Don't Call It Practicing, Call It Play
"Don't call it practicing, call it play." That's my answer to the frequent question, “My kids aren't practicing for their piano lessons. How do we get them to practice?” Make the piano into a game. Then you might get the child to try playing piano on their own, not under your orders.
For example, your child undoubtedly has a favorite toy or game. You don’t have to say, “Go play your game,” because the child always wants to do that activity which brings them such personal reward.
Try making the piano into a toy. You play with it. You play together with them. If you make the piano into drudgery and it work, they will run screaming from the room.
You Can't Practice If You Don't Love It
To learn the piano even moderately well you’ll need not only persistence, hard work and a lot of intelligence. The other quality you need is love. You would have to love the piano to put up with all that work. Your kids will have to love piano lessons in order to weather all that repetition, confusion and effort, not to mention all the time involved.
What could possibly make so many people work so hard to master this great instrument? The answer is, because they love the piano. And this is also the answer to the original question, “How do we get our child to practice the piano?” You get them to play because it’s so much fun that they do it themselves. There is no “practicing.” You don’t have to tell them to practice.
These kids play the piano as if it were a toy, a treasured toy they like to spend time with, until they’re done with it, and then off to another happy activity. Now, for children, this is very easy to accomplish. How do we get kids to love piano lessons and play by themselves?
Lower The Bar Far Enough So It's Fun
Simply lower the bar initially to the degree that the child cannot fail, and can only succeed. Make initial piano lessons so much fun for kids that they want to explore the world of music through the piano. Do this as long as the child needs it until they demonstrate comfort playing and reading simple music.
As an example, at first let them play with their index finger, as their instincts tell them and piano teachers see again and again. It teaches the child no bad habits because the “one finger system” will be gradually improved upon. How? By using simple finger and note games.
Start With What The Child Offers
Basically, a fingering curriculum might be to let the child play with one index finger initially, preferably the right index finger. It doesn't matter if the child is left or right handed, start with the right index finger. Then let them play with the index fingers of both hands. Introduce the right thumb. Use the right thumb and index together as a team. Introduce the right middle finger as the third member of the team.
And all this finger stuff and games is before they ever see a note of music! Always let them go back to a simpler system (one finger) if they demonstrate repeated discomfort with a more complex finger setup (more than one finger.) Discomfort is a child's way of saying, "You're going too fast."
Different Child, Different Method
All children start learning the piano in different ways, and a good teacher unlocks the way of teaching that gets them started and makes them love it from the very first minute. This “magic way,” is different for each child.
It can be humor, it can be math, it can be them imitating what you play, it can be sound games, it can be number games, it can be “Name That Song,” it can be playing with your nose. But don’t let them leave that piano with anything in mind but, “Wow, that was fun!”
Delay And Then Limit Reading Music
Delay reading music until the child is comfortable playing simple, familiar songs by number. And when you begin to read music, make each attempt initially no longer than a minute or so. That’s right, a minute at a time. The concepts have to be broken down into such simple units that only a minute is required to make a child understand each idea.
Later, those ideas are drawn together, allowing the child to easily find the notes on the page on the piano. The worst habit you can learn at the piano is to not enjoy it and not want to play. That’s the habit that will make you want to quit.