How do we start practice? Especially with young children, getting started is easily the hardest part.. This is even true for me as an adult.
There are countless things that get in the way of getting starting. Often the hardest part is leaving one activity, that we’re already engaged with, and getting started concentrating on something new.
I hear from my own students that they are always glad when they have practiced, but that getting started is often a challenge. One way to help smooth the transition is to start (and end for that matter!) each practice with something fun. Get your child engaged in the process without doing something more challenging right away. In effect, this eases them into the mindset and mode of practice.
As we wrap up a month long series on practice with preschool students I wanted to share the following list of ways to get started when practicing with young children.
“I have a new game to show you today!”
This can involve flipping a coin, rolling dice, or creating an audience out of stuffed animals. The game doesn’t have to be elaborate but the element of surprise and novelty can catch your child’s interest and get them excited to get started.
Start with keeping a steady beat together
Research actually shows that children who kept a steady beat and moved together with adults to music exhibited more cooperative behavior afterwards. Use this to your advantage and find some music to play with a steady beat (most children’s music would work great) and find the beat together. You can keep the beat on your knees, head or on the floor.
Sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Baa Baa Black Sheep or any other short song together to get ready to practice. In my studio we have a song that goes along with the parts of the violin bow that can be a fun way to start.
Finger Dexterity Game
Fine motor development is an important physical skill to develop and can be a fun way to start practice. Singing “Where is Thumbkin?” or simply tapping each finger up and down helps the fingers start to move one at a time. Because this is a physical activity it can be a great way to start practice before moving into other tasks.
Preschool age children love to use their imagination. Let them pick an animal to sound like while they practice their twinkle rhythms. They can bark, meow or moo – whatever interests them that day. It’s silly and fun but it also gets the job of practicing those rhythms accomplished so it’s a great way to start.
Music Mind Games
Music Mind Games are great music literacy tools that help students learn music theory in a really fun and engaging way. I use these materials all the time in lessons and especially group classes. You can check out the website to get ideas for where to get started. Playing one of these games (or something similar) to start off practice is a great way to get your child mentally engaged before you move on to the instrument.
Pick up small objects with each finger and thumb to work on fine motor control
This is another fine motor control game. Find small objects like little craft pom poms or even little bits of rolled up paper. The object is to pick up the small objects with one finger at a time (pointer finger and thumb – middle finger and thumb – ring finger and thumb etc). This can be challenging and it’s a great way to build focus and the small finger muscles.
Read a short book about playing music or that features their instrument
If your child loves reading this can be a great way to transition into practice. Check your local library to keep a new rotation of books on hand. There is a great list of books to consider in this blog post :https://www.upperbeachesmusic.com/single-post/2017/11/29/Best-Musical-Picture-Books-for-Kids.
Dance to music with streamers or shakers (which can easily be made at home)
Cut party streamers into short strips to dance with. Fill plastic eggs or a small plastic container with beans or un-popped popcorn and seal well to make a homemade shaker. Of course Amazon and local music stores will have music instruments for purchase as well. Dance to music you’re working on learning as well as any great instrumental music that can help inspire your child on their instrument at the same time.
Put a few potential starting activities on a pieces of paper and keep them in a bowl. Your child can draw one out to see what the first activity of the day will be during practice. This makes a game of how practice will start each day and can help students look forward to picking out the activity of the day.
I hope some of these ideas will help you when you get started practicing this week! You can also try some of them at the end of practice if you find your child focuses better if they know something fun is happening at the end. The more you practice with your child the more you’ll get to know what works best for them and which activities get them excited to practice.
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