Practicing EVERY day... This is a tough one. I was not good at this growing up and when Delaney started, we usually practiced Monday through Friday and took the weekends off, but then I read an article that said it takes 21 days to form a habit and if you stop and start, a good habit will never be created. After I read the article, I realized that our roughest practice days were the ones following our breaks. Delaney usually complained about having to practice and I would dread the battle of getting her to practice. The article said that once a good practice habit has been formed children will stop fighting their parents about having to practice. They will have made so much progress that they will feel motivated to keep going. Practicing without a fight?! Motivation to continue to practice every day?! This definitely sounded like something I had to put to the test and WOW is it ever truth! By day seven I had already started to notice a difference in Delaney's attitude as well as mine. She stopped complaining and I stopped dreading. We ended up practicing for 28 days straight until I had to leave town for a conference. We both really missed our practice time together and couldn't wait to start again. Life does happen - I get that! We get sick, leave town, things happen, but let me tell you, making practice a priority and doing it every single day that you possibly can makes all the difference. Delaney has made big strides and is thrilled with the progress she has made. She wants to keep playing and getting better. She's having fun! We are having fun together! I remember reading a book about sleep habits and babies and it said, the more sleep a baby gets, the more sleep a baby wants. I would venture to say the same thing about practice: the more you practice, the more you want to practice.
Okay, so there is a little catch to being able to practice this many days in a row - at least at first. Yes, once Delaney formed her good practice habit, it just became routine and she stopped complaining and was motivated to keep going, but I had to come up with a way to get her excited about practicing, so here's where making practice fun comes in to play. In his book, Nurtured by Love, Dr. Suzuki addresses the common parent complaint that their child does not like to practice at home by saying, "Starting children off with the fun of playing a game, letting their spirit of fun lead them in the right direction, is the way all education of children should be started. " Suzuki clearly understood the mind of a child; children love to play! I might also add that children love to feel in charge, at least my daughter does. Suzuki went on to say, "If you are formal and strict and have a 'this-is-education' attitude, you will immediately warp the child." The game we were playing on the day Delaney declared that playing violin is fun was the same game we had been playing for the past three weeks. In fact, she asks me every day if we are going to play this game. The great thing about this game is I get to say what she practices, but she gets to pick the order and occasionally the number or repetitions. Delaney has named the game, "The Egg Game." One day I decided to fill six eggs with six different slips of paper stating what she needed to practice. The slips of paper are the same as the tasks on her practice chart. One slip of paper has bow games on it, another has her recital piece with the piano, one has specific left hand activities and another might have walking fingers through the B section of Twinkle while focusing on intonation. If the task is something where we need to do several repetitions I let her roll the dice to determine the number. Letting her roll the dice gives her that sense of control she desperately wants. She also has control by getting to choose the eggs. I fill each egg with a small treat like an M&M or candy corn, which she gets to eat after doing the task correctly. The slips of paper change every week according to what needs to be practiced. Have I said that Delaney loves this game! The egg game was her hook. The hook that got her to practice for 28 days without stopping. We will continue to play the egg game until it doesn't work anymore. No matter what game we play, the important thing is that Delaney is having fun while we get some really nitty gritty practice done.
I challenge all of you to practice 21 days in a row and see what happens. If you miss a day start the count over. Find the hook that will make practice fun for your child and just begin, one day at a time. You have nothing to lose and a whole lot of progress and motivation to gain! I will leave you with 21 fun practice ideas and hopefully at least one will work for you! What are your great practice ideas? I'd love to hear them in the comments section below! Happy practicing!
21 Fun Practice Ideas
(This list is a compilation of ideas from April Losey, Aunt Rhody.org, James Hutchins and myself)
1. Parent and child play "Rock, Paper, Scissors" and whoever wins the turn chooses the next review piece or task.
2. Write the tasks or review pieces to be practiced on slips of paper and draw them out of a hat, bag, or put in plastic eggs.
3. Roll a dice to decide how many repetitions to do. (Delaney loves rolling the dice! We would use her practice chart to see what task needed to be done and she would roll the dice to see how many times she needed to do it.)
4. Write the task or review piece to be completed on a sticky note and post it on the spinner from Twister. The child then spins the spinner to see what to practice. (I'm sure you could use almost any spinner from any game.)
5. Have a favorite stuffed animal or puppet "pick" the review pieces. Make sure the animal talks in a funny voice! :)
6. Using a simple puzzle, mark each piece with a number on the back that corresponds to an assigned task. Either draw the pieces from a hat or lay them in a path on the floor. When you have gone through all the pieces put the puzzle together.
7. Place slips of paper in balloons that coordinate with what needs to be practiced. Blow the balloons up and let your child pop each balloon to find out what to practice next.
8. Write the names of review pieces or tasks on paper fish with paper clips on them. Attach a magnet on a string to a piece of dowel fishing "rod" and go fishing!
9. Light a candle on a cupcake. Practice until the candle burns down then eat cake!
10.Practice each item in a different room of the house. Who is in the room that can listen? The cat? The dog? A fly? A plant?
11. Practice each task with a different hat on your head.
12. Move beads on a stick or an abacus. For each repetition, a bead is moved. Or beads can be collected for each repetition and a bracelet/necklace made at the end of practice.
13. Play hopscotch. Write the numbers 1-5 on separate sticky notes. Lay them on a table in a hopscotch pattern. Choose a small animal or game piece to move through the hopscotch numbers with each successful repetition. (Delaney usually wins a small candy for getting to 5.)
14. For repetition practice, fold a piece of paper into 8 squares. Write the numbers 1 to 8 in each box. Choose a game piece and start at 1. In order to move to 2 you must do a perfect repetition. Once you are on 2 you must do another perfect repetition or you go back to 1. Continue to play in this fashion until you get to 8. Up the stakes when you are on 5 or above by making yourself go back to 1 if you miss doing the repetition correctly. (This idea came from Paula Bird at http://teachsuzuki.blogspot.com)
15. For each task completed, the student places a domino in a line. When all tasks are finished, the student can start the chain reaction!
16. After each successful repetition add a stuffed animal or other toy to the audience.
17. Game boards make practice lots of fun. Ready made game boards and blank game boards can be found at The Practice Shoppe. We especially love the board game Twinkle Twinkle I'm a Star. You can also print a blank template and write review pieces or tasks to be practiced of your own choosing.
18. Write the names of review pieces or tasks on blocks. Put the task face down and choose one block at a time. Build a tower as you practice.
19.Get a bell and your child can ring it after they successfully complete a certain amount of repetitions. Or, use the bell to call attention to something that needs to be fixed like keeping their violin thumb straight or pinky curved on their bow hand.
20. Practice in the dark with a flashlight. As soon as you turn off the lights, ears open and listen much more closely. When you look again, check posture, bow hold, etc.
21. For every good repetition, move a race car forward to a particular goal. When it is at the end you're finished. You can also have a race between child and parent. For every good repetition, the child's car goes forward. If wrong, the parent's car goes forward. Who will win?