Learning to play a musical instrument is something that every child should do. As a child gets good at playing music, they develop other skills as well, including coordination and dexterity, focus, timing, and patience. Even the National Institutes of Health backs up that statement. They learn that discipline pays off and they get the sense of pride that comes with being good at something. That’s a big self-esteem booster!
I signed my daughter up for piano lessons several years ago, and while we are now a musical family, it wasn’t always that way. The early years were fraught with tears and arguments. It took a while for piano practice to become a normal part of the routine. But, sometimes, I still have to find new ways to motivate my daughter to practice the piano.
Tips to Get Your Child to Practice Piano
Here are some tips I have learned over the years for encouraging my own daughter to practice. No one likes to fight and argue. I also never wanted practice to cause tears either.
1. Lead By Example
I signed up for lessons a few years after my daughter. This helped a lot because she could see me practicing and wanted to copy me. It even became a little competitive to see who could practice more.
You don’t have to take up an instrument as well if you don’t want to, though. You can use something else instead. If you are sporty, tell your child that you go to the gym to get better at doing your sport. If you are crafty, tell them that you spend a little time every day on your craft, and they need to spend a little time every day on playing the piano. Explain it to them like that, and discuss the benefits of discipline.
But, you might consider joining your child for lessons. It has been a fun project for me and my daughter to do together.
2. Encourage Little But Often
Have your child practice in small but frequent sessions. This has been the easiest way to motivate my daughter. She practice for 10 minutes at a time, 2 or 3 times an evening.
Unless your child will try to exploit the system and do one pass through the assigned sheet then move on, try not to set a fixed amount of time for practice. It’s better for your child to diligently and attentively play for 10 or 15 minutes, than to spend 45 minutes absentmindedly running through the sheets just to get practice over with.
3. Let Your Child Play and Perform and Have Fun!
Yes, it’s important that they practice the set pieces and that they learn to read difficult sheets too., But don’t make that the only thing they are allowed to do.
If they want to make up a song, let them do it. If they want to play their favorite pop song, then let them do that too. Do they love Disney movies (who doesn’t!)? Get them some easy arrangements of Disney tunes.
I told my daughter that as long as she put some time each day into learning the songs her teacher picks out for her, she could also do some ‘free choice’ songs while practicing. She would often spend more time than ‘necessary’ practicing because she was excited to have the chance to learn the theme to Frozen. She also likes to show off her skills to her friends and family now.
4. Don’t Push Exams Too Hard
While it’s nice to be able to tell the grandparents that your child is doing his or her grades, your child may not be that excited about them, especially when they are younger. The higher grades actually do count as credits for enrolling at some Universities, so a teenager might take an interest, but younger kids might get frustrated with the stress. Don’t push them too hard, and remember that playing for fun is important too.
Fortunately, we are learning here as a hobby. Our teacher doesn’t give grades or exams, so that stress isn’t part of our practice. But, I know it is for people who hope to use piano playing as a career or for college scholarships.
5. Listen to Your Child Play
If your child wants to show you something, give them your undivided attention. If they have a performance at school or with a group their teacher runs, do your absolute best to be there. Don’t hover over them during practice because they may feel self-conscious, but do show that you are interested in what they are doing.
When my daughter practices, I stay in the kitchen which is next to our living room. I can listen and monitor her practice without standing over her.
6. Reward Good Practice
If your child is practicing diligently, reward them for doing so! Try not to fall into the trap of constantly bribing them. But if you notice that they are trying very hard, going back over things they are struggling with, or just doing very well with their recital piece, acknowledge the effort.
Try not to say “This is for being good at piano”, because that may leave them scared to fail. Frame it as you having noticed that they are practicing seriously and trying hard.
Here is a suggestion our piano teacher made: keep a jar of their favorite candy or snack on the piano! Seeing the treat with the piano serves as a gentle but continuous reminder to practice. Let your child know they can have one piece but only when they practice on their own without being told. You might want to set a number of minutes they have to practice.
7. Support Their Love of Piano
As your child gets older and more experienced, they will notice the kind of piano that they have. If they started on a smaller keyboard and they have been taking practice seriously, reward them with an ‘electronic piano’ with more realistic feeling keys, if you are financially able to do so. Older kids will want a more serious piano and you can use that as a motivational tool.
We played on a free hand-me-down spinet piano at first. Then, we would go to lessons and play our teacher’s grand piano. The sound difference was very noticeable! I wanted our playing to sound the same at home.
So, I saved up for a long time to get a proper piano, albeit a second hand one, and a good duet piano bench . My daughter was jealous of the piano that the teacher had. I told her that if she kept up with her practices, we could get a better piano.
She was outgrowing the keyboard we had at the time, and a proper piano was the next step. I didn’t want to spend that kind of money on something that would never get played, but she showed that she was dedicated, and she learned some complex pieces, so it made sense to make the investment.
Some children won’t want to play an instrument or may not enjoy the piano as much as another instrument. You can set rules for how long they need to play and what they need to learn. Often, when they get good at playing certain songs, they start to appreciate it more. The hardest part is those first few months!
The main ways to motivate kids to practice are to not beat them up about it, offer appropriate rewards, and to encourage them to practice on their own. Another tip is to find ways to make their piano practice fun.
What steps have you taken to get your kid to practice piano? Please feel free to share any tips or advice you may have in the comments below!