Establishing a Practice Habit, Part 2: Making Practice Time Attractive
Let’s face it, practicing can sometimes be hard. And most of us don’t particularly enjoy doing hard things. But with some careful planning, practice time can actually become something to look forward to! Here are some ideas to consider.
Use a reward as motivation. Think about a habit or routine you have that you look forward to. It’s probably something that provides you with a reward of some type. The anticipation of that reward is often what gets us to take action and complete the habit or activity. One way to incorporate this process into practicing is to not only link the practice time to a previous habit (for example, after I eat dinner, I will practice) but to also sandwich the practice time between a previous habit and a desired reward. For example, “after I eat dinner I will practice, and then I can play a game with someone in my family.” After a while, the reward will hopefully become the satisfaction of improvement in one’s playing skills at the piano.
Make the practice space appealing and comfortable. Take a look at the practice space in your home. Does your piano need to be tuned? Is it in good working condition? It’s frustrating to practice on an instrument that sounds bad or has keys that don’t work, so be sure your piano is in tip-top shape by having it tuned regularly and making sure everything is working properly. Is there adequate lighting? Is the seating comfortable and at a proper height? Consider placing a small step stool beneath the bench for small students so their feet have a solid place to rest. Provide a handy place for students to keep a pencil, highlighters, colored pencils, highlighter tape, and their music.
Consider making practice time a special one-on-one time with mom or dad. Younger students need the help of a parent to get started with their practice session. Help them plan for what they’ll do during their practice that day. Even older students benefit from having a parent taking an active interest in what they’re doing that’s new or challenging. Encourage them to teach a parent or other family member something they’ve learned at their lesson that week.
Help family members respect the student’s practice time. Try to avoid interruptions by asking other family members to give the student a quiet atmosphere in which to practice. It’s hard to concentrate on practicing when siblings are running through the room or a TV is playing loudly nearby. Avoid making the student feel they’re missing out on playtime or other fun activities.
Help the student to add their own special touches to their practice space. Give them colorful stickers to use on their practice calendar. Invite a special stuffed animal to be their “practice buddy.” Provide a fun timer device to help them know when it’s time to move on to the next piece. Add framed photos of performances and recitals to remind them of their progress.
Be generous with praise. Regardless of the amount of practice time or progress made in any given day, the most important thing is that they made it to the piano. Often the hardest part of practicing is just getting started. Praising their efforts is powerful in helping establish a regular practice habit.