Fostering a love of music in your children helps them to learn the value of beauty and artistic expression, and to appreciate the humanities in ways that kids without artistic instruction may miss. A recent study by Northwestern University published in the journal Neuroscience also shows that even a few years of musical training builds listening and learning skills that persist well into adulthood. In fact, older adults that had even limited musical instruction tended to perform better on some cognitive tests than others in their age groups that never studied music. With the benefits of musical instruction being so well documented, the only real challenge for parents’ lies within convincing a reluctant child to sit down at the piano bench for an hour every day. These tips can help you create an environment that fosters piano practice, improving your child’s ability to play and his cognitive processing abilities.
Set a Consistent Practice Schedule – Kids thrive under a consistent routine, and their musical practice sessions are no exception. When your child knows that he practices piano for a specified period at a set time each day, he’s less likely to resist than he would if the schedule were less defined. Rather than taking a slapdash approach to practice by fitting time in as it becomes available, try to set aside the amount of time his instructor recommends every day at the same time.
Use a Timer – A silent timer that doesn’t tick as it counts down is a great tool for helping your child keep track of how much time is left in a practice session. When she’s not stopping her practice every five minutes to ask you if her time is up, she can give herself over and apply her undivided attention to the task at hand.
Offer Rewards – There’s a fine line between bribery and a reward system, but it’s often much easier to inspire a child to take on a task that she’d rather ignore when she knows that there’s a reward of some kind waiting for her on the other side. Let your child know that successful completion of the piece she’s working on will net a trip to the park or a favorite dinner. In most cases, she’ll be so caught up in the challenge of reaching her goal that she doesn’t even think about ways to avoid practice.
Make a “Practice Before Television” Rule – Limiting kids’ screen time is important, especially when they have other tasks that they should be seeing to. Rather than allowing your child to blow his entire allotment of television time the moment he gets home from school, thereby eliminating an incentive to complete important tasks, establish a system of finishing homework and practice before television. With the joy of zoning out in front of the tube dangling like a carrot before him, you may find that he approaches both his piano lessons and his schoolwork with more gusto.
Offer Plenty of Praise and Encouragement – The sense of accomplishment that accompanies the mastery of a complicated new piece is a reward in and of itself, but your child also needs to know that you recognize his efforts and the achievement of his goals. Be sure that you’re offering your child plenty of encouragement and recognition for his efforts, as well as praise for a job well done.
Since kids that participate in music programs tend to have higher SAT scores than their non-musical peers and are more likely to graduate high school, piano and other musical instruction is an investment in your child’s future that can pay off in spades. Helping him to stick with his commitment and encouraging his continued participation is one of the best things you can do for your child.
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