how to keep 2 year olds interested in practicing the violin?

said: Dec 13, 2006
 5 posts

I’ve just found out about the forum & I’m so glad it exists. It’s much easier to deal with smth other people have been through. I’ve looked through some topics here & have similar problems on how to keep the little ones interested since it’s the crucial in Suzuki method. But in my case it’s a 2 1/2 year old. I don’t expect much from him & understand it takes time to master each step on the way to improvement. I’m also dealing with the switching of his attention to other things during practice & the lessons. I understand it’s a normal reaction at this age. But the question I wouild really like to get any advice on is how to get my son to listen to the teacher & follow his instructions. We started 2 months ago & my son was doing great, but I see him losing the spark now. He started to say he doesn’t want to practice & doesn’t know how to do this or that though he did it successfully before. Our teacher never had students of this age, he usually starts with 3 or 4 year olds, so he’s trying to find the right approach too. So, may be somebody have already been though all this & can share some creative ideas. Thank you in advance & appreciate your help.

Thank you, Tosha.

said: Dec 13, 2006
 32 posts

Two things jump out at me:

  1. When a child (especially this young) says they don’t want to, it often means it is perceived as too hard. Even if you are “sure” he can do everything he is asked to do, you might consider backing off on new things.

  2. Practice MUST be a game! This is a very large topic on its own, and I have limited time here. But look into games to practice. Also, a practice session at this age is probably a couple of minutes on the average. Don’t expect too much.

  3. (Ok, one more thing <img src=" /> ) You mention how to get him to listen to his teacher more….I would really expect his portion of the lesson to be 5 minutes or so, and the remainder of the time spent teaching you. If you are expecting him to pay attention for even a full 15 minutes, you may be expecting too much. Also, part of Suzuki is learning how to focus, so hopefully your teacher is working on that.

Lastly, just remember that 2 1/2 is pretty young, especially for a boy. This does not mean he can’t do it. (I have successfully had students that age.) But do not expect too much; you should be fostering a love of music and also a habit of music. Those should be the primary goals.

Rachel Schott said: Dec 13, 2006
Rachel SchottViolin
Harrogate, TN
127 posts

Well put, Perky!

said: Dec 13, 2006
 5 posts

Hi, Perky
Thanks for saring your thoughts. I really appreciate it &I guess you are right. So to say bull’s eye! My son is young & on the whole he is willing to participate, but may be I really push too hard & at the back of my mind I do expect much. We can practice for 5-10 minutes & then he starts to jump at me for a hug & a kiss, sometimes saying we need to bow ’cause that means finishing, sometimes we go for a little more. It depends on him. May be I shouldn’t practice for more than 10 minutes a day at all & alternate one day to work with the violin box & the next day with the bunny& a bow hold? He is doing good, so now I just need to focus on trying to keep it interesting & fun. And slow down, I guess. I ask the teacher lots of questions & I’m reading “They’re rarely…” & some other books to make sure I’m on the right track, but I just thought it wouild be wise to ask parents themselves who already have experience & know what works best. So if anybody has more thoughts & ideas on the subject for moms like me who’ve just becom a Suzuki parent I appreciate your help.

Thank you, Tosha.

said: Dec 14, 2006
 56 posts

i feel that young children are very sensitive, and they tend to pick up on our emotions easily. So if we as parents are too anxious, then we pass our stress and tension onto our kids. They will then start to “act up” and behave badly, etc.

Being a suzuki parent of 3 months already, i must admit I also fell into the trap of over-anxiety initially. But I realise I am in this for the long haul, so we have to maintain our ’stamina’ just like a marathon runner.

Its very important to keep the lessons fun and lively. Scolding is a big no-no. Rather praise him/her (refer to the Suzuki book, Nurtured by Love). Instead of scolding, ask him/her if she can play slightly better the next round. Repeat this often enough, and the child will definitely improve.

BTW, in my suzuki group class, there is a mother who smacks her kid in front of us, and calls her daughter “stupid”. I will shield my kid away so that she does not see such a sight whenever this happens.

Also make it a time for u to bond with ur kid. I do hope that one day, my kid will tell her own children that she fondly remembers spending quality time with granddad ! :D

I also believe what Sensei Suzuki says “what is not in the environment cannot be created in the child”. I love classical music and listen to it often. I have also bought for myself an adult size violin and will practice along with my kid.

Talent is not born, but created

said: Dec 14, 2006
 5 posts

Hi, zaachaeus!

First af all, thank you so much for reading & responding to my post. I absolutely agree with you on the fact that our kids really reflact us in many ways. Sometimes for disobedience I put my son in a naughty corner for a coulpe of minutes, & yesterday I saw him putting his Pooh bear in the same place, saying that he should stay there ’cause he had acted badly &hadn’t listened to him. As for the violin lessons, I did slow down & actually skipped the lesson yesterday, so today my son came up to me saying that he needed to practice the violin, but we had to find it first. So he took my hand &, as in hide & seek ,lead me through all the rooms rtying to find the instrument(although he knew exactly where it was). After the lesson we made a cardboard book for the steakers he earns during our practice time & he actually got so excited about that that he took it for a nap with him. And now we’re waiting for our dad to come home so he can also show it to him. I like this idea for the stikers ’cause in our case they usually end up everywhere around the house. Our teacher suggested putting them on his foot chart, but it didn’t really work out . The stikers turned out to be a distraction. Sometimes my son tried to remove them & put somewhere else or simply pointed stikers! stikers! instesd of getting into the rest position.
Thanks again for sharing your thoughts. It does help.

Thank you, Tosha.

Jennifer Visick said: Dec 22, 2006
Jennifer VisickForum Moderator
Suzuki Association Member
Viola, Suzuki in the Schools, Violin
998 posts

I’m not a parent, and I’ve never taken a student under 3 years old, but with my youngest students, I ask them to watch my eyes while I count to ten. Often, they will glance away before I get to ten, and then their eyes will return. I take note of how many seconds they held my gaze before glancing away, then later I sit down with their home teacher and brainstorm a list of 10 or 15 “lessons” they can give at home in less than X number of seconds.

E.g., “can you make this shape with your hand? Great!” ends up being one “lesson”.

That way, the home teacher has a list of things to work on that the child is truly ABLE to pay attention to the whole way through. Needless to say, this means a child has more than one “lesson” each day.

Also, I most heartily agree with whomever said that practice at this age HAS to be a game.

said: Jan 27, 2007
 7 posts

Hi, if your son asks for a hug, give him one and tell him how much you love him!

I sympathize with you and your 2 1/2 year old. My first son started piano just before he turned 4, and he was ready for it. But now I’m looking at my next son and trying to plan when and where to start.

Someone mentioned very short lessons. I was going to suggest the same. You might see progress by splitting the daily lesson into three shorter sessions every day. Tell your son before you actually do it. That way he won’t be surprised when it’s time for the second lesson that first day.

Ten minutes without interruption is very good for a 2 year old. If your son is already focusing on a 10 minute lesson, and if you think you two can continue with that, keep going. If you think you’re keeping him in the lesson longer than he thinks is fun, consider cutting back. Many students think it’s fun to see how quickly we can progress, but they end up looking busy and not learning as much depth. It’s usually better to slow down a bit. That way we really learn and progress instead of just looking busy.

You mentioned that removing other distractions was necessary. My son doesn’t go into the living room much except for his lessons. The living room isn’t blocked, but his things aren’t in there. He knows it’s a special place and a special time, and it helps him stay focused.

Remember that being two and three is about moving around and exploring. You might try an adventure day. Once a week, place a few activities in boxes or envelopes around the room. (You can just write the activity on a 3×5 card, or place an object in the box that is related to the activity.)

Then tell your son that today is a special adventure game for him. You need his help to find some treasures that Dr. Suzuki’s left for us. (You might even get a picture of Dr. Suzuki to show him at the same time!) Ask him to go find a box. When he finds one, tell him that the treasure is a special activity, and that he gets to help Mommy and Dr. Suzuki by doing that treasured activity. When he successfully completes the activity, say “Dr. Suzuki says you did a very good job,” or “Oh, you did very well.” You make Dr. Suzuki and Mommy smile! (Children always made Dr. Suzuki smile, and he wrote that he always wanted parents to say “very good” instead of “good.”)

Another idea is to schedule movement activities between the focus activities in your daily lessons. For example, when my son would say he was “tired” and started to lose focus, I would tell him it’s time for us to do some creeping crawling (Get down on all fours, and crawl with him from one side of the room to the other. Do it again to get back to the lesson location). Creeping crawling increases the oxygen flow in your body, and it re-news the connection between the right and left halves of your brain. Stretching exercises have similar effects. I find that these exercises help me and my son during the lesson, and then we can re-focus on helping my son!

These games and exercises may not work well for your son, but maybe you can come up with your own ideas that do. You must be doing a very good job of helping your son, because you cared enough to write and ask for advice.

Please write back to let us hear what ideas you tried and whether they worked!

said: Feb 4, 2007
 16 posts

My three children all started at age 2 1/2. The first has now played for eight years. The twins are now six years old. At two, our “practices” were play time. We played “finger puppet bunnies” (to prepare for the bow hold). In the bath, I had a small bar of soap that I put in their bow hand and we washed the other arm with the “nursery rhyme” Doggy Doogy scrub scrub, Pit him in the bathtub. (Notice the similarity to variation A of Twinkle”. Together we played all the rhythms during bathtime. We turned on the CD and danced to the book 1 and book two (and whatever other book my older daughter is working on).

At two, when they advanced to the “box”. they were “allowed” to practice with my older daughter when she played. We only “practiced” with with the box for a very short time frame, one minute or two. We only worked on one thing at a time. (This took tremendous restraint on my part.) I tried not to comment if they picked up the “violin” to practice by themself. I would leave the box out so they could get it if they wanted. The main rule is they would have to show the violin respect. (Which to a two year old meant playing and putting it in the correct place after she had finished and bow blanks are not weapons)

Once the real violins were introduced, they already knew how to care for them. I continued to limit practice time. I try never to negatively comment if they pick up the violin and play on their own. (I only comment if the violin is out of tune and then I tune it)

As far as a child losing interest, I have noticed there are three people in this partership, parent, child and teacher. At any given time, any one of the three may become disinterested. If I notice it is me or my child, I try to change my practice schedule and refocus. So far our teacher has always been enthusiastic. If my child “chooses” not to practice, I remind her that it is not achoice, like science or vocabulary in school. It is a necessary skill to be accomplished. Her only choice is how she will practice for the day, willingly or dismissively. Either way, she will still have to practice. Usually, I offer a treat if I notice they have a good attitude, now practice is no longer a major issue. (I reward for attitude, not for accomplishement.)

I hope this helps.

said: Feb 17, 2007
 5 posts

Thank you so much, guys, for sharing your thoughts. I will defenitely try the seeking games for practicing. It should help-he’s a 2year old. He’s doing fine now, though he refuses to practice at times. But we’ve progressed. I’m trying to keep it fun & cut down the practice to minimum to keep him interested. Well, it’s a bumpy road, but to bring up children is not easy on the whole. We’ve just started to use” the tunnel “from a paper roll to work with the bow for patterning on his shoulder, but I see that he’s starting to get board of it, saying it’s not comfortable. So, I got frustrated, trying not to show, & it struck me that I could use his favourite round napkin holder. He picked it from a store couple of days ago, saying he loved it so much & wanted to take home, so we ended up getting it. It has a shape of a mushroom, so it sits good on his shoulder, and now to pattern the Twinkle song is his favourite part of the lesson, at least yet. The problem I’m facing now in unwillingness to listen to the first Twinkle. I had it recorded on both sides of a tape, as the teacher advised. My son didn’t mind listening :D for the first couple of months, even turned the tape to another side when it’s over, but now he’s strongly resisting it, saying he doesn’t want to listen to it. May be he just got board, & I need to play the whole CD instead for now? I’ll do that trying to switch it back to only first Twinkle after. Any thoughts on that will be appreciated.

Thank you, Tosha.

said: Feb 18, 2007
 16 posts

One thing my teacher advised was to listen to the CD daily. We just made it a part of the children’s lives. Instead of actively putting the music on and telling them to listen, I play it as backgroud music. I try to never point out that they are listening to their working piece. Instead of television as backgroud noise, we play classical music, including the cd that each child is on. Since I have one in book one, one book two, the third book six, I have found it easiest to just put all six cd’s in the dvd player and let the music play randomly.

Amazingly, at three years old, my twins were humming book 5 pieces in addition to twinkle! I guess the difference is that I never made music tapes for my daughters to listen to. The entire family enjoys the music as background noise. My daughters do listen to their music because we enjoy it throughout the day, especially while dressing and mealtime.

Good luck!

said: Feb 18, 2007
 7 posts

I agree with Spiker. We listen to the CDs as background music while we go on with our lives.

You’re definitely right about moving past twinkle. Everyone gets bored of hearing the same piece (or pieces) over and over. So we mostly play classical music, but we also play other music for variety—Stephane Grappeli’s “Olympia 88″, Kindermusik, The Roches “Will You Be My Friend”, “The Shaker Gift of Song”, Lullabies, and others that we enjoy.

The Suzuki CD isn’t very long. So I made one CD that had the Suzuki CD repeated three times. We put the “3 times” Suzuki CD as one of several that we play through the day. That way we’ve heard the Suzuki pieces three times—which is enough for us for one day. It’s not the only music we hear, but we do hear it almost every day.

We don’t listen to the radio, though—not even the classical music station. They often play pieces that are too stressful and agitating. I usually don’t need more stress or agitation in my life, and with the two boys, my wife doesn’t either. So if I want to hear Turandot, Symphony from the New World, or Howling Wolf, I can hear it by myself in the car or after the kids are in bed!

Irene said: Sep 8, 2010
Irene YeongViolin
160 posts

I found this post. It’s a bit old now, but I am hoping to ‘revive’ it and get the ball rolling..
I just started Suzuki Violin with my 2 yo. So far so good.
Sometimes disastrous when she wants to play with my violin 4/4. At this stage, I make it a routine that I practise daily , she can join in if i she likes. I still dont make her practise yet but trying to make her feel the routine, like brushing teeth.

How are you doing the practice with your kids?

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