Thursday, March 26, 2009

Not on Track with Practice? Help Your Kid Jump Start Their Practice Routine

You can easily add a boost to your child's instrument learning with this Practice Challenge plan and simple bribery reward system.

My students love it when I present them with a challenge, so during the year I set up different Practice Challenges to entice them to go the extra mile. And yes, I absolutely do reward them for their efforts with small prizes. Even adult musicians bargain with themselves for getting their work done when in a procrastinating frame of mind... I'll have this scrumptious piece of expensive dark chocolate after I finish my scales and etudes... I'll reward myself with lunch out with a friend after I practice every day this week.

Once practice is happening regularly over an extended period of time, the REAL prize reveals itself:

- Playing becomes easier and less frustrating.

- We hear progress in our playing.

- Hey, this is actually FUN!

- We want to play MORE because it has become fun and rewarding to play.

You may have already read my post about the magical 5-day per week practice effect. Try setting up this reward system which encourages your child to practice at least 5 days per week on a regular basis:

Get some stickers. Better yet, go shopping with your child and let her pick out the stickers. Never underestimate the power of stickers!

Now, ask your child what kinds of things she might like to earn for prizes. It's important that she value the prizes offered. A prize can be an item like a music download, special dessert or toy, or an event, like a choice of video for family movie night, family ice cream sundae party, or a sleepover party with friends, time in the computer/games, etc. You can brainstorm prizes that fit well with your family's value system.

Each prize will be worth a certain number of points. Together, write them down on a piece of paper so everyone is on board with the plan. A super special item or event might be worth so many points it will take a month of practice or longer to earn enough points to obtain that prize. Make sure to include lots of little prizes for young kids, who might do better just earning weekly awards..

Here's an easy point system to follow:

4 days of practice in one week= 10 points earned
5 days of practice in one week= 20 points earned
6 days of practice in one week= 30 points earned

Be sure to point out to your child that she can get a whopping 10 extra points for every day beyond 4 that she practices in a week.

Now put a calendar in a prominent place in the house. Let your child choose a sticker to put on the calendar each day she practices. When enough points are earned for a prize and she wants to cash in, make sure you fulfill your end of the deal, and get that prize ASAP for her.

Have you tried the Practice Challenge? What were your child's valued prizes? How did it go? Send us a Tweet or leave a comment. We love hearing from you.

Digg Stumble Kirtsy Delicious Technorati Twitter Facebook


  1. This is great!!! I can't wait for more!

  2. Flygirl, We're glad you like it! More on the way...

  3. Hi,
    Great blog!
    It sure is a great challenge to make kids practise music. It's important that they keep thinking it's fun to plat..

    Best regards,

  4. Thanks for your comments EarMaster. We'll have a series of game posts coming up soon to keep the fun rolling along!

  5. Alright I have tried this method with my private lesson students and the kids I teach in band. Nothing seems to work. I've used the points and the rewards but they don't seem to be practicing anymore than before and they don't seem to want to even with the option of rewards. What should I do?

  6. is a great resource for teachers. We always encourage teachers to send parents our way so they can learn about how to support their children's music practice routines. I hope your students' parents will become part of their child's musical journey.

  7. Stumbled on this post and after two months, wanted to report back and say that it's worked beautifully with my 7-year-old. She's earning 20+ points each week (she gets small amounts of extra points for completing pages in her theory workbook, or for playing iPad games that help her learn notation) and she'll easily have met her (my!) goal of 160 points earned for the summer vacation. Thank you so much for the wonderful idea!

  8. I love the suggestion for letting your kids pre-determine the prizes you offer as incentives for practice! I think sometimes we think that just offering the prize itself will work, and don't think about how much more effective it can be if it's something the child has specified and feels a sense of ownership for. Thanks for the great tips!


Google Analytics Alternative