I’m asked all the time how I find time to practice when I run my own business, have a husband who travels, and young children running around. The answer is… I don’t always find time… in fact, I’m really not that much of a “practicer” unless I am preparing for something specific. But I definitely notice that when I practice regularly I feel more centered and prepared to face my day.
My kids have absolutely no care in the world when it comes to me practicing. They push my guitar out of my hands, tell me to stop singing, and generally just have to no chill whenever I try to do ANYTHING for myself. Here’s what my yoga routine still looks like… Yoga with young kids. So, I’m trying to learn a few ways to involve my kids into my practice routine and it’s amazing to watch them discover. Here are a few ideas for sharing your music practice with kids of any age…
1. Learn songs that are age-appropriate. Kids really respond to songs they can sing along with, so why no learn songs that you can sing with them? Nursery rhymes are great for the younger ones, Disney songs for k-5 and tweens, and popular songs from the radio for teens (clean versions, of course). Not only will this get you making music together, it will also show your kids that you’re interested in the music they like… and this will take you up a few notches on their cool-o-meter.
2. Give them a shaker so they can keep time for you. Instead of locking yourself in a quiet room with a metronome, give your kids shakers and ask them to keep time for you. Its true, they may not be as perfectly on time as a metronome but in the long run, it really won’t make much difference if you get the chance to spend quality time together.
3. Take music lessons together. I love teaching lessons that a father/daughter or father/son are taking together. I’ve yet to have a mother/daughter duo, but I’m hoping for that soon. The first class can seem a bit awkward because sometimes kids are shy about taking classes with their parents, but I’ve noticed that the more the lesson emphasizes “jamming” and gives space for creating and improvising in a supportive environment, the more quickly the kids loosen up and start enjoying time with their parent. Plus, both get a chance to learn some new music and improve on their instruments so it’s a win-win. Make sure you find a teacher who listens to what you want to get out of your lessons.
4. Ask your teen to teach you GarageBand. Music making is not just about playing an instrument anymore, it’s also important for any musician to be up on the latest music-making technology and GarageBand comes standard in all Apple computers these days. Most teens know something about it and it’s super easy to learn. But if your teen doesn’t know how to use it, you can learn together! Compose a song together, burn it to a disc, and play it on the family stereo. Great start to Family Jam Night! (see #10). And even if you already know GarageBand, let your teen teach you anyway. I bet they will have a fresh perspective on combining loops that you may not have thought of before.
5. Write a song together. This is a great way to bond over music. Show your 6 year old a chord progression that you are learning and have him help write lyrics. Write a song about a part of their daily routine (like getting ready for school, going to soccer or having dinner), then you can sing it everyday! Or write one about the love you have for your family, get your teen to record it on GarageBand, and now you have a family music project that you can give as a gift during the holidays!
6. Let them call out the scale names for you to practice. By age 2 or 3 many kids know their alphabet, or at least part of it. If your little one knows ABCDEF and G you can have her call out scales for you to play. Have her quiz you and you’ll know all your scales in no time!
7. Get a small scale instrument for your toddler to play. Toddlers love to emulate their parents, so find a toy version of your instrument and let your little one play with you. Or you can make one! If you play guitar you can make small box guitars with a shoebox, rubber bands, a paper towel roll, and a pencil (I’ll be blogging about this in a few days). You can also make coffee can drums, cardboard guitars, or paper plate maracas.
8. Play Echo Echo. This is a super fun call and response game that can work for any age. With your little one who is just learning to babble, echo the sounds he makes and exaggerate your face. As he gets older you can keep playing this game but the melodies, rhythms and words will get more complicated as he grows and wants to start giving you more of a challenge. Repeat him when he sings or bangs on a table, either with your voice or with an instrument.
9. Have a family drum circle. Drum circles are awesome for the whole family, from infants up to great-grandparents. Everyone needs a drum or a shaker, or something from the house to bang on. If you don’t have enough drums for everyone whose playing, make coffee can drums! You can also make drums with oatmeal containers and infant formula cans.
10. Introduce Family Jam Night. Invite all singers, drummers, guitarists, pianists, and dancers in the family! Spend a little while sharing songs you’ve been learning throughout the week and jam away! It may become a Friday Night tradition. You can also turn this into Family Karaoke Night. Did you know that youtube has a TON of karaoke tracks available? Pick your favorite song, search for the “instrumental” or “karaoke” version on youtube, and the music will play without the words. Perform your favorite songs for each other!
I hope this was helpful! Some of these suggestions may not be things you would normally do during a practice routine, but the more you make music, the more it sinks into your bones… so anytime you play, even just for fun, it’s practice. Making music with your kids is one of the great joys of parenting. Watching them discover new ways of listening and creating is amazing, and when you are a musician yourself, it’s a beautiful thing to pass on your talents to the next generation.
Any other suggestions? Leave your comments below 🙂