Practice Routine For a Young Beginner, 8 tips for helping your child to practice

Practice Routine For a Young Beginner, 8 tips for helping your child to practice by Sue Hunt, Music in Practice
A daily practice routine teaches more than music.

Most of us start music lessons with high hopes, but when it comes down to sorting out a feasible practice routine for our young children, it can be rather hit or miss.  In order to turn the knowledge which children gain from music lessons into ability, they will need to learn to repeat things correctly, many, many times.

However, there are very few children who will actually beg to practice.  In fact, I have even heard it said, that if your child asks to practice, you should send for the doctor!

So how do you make practice routine?

•1  Learn from someone experienced.  If there are no musicians in your immediate family, it is very useful to observe the practice routine of other more experienced families, just to show your young beginner what sort of behavior is acceptable.  Ask your teacher to put you in contact with a family with a healthy practice routine.

•2  Listen, listen, listen.  This is an essential part of a good practice routine.  Get a CD of the songs that your young beginner is going to learn and listen to it with your child.  It is your responsibility to play the recording, so once the enthusiasm for listening has worn off, turn down the volume and have it playing in the background.  Make multiple copies, for the car, kitchen, living room, bedroom, bathroom, etc. and play them at every opportunity.  The more a young beginner hears the music, the easier it is to learn.  Once daily listening is established, it will be easier to fine tune your practice routine.

•3  Get organised.  Look at your timetable and decide on the best times for routine practice for you and your child.  Usually the best time is when you are both fresh and energetic, not late at night or before a meal.  Practicing after breakfast is a great time for early rising families.  Mid mornings and afternoons are also generally good.  Linking practice times to daily activities is a great way of initiating your new practice routine.  Once you have found times which work for you, stick to them so that they become part of your daily family routine.  Finding your best time and sticking to it, is important for you, as it is for your young beginner.

•4  Keep it short and sweet.  The attention span of a young beginner is generally limited, so keep the sessions very short and aim to fit several in every day.  Don’t be tempted into extending a session when it is going well. Your child can feel trapped by this and very quickly get the idea that noncooperation is the only way to get out of it.

•5  Ask your teacher.  Your teacher will tell you exactly what needs to be done in the during your weekly practice routine and should make sure that each task is short and simple enough for success.  Stick to what has been assigned in the lesson and you can’t go wrong.

•6  Stack the deck for success.  Young beginners will mostly be given a series of tasks to practice to get their muscles ready for playing.  These tasks need to be done correctly, as everything that we repeat will be learned, right or wrong.  This can be quite a challenge, since young beginners generally won’t see practising, in itself, as rewarding.  Help establish the practice routine, by stacking the deck with games, which will help them practise the skills that the teacher is trying to instill.  A good Suzuki teacher will have a large repertoire of games for you to use, so always take detailed notes during the lesson.

•7  Reward, DON’T bribe!  Rewards are essential for a young beginner, providing welcome reinforcement for success.  Young children need to see immediate positive comeback from doing an activity or they won’t repeat it.  Tiny rewards will be more effective if your child actually likes them so be careful what you choose.  You will find it easier to practice regularly, when your child is enjoying it.

•8  Love, encouragement and persistence. These are the most important tools you need.

Stick with it.  By creating a daily practice routine with your child, you are teaching more than music.  Your young beginner is learning thousands of life skills, which will go a long way towards creating a happy, considerate and accomplished young adult.

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