How to create a positive practice environment for your child

A solid routine is critical to making your child’s practice time both more successful and more enjoyable.  But even the best routine in the world will do a child no good at all if where he or she practices is not conducive to focused music-making.  

This week, we’re sharing 5 ideas for setting up your child’s Practice Zone – a dedicated practice space designed just for your child’s practice time.  This can be an incredibly fun process to involve your child in to create a space – even if it’s just a corner of the family room – that is all his or her own, a special retreat to practice and just play music for the fun of it.  But be careful – if your child loves the Practice Zone too much, he or she might never leave it!

1. Location, Location, Location!

Are you able to focus on a task with the TV blaring, the stove timer beeping, and the cat running in circles around your feet? Probably not! Do you think your child will be able to focus on practicing his or her instrument with these distractions? Nope! When deciding on a location for your child’s Practice Zone, be aware of any distractions that might enter that space. Keep the Practice Zone away from noisy places such as the TV, out of areas with high household activity such as the kitchen, and where he or she won’t be distracted by other, potentially more tempting activities (like the video game system).

2. No one wants to be lonely

Unless your child really thrives and focuses best in a solitary environment, try to keep the Practice Zone at a place where there is some human activity. There are two reasons for this. First, your child will not equate practicing with being isolated and lonely. Second, it enables you to keep an ear and eye on your child so you’re able to help if he or she starts to become distracted or needs assistance with something.

You may also consider adding a “guest spot” to your practice zone. A beanbag chair near the piano where a sibling or parent can quietly sit to listen and watch will make your child feel a sense of pride in his or her musicianship, and become accustomed to playing for an audience as well.

3. Comfort is key

No matter what the instrument, maintaining correct playing posture is critical to both playing success and the avoidance of injury. Ensure that the music stand can be adjusted to your child’s eye level and that the chair or piano bench are also the correct height and conducive to good posture. As a general rule of thumb, chairs that slant back (such as a folding chair) compromise playing posture and become uncomfortable while practicing. Ask your child’s teacher about the best types of furniture for practicing.

Similarly, be sure that sufficient lighting is available in the Practice Zone. It’s impossible to practice if your child can’t read the notes! Lights that attach to music stands or rest on top of pianos are inexpensive and unobtrusive ways to fully light your child’s music book without having to add lamps or lights to your home.

4. A fully-stocked toolbox

Ensuring that all necessary practice supplies are in the Practice Zone will maximize your child’s practice success, rather than wasting time searching for a pencil or metronome. Ask your child’s teacher what items he or she will need for practicing and keep these items in a consistent place in the Practice Zone. These items will vary depending on your child’s instrument and level of playing, but at minimum should include sharpened pencils, erasers, a metronome, and all necessary music and your child’s assignment notebook.

As your child gets older, make a checklist of all necessary practice tools and tape it to the music stand; by being sure that he or she has all of the necessary supplies before practicing, your child will develop responsibility and take more ownership over his or her musical learning.

5. Add a little love

Adding a personal touch that has meaning to your child will make him or her swell with pride, confidence, and motivation whenever in their Practice Zone. This might be a certificate from a recent competition, a photo of your child performing in a concert, or a card from grandma saying how proud she was of his or her performance in a recital perched on the piano.

Does your child have a dedicated space for practice or other activities, like homework or reading? We’d love to hear about what makes these spaces special for your child. Share your ideas and photos on our Facebook page!