I asked my piano moms for ideas they use to successfully get their children to practice during the summer. Here's some of their responses:
My son says "knowing that I'll get (computer) game-time after I practice and that I won't get bothered about it the rest of the day and that I can play at friends' houses" is what motivates him.
My son seems to practice on his own without much encouragement, but that's probably because he loves it, and because we're in the routine of him doing it right after breakfast, and he knows that play time (or whatever he wants to do) comes AFTER piano practice is finished.
Currently we have a small box on the piano that holds our squeakies. They are small rubber figures. Each song they play well, they pick one and if they complain I get to pick one. At the end of the lesson we have a squeakie war where we just play make believe war, but the toys don't leave the piano since they get lost if we do! Then after all my men have been killed/ no more than 5 mins. We put them back for the next day. Squeekies came in a 12 pack at Walmart and I will use my Micheals coupon to get them for a better deal.
I do use TV in the summer since we don't watch it much during the school year, especially on school days. If I really want to make it worth their while I promise to pop popcorn and we all watch an Andy Griffith together.
The best thing for us is to pick a time each day and stick to that time.
The boys get 20 minutes of computer time each, every day, but they don't get it until after they do their piano practice. So I don't have to keep telling them to practice because they tell me "I'm going to practice now so I can do my computer time."
We do our piano, reading, learning games (and chores) all in the morning during the summer time. The reward is they can either watch a movie or have video game time in the early afternoon. This structure has worked fairly well for all age groups and we've used it over quite a few summers. :-)
1st- We TRY (the optimal word) to get our music done EARLY in the day. That way there's no drama during the normal late afternoon drama.
2nd- I do the "Ms. Cathy cup game" with a sweet tart under one. This really works WONDERS, and helps me keep my cool. (Although one time I got so frustrated I picked up the cup and ate it right in front of my child..that showed him....not). [side note: The Ms. Cathy game consists of hiding a sticker under one bell out of 5-6 bells sitting on the piano. The student plays a tricky section and rings a bell. If the sticker is not under that bell, the student keeps playing the section and ringing bells until he finally finds the correct bell. The students LOVE this game]
Practice before breakfast!
Did you notice how most every one mentions practicing early in the day and making it a routine? I think that is the key--consistency and putting it before play/tv/computer time.
Some kids are starting back to school in a couple of weeks and others of you around the country are still enjoying summer. No matter what your schedule though, some of the above ideas will continue to work. If they don't, analyze your new routines, find out the best time for piano practicing, and make it work. You'll be so glad you did as you raise a brighter, more caring child.
Well, I didn't say they wouldn't still be silly!
Thanks for reading,