Friday, October 26, 2012

How to Practice with a 3 Year Old

My darling daughter, Caroline, has been wanting to play the violin since she could walk!  This is one of my favorite pictures of her as a toddler climbing up on the piano to play one of the violins.  She knew she wasn't supposed to do it!  That's why she has a mischievous look on her face.

I've let her play on a little tiny violin for years now, but finally I've decided to make an effort to practice with her every day.  My other kids take from another wonderful teacher, but because of time and money I've decided to take on being her teacher for a while.  She's 3 years and 4 months old now.

I've had several people ask how I can teach {practice} with such young children.  Here is a little glimpse of how we practice each day.

1. First of all, you need a darling little child.  Students in my studio can start as young as age 3, but its sometimes easier for the parent to wait until age 4 or 5.  I know a teacher who is teaching some 2 year olds this fall.  It's possible, it just takes time and patience.  Practicing with a young child can sure be fun, though!  They love to learn new things and play fun games!

2. I start all my students on a foot chart.  This keeps them focused at the lesson and during practicing.  It's customized for them and I let them color or do whatever they want with it.  This foot chart is made out of vinyl that I got at Joanns.  You can make 4 foot charts out of 1 yard of vinyl.  I've seen other teachers make them out of folder files, paper, you can even buy them online premade with feet and rhythms.

3.  I keep a practice book to organize my practicing.  Since I'm teaching my own child I fill out another chart every 7 days with updated material.  I let Caroline put stickers on when she wants with the things that we've practiced.  You can make your own practice books like I did, or they can even be found premade online.  

4.  The downloads at the Practice Shoppe have so many fun charts.  Kids this age love charts, stickers, and goals.  This particular chart is for 100 bow holds.  When she finished the chart she will get a prize out of my prize box - and have a beautiful bow hold!

5.  Of course, an instrument is important.  I often start 3 year olds on a foam-a-lin, but Caroline has been playing around with the real thing since she was one so I just let her use her own violin.  Notice I have to put lots of stickers and stuff on the violin to help her, especially on her bow.

6.  I have lots of these bead counters at my house and my kids and students use them a lot.  This is great for all types of practicing.  This week we do a bow hold then flip a bead (the later I mark her chart).  Maybe next week it will be the amount of times she plays a little pretwinkle song.  The goal always changes, but the bead counter is always a constant 10 TIMES!  No quitting until you've done it 10 times.
7.  Magic wands are a wonder with little kids.  OK - they aren't magic, but I tell them they are.  I first start off with practicing bow hold on a magic want.   This is a picture of the wand rubber-banded to the violin to help with playing straight on the highway.  You can also use a pencil, but the wand is so much more FUN!  I can even still hang up the violin with the wand on the violin.
8.  Another gadget we practice with is the "elbow stick."  I'm not sure who came up with this idea, but it's great for practicing opening up the elbow and singing all the pretwinkle songs.  It's just a dowel and sprinkler part with some rubber bands to provide a stop for the sprinkler part.  We sing all our sings with it every day.  I have to help her a lot still, but she's gradually getting so she can do it on her own.  Another way to practice this movement is by doing "soaps" which is just rubbing the bow hand up and down the violin arm while doing the twinkle rhythms.  We do both. 

I hope this gave you some good ideas about practicing with young children.  It can be a challenge at times, but oh so fun!  And it's awesome to be able to show other people that your amazing children can do something hard like play the violin!

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