Everything from unexpected, last-minute school cancellations to long summer breaks leave the parents of music students asking how they can get their kids to practice at home. Planned or unplanned, breaks from school are great chances for kids to relax and have fun on their own terms. But left unsupervised, most music students ranging from young children to teenagers will inevitably spend their time focusing on just about everything other than music, making the potential for learning loss during breaks significant and even damaging in some cases.
It’s up to parents to ensure their kids continue to engage with music during school closures, but doing so can be a challenge. Here are five tips to help:
Kids need structure, especially when the routine school music programs provide isn’t there. Your child probably won’t keep up with their music practice without being held to realistic expectations like how often they should practice and what material they should cover. If you’re unsure what expectations to set, reach out to your child’s music teacher for their advice.
Parents can use everything from extended curfews to movie tickets to special toys to incentivize their kids’ out-of-school music practicing. In a perfect world, your music student would keep diligently covering material with their instrument whether school was in session or not, but we don’t live in a perfect world. Special incentives can help motivate kids to continue developing musically outside of school.
Designate a distraction-free practice space for your child
In the same way adults need clean, distraction-free spaces to work in, your child can’t thrive without having a reliable, accessible place to explore music. Designate an organized area in your house where your child is free to practice freely and without distractions. Obvious culprits like smartphones, siblings, TV, and food can take your music student’s focus away from their playing, but you should also pay special attention if they’re in the habit of playing for fun instead of covering the essentials.
Leave room for fun creative exploration
Without fun, getting your kids to practice during school closures is going to be a hard sell. By balancing time devoted to covering essential material like exercises and songs required by their music teachers with improvisation, song covers, and songwriting, kids will get the benefits of a fun, comprehensive practice that they’ll look forward to.
Hold your child accountable
Our kids usually want to do the right thing, but need some extra support to help them get there. This idea has never been more true than in the case of kids practicing their instrument from home. The better you can hold your music student accountable for practicing during school breaks, the more productive their efforts will be. Some parents can achieve this by checking in daily with their kids about what they’re working on and how often, and others will find success by creating practice charts that are directly linked to incentives for consistent playing.
Motivating kids to practice their instruments outside of the structures conventional school music programs provide is challenging, but it’s worth the effort. “Learning loss” is a well-documented phenomenon where students lose valuable information they learned during the school year during planned and unexpected breaks. This trend impacts all students, but because music students rely on muscle memory and specialized motor skills to function as musicians, they’re especially susceptible. By ensuring your child continues to practice regularly during school closures, you’ll have the best chance at mitigating the risk of learning loss.