There are innumerable constraints on our childrens’ time: soccer practice, dance class, art lessons, play dates, homework, school projects, family outings, and the list goes on. Even the weekends are filled with scheduled activities, and when does a child even get time to just play?
The good news is that our youngest students are doing their music ‘practicing’ simply by playing. If they are taking time to pluck strings, play low and high sounds, rap out rhythms on a drum pad or interact in any range of musical experiences, then they are showing their interest and engagement. It does not matter that they are not ‘sitting down for fifteen minutes a day’ to work on their scales. Children are no different from adults in that they will learn the most, and the best, when they are having fun.
If a child is not yet in school, then that child is young enough not to need a structured practice regimen, and parents should simply support any range of musical expression the child chooses to undertake.
For those students in the kindergarten to second grade age range, a practice regimen can certainly be easily incorporated into the schedule. About fifteen minutes a day is a great goal to set for early elementary musicians. Between 3rd and 6th grade, thirty minutes of practice per day is a great goal. If it is difficult to find that fifteen minute block of practice time, remember that this is not an all-or-nothing game. Five minutes of practice is better than none, and five minutes twice a day (say, once in the morning and once at night) is incredibly beneficial.
An added bonus can be achieved if your child practices right before bedtime. While they are sleeping, their brains will be working through all the musical experiences they had just a while earlier.
One final thought: if music ‘practice’ is framed as constructive play, and inserted at a regular time (or times) each day, then it not only becomes an accepted part of the daily routine, but something every student will appreciate as a rewarding, positive part of their day!