Piano Activities Kids Find Comfortable
You need to find piano activities that kids find comfortable. This comfort zone is a retreat from the rigors of reading music. Some things drive kids crazy with frustration, and some things are so easy and fun that they will do them endlessly with no resistance.
The secret is to find how to make them do everything with no resistance. Your first job is to find the state of the child's mind and mood that day. Sometimes they will try anything willingly, sometimes they are tired and you will have to be very careful.
Pay Attention To Their Mood
Trying to get a tired or moody child to concentrate on something complex is a recipe for disaster. When a child is in that mood, you need to back off and find something that is exactly at the level they wish to offer today. If the level they wish to offer that day is the index finger alone and single notes, laugh, and start there.
One time, I suggested to an ill-tempered kid that he play only with his pinkie. This delighted him, and five minutes later he was happily having a regular lesson, using all his fingers.
A Safety Valve
Perhaps part of the comfort zone is tacitly letting the child know that if it gets complex and difficult, we will digress into humor for relief. I never push too hard for too long. I push too hard for a very short time so the child knows it will be over soon, and thus they give their full effort.
For example, if we are exploring fingering, the going gets tough, and the kid needs relief for a moment. So I play something with my nose. This of course delights the child, who is dying to stop the complex activity that hurts his brain, and he starts playing with his nose.
Mozart's Five Cs
At this point I bring up the famous Mozart story. Mozart was at a party, and bet a very wealthy man that he could play five C's on the piano. Mozart was known as a practical joker, so the wealthy man tried to consider it from every angle. Since each hand can only play two C's, two hands can only play four. So five C's is impossible.
The wealthy man takes the bet. Mozart leans down to the keys, plays four C's with his two hands, and then, giggling, he played the fifth C with his nose. Kids, of course, insist on a demonstration. All of this digression takes two or three minutes and now the child is in a better mood, ready to play.