Actions to the Rescue!

Updated: Aug 2, 2021

This is our last blog post on the theme of 'Communication' for July. In our earlier articles, we talked about making every word that leaves our mouth a conscious choice and on instances when non-verbal communication works best.

However, not every word or silent action that you deliver unto your child during a practice session is about giving him a reminder or feedback on his playing. There will be times when you simply want him to please just sit down and get on with the practice task already!!!

It can be hard to come up with positive words to say or to think of non-verbal cues when faced with trying situations. My suggestion here would be to lead by action or to come up with clever invitations to get the child to act out what you want him to.

Here are some real-life situations shared by our fellow studio parents and ideas on how you can communicate positively with your child through action.

"It's trying to get her to sit down and place her finger on the correct key when all she wants to do is to bang on the piano!"

"He plays fast because he wants to finish practice sooner!"

"She resists help from me or argues back about not needing to practise a piece anymore."

You could try:

1. Staging a mini challenge:

Let's see who can...

- Get their bum on the piano bench / cello stool faster

- Find the (name the note)

- Find the (name the note) using Finger number (name the finger number)

- Play the (name the note) as quietly as a mouse

Who can remember...

- What Teacher Dale / Yvette said about the shape of our fingers?

- Where the Middle C is on the piano / What is the rhythm for Twinkle A?

Let's see if you can...

- Play this section more slowly than I can (to get him to play at a slower tempo)

- Play this section more times than I can (pretend to get exhausted and 'lose' when your child reaches your desired number of repetitions)

2. Simon Says...

- To find the (name the note)

- To make the (name the note) crispy / joined

- To play the (name the note) loudly / softly

- To play this section slowly / medium / fast

3. Pretend to remember or do the practice task incorrectly

- "I remember that Teacher Dale said to make your fingers flat like pancakes so that your playing will taste more delicious. Oh wait. That doesn't sound right. Do you remember what he said and what he showed you to do?"

- "The title of this piece is 'Yodel Song' so you have to play it really loudly. Ooops, sorry, you're right - it's 'Cradle Song'. Do you think we should play it loudly still?"

- "There you go, I just played 'Cuckoo'. What? You mean that wasn't Cuckoo? It was 'Mary Had a Little Lamb'? Oh! Can you show me what Cuckoo sounds like?"

4. Engage the body parts

This is my favourite go-to solution for when a child is not open to receiving help, advice or correction from me. Or when she needs get more practice in - be it for her review pieces or the less popular left-hand piano parts.

I pretend to hear her hand or fingers talking to me, and try to get the child to help that particular body part out. For example:

- "Oh, Left Hand is kinda sad today. Because Right Hand got to play so many pieces for Mummy to enjoy today. Left Hand says it's not fair because it wants its chance to play for Mummy too. How many chances shall we give Left Hand to play today to make it feel happy?"

- "Ooops! Finger 3 missed out on his turn to play the B note! Finger 2 took his turn again! Poor Finger 3. Let's help him find the B note. I'll help to remind Finger 2 to stay away from the B for this part. The B belongs to Finger 3."

- "Oh no, Cello Elbow fainted! Let's see if he can get up and stay up on his own."

- "Hmm, Ears are saying that they miss hearing Hands play 'Lightly Row'. They haven't heard it in a long time and would really like to hear it. Shall we ask Hands to play for us? Look, they are wriggling and so excited to play! They are introducing themselves now, can you hear them? 'Hello, our name is Hands and we are going to play Lightly Row. Yaay!"

See what clever ideas you can come up with to use and to encourage action. It might make communicating instructions, feedback and reminders more effective - and definitely more fun too!

Engage those body parts!

(Thank you to the studio parents who generously shared their practice challenges through our Facebook giveaway. Let us know if any of the ideas here were effective in helping you work through these challenges - or if you came up with other ideas that worked!)

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