Our littlest one started piano lessons just before three years old. It was quite an unexpected move as I’d not planned to have him learn piano at all, but it so happened that I came across a piano teacher at Medley Music School located at SAFRA Toa Payoh Singapore and his trial lesson with her was very positive. I’d thought he might be running around the studio and not listen to the teacher at all! The impulsive me signed him up for music lessons on the spot. However, as we were making our way home, I started thinking “what did I get ourselves into? We need to PRACTICE now??!!!!” (horrors).
From that moment, I resolved that I would not, for a start, refer to it as “practice”. It’s just like how I prefer not to tell a child “you don’t need to be nervous” just before an exam or a performance. Why introduce the child to negativity before they have even gone through the experience, right? I gave it some thought, and tried to figure how I could make it part of “playtime”. His favourite was vehicles, so I made use of these in “practice”. I used his wooden train tracks on the piano keyboard! And his trains/cars as well … Some of you must be cringeing at this thought. But well, it worked. I wrote out little cards with the “tasks” that he needed to work on and placed them on the vehicles on the track that was on the keyboard. For a beginner, he had like three “task” cards: (1) Do-Re-Mi-Fa-So (Ascend), (2) So-Fa-Mi-Re-Do (Descend), (3) Froggy Froggy Jump Jump on five notes. The card sort of covered the vehicle. To uncover each vehicle, he needed to do the task on the card. After all the tasks are completed, he could move his train down the track across the keyboard. Very simple tasks since he’d just started his formal lessons at that point in time. Those three tasks probably took less than five minutes to complete. We had different variations of games. Sometimes, we just put the cards there, and he uses ONE vehicle to move from one “Task Station”(card) to the next. Sometimes, I would also let him put little animals on the track, or on the piano scorestand as his “audience”, and he would be “performing” for the animals. If he played poorly or with poor attitude, I would even turn the animals the other way to say the animals were so sad that they decided not to listen (hence, turning their back on him. It sure “tickled” him when I use the word “backside”.
(The Little One is now four and a half years old and does refer to practice as "practice" now!)
I must say that the items (or what I refer to as "tasks") were what was assigned by the respective teachers in Medley Music School. Animals on the keyboard, breaking up a song into different sections and patterns were all the piano teacher's methods. "Monkey climb, Bow rocket, "monkey jumping", were all following what the violin teacher taught in lessons. I just followed and possibly expanded on what the teachers taught for home practice. I rarely went beyond what the teacher assigned for that week. Practices are generally kept short. In the early days, both piano and violin practice session only lasted about 20 minutes.
The difference is that we practice everyday except for the days we are not at home. I think that's the key.