Ideas to keep practice fun for new 5yo violin player


said: Mar 21, 2007
 2 posts

Hi There,

I’m a new Suzuki parent and new to this forum as well. My daughter, S, just turned 5 a few weeks ago. We began Suzuki violin about a month ago. She spent the first several weeks with the box violin and just graduated up to a real violin last week.

Initially, she was very excited to go to lessons and practice with me. Lately, however, she’s been less interested. I think this is partly because she hasn’t started actually playing music yet and all the pre-violin skills we’ve been working on are getting boring for her.

I’ve been keeping our practicing sessions very short—only 5 minutes or so. I’ve also been trying to come up with ideas on how to make our practice time fun and motivating for her.

Today she’s going to ‘teach’ her doll and I’m going to video it for her. She’s excited about that and actually wants to practice today. I’d love to hear any other suggestions from parents or teachers on how to make practice time appealing for my daughter. I’m hoping when we get more into playing music, motivation will be less of an issue. But now, it seems I’ve got to do everything I can to keep her interested!!

I’m looking forward to your ideas!!!


Christine said: Mar 21, 2007
 22 posts

I just emailed this list to a friend of mine. Our violin teacher has been giving us new practice ideas each week. You’ll need to adapt them to whatever your child is working on.

“6″ things a day—pick 6 things to practice. For example—10 perfect bow holds (counts as 1 thing), some drill work on the working piece, 3 review pieces, preview for next piece.

Birthday Candle—Light a birthday candle (make some type of holder) and have that be the length of the practice session.

Violin Tour—take the student “on tour” —playing something different in each room of the house (the big tome produced in the bathroom is very exciting!), in a different place in the yard, or at different neighbor’s or relative’s homes.

Student as Parent—Let the student be the parent for one day of practice. This can have mixed blessings because a parent will often see his own behavior reflected in that of the child’s.

25 minutes = 25 cents—practice for 25 minutes, earn 25 cents.

Recital - Plan a recital for stuffed animals, friends, family, etc. and make a program and decorate it. Practice for a week in preparation and let the child decide the pieces that will be played, what favorite cookies will be served, etc. Set up a stage and make a spotlight!

Dice - Roll a dice to determine the number of repetitions of a piece or for drill work (ex—play this section the number of times you roll on the dice.) Or, roll the dice to determine the piece to play. Ex—1 = Twinkle variation A, 2 = variation B, etc.) Buy a package of math dice—these dice have more sides with higher numbers.

Deck of cards - like the dice game,, only use cards. Assign pieces to each card. Have child pick cards to determine the pieces to play and the order.

Draw a name—write the piece names on pieces of paper. Put in a hat and draw to determine piece to play and order. Or put practice item on paper (bow holds, scales, etc.)

Silly Cards - make silly cards and let child draw a silly card as a reward. Ex—stand on one foot, stick out your tongue, sing the piece, play pizzicato. For example, if child needs to play twinkle and draws “stick out your tongue,” must play twinkle with tongue out the whole time. It’s quite amusing.

Make a video—regularly video tape your child playing violin. You’ll be amazed at the progress they make.

Chip Game—use “chips” (pennies, marbles, any kind of token). Set a goal—for example, keeping thumb bent while playing piece or keeping a good violin posture for entire piece. Give child and parent 5 chips each. If child meets goal, gets a chip from parent. If misses goal, parent gets a chip. Keep playing until someone has all of the chips.

said: Mar 22, 2007
 13 posts

Thanks for your question, I will use some of the ideas myself.

My son Simon is 4 and we started Suzuki violin about five months ago. He’s less than interested in practicing with me, although he likes group class. I have backed down, right now my practicing goal is that the violin comes out every day, and he plays something (anything). Practicing is like brushing teeth, you just do it every day.

We are somewhat aided by an enthusiastic younger brother (2 yo). So right now he “plays”, I play, and Simon plays something (or “nothing”, playing and singing “nothing, nothing”). We often make up texts to match the first Twinkle rhythm. About his toys or friends or the cars in his favorite Car movie. Sometimes he holds the violin and I play with the bow.

So I try to keep expectations low, right now as I said, anything played on the violin counts as practice. My more long-term goal (or hope) is that by summer, he will play some of the first exercises himself.

said: Mar 31, 2007
 2 posts

I think that you should found what is your boy’s favorite game/play, and introduce the violin with that game. My daughter (4y and 9 months) loves to play with dolls. So, we use her violin (1/16) as a baby doll. She really likes to play with her “Pilly” wich is the name she choose for her violin, she talks to “her”, change the (imaginary) diapers and so on. The bow is the milk bottle. By now, we are working in “Long, Long Ago”, and when we play that song (feed the baby), “Pilly” “starts smelling” and it’s time for us to change the diappers. My daughter wants to repeat the same song over and over, so she practice the new song several times.

Jennifer said: May 11, 2007
Jennifer Moberg Pforte
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Islamabad`, Pakistan
71 posts

suzukimom2—- what a great list! if you don’t mind i’m going to post that on my website and give it to all the parents as well…..

very concise : )

“Music exists for the purpose of growing an admirable heart.”

Christine said: May 13, 2007
 22 posts

ms jennifer—glad you find the list of games helpful. Please feel free to share them.

said: May 28, 2007
 5 posts

… I read to my almost 5-year old in-between playing. I’ve heard so many times that you have to find your child’s currency… and reading to my daughter is definitely her thing. I figure, whatever works…;-) We read a few pages, we play a few repetitions of a piece. Chapter books work really well for this, especially if you can cut it on a bit of a cliff-hanger: “Hmmm.. now I wonder what Milly Molly Mandy is going to find under that bush… let’s play Song of the Wind a few times and then we’ll find out…”.


Pia said: May 30, 2007
34 posts

My son used to be very fond of my “envelope game”; I took a “baby-chicken” (toy) and placed it on the table, this baby-chicken had lost its nest and my son had to help finding it. I put different small things in envelops and hang them on a rope, after one successfull repetition he would choose one envelope and open it. He would continue so long until he had found this baby-chickens nest. This game accompanied us through the difficult pre-twinkle-time, I used it for the endless repetitions of learning to place the fingers.. (I recommend making up suitable words for this pre-twinkle song). I also use to have small cups that I turn upside- down and in one of them I have hidden a candy, for each succesfull repetition my son could lift one of the cups. I also use animals for each of the twinkle-rhythms (for ex. var.4 is “butterfly” and so on). Each of this rhythms I have as a stuffed animal and my son was very eager to play for each of them their “own” Twinkle-Variation. (the stuffed animals “talked” to him afterwords and always thanked him so much for playing their Variation.. Maybe of some help?! In any case i wish you Good luck(Sorry for my english—I am chatting from abroad..!)

Anna said: Aug 4, 2008
 145 posts

I have a babushka doll. Every time they play a repetition, I open a doll.When they get to the second last doll I have a sweet in it, instead of the tiny doll.

Joan said: Sep 4, 2008
 24 posts

Great ideas and input, everyone! Hope you don’t mind if I pass these along to the parents in my studio as well. I’m a bit of a picky teacher, so I’m always looking for more ideas to help kids get through those pesky repetitions!

Jennifer said: Oct 26, 2008
Jennifer Moberg Pforte
Suzuki Association Member
Violin, Viola
Islamabad`, Pakistan
71 posts

what fantastic tips! i love that they not only make repetitions bearable, but practice really fun as well… here are some other things i do:

  • i love the ‘ten times perfect’ bead violin from young musicians online. it’s a little violin shape with a wire holding 10 beads— just flick one over for each repetition. so simple, but the kids adore it
  • abacus- flick a bead for each rep— again, simple but a good visual. montessori products are great for this
  • for the kids that are getting grumpy and grumbly about repetitions, i will sometimes place a random object on top of my head for each rep. they do. this sounds and looks ridiculous, but that is the whole point— the kids will do an unearthly number of gossec gavotte slurs just to see how many folders you can stick on your head. they will also then want to do it themselves, which will help improve a slumpy posture!!
  • play a repetition/song in each different room of the house. this may be onerous in the states where you have many many rooms, but here, where the average home tops out at 5 rooms it’s ok
  • have the child do each repetition doing a different physical thing; sticking out tongue, closing eyes, standing on one foot, doing fishy mouth, mouth wide open, one eye closed, making rabbit face, wiggling bottom etc etc. for a silly bonus rep have them try to do all of the things at the same time…….
  • for the very reluctant child, take turns. teacher plays one rep, mom plays one rep, student plays one, etc etc etc. then have mom make an intentional mistake and see if the student can id and fix it

there are just a million things to do. the challenge is to keep it lighthearted and fun, especially if you happen to be dealing with the 2-4 year old crowd.

“Music exists for the purpose of growing an admirable heart.”

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