Monday, March 23, 2009

Yes, There is a Best Time of Day to Practice

Instrument practice often gets tucked into a spare moment during the day when you happen to remember it needs to get done... maybe after soccer practice, dinner, homework and just before bedtime. It just needs to get done, right? So does it really make that much of a difference what time of day your child practices?

More than you might imagine! A little foresight, planning, and sensitivity to your child's daily patterns can go a VERY long way toward making the most of practice time. It will also help reduce meltdowns. No, it's not just YOUR kid, all kids have those practice meltdowns. You know, the ones where the tears flow and the "I want to quit!" declarations are made.

As a teacher I hear about these events from the desperate, yet brave parents who are willing to admit that maybe things are not going so well. I'm always so grateful to those parents, because they are giving me a chance to help them work through a problem, instead of just quitting lessons in frustration.

Just last week in my studio eight year old "Ben" (whose name has been changed to protect the innocent) came in to his lesson acting a bit unhinged. He was way squirmier than usual, not looking me in the eye, and having a terrible time playing through his song. I took the opportunity to take a break and tell Ben and his mom about a really fun music camp I wanted them to consider checking out for the summer. Ben piped up right away in a determined tone: "Well, I'm thinking I'm definitely NOT going to be going to music camp because I'm thinking I'm going to be quitting violin!" Followed by a sidelong glare at his mother.

I just love how kids can so honest and direct.

We talked about how practice was going at home (meltdowns) and what time of day he practiced (too late, when he was tired). Ben and his mom decided to change to a morning practice routine to see if it would help. Within a week I got a call from Ben's mother saying that morning practice was SO much easier and more productive, and that Ben had even taken his violin out to play on two occasions without a reminder from her. Turns out Ben is a morning person.

I've seen over and over again how much progress kids make when they practice in the morning. Practicing an instrument takes three kinds of energy: physical, mental, and emotional. After a night's rest these resources are at full capacity. I had one parent who half-complained to me that her kid had started waking her up at 5:30 in the morning with the sweet sounds of violin. Needless to say I didn't have much sympathy for her!

Some kids are grumpy or foggy in the morning. I'm sure you know if your child is one of them. The most important thing is to find a time of day when your child tends to be at her best, and take advantage of that opportunity. It may be obvious, but I'll mention it anyway... putting off practice until just before bedtime is risky at best. Depleted resources = Frustration= Most Unpleasant Event.

If you notice a certain routine isn't working after a period of time, change it. As children go through different developmental stages, their best time of day may change. The mom who used to awaken to the sound of live violin music now has to set her alarm clock. She has a teenager.

Have you tried changing practice times in your house? Have you come up with a routine you would like to share with us? We love to hear your comments and Tweets!



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3 comments:

  1. Helpful post, thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  2. recommended practice times?

    ReplyDelete
  3. It is important for kids to spend some time playing music everyday because it relaxes them too. Music teaches them about discipline and how to relax so it is important to enroll them or train them in music from an early age.

    ReplyDelete

 
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