The “Other Sibling” Dilemma

Nora Friedman said: Sep 14, 2016
Nora Friedman
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki in the Schools
Brooklyn, NY
36 posts

Hi everyone,

This semester I am teaching a violin parents’ class. As always, I expect the question of what to do during practice time with siblings who are not taking an instrument to come up. This question always stumps me. 

I am wondering if you have any tips at all that have worked for you in the past. We have families with two or more children who are too little to start playing an instrument yet. 

My hope is to compile a document of ideas for new families. I know your time is precious, so don’t worry about civilities or long paragraphs. one sentence or a quick list is great. 

Thanks for your help!

Janejira Cervone said: Sep 14, 2016
Janejira Cervone2 posts

We live in a very safe, small, college town. My little one often falls asleep in the car on our way to the lesson. I would park (windows open) right by the window of the church building where I could see her during the half-hour piano lesson. Alternatively, if she comes to class, she plays with the toys provided by the church/teacher. Or bringing her favorite activity along is helpful.

Jennifer Visick said: Sep 14, 2016
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki Early Childhood Education, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
1072 posts

just a small note… I had a younger sibling join group class for the first time who said, during the group class, surreptitiously to the mom—”I used to be able to watch videos” -

Which made me think that perhaps it’s not a good idea to allow the younger sib to completely seal themselves off with screen & headphones during the group class if you want them to
A) get the benefit of learning before beginning formal lessons by hearing what’s going on in the class and
B) be eager to join the class at some future date

Vanamali Medina said: Sep 15, 2016
Vanamali Medina
Suzuki Association Member
Minneapolis, MN
7 posts

I have a 3.5 and 1.5yo, so I’m in the trenches with this. Quite honestly, there’s no easy solution unless you have a complacent younger kid who doesn’t mind being alone. The sound of the piano, however, is an instant draw to #2—and for good reason. After all, at every other time of the day, she’s welcomed, invited, and encouraged to join us and then suddenly we’re telling her to go away.

So, some things your parents can consider:

2nd adult present to take baby somewhere far away before practice begins. Play music in the basement, read books in the back bedroom, go to the park. Ideally, they’ll never know it happened.

Place practice during baby’s nap time or after their bed time, letting older child stay up a little later.

Have some practice time with baby first, so they get bored. Best as an addition to other methods since it won’t always work.

Stick baby in front of screen.

In our house, it’s the last one. We don’t consistently have both of us home at practice time and at baby nap time, 3.5yo is fried and practice doesn’t work well. So we practice after dinner and #2 gets to watch PBS Kids for a bit or pop bubbles on my tablet. Do I feel awesome about it? Nope. But it works consistently and it won’t be forever.

Nora Friedman said: Sep 22, 2016
Nora Friedman
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Suzuki in the Schools
Brooklyn, NY
36 posts

Thank you so much, all of you, for your thoughtful comments. These are wonderful suggestions, and I would love to hear more!

Edward said: Oct 5, 2016
Edward Obermueller
Suzuki Association Member
Morris Plains, NJ
73 posts
Stacy Smith said: Oct 5, 2016
Stacy SmithInstitute Director
Suzuki Association Member
8 posts

This is the story of my life. I have a 7 year old cellist, and a 5 year old violinist, along with a busy 2 year old. There are multpile hours of practicing each day and multiple lessons, groups, and performances nearly every week. My 2 year old is in the middle of it, all the time. Usually, we resort to letting him play on the ipod. It’s not a perfect solution, but honestly, there’s no other way for us to get the practicing done without the toddler screaming, banging on the piano, demanding it’s his turn to play, or getting into trouble. (Oh the list of naughty things he has done during practice time is long and distinguished,)

ON the flip side, my youngest is the picture perfect suzuki baby. He cries for violin or cello when we’re in the car, can sing all the book 1 pieces in tune, will run to brother’s foot chart and bow at the end of the lesson as if he’s asking for his turn, and wants to play an instrument more than any kid I’ve ever seen. So it’s hard, super hard, sometimes painfully hard to juggle multiple young kids during practicing, but I think it’s worth it. Both for the kids taking lessons and the younger siblings.

Erin & Christopher Palmer said: Nov 13, 2016
25 posts

Before my little one started lessons, we always practices once she was in bed. The later time was the older girls time with mom and dad. Now that she plays too, she is happy to stay away :) I have 8 year old twins who play violin and cello, and a 5-year old violinist. Older girls started at 5 when the little one was 2.

Genevieve said: Nov 19, 2016
Genevieve Schirm-Joyce
Suzuki Association Member
Cello, Suzuki Early Childhood Education
2 posts

I am a Suzuki cello teacher and have 3 children: 6, 4 and 2. When my oldest started cello at 3 it was quite difficult to do his practices. My then 1 year old would be all over his cello. I started doing practices in the car. Finger number sings, singing to the cd, rhythms etc. I eventually did his practice before my husband went to work (7 in the morning) because I teach late every night. I now do the 6 year olds cello practice and 4 year olds violin. My almost 2 year old has his viola practice with my 4 year old. He has his foam viola, does his bow, rhythms, bow games with the dowel bow etc. Her teacher has been incorporating him into her lessons and we co-teach the beginner group class and he participates. I would strongly suggest to try and involve the younger sibling in some of the practice. Seeing where the younger two are is amazing because they have been part of being students since before birth. My toddler is getting is own viola for his birthday

You must log in to post comments.

A note about the discussion forum: Public discussion forum posts are viewable by anyone. Anyone can read the forums, but you must create an account with your email address to post. Private forums are viewable by anyone that is a part of that private forum's group. Discussion forum posts are the opinion of the poster and do not constitute endorsement by or official position of the Suzuki Association of the Americas, Inc.

Please do not use the discussion forums to advertise products or services