Need advise with 3 year old practice time

Kirsten said: Oct 28, 2014
 103 posts

Hi Emmy,

I’m a teacher, not a parent, but it does seem that you are doing very well. Really young children often need shorter practice times, sometimes even starting at only 4 or 5 minutes at a time, so they can build their concentration and patience. This may be why your teacher suggested several practice times each day. The most important thing is to make sure your 3 year old is engaged with what you are doing. Maybe don’t worry too much if you can’t get through every assignment at every practice. What you miss in the morning you can do later in the day. Limit your sessions to how long you can keep her actively learning. If this is 20 minutes 2x per day, just keep up the good work and know that you are doing well.


Emmy said: Oct 29, 2014
 9 posts

Thanks, Kirsten, for your response. I will try to make sure that she is engaged in the activity rather than trying to get all the assignments in. Probably the more frequent the practice the better, but twice a day is so far what I can handle, and see how she progresses in several months and evaluate if more frequency is needed for her or not. Thank you!

Man said: Nov 4, 2014
 Violin, Voice, Viola
13 posts

Hi, Emmy (and Smjl98112).

That sounds great what you’re doing, and I’d agree w/ Kirsten.

I too am in similar boat although each of my 3 kids started somewhat later than each of yours. Our oldest 2 started w/in a 1/2-year span ~8.5 years ago when they were both 7-to-8-yo—they are only 15 months apart in age—while my wife was pregnant w/ our youngest. And our youngest officially began 3 years ago when she was almost 5-yo… because we felt she just wasn’t quite ready before then—we would’ve started her much earlier, if we felt she was ready.

Of course, if we apply Suzuki philsophy wholistically, kids actually begin long before they ever officially start private lessons… and that’s definitely how it was for our youngest, who got to hear her siblings (and I) practice, listen and play throughout her infancy and early childhood beforehand. I actually also did some little things like train her to recognize the open A and the G# below—something that the older kids’ teacher normally do as well as it typically being played by the accompanist (for the bow)—as well as 5ths thru singing games of sorts (much like one sees in the Do-Rei-Mi sequence in the Sound of Music). And there are of course other things that we can do before officially starting lessons.

For our youngest, she has been so immersed that she essentially assumes music and violin, in particular, are meant to be an intrinsic part of her… as much as anything else like regular playtime, storytelling, reading and writing, etc. Although these days she does complain about (the repetitiveness of) practicing and isn’t as eager to do so as her 1st year or so, she understands the need well enough and do often fluidly switch into a joyful attitude toward practicing if we keep it fun (in her mind)—she still can get easily distracted into something else though, and our practice sessions have remain rather “free” form for the most part instead of highly regimented. So yes, the main issue for her is a need to develop some discipline, and that won’t happen overnight. And by her age (of nearly 8-yo), I do believe we need to more steadily guide her to become more disciplined… just as w/ most other educational activities…. and gradually rely less on young children’s types of games or extra-musical incentives, etc. One thing I’ve been doing all along (for her) is my own practicing/playing (often on her fractional violin) whenever I need to wait for her to come around—in this way, she also gets some additional listening in and also witness and experience an additional example of the joy of learning and making music… although my playing is of course nowhere near as good as the recordings. Also, never underestimate how much kids appreciate that their parents are also learning and making music (or to be able to nag us about our lack of practicing, etc. ;-) ).

With our older kids, yes, we definitely went thru some growing pains particularly since they started on the late side (and I was so new to music education in general), but they both seem to have reached well beyond the point where kids might quit and have been branching out, eg. doing music well outside of our immediate Suzuki circle, including acting/singing in school musicals, taking up viola (and even having fun w/ cello and other instruments whenever they can), taking up voice lately (for which we’ll be attending an official Suzuki Voice workshop next week), etc. All 3 of them love to sing and will regularly belt out popular Broadway showtunes (on top of the usual Disney-esque stuff) whether in unison or in duets just for fun.

FWIW, there are also a few other families in our Suzuki circle(s) w/ similar situations and somewhat varying results, so my view has been somewhat informed by what I’ve also observed in them (as well as other music-loving, non-Suzuki families in our acquaintance). And these days I also have 2 young niece and nephew (of similar age to our youngest) who are either doing Suzuki or something else for their training (on cello and piano)—both look upto my older kids and receive some exposure thru them while the slightly younger one, who’s not doing Suzuki, also benefits from his mother’s very-well-trained piano background (on top of his grandmother’s own music background) and is currently doing both piano and cello (and might add a little voice). Can’t wait to see if the 3 little cousins might some day form a fine (and fun!) musical trio as they progress… ;-) :-)



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