Often studio parents will fill us in on their practice week like this: “We did x, y, z, and then, because we felt like it, we made a little game…” or “She loved her review so much this week, she wanted to color a picture based on how each piece made her feel!” or “At the very ends of our practice, we carved out time to make up music and jam on some improv!” etc. One of my greatest joys as a teacher is when I see how the lessons I teach create opportunities for children and parents to build something together with their own flair!
After all of that list-making and thinking from the other week, it’s time to prioritize, get creative, and go practice! If you are looking for practice games, activities, or ways to keep repetitions (or the entire practice session) on track, this post is for you!
Here is a running list (we add to it all the time!) of practice ideas for you and your child as we launch into May!
Are you the type who likes to bust out a pencil and put your skills on paper? Try these ideas:
Take turns deciding what is cued up next in the practice order, and write your plan down
If you’re looking to mix it up a little in practice sessions, try writing each task you plan to accomplish in your practice on its own note card. You can randomize the order of activities to generate excitement with a “what will happen?!” vibe. If you're trying to curb feelings of resistance in your child, you can give your child the opportunity to choose the lesson order.
"Bujo" (Bullet Journal) your practice agenda with all the elements of practice you want to accomplish, the 1 or 2 biggest potential unproductive behaviors, and goals to accomplish. Create symbols and leave room to mark off each activity as it gets accomplished, and challenge your child and yourself to receive zero marks in the unproductive category. Examples for kids: talking that doesn't have to do with the task at hand, rolling around on the floor. Examples for adults: peeking at electronic devices when practice should be going on, getting angry or impatient. It can be very satisfying at the end of a session to look at the page and see exactly what all got accomplished, and what needs to be left for another session.
Working on repetitions? You can play hangman (or any letter guessing game) and let them guess a letter after every successful repetition that achieves your targeted goal.
Line game! Think of something to draw. After each repetition, draw a single line. Keep repeating until either the picture is finished, or they’ve guessed it! Neil’s favorite thing to draw is a chicken =P
For those that love games:
Practice dice are a classic way to randomize repetitions in a practice session. There are so many different options: 4-20 sided dice, and many different colors and designs... you can even find dice within dice!
If you or your child love to play board games, you could design a board game (suggestion: similar to Candy Land or Chutes & Ladders) and then fill in the slots temporarily to match tasks from the lesson that week. This could be done with a dry erase surface laminate or post-it notes, or whatever other ingenious solution you come up with! When you get different tasks from different weeks, you can change them out on the board.
Similar to above, but you can design cards to be drawn from a deck, perhaps something similar in design to Uno or Go Fish. Just a few ideas.
C is for Chili Dog Strings! (Or ceviche on your honeymoon!)
Enjoy cooking and eating together? Try these out:
If you and your child enjoy cooking together, this activity can be lots of fun! Pick a dish--I like the idea of soups or stews. In this case, let’s say chili, as we here at Chili Dog Strings love Chili! Use an ingredient of which there are many. We will use beans! Let’s say we are aiming for 500 beautiful bowholds-- count out 500 beans, and earn a bean in the jar for each beautiful bow hold. When they are all earned, you can cook some Beautiful Bow Hold Chili!
Also, since the ABC’s and Twinkle share the same tune, you can make alphabet soup with as many letters as is required in the recipe. In order to earn each letter, a Twinkle must be played, or a certain objective or goal must be completed or met.
Variation: Only the letters A-G for the musical alphabet, if you want to nerd out.
Variation: Only the letters A-E for variation letters.
Let your child pick a favorite snack and for each activity or repetition completed, they earn another snack. I have seen this done with little candies like Smarties, Skittles, and M&M's. If healthy is your thing, there are plenty of options there as well!
If you and your child enjoy reading and writing together:
If you or your child love stories, you could weave together a story based on the pieces in that practice.
You can write a mad libs and have your child fill in one of the blanks for each task that you complete. At the end of practice, you will have a silly mad lib that you both can enjoy together!
Write a poem about each piece, goal, or activity to complete. This can be especially fun when kids are learning about rhyming and meter.
Have fun making up silly words to review pieces! You can have a sing along!
If you or your child love visual art:
Illustrate/paint/color/build the practice you are going to follow for the day or week.
Create a scene that describes a chosen piece. Possible mediums: paper, paint, crayons, pencils, pens, markers, Play-Doh, Fimo clay, Legos, Knex, toy scenes/dioramas, etc.
Create art that expresses how a certain piece makes you feel.
If there are certain feelings that need to be expressed and are easily channeled through art, try setting a timer, getting it out on paper, and moving forward with your practice session.
If you have a variety of rocks, marbles, beads, plastic jewels, coins, etc., you can use these as counters for repetitions in your practice session, or as rewards.
Some ideas for you-- If you or your child are motivated by journaling, scrapbooking, or video journaling, you could create a project where you check in daily in a journal, on social media, or just in a video editor to produce documentation of your practice. Similar to the motivation provided by the #100daysofpracticechallenge, if logging is consistent, then you will have something so wonderful to look back on to track your progress together!
Have any old CD’s, brass brackets, or other supplies that you can use to make a spinner? Making a spinner where you can change out the activities in the different divisions of the spinner can give practice a fun, artistic flare.
I suggest you also check out:
Christine Wilson Goodner’s post and downloadable PDF about building a practice tool kit-- great ideas there!
Elise Winters-Huete’s video and downloadable PDF about identifying your child’s unique temperament and matching that with different practice game ideas-- great ideas here, too!
What are your favorite ways to get creative and change things up in your child’s practice?
Have you used any of the above techniques? What worked for you? We want to hear from you!