Learning an Instrument: The Importance of Having a Practice Routine

Did you know that a child’s creativity is at its peak right now. At this very moment your child’s prefrontal cortex is a live wire buzzing with creative fuel! Their imagination is at its peak flexibility, just waiting to be molded; therefore, is important for your child to readily have an outlet of creativity as they continue to grow.

Pursuing music is unlike any other endeavor they will have. Playing music enables your child to relieve stress, instills patience and helps really tone up those motor skills. You can help your child best by making sure they continue to be inspired, so they want to stick with it!

There are limitless benefits to proper routine in all areas of your child’s life. The art of creating music happens to be one of those areas where a child can thrive intellectually. emotionally and physically. No other activity requires as intense of an individual effort as music does. Whether your child is a future piano prodigy or electric guitar rock star, it all begins with having airtight, daily practice habits.

Inspire Your Child to Practice

As a parent, you automatically give the  example that your child will learn from. Take advantage of your role model status to inspire and cultivate your child’s talents.  Recall how you felt when you had to establish good exercise habits. It took time to get in the habit of going to the gym everyday.

First, you had to feel motivated to work out. You can do the same for your child by just by being their number one fan. Cheer them on before and after the period of practice begins. Never assume your child will naturally fall into the routine. Although your child may show exceptional and ‘natural’ talent for a specific instrument, the ability to practice is not inherent. If you still need to remind them to brush their teeth, then you need to remind them, gently, to pick up their instrument and play.  

Set The Stage For Proper Practice Space

To start, you will need to need to create an area in your home that is just for your child to practice in.  Your child needs a ‘private’ space that they love to be in. If you child has been using their bedroom, he or she could easily become distracted with toys or associate his or her sleeping area with the stress of learning the instrument, leading to poor sleep habits. Follow these steps to make the perfect space:

Get yourself some great lighting, and have fun with the possibilities. While the basement or garage may be a tempting spot, it really doesn’t provide the benefits of natural lighting. Your child needs to be able to read their sheet music without fatigue. For your piano player, you may need to invest in piano light We suggest a screened patio or day room with lots of windows. Also, make sure your pets aren’t able to barge in and cause distraction. If you need to, try some useful sound dividers like these.

  1. Set a basket just outside the room designated for all  of your devices. This needs to be a cell phone and iPad free zone. This goes for you too, Mom!  We recommend a cheap kitchen time to record practice time instead. 
  2. Make it personal. Set up a special shelf in the room just for their supplies, like this one. Let your child paint it and make it fun.  Keep sheet music, pencils, books, rosin, string, reeds etc organized in this area.  Allow your child to hang up some posters of their favorite musicians to make this room inspirational. Etsy has adorable inspirational decor.  When they keep their practice space always ready, practicing becomes enjoyable and stress free. As a bonus, this creates a sense of independence and responsibility for your child.
  3. Comfort. Make sure the temperature of the are isn’t too cold or hot for your child. If they sit to practice, something adjustable like a computer desk chair is suitable. They need support in all of the right places, especially for the violin and flute player.  For your piano prodigy, make sure he has appropriate seating, like a memory foam padded bench and do not allow miscellaneous items to clutter the top of the piano. For guitar players, proper storage is essential.
  4. Final check… how is the atmosphere?  and how are the acoustics? You may need to add some acoustic panels. Bonus: Have your child ‘help’ you put them up.
  5. Okay, now is there room to move about? A cluttered room just won’t do, if they need to move around to play. If your child uses an instrument requiring amps and aux cables, are they arranged so they won’t trip? Is the family cat climbing around?  Grab some cable straps to keep them safe and out of the way.
  6. Sit down with your child with a blank sheet of poster board and have them write weekly music goals on it in bright colors. Hang this poster board in her practice space so she can see it all times.
  7. Make sure your child has access to a glass of water at all times, to stay hydrated and focused.

Get Ready to Play!

It is  much better for your child  to practice in small chunks, rather than sporadic bursts. To give your child the best start, schedule a time without distraction from other family members and responsibilities. It helps to make sure that the practice routines are differentiated from the child’s regular chore time. Leave chore time for after school. This avoids the child feeling obligated to practice.

Practicing after a full day of school can leave a child feeling tired or cranky. So, try having your child practice before they go to school. Have them get into the habit of rising thirty to forty five minutes early (if you have a younger child ages 4-6, early afternoon before nap time and before lunch is best.) You can have them go about the regular morning routine of  bathing, dressing and eating. Then incorporate the practice time seamlessly into the day. Your child will really shine, when they are looking forward to practice, and feeling energized.

Team up with our child and get your blood moving with some fun stretches before they begin practice. Your child will also be primed and ready for a full day of learning with a brain that’s been stimulated by movement and music. Ready to go? Encourage your child to pick up that instrument and go for it. Tell them to reach for the stars and let loose.  If needed, you can step out of the room, but stay in ear shot!

It Is Important to Be Patient

A child can become  frustrated if they can’t ‘get’ it. Part of being a child  also includes a short attention span and quick temper. So they may ‘give up.’  So if  you end up with a crying and screaming child , instruct your child to step away from the instrument until she has calmed down. Exit the practice area until she is ready to try again. Remember you and she will both survive. When your child does finally ‘get it’ no matter how small the victory, show genuine pride including hugs  and high fives. Have your child record the victory on the poster board you made for goals, so the next time they get frustrated they can remember their ability to persevere.

Make Practice Into a Game

Children, especially the little ones, love games! Don’t forget to let your child “play with”  his instrument, as well as “play it.” Encourage sound play with different media like hand bells, and whistles  too. Let his creativity out. Have him make sound effects or make up a tune to a story he knows well, or even better, have him make his own story up! Tell them to make up a sad song, then a happy one. Music stimulates so many areas of the brain; your child just might surprise you! You can inspire your child with a reward system. This doubles as a teaching moment on responsibility and gains of hard work. Some game ideas suggested from other parents:

The Penny Game: This game can be  used where mastery of a difficult passage requires repetition. Set 5 or 10 pennies on the left side of the music stand. Each time he plays the passage correctly, he moves one penny to the right side of the stand. Every time he plays it wrong, all the pennies have to go back to the right side. The goal is to get 10 pennies to the left side. If he reaches 100 pennies, give  a reward such as new case for his flute or these really fun neon strings for his guitar.

Squirt Bottle: Especially fun for younger kids. Hold a spray bottle aimed at their tummy and if they make  a mistake or have a memory slip, give a squirt at their tummy. Warning: Laughter and fun will occur!

“Pay” your child to play! Grab some pinto beans. You can have your child glue glitter and paint  all over them to make them extra special.. Each time they remember to practice without you reminding them, ‘pay’ them in a bean. At the end of the month they can turn the beans in for a toy, a few bucks deposited into their bank account. If they make it an entire month, take them to a Live Concert or Symphony.

Some Articles on Practicing 

Now that your child has a routine, it’s important that they make their practice time as efficient as possible. Here’s an article on how to make their practice time count. 

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