Kids may want to play the piano, they may love to play the piano, but most of them won’t love to practice the piano. They may sit down now and then to play a song they know, but most are not eager to practice on their own. Practice is more rigorous and most children won’t find it naturally fun, so it’s our job as practice partners to give practicing a little extra encouragement.
As a parent, that’s a gift you can give your child. You know there’s a long term reward. You know your child is going to love being able to play the piano as an adult, and for the rest of their life. But what kids want to do is go play with their friends, or with their toys, or with a video game. It is hard for them to see the value of that long term reward, and to understand how what they choose to do in the next few minutes could be critical to something so far off.
So how do you help your child stick with piano? Here are three things you can do:
If regular piano practice is a challenge for your child, set up a short-term reward system. If you already have a system in place for chores or homework, piano could be another thing that’s expected before your child gets free time, screen time, or whatever else you use to reward good work.
You can also create a system just for piano. Start out by setting a goal, such as five days of piano practice per week, and if your child reaches that goal, celebrate by going out for ice cream. Once one goal is reached, you can move on to level two, and set a higher goal, maybe two weeks of practice to earn a reward. Be sure you choose goals that are challenging, but that you feel your child can attain.
Make It Fun
One way to make sure your child will be willing to come back to the piano every day is to make piano practice fun. Young beginners do best with a practice partner to sit with them at the piano and come up with ways to make practicing into a game.
The point of a practice game is to encourage good quality repetition. Choose one aspect of good piano playing, like correct rhythm, correct notes, or correct piano posture. Then choose a consequence for success and a consequence for failure. One game I like to play is to set a penny on the piano for each time a child plays a part of a piece correctly, and take away a penny if they miss a note. When they’ve earned as many pennies as their age in years, they win the game.
Having both rewards and penalties makes the game more exciting, but make sure that you choose your challenges so that your child is successful most of the time. It is good to occasionally lose a point because it encourages them to concentrate and try their best, but if they are failing too often they may get frustrated.
Make It a Habit
Choose a regular practice time. It can be right after school, just before breakfast, ten o’clock in the morning, or whatever works best in your family. Set an alarm to remind you if you need it. Choosing a practice time sends a clear message that piano is something we’re willing to set aside time for, and not just something we might get around to if we’re not busy doing other things.
The first few weeks of starting piano practice, or anything new for that matter, are going to be the most challenging. Remember that the most important thing you’re doing is establishing the habit of piano practice. Even if your child only practices for a few minutes each day, just make sure that it’s happening every day. If you and your child can practice together for a few minutes, five days a week, for one month, the second month is going to be easier, and pretty soon piano is going to feel like a natural part of your daily life.
With a little motivation, good memories of fun practice times together, and a habit of daily practice established over time, your child will be on their way to a life-long enjoyment of playing the piano, and that future day whey you’ll hear them say, “Thanks for helping me stick with it!”