How can you expand the games and activities you already use and bring some fresh ideas to your child's practice session?
This article covers 24 new games and activities that you can use in your practice sessions.
This article uses the gaming genres discussed in my introduction to Practice Games.
In writing this article, I realized that families could easily import one of my studio's biggest motivators into their own homes.
In my studio, I use a 3-ring binder with individual sheets of paper for different "subject areas" in our lesson. When students finish a new song, I rip the accompanying paper out of the binder, write their name on it, and put it up on the wall.
Many kids look forward to hanging their "green sheet" (I use green paper for new material). Some count to see how many sheets they, and other students, have up on the wall. Every time you walk into my studio, you can't help but notice these signs of success.
You can import this visible sign of success into your own home by using games and activities that incorporate paper or other hangable items into your practice routine. Once your child finishes the task, hang it in a visible place. Ideally, you'll end up with an entire wall showing your child how much they've practiced.
If you place it somewhere where guests will see, they'll be sure to ask about it. These questions will allow your child to feel pride and identify themselves as a musician. This pride will lead to intrinsic motivation and a virtuous cycle of practice.
The Practice Games
I grouped these games in the three genres I detail in my Intro To Practice Games post. I've also placed a star next to items that use paper or other hangable things.
Draw A Picture
Each time your child plays a correct repetition, draw a single line of a drawing. Your child can try to guess the drawing. Bonus points if you're able to keep your child guessing until you draw the very last line.
This game is most effective with younger kids. Each time your child does the required task (a single repetition, or sitting still until you count to 20, etc.), wind up the toy and let it go. I have a small frog that does backflips.
Fold up a piece of paper in the traditional manner for cutting a snowflake. Each time your child plays a correct repetition, make a single cut. Once you're done, hang it up on the wall. You can download some templates here. https://www.firstpalette.com/printable/snowflake.html
Each time your child plays a correct repetition, color in a single picture segment on a coloring book.
Find some blocks, legos, Jenga blocks, or other stacking toys. With each correct repetition, your child gets to stack a block (try to place it close by so they don't need to set the instrument down between each repetition).
You're getting the idea by now. Each time your child plays a correct repetition, you or your child place a puzzle piece.
Dominoes (line 'em up)
Stand a domino on its short edge for each correct repetition, making a line of dominos. When your child plays the agreed-upon amount, let them knock them over.
These require some craft time to create. They're mostly used for knitting. Make one with ten beads. I hang mine off my guitar tuners and pull one bead down for each correct repetition.
Stack legos for each correct repetition. If you have a set of instructions, you can follow the instructions for an incredible feeling of accomplishment.
Your kid will love this game of pure chance. It's a small crocodile. There's a "sensitive" tooth and, when kids press it, the crocodile lunges forward, and its mouth closes on their hands. In normal gameplay, kids take turns pushing the teeth. For use in practice, just let your child press a tooth each time they play a correct repetition. When the crocodile snaps, you stop repeating and move onto the next practice segment.
This game is another game of chance that your child will love. It has an "Eww, gross" factor. Boogers hang out of Louie's head. When your child pulls the wrong booger, his head pops open, and his brain flies out. Let your child pull a booger for each correct repetition. When the brain flies out, stop repeating and move onto the next lesson segment.
HI Ho! Cherry-O
Another classic kid's game that teaches counting and helps build fine motor skills. For each cPictureorrect repetition, your child takes a turn.
3 Penny Game
The goal is to play three times in a row correctly. Put 3 pennies (or another object) on one side of the music stand. Each time your child plays a correct repetition, move a penny to the other side of the music stand. If there is an error in a play-through, move all pennies back and start over.
For this game, use a song or piece that your child knows very well. As your child is playing through, yell, "Freeze!". Your child freezes. When you say "Thaw!", your child resumes playing where they left off (compare to Silence is Golden)
Silence is Golden
Again, your child needs to know a song very well for this game. As your child is playing through the song or piece, whisper, "Shh!". Your child stops playing but needs to keep hearing the music in their head. Say "Play!" and your child continues playing from where they would be if they hadn't stopped. This internal singing helps develop the skill of hearing music in your head.
Your child plays a song. You make movements to tell a child to play loud or soft and/or fast or slow. Big, rapid movements would be quick and loud. Small, slow movements would be slow and gentle. Mix it up, and you can even challenge your child by changing what the signals mean (i.e., big means soft). No need to keep a steady beat or be a pro-conductor; have fun with your kid.
Give your child instructions using the typical "Simon Says" game. This game is a fun way to teach kids how to get into the proper posture. You can also challenge your child by using it while they are playing a song, i.e., "Simon says, play faster" or "Simon Says leave out the note A."
This game is useful for helping your child relax their body and release tension. Primarily used while your child is playing, it can also reinforce good posture and tension management ideas. As your child is playing, say "Melting Snowman" (or, optionally, add in a body part, i.e., "Melting Snowman Shoulder"). Your child attempts to relax their body. Then say "Freezing Snowman," and your child tenses up again. Finally, end with "Melting Snowman." This alternation of tension and release of tension will help your child feel the difference between the two states.
Give your child a few notes to play in order, using whatever naming system your child uses (Do, Re, Mi or A, B, C, etc.). Have your child repeat it. Make it longer as your child gets more comfortable.
Pick a song and pick a note that your child will not play. For example, leave all of the C notes out of the song. Alternatively, pick a finger that your child won't use in a song. The best practice is that there is a moment of silence in place of the missing notes.
Play Connect 4; if your child plays the musical passage well, they take a turn. If not, you take a turn. Alternatively, you can use a Connect 4 game as an alternation game. Your child can create simple red and white pictures (with your help). For example, your child could build a Smiley Face as they put in their repetitions.
Play "Go Fish"; if your child plays the musical passage correctly, they get to ask for a card. If not, you get to ask for a card.
The best practice would be to place your child's cards on a music stand or elsewhere (so they don't have to pick them up after each play-through. That would eat up a lot of time).
You're getting the idea now. If your child plays their passage well, they take a turn. If not, you take a turn. Keep the cards visible, if possible.
You can play this game in two ways. Either you or your child can pull out a Jenga block when your child plays well. You could decide at the beginning who pulls or let your child decide after each good play-through who pulls the block. I'd probably stick to the child pulling the block whenever they have a mis-play, though.
One nice sequence for a practice session would be to play the "Reverse Jenga" Accumulation game (see above). At a later point in the lesson and with new material, play this version of Jenga.
If you'd like other ways to improve your child's practice routines, learn more about how to communicate effectively in this article. As always, leave a comment below with any questions.