A common worry we often hear parents say is that their child struggles to focus on practising the piano or that they are worried that after buying an instrument, they’ll give it up a few months in.
Whether you would like to encourage your child to take up piano, or if your child is having a ‘blip’ in wanting to practice, here are our top tips to help keep them engaged and reignite their passion for music!
What we’re not saying here is that you won’t hear “I don’t want to practice” or “It’s so boring!” at least a few times, however with a little know-how and basic psychology, pretty soon your child will WANT to show you what they’ve learned.
Find The Right Teacher
The first point we’d recommend here is to start at the root of practising. If you’ve opted to use a piano teacher to help their learning experience (and we’d definitely recommend you should!), it is just as important to see how your child resonates with that teacher.
Are they excited to go to their lesson every week? Perhaps they can’t wait to show them what they’ve been practising...Or perhaps are they dreading every second of it? Do they say things like “They don’t let me play what I want” or “I don’t want to go!”
Teachers are very much a personal preference, and even though one teacher may have all of the qualifications and degrees in the world with a sensational past record of teaching, if your child doesn’t resonate with them or enjoy going to learn with them...They won’t want to practice and pretty soon, playing the piano becomes more of a chore than something they actually want to do.
We’d always say you shouldn’t feel trapped by sticking with one teacher, even if your child has been with the same teacher for 6+ months, keep monitoring your child's attitude in the following lessons, if they are becoming tired, bored or are perhaps even a little intimidated by their teacher, it’s time to seek a new one!
Not sure if the teacher route is for you? No problem! Read our guide to the best ways to learn the piano here!
Set Your Expectations
As a parent, it’s easy to set unrealistic expectations for your child. To you, practising for an hour each evening might not seem unrealistic, but for your child, that is an unfathomable amount and a literal eternity.
Perhaps your child also has an hour’s worth of homework to finish this evening? Pretty soon, the added pressures can add up and they’ll lose interest in even their favourite hobbies. When first learning, a far more beneficial approach is to keep practice sessions quite short.
We often hear that parents (and teachers) report a lot more success when they recommend just 10-15 minutes of practice each day instead of practising for an hour or so once or twice a week. This will not only help keep your child interested as the time is far shorter, but by providing an ultimatum such as the only other option is doing one long hour practice on a Saturday afternoon, they’ll definitely see the benefit!
One other point to note here is that practice every night isn’t always going to be possible and it shouldn’t be used as a form of pressure. If your child is perhaps around at a friend’s house or they have a friend at your home, then perhaps practising piano isn’t the top of their list right now. Unless it’s being used creatively (for example showing their friend what they are learning and encouraging the friend to learn too), sometimes it’s best to leave the piano lid closed sometimes...and that’s okay!
Use The RIGHT Kind Of Praise
We’ve all been there, pride is an obvious side effect of your child learning something new and it’s important to let them know that you are incredibly proud of the progress they are making. The caveat we sometimes see here however is that you might be putting too much pressure on your child to meet expectations.
For example, if they have just passed their Grade 2 exam and worked incredibly hard to get there, instead of immediately moving onto Grade 3 material, let them know how proud you are by celebrating in a way that isn’t related to the piano (unless that is what they would like!).
This too can extend into everyday practice and particularly at first, it’s not uncommon for your child’s playing to sound outright awful...As much as you might want to tear your hair out, it’s important to remain positive and use encouragement as they practice.
For example, children often respond great to phrases like “That part sounded fantastic! Can I hear it again?” Or “That’s so clever, would you like to show (Insert friend/parent/relative)? They would love to hear it!” Even if the piece isn’t being played quite right, those small encouragements will inspire them to keep going until they get it sounding their best!
One increasingly popular tool when it does come to learning and getting in practice each night is the use of a chart or stickers. Have your child choose some he/she likes and whenever they practice, they earn a sticker This works especially well for younger students.
Go Digital (Where Needed)
It’s no secret that most children are fixated by tablets, smartphones and devices. Whilst usually this is something parents like to avoid, when it comes to piano practice, there are some fantastic apps out there that will almost definitely help inspire practice.
A lot of these apps use some of the processes we’ve already mentioned here, such as 'gamifying' the learning experience or setting certain practice times to help encourage short but regular practice sessions.
Show Interest In Their Learning
As mentioned, children love it when you show an interest in what they are learning. Why not help their learning process by learning alongside them! If they have mastered a particular technique, why not ask them to try to teach you too? Not only will you love spending time with them, but you might even learn a particular technique yourself.
They’ll get great enjoyment over showing you how they managed to achieve it. If they see you struggle to get it the first time too, they may even have another confidence boost that could inspire them to take the next step on their learning journey.
Likewise, making piano music a part of your "background music" at home is always a great idea. Homework time, or whilst cooking or eating dinner is a great time to put on some instrumental piano music in the background. Being around music all the time will help prick your child’s ear into hearing particular tones or sounds and remind them that they have their own piano just a stone's throw away!
There you have it! A few quick tips to help create a creative and relaxed environment that will help your child want to practice every day! For more information on how music affects child development, read our blogs here! Or if your child is preparing for their first exam, read our stress free exam guide here!