hermits, Cindy Lauper… anything that you all know the words to. Christmas time is an especially wonderful time to do this. Sing carols while your child plays… this is the definition of family togetherness!
3) Include Younger Siblings -
Young children are naturally drawn to the piano. Encourage “piano playtime.” Prepare to get out your ear plugs… but resist the urge to shut down the piano play session. Experimenting with sound on the piano is a great way to nurture creativity and musical exploration. Sit younger siblings beside your child on the bench (after normal practice has taken place) and watch your children’s imagination take off.
4) Plan Mini Recitals -
Plan weekly family recitals on a certain day every week. Help your child create a program with the pieces they are currently working on and/or reviewing. Bake treats for the reception afterwards. Dress up. Be an attentive audience with enthusiastic applause and plenty of hootin’ and hollerin’. Invite Grandma and Grandpa, Aunties, Uncles and Cousins. Make it a special occasion and your child will look forward to preparing for it… can anyone say increased practice minutes?!
5) Download this free activity –
Check out “Calling Aunt Gladys” taken from our book “Shhh…Your Piano Teacher Thinks This is Practice.” Several of the 88 fabulously fun activities are geared towards including family in piano practice. Join us in thinking outside the box, and use this unique e-book resource to boost the motivation factor for at-home practice in a way that encourages good practice habits.
1. Location, location, location
It’s true in the real estate world, and it’s true in the home practice world. Having your piano in the correct place in your home is of paramount importance for successful home practice. Find a balance between shoving the piano in the basement vs. putting the piano in the centre of your most-used room. Your piano should be located in a comfortable room, close to where the family is, but away from major distractions. Your child does not want to be isolated during practice time – but they also do not want to compete with your range hood and washing machine.
2. Cramming is Not the Answer
Nothing stresses a parent out more than helping their child practice when they have 10 minutes before leaving for the piano lesson. Keep the peace at home by beginning home practice immediately after you return home from their piano lesson. They will still remember what they covered in their lesson, and the piano books will actually make it to the piano… setting you up for a good start to the piano practice week. Cramming creates feelings of inadequacy in your child as they struggle to perfect what should take 7 days to percolate. Cramming makes you sweat and wonder why in the world you are paying for these lessons. Cramming is not the answer.
3. Mistakes are Okay
We promise! It’s our job as piano teachers to sort out the mistakes in lesson time. Your job at home is to be the support – to remind them to spend time on the piano, congratulate them on their efforts, revel in the joy that is your child creating music, and show that you value music in your home. Avoid the following statements and watch peace fall over your home immediately: "Is that right? I don’t think that’s right”…
“That’s not how it’s supposed to sound.”… “Are you watching your music?”… “Your sister played that piece and it didn’t sound like that.” … “Wrong note!”… “Try it again.” etc. Your child will get their back up immediately and the practice wars are sure to ensue.
4. ”But Mrs. Jones Said!”
How many times has your child shouted a statement similar to this? ”Mrs. Jones said I only have to play
the first page!”… “Mrs. Jones said to play it up here.”… “Mrs. Jones said to play it this fast!”… What your child is actually trying to say is “I want to be in charge of my learning.” So let them! Whether or not Mrs. Jones actually said these things is beside the point. Resist the urge to argue (and resist the urge to call up Mrs. Jones to ask what the heck she is teaching) and trust that your child will sort it out themselves. This is often a knee-jerk reaction on your child’s part – they so desperately want to be right and in charge and it’s their way of saying “Stay out of this, I’ve got it.” If you allow them this right to direct their own learning you will help to create a confident piano student.
5. Be Present…
You and your child will enjoy piano practice time so much more if you, the parent, are not multi-tasking.
Your child thrives on one-on-one quality time, and if this is combined with their piano practice it is an activity that you will both grow to cherish. Take away the distractions – the cell phone, the baby, the dog, the dinner prep… and focus on just your child. Soak up the experience of watching your young one learn such a complex skill. Find a time to practice that isn’t restricted by deadlines. Just enjoy making music together. It’s impossible to start a practice war if you are truly “bonding on the bench.”
Piano practice is a commitment – it’s a daily event that can either be gloriously wonderful… or horribly stressful. Keep these 5 tips in mind when you start out this new practice week and welcome
peaceful piano practice into your home with open arms.
1. Dance Party! Dance at least once a day with your child. Dance to reggae, classical, marches, pop, jazz… it doesn’t matter! Hold their hands, jump to the beat, waltz, spin, dip and be creative. Dress up! Grab some dish towels and use them as dancing scarves. Your child will always remember these goofy times spent with mom or dad… and you’ll be strengthening their ability to feel the beat of music.
2. Tunes in the Truck - Vary your child’s listening repertoire in your vehicle. Turn off that radio that plays the same top 10 songs over and over, and instead load your iPod with a huge variety of music. Have theme days! Listen to Marches on Monday, Bluegrass on Tuesday, Folk on Wednesday…you get the picture. You have a captive audience in your car as you hop amongst activities and errands… make this time count! You’ll quickly develop your child’s appreciation for music of all genres.
3. Draw to Music - Inspire your child by setting aside time each day for drawing, colouring and creating to music. Give them a beautiful new set of pencil crayons and a large sheet of paper. Ask them to draw what they hear. Play inspiring music and celebrate the results by posting the pictures on your fridge. Give their artwork the title of the piece they were listening to.
4. Karaoke in the Kitchen - Fashion a fun microphone out of a wooden spoon, spatula, spaghetti server…anything! Tie a sparkly ribbon around it and have fun while you make dinner by playing some great roadway tunes and singing along as loud as you can. Pass the microphone back and forth – let them see you sing (who cares if you are horrible). Try out some (terrible!) harmonies. Add actions. Let them see you enjoying
music with no inhibitions.
5. Ballroom Blitz - Is your house a disaster? Put on a fast and exciting song. Can the toys be picked up by the time it’s over? For this to work you have to crank the tunes… loud! You’ll be amazed at the hustle you see as your children are motivated by music.
6. Lullaby Time - Is your bedtime routine not quite relaxing? You’ll spend less time chasing kids up and down the stairs and you’ll have less requests for one more drink of water if you include this in your nighttime routine. Put some soothing music on a CD player in your child’s room. Lie down with them and listen to one song. Rules are: eyes must be closed, and at the end of the piece you have to tell each other what the music made you think about. Your child will drift into a peaceful sleep much easier after this brief moment of music therapy!
7. Wake Up to WHAM! - Create a fun family tradition… when it’s time for the kids to get up blast a funny tune to rouse them from their beds. I like “Wake me up before you go go” by Wham. Walkin’ on Sunshine works good too. Everyone has to be up and at ‘em by the time the song is over. Keep them guessing by changing the song periodically. It’s hard to have the morning grouchies when music is involved… especially ’80′s music!
8. See it Live - Your child will have so much more appreciation for music if they see how it is produced. Google live music events in your community and make a point of taking your family to see live music regularly. There will almost always be free live music in your local community. Take advantage of these opportunities to expose your child to varied styles, instruments and abilities.
9. Let Them See You Learn Take up a new musical instrument yourself. Let your child see that musical learning is life-long and enjoyable. Model good practice habits and let them see you not be an expert at everything. Pick something you’ve always wanted to learn to play and go for it! Even better… play your instruments together! Turn off the TV and play and sing as a family.
10. Make Music Lessons Count - You’ve made the financial investment in your child’s musical education by signing them up for lessons. Now, make the most of the experience by investing your time. Give them the opportunity to practice each day, purchase the needed materials and have their instrument professionally tuned. Choose quality teachers who foster a life-long love of music in their students. Sit down to listen to them practice with your undivided attention. Offer frequent word of encouragement and praise. Attend every recital and performance opportunity and encourage them to participate in school and community musical events. Don’t let music lessons become “just one more activity”… make it clear that you deeply value music education and in turn they will rise to the occasion.