Practise Ideas for Younger Children

I have found this wonderful essay on the ideas behind practising to be really helpful.

Making practise fun is the key!  Don’t expect young children to enjoy practising for the sake of  it for quite some time.  Find some favourite games and they will get in a routine and then it will be much easier.  Keep the practise fresh and introduce new games and ideas when you sense they need them (they often like repeating the same games/routine for quite some time though).


  1. DICE games.  This has to be my number 1 favourite.  Choose 6 things that need practising and write them on a list (even very young children like to see the list themselves so they can see you’re not making it up!) and then which ever number they roll they practise that item until all the numbers have been rolled.  I think this works because the children are in control of the order, they can see there is an end to the practise and know you won’t suddenly add more practise things on and because it breaks up holding the violin for long stretches.  You can also buy dice with more numbers on (all the way up to 20 sided) if you want to add more things.  This is also useful when you have lots of pieces to review (at the end of the book before a recital for instance).
  2. Use a PACK OF CARDS.  This would give you more numbers than the dice and also does away with the awkward bit where they keep rolling the same number.
  3. Burning a practise CANDLE.   Simply light a candle every time you practise and blow it out at the end.   It creates a lovely atmosphere in itself but you can also combine it with a treat for when the candle has burnt right down or put markers on the candle for treats on the way.   You could also just use a birthday candle and keep practising until the candle goes out.
  4. A violin TOUR.  Try a different piece (or practise point) in each room of the house (or just the downstairs if you want to think smaller!)
  5. A CONCERT for stuffed toys.  Or real people of course.  Sell tickets.  You can always practise for the concert first (concert violinists would always warm up after all).
  6. Use a VIDEO camera.  It’s great to be able to record their progress as they’ll love looking back and seeing how much better they are now but also they usually really rise to the occasion when they are videoed and try their best, listening far more carefully to how they are playing.  Even better, you could send it to me!
  7. 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 you and your child 5 chips each. If child meets goal, you give them one of your chips.  If they miss a goal they have to give you a chip. Keep playing until someone has all of the chips.
  8. SMILEY FACE.  Draw 2 ovals.  When they do a practise point well you can draw something on the happy face (nose, hair etc) and if it doesn’t go according to plan something on the sad face can be coloured in.
  9. FOOTBALL GOALS.  Just like the smiley face but use goals for their favourite team verses yours.
  10. COLOURING a special practise picture.  Either print off a special outline drawing, draw something yourself or let the child do the drawing.  The idea is the child can colour in or draw a segment for each practise they do to make a beautiful picture by the end of the week.  If your child gets very distracted by drawing you may want to make it a secret drawing where you hide the picture while you are drawing something for each practise point or repetition and only reveal at the end of the practise.
  11. DOT TO DOT.  Obviously you can join up the dots for each practise point or repetition.
  12. JIGSAW PIECES used in the same way.
  13. NOUGHTS AND CROSSES or some other game with turns to be taken after each section of practise.
  14. PASTA JAR.  Put coins, tokens or pasta shapes in a jar for a reward when the jar is full.
  15. MUSIC NOTES.  Add music notes or rhythms to a piece of music for each practise point or repetition and play the piece at the end of the practise.  Two birds with one stone!
  16. LUCKY DIP of tasks required.
  17. CUPS.  This is a risky one but really fun.  Have several cups turned over and hide something (teddy/treat etc) under one of the cups.  Every time they have practised something well they can turn over a cup.  Practise continues until they find teddy.  As I said, risky but worth it for all those times when it takes them a while to find it!
  18. Different TOYS/PUPPETS for each variation e.g. a Raspberry Strawberry bear or a Everybody Down up doll and choose one of them to play to.  Or you could put them in a bag and see which of them comes out first, perhaps taking out a different one each day until they are all out.
  19. RUSSIAN DOLLS for practise.  You could put slips of paper in with what to do next.


How to help when you have short bits that need going over a few times to get them right

  1. Climbing a MOUNTAIN.  I include this one because it’s Anton’s favourite.  My fingers are a soldier that are trying to climb a mountain (a bean bag, a piano, a sofa) and every time he plays the bit right I can go up a bit and every time it goes wrong he falls right down to the bottom and has to start again.  Lucas used to cry when the soldier fell down so it doesn’t work for all but  Anton thinks it’s hilarious!  You can of course customise with plastic figures etc
  2. Walking ACROSS THE ROOM.   Either you or your child can take a step on each sucessful repetition.  If it goes wrong, go back one or even back to the beginning if you are from the school of hard knocks.
  3. Roll a DICE for the number of repetitions to do or use a PACK OF CARDS.  You could always paint more numbers on the dice if a 1 keeps coming up.  Actually I have a magic dice that always rolls a six.  Must dig that one out.
  4. Pretend a PUPPET is asking to hear it again.
  5. Do something SILLY yourself.  Like put items on your head for every time they get it right.  Then you can learn a new skill too by seeing just how many dice, pencils, pieces of paper you can balance on your head.
  6. BEADS.  You can make a necklace and thread a bead on for each great repetition.  It could just be a fun one day necklace or you could aim for a special one for long practises over a week or two.  You could also buy the letters to make their name or “I can play it” (with beads in between the words) to make one that you can use each day by pulling the letters over from the right to the left.  We also do chocolate raisins here for each bead (for longer things rather than short repetitions.)  Chocolate again!  Still, you can play music without teeth.