As a teacher I am often asked the same question about holiday music practice, "How can I help my children practice over the long summer holidays?" Many parents also find it difficult to support students when they don't play an instrument themselves. This is a very good question because it is estimated that not practicing at all (or very rarely) for two months over the summer holiday takes about two extra months of practice to recover from at the end of the holiday!
The answer is two-fold. The first part is the easiest part, but also the hardest because it involves giving up your time.
In my experience, many parents think that the main learning of an instrument is completed during the weekly lesson. This is, however, not the case and as Publilius Syrus said a couple of thousand years ago, Practice is the best of all instructors. It is the time between your child's lessons that most of the learning takes place and you can support that learning by being there while your child practices. Your mere presence is an encouragement. This means that holiday music practice is a real opportunity for progress.
I remember having to practice during the summer and my grandmother sitting with me, encouraging me to try phrases again when I seemed to be having difficulty and, when all else failed, bribing me with sweets or cakes if I managed to complete the practice session. (This was not a regular occurrence though, only if she believed I was really struggling with a particular phrase or technique.)
Ask your child's teacher if it is possible to make a recording of the pieces and scales and listen to it a few times before your child practices. You could also use it as a reference at the start of playing a piece and listen to it together with your child before they begin practicing. This helps them know what they are aiming for, and helps you know when something has been played correctly.
you are expecting your child to give up their time for holiday music practice, you
should also be prepared to give up your time to listen to and support
them! You can also help them plan their music practice around their
holiday activities so they don't feel they are losing out on another
activity to music practice.
There are many Practice Games available on this site and extras in my book Practice Makes Perfect. Playing practice games with children gives them a natural target and an opportunity to win! And don't necessarily expect daily practice. Everyone needs a break sometimes, even music students! Maybe set a target number of days of holiday music practice to be completed during the holiday, say 45 days, and plan a reward for achieving this. Once the 45 days are completed, the reward is awarded (maybe a trip to the beach or a theme park, or something else your child is interested in) and the count begins again. You choose the number of days and make a chart showing how far towards the goal the student is. Put the chart in their bedroom or somewhere it will be seen, not in the music practice room. The closer to the goal the student gets, the more practice they will want to do to ensure they achieve it.
The summer is also a great time to get scales sorted ready for the next exam. 5 a day isn't just for fruit and veg! Practicing 5, or even 2 scales each day will ensure that by the time the next exam comes round there is no last minute panic over music scales. Scales alone would be a great use of holiday music practice time!
The bottom line is that as long as your child feels that you are involved in summer music practice as well as them, it will be much easier to keep them practicing through the summer and not have to put in an extra two months of practice after the holiday to get back to where they were two months before the start of the holiday!
If you have any particular advice to share about how to keep children motivated and practicing music during the holidays please comment below. Thanks for your input!
Frustrated with your practice? Read Practice Makes Perfect and hack the 10,000 hour rule. Cut your practice time by up to 25%! Make faster progress, learn pieces and scales faster, memorize more easily, and much more. "If you play an instrument you need this book!"