In Part 1, That Dirty Word: Practice, we talked about what practice means, what practice should include, and how to practice most effectively.
Today we talk about ways to keep practice engaging, creative and keep you all having fun.
Probably you are reading this because practice in your house is not fun, not a happy time, and you feel like you need either a lie-down or a large glass of wine afterwards. Or both.
Let’s pause for a minute and can you ask yourself, “Why do I not enjoy practicing with my child?”
Is there something specific or a root cause to this that you can jiggle out? Often, its because “my child makes a huge fuss and makes us both miserable” or something like that.
Let’s downshift a few times and put ourselves into a child’s perspective. What do children LOVE to do? Play and imitate. Contrary to popular belief, it is not temper tantrums.
To invite children into a happy practice space and to leave having enjoyed it and learned something, we need to do two things: gamify practice and model positive behaviour and emotion.
This term is rather new, and it came with the advent of video and computer games. If you were or are a gamer, consider how addicting “leveling up” and acquiring new skills and items within the game is. For those of you who don’t game, it is VERY addicting, and VERY fun.
What would our practices look like if we did this while practicing?
Like I said in Part 1: That Dirty Word: Practice, this kind of practice is not easy. It’s not a set up-check out process, it’s a focus and achieve process. We need to think in the long-term to successfully gamify music. Figure out the end goal and decide what you need to do to get there.
But it is simple. All you need is a some creativity, some humility and a bit of patience.
Start by identifying steps within the larger skill that can be broken down into games. Keep it short and sweet, too many steps makes it look like you’re never going to level up!
Here are some other suggestions to sweeten the practice:
Repetitions are a foundational principle of learning anything. Counting them creatively helps shorten the time you spend thinking about those repetitions. Try keeping track with chocolate chips (make sure to eat them at the end of the practice!), an abacus, play each repetition to a different person, window, pet, direction, place a Lego block on a structure for each repetition, or write a line of a story per repetition.
Practice in a different area (some like consistency in location, do this if your child gets bored).
Have a different theme every day (Dinosaurs! Beautiful sound! Bunnies! Marshmallow fingers!). Come in costume.
Invite a friend or family member (like a grandparent) to sit and listen to the practice.
Take a time-capsule video and watch together a few days or weeks later to see the progress.
Colour in a colour-by-number area per item or day practiced.
Make up games or stories to go along with tasks.
Bring a favourite toy to practice and include it in the tasks.
But gamifying practice will do nothing if you’re still not having fun. Fun = smiles and laughter.
Does your child’s practice unfold like a textbook? Is there anything that is engaging or inviting for children? Do you smile while your child practices?
Maybe you’ve never thought that practice could include smiling. That is perfectly normal, and you’re not alone. The word “practice” doesn’t exactly trigger “fun”.
Now here’s some hard love. Just because you think practice should go a certain way, doesn’t mean your dear child will agree with you. They are their own person and they have their own opinions, thoughts and emotions. Just because they whine and refuse to practice doesn’t mean you need to hate music lessons. As the parent, you get to choose when to practice, and you get to choose your emotions relating to music lessons. Their journey does not reflect on you as a parent, you are free to make your own choices and your child is free to make their own. You can choose to enter the practice time and space with positivity and energy, or you can choose to mirror your 6 year old’s temper tantrum back to them.
As the practice parent, if you are engaged and having fun, your child will be engaged and having fun. Your child will see you having fun and enjoying practice, and start to believe it is actually fun!
Practicing does not always have to be serious, practicing can be refreshing and exhilarating, and even enjoyable. Why do we do this? To nurture and cultivate a life-long love of music in our children’s lives.