How to Get Your Kid to Practice the Piano (or Any Instrument)

How to Get Your Kid to Practice the Piano (or Any Instrument)

Parents frequently ask me how to get their kids to spend more time playing their instruments. And I have good news! I think there are a lot of things parents can do to support their children's musical development and encourage them to play more. Here are a few of my top tips for parents of elementary school-aged children:

Free Printable: A New Ukulele Coloring Page for the New Year

free uke coloring page.jpg

Happy 2018!

The original ukulele coloring page has been getting a lot of traffic lately, so for my first post of the year I thought it would be fun to share a new free printable. Shawna created this super cute coloring page based on the photo used on my homepage. Just a dinosaur chilling with a ukulele, no biggie. 

My kids received some new art supplies for Christmas, and this coloring page feels like the perfect excuse to get them out. I'll be printing out at least one copy for myself, too. How many will you print? :) 

Bringing Your Child to Private Lessons

I know how hard it is to coordinate childcare and find a class that's held at a time that's convenient to your schedule. That's why I've created the private lesson package, which gives you the option of bringing your child to lessons with you! 

  A Duplo scene created by a three year-old during his mom's private lesson

A Duplo scene created by a three year-old during his mom's private lesson

Private lessons are held in my home in West San Jose. Please plan to arrive a few minutes ahead of time to allow your child an opportunity to settle in before we get started. Children who attend the lessons typically enjoy the novelty of being in a home environment with new-to-them toys. However, if your child has a favorite toy or activity, please consider bringing it to the lesson with you. You’re also welcome to bring a snack for your child. 

Babies

Your baby’s needs come first, and we fit the lesson plan around them. Babies love hanging out on a soft blanket and listening to their parent sing and play. If your baby likes to be worn, please bring your carrier to the lessons. The ukulele is very lightweight and small, and it's fairly easy to play while baby-wearing (front or back). You may find your baby enjoys your playing so much that s/he falls asleep during the lesson! 

Toddlers

Children this age have pretty short attention spans and may try to join in the fun when they see mommy trying to focus on the lesson! I've seen a wide range of behaviors, and we work around your child's needs— some toddlers prefer to stay right next to their parent during the first lesson while others play nearby with blocks or color with crayons. By your second or third class, your child will likely have adjusted to the structure of the lessons and will be more likely to engage in the age-appropriate activities I have set out prior to your visit. 

Preschoolers

Kids in this age range are more likely to partake in activities like coloring, play-doh, or building with blocks or train tracks. Prior to your arrival, I set-up some play stations based on your child's interests. They tend to stay happily engaged in the activities, which makes for a smooth lesson for you! 

School-Aged Children

If your school-aged child is attending the lesson with you, I recommend you have them bring along whatever activity (book to read, activity book and markers, etc.) you think will work best. 

Special Needs

If your child has special needs, please contact me to discuss arrangements. 

 

Have a question? Please email me at:  hello@musicalmama.com or get in touch through my contact form

Super Simple DIY: Easter Egg Maracas

Last week I was tasked to come up with an activity for my son's kindergarten class. I was looking for a quick, non-messy project the kids could do easily, and a friend shared this idea with me: easter egg maracas!

This is a great all-ages crafts. I'm obviously partial to music-related crafts, and it was a convenient way to use up the surplus of Easter eggs we had acquired this year. The kids all seemed to enjoy making the shakers and then playing with them on the playground afterward, and I had just as much fun as the kids did!

You can find several versions of this craft on Pinterest, but they're all about the same. I followed the version posted on the blog Made Everyday with Dana

 

Supplies: 

  • Plastic easter eggs (the small ones work best)
  • Popcorn kernels (rice, dried beans, or lentils would work, too)
  • Plastic spoons 
  • Washi tape (Amazon affiliate link)

Instructions:

  1. Fill a plastic egg with popcorn kernels. 
  2. Nest the egg between two spoons. 
  3. Secure the maraca by wrapping tape around the egg and spoons (little hands may need assistance). You can opt to tape just a few key spots, or go crazy (like my kids did) and wrap up the entire instrument in washi tape. 
  4. Shake it!

 

Considering how easy this project is, the maracas make a surprisingly satisfying sound and would work perfectly at your next family jam

Family Jam Time!

Today my daughter and I had our first play-along jam session in a long time. I recommend them to students all the time, but I hadn't realized we had fallen out of the habit of it in my own home! 

 

What is a Jam? 

Our jams are inspired by the play-alongs that occur in Music Together classes. We simply get out our kid instruments, crank up a song, and play along to the music! If you don't have a basket of instruments, break out the wooden spoons and pots and pans, and take a quick look around the house to see what else might be turned into a noise maker. :)

 

MM: Favorite Disney Songs for Family Jams

Since my daughter listens almost exclusively to Disney soundtracks, we were jamming to songs from Frozen, Moana, and Tangled. We had so much fun that I created a playlist for us to reference the next time. Wanna hear it? I've created the playlist in Apple Music/iTunes and Spotify

What's in it for the Grown-Ups

As a mom, I'm partial to activities that are stimulating for my kids AND me. I don't just do these play-alongs to humor my children. I totally get into them and probably get a little too carried away! But honestly, there's a lot that beginning musicians can get out of these jam sessions. 

Hone your vocals. 

The personalities singing these songs are very expressive and some are quite over-the-top, which I find to be great inspiration for my singing. Sing along if you know the words, and try to match the level of emotion and mood. 

Build up your endurance.

Beginning musicians can fizzle out over the course of a song (or songs). Playing along to recordings is great training for developing your stamina. The recorded music will carry you, which is easier than setting and maintaining a tempo on your own. 

Boost your mood.

One of the best things about music is its affect on our emotions. Singing whole-heartedly and shaking some egg shakers or buzzing on a kazoo can totally perk me up and turn me into a more joyful, peaceful parent. And that's something everyone benefits from. 

 

What's in it for the Kids

They have your attention.

There's a difference between watching your kids play and actually playing with them. You are doing something together, which makes the activity feel special. Jams are suitable for all ages and development stages, and it's a lot more fun than yet another round of Don't Break the Ice (or whatever your child might be obsessed with lately). 

Developing their musicality.

Rhythm is the most important element of music making, and your kids can learn a lot about music through this type of play. Just as you're striving to keep your playing in time with the music, so are your kids! It's so thrilling to see little ones sing along to their favorite song or bang a drum right on beat! 

Permission to be loud, Permission to be silly.

Jams are the most fun when you all let loose and get noisy. Kids love to see their parents be goofy, and this playlist is full of happy, upbeat songs that I enjoy as much as my kids do. I hope they are as big a hit in your home as they are in mine. 

 

Do you have a favorite Disney jam song that's not on the playlist? How are you making music with your kids? I'd love to hear about it

 

Free Printable: Ukulele Coloring Page

Today I'm excited to be sharing a free coloring sheet. My talented friend made it just for the MM blog, and it's got me feeling like a giant heart-eyes emoji! I love the psychedelic effect of the background pattern and the hand-drawn quality of it— it feels so modern and fresh compared to the coloring pages I'm used to seeing. 

Do you have any budding artists in your family? I'd love to see what you and your kiddos create with this. Please share your works of art over on the Musical Mama Facebook page

I've printed out a few copies on cardstock so my kids can paint with watercolors on them. I think I'll have to paint one myself. :) 

Happy coloring! 

Free Printable: A Music-Themed Word Search

word searches and uke.jpg

Do your kids love activity pages? Word searches are a big hit in my house, and I thought it would be fun to create a music-themed word puzzle to share here on the blog. I've created two versions: a simplified version for early readers and a more challenging version for school-aged children. Bonus points go to the moms and dads who play their ukuleles while their kids work on the word search! ;) 

Click on the images above to be taken to the downloadable PDF files. Enjoy! 

Easy Word Search (for early readers) 

Hard Word Search (for school-aged kids)

My Musical Gift Guide for Children

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If you have kid-friendly instruments around the house, it's easy to turn your ukulele practice into a family jam session! All of the instruments I'm recommending come from years of being tested in my own home. They've held up to years of use (and abuse) and still sound great! 

My All-Time Favorites Kid Instruments

When you think of rhythm instruments, you might think of drums. But really, there's an array of instruments that fit this category that can add dynamic sound to your family jams at home. Rhythm instruments are great because there's no learning curve. Odds are, your kid already knows how to bang on things, so all of these options work for babies, toddlers, big kids, and even adults!   

 

Tambourines 

Tambourines are an easy way to add a friend in to the mix. I recommend buying a "real" one versus a kids' version. The sound will be much fuller and that alone will make it more fun to play. And if it's too big for your child's hand, don't let that stop them from playing! Set it on the floor and have them bang on it as if it was a drum!    

 

Egg Shakers

Babies get pretty thrilled when they discover that they can make music on their own! These shakers are a great size for tiny hands, and they make a surprisingly nice sound. Babies love to mouth them, but there's no danger of choking with these perfect-sized shakers. We frequently bring these on road trips so we can rock out to the radio on long drives. 

 

Jingle Bell Bracelets

These jingle bells are perfect for when you're singing holiday songs at home. They can be worn as bracelets or simply held in the hand to add a fun rhythmic element to your singalong at home.  

 

Floor Drum:

Babies and toddlers have a great time banging on this durable drum, and it's a little easier to stomach one (relatively small) floor drum than a full drum kit! It includes two soft-head mallets for playing, but it's just as fun to tap out rhythms with your hands. 

 

My Personal Favorite: Resonator Bells

These individual xylophone keys are fun to play all at once, sure, especially if you like to tap out melodies. But if you want your child to sound in tune with your ukulele, give them just the 1 and 5 tones for whatever key you're playing in (what I'm saying makes sense if you've gone through the Foundations beginner course!). For instance, if you're playing in the key of C, have them bang on the C and G bells; if you're playing in the key of G, give them the G and D notes to play.  

Baby-proofing note: the black tips of the little mallets have repeatedly fallen off of our sticks, so please be careful if you have a child who likes to mouth objects. 

Don't Forget About Hand-Me-Downs 

When you begin the Foundations beginner course, I recommend you kickoff your ukulele adventure with a cheap starter uke. In large part, this is because I want you to have a ukulele you can hand down to your children when you're ready to upgrade your instrument. You are their role model, and it's natural for them to want to play the same instrument you're playing. 

Why I Advise Against Buying Instruments in Sets

A set like the Melissa and Doug Band in the Box is a fine shortcut to building your at-home instrument collection, and if you already have one, great! Play with what you have! But in general, I recommend buying instruments individually so that you'll have more control over your instruments as well as higher quality materials and better quality sound. 

Ready to Jam?

Once you've assembled a few kid-friendly instruments, you'll need to find a good place to keep them! I recommend stashing them in a basket or bin in your living room or whichever room you're most likely to hang out in. When your kid instruments and ukulele are nearby and easy to pick up, it makes it that much easier to host impromptu family jam sessions! And that's kind of the point of all this, isn't it? :)

Happy jamming!