Because I believe practicing can be FUN!! And when you're having fun, it feels EASIER!
You'll see some familiar toys, but presented with my ideas for adapting them into practice games.
Now, I hope you'll go have some serious FUN!
You can find all these toys on Amazon - links in the images & titles.
Practicing involves a lot of repetition ... playing something over and over again is ONLY helpful if the repetitions are CORRECT and performed thoughtfully. Also, without a way to keep count, it's easy to just guess and say, "OK, I suppose that was enough!".
Prevent boredom and careless practice - The Barrel of Monkeys can add some fun to counting repetitions AND reinforce the value of CORRECT and CONSISTENT playing. To create a chain of correct plays - set a goal for how many to play in a row correct, add a monkey for each correct repetition, and take one away for each incorrect repetition. Use it for one hand, one measure, a phrase, a page, or a whole piece! See my student Josh using them in the PHOTO GALLERY.
It's like a super-deluxe version of Barrel of Monkeys. Perfect for a practice game: even has a built in "spinner" to tell you how many monkeys you need to put on the tree (how many times to practice in a row correctly!).
I borrowed this wonderful idea from Diane Hidy.
These are not only super cute and fun, they are a perfect prop for endless music games and practice counters. Use them to play note naming and chord naming games on the piano keys, or to keep track of counting repetitions. I have the hedgehogs, ladybugs, and cats. They would also make a fun musical gift for a student. Find them online at AMAZON.
Another fabulous idea I borrowed from Diane Hidy.
I teach students to play with beautiful technique from the very beginning - this is essential for developing healthy, relaxed movements and is the fundamental element for creating expression and playing with dynamic range. There are many, many ways I teach proper technique and hand position, but I have to say - using the ladybug is like MAGIC! I use these frequently in the lesson, and encourage young students to have their own at home for practice. You can find them online at Amazon or MusicTeacherWarehouse.com.
There are a wide variety of sets with Bass & Treble notes, rhythms, dynamics, key signatures. Mix and match to create your own "Name That" game, reinforce concepts from the lesson, or you could turn it into a really fun composing tool ... roll the dice and create a tune using what you see! Check out The Practice Shoppe website for more dice options and other practice toys.
These polyhedral dice are a little more fun than just the standard 6-sided cubes - with a variety of colors, sides, shapes, and numbers, students love using these to randomly assign practice repetition amounts. My students ask me all the time: "Can I use the dice for this?" when creating our practice plans! My only rule is: If you role a "0" or a "1", you have to roll again (practice zero times ... not an option!). Lots of possibilities for use: roll the dice for number of repetitions, for random measure numbers or section numbers to practice (this would be fantastic for testing memory in random order!), or for assigning a number of minutes to practice something.
Yet another fun way to keep count ... Just don't let them fall inside the piano!
Get some cups or bowls to collect the marbles in, then set up a challenge to move all the marbles from one bowl to the other, or create your own game for counting repetitions!
They make so many beautiful varieties of marbles now - check out Amazon for some really cool options.
What kid doesn't love legos? Any kind of legos will work .... create a "tower of practice", and see how high you can build! Add pieces for each correct repetition - and take pieces OFF for incorrect repetitions!
Your child will love these cute bead counters - giving them motivation to practice again! This is a great way to visualize practicing things over and over. Flip a bead for every time your child plays a small section in a new piece or for each piece she is to play during a practicing session. Use your own creative imagination to help motivate your child. Even the youngest children love flipping the beads. The Practice Shoppe has about 130 different fun designs!
Following the rules of the game: connect 4 discs in a row to win = repeat 4 times in row before practicing the next thing. Assign one color for correct repetition, and the other color for incorrect - the student will then have a clear visual of how many times they played something correctly vs. incorrectly. Always aim to have MORE correct times than incorrect! And of course the fun part - pulling out the bottom lever to let all the discs drop out!
These can be used just like the dice to generate random practice numbers - use for repetition, selecting measures/sections, or number of minutes to practice.
OR ... use your iPad or iPhone and spin the wheel with this app: Decide Now!
See my Music Apps page for more ideas.
Unlike adults, young children have not yet developed - or are only just beginning to - the intellectual and emotional ability to understand and appreciate delayed gratification, long-term progress, self-discipline, or self-motivation - Qualities that are especially beneficial in music study! They often need a little extra boost, and some external motivation to help them along the way.
Most young students love stickers, so these are appealling, visual aides that you can use to motivate students and reward achievements. They can learn valuable skills: responsibility, traking progress, self-evaluation, completing tasks, achieving goals. Come up with your own goals for the chart (minutes of practice, number of days practiced in a row, etc) and create a personalized reward for completing the chart - maybe letting your child choose a favorite meal, dessert, activity or prize.
Made by Wittner. They also have a penguin and an owl. It's not really a "toy", but it certainly does make it more FUN to practice with a metronome! I have an 8 year old student who LOVES his owl metronome - he looks forward to using it whenever he can!