Is consistent practice a struggle? A vision board can help!
For the perfectionists:
If your child gets frustrated when practice isn’t perfect, help him pick a picture and a key word that matches one or more tasks assigned for the week to put on the vision board. The child can spend anywhere from 5 to 30 seconds practicing the task mentally. This not only prepares the mind to teach the body, it helps children unlock the power of their minds. This doesn’t guarantee it will be perfect on the first try, but practicing mentally first is known to help athletes and musicians alike pick up on new skills quicker.
For the busy bodies:
Not an ideal amount of time for practice? Try a portable vision board. Print or draw a one to two octave keyboard. (It doesn’t have to be perfect, but do try your best to keep it to scale.) Your child can now practice in the car, on the camping trip, and a myriad of other places. Some tips for this method include using practice CDs, encouraging your child to SING the notes, and laminating the keyboard so solfege can be written or notes colored to ensure accuracy. This does not replace getting to the piano, but it can help in a pinch! (Your family may also consider letting go of an activity or two to free up some time. It may not be the most desirable solution, but effective practice does require time and will be worth the sacrifice.)
For the free spirits:
Some children just love to wiggle and explore. The piano may lose excitement over time, especially practice. If this is your child, an interactive vision board may be just what you’re looking for! This may require extra effort and creativity, but will pay off if put to good use. The imagination is the only limit. An interactive vision board might be a specialized area for music expression and exploration--perhaps with a device for listening to music, a small keyboard, pictures, homemade instruments--whatever will help guide your free-spirited little one to the piano for a few minutes at a time. The goal here may be a few sporadic three-minute practice sessions between other activities. The important thing is to help your child CHOOSE to get to the piano until it becomes fun yet habitual.
For the extrinsically motivated:
If the reward of improvement and self-satisfaction simply isn’t cutting it for your little musician, perhaps she is extrinsically motivated. If that’s the case, use the vision board to help your child set practice goals that have a supporting reward system. For example, next to the picture of a child smiling at the piano with a number 5 written next to it (representing 5 days of practicing with a good attitude), there might be a picture of a slide at that child’s favorite park (notice the reward does not have to cost money). The purpose of this vision board example is to encourage a child to practice with a good attitude 5 days that week and the reward is extra play time at her favorite park. Adjust the goal and reward to match the needs of your child.
Just a quick note, please be careful not to do all the choosing or all the work yourself! Though the decision ultimately needs your stamp of approval, your child needs to make as many of the choices as possible. If you’re concerned about unrealistic or unaffordable ideas, give your child some options to choose from. Let your child do as much of the work as appropriate for the age. He or she can draw the pictures, choose the pictures, cut the pictures, tape them to the vision board, and a number of other things. Let the children take the lead on their own vision boards and you will serve as the supervisor and assistant.