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Encouraging Heroes. You can be one too.

Whether your child is into vocal music or instrumental music, practicing is an inevitable part of learning and improving their skills. But convincing your child to take time out of a busy day of school and play in order to practice can be challenging.

Fortunately, there are some things you can do to encourage your child to practice music, without creating a major meltdown:

Introduce something new. One of the most fulfilling parts of being involved in music education for a child is the accomplishment that comes with mastering a new skill or playing a new piece. Consider asking his music teacher for additional pieces to practice or perform, and pull one out when he seems like he would rather be running around outside instead of practicing.

Set goals. That same sense of accomplishment can come from setting and reaching specific milestones, so talk with your child about her goals. Does your child want to audition next spring for the school musical? Would he like to move up from fourth chair trumpet to second or first chair? For each goal, break it down into manageable activities, which includes practicing for a certain amount of time a certain number of times each week. You can even break that down further, and create goals for each practice session. For example, in a 15-minute practice session the goal might be nail down two or three bars of a given piece.

Break practice down into smaller chunks. If your child is still resisting, the idea of doing 10 minutes of practice can be a lot less daunting than doing 30 minutes of practice. Take their overall practice time and spread it out over the course of an afternoon or an evening, and they’ll find it much more palatable.

Assemble a reward system. Offer your child rewards for practice time. These can be actual physical rewards, such as money, or they can be other rewards that the child earns, such as earning the privilege of having a sleepover. You can work on a “star” system where, as the child earns a number of stars, she’s able to cash them in for any number of different rewards.

Make practicing a game. There are a number of ways to do this. For example, if the child is having trouble with a particular measure, you can set down three beans on the music stand. If they play the measure correctly, they get to move a bean from one side to the other. If they get it right again, they move another bean. If they make a mistake in rhythm or notes, all three beans go back to the one side. The student has to play the measure correctly three times in order to move all of the beans.

Vary the time of day. If your child is an early riser, moving practice to the morning may be just the solution. Other children might have more focus right after school. Experiment with your child to determine the best time of day to practice.

Make practice accessible. If you have the space, find a place where your child can actually leave his instrument and music set up. That way, whenever he is actually in the mood to practice (yes, this does happen) he can simply grab the instrument and get started. Keep a log nearby so that he can journal the time that he practices, as well, so you can be sure he’s getting in enough practice over the course of the week.

Experts tell us that it takes around 10,000 hours of practice – that’s quality, uninterrupted, productive practice – to master a skill like playing an instrument. While your child might not have professional aspirations, the hours she spends practicing are critical to her success in her musical endeavors. Try some of these tips to see if they help to motivate and inspire your child!

Suzy St. George is a blog writer at TakeLessons. Since 2006, TakeLessons has helped thousands of students discover their passion through music, by matching them with the top local music teachers across the nation. These certified music instructors specialize in teaching guitar, piano, singing and more.

Earnest Parenting: help for parents of children who need to practice their music.

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