Engaging a child’s attention, concentration, and imagination for thirty minutes can be mighty challenging! Even though they are excited by the piano and the idea of making music, their age makes it hard for most of them to stay focused.
Before you start a lesson, check that the child is sitting at the right height at the piano and can look at music without straining their neck. This is easier to accomplish on an upright piano than a grand, as grand pianos have much higher music stands. Working at a grand and always having to hold the music lower than the music stand to make looking at the notes easier can be challenging at times. It’s also really good to have a small stool for little children to rest their feet on. Dangling feet result in lots of leg swinging and fidgeting.
Once they are sitting comfortably, there is a higher chance that they will stay focused and engaged. Having difficulty seeing the music or being uncomfortable will impede their ability to focus.
Here are some solid tips on how to make piano lessons fun for children:
1. Don’t Spend A Lot of Time on One Task
Children’s attention is short and they like variety. Spending five minutes on one piece of music feels like a long time for them. Work on several different pieces and mix it up with different activities, like note reading and clapping rhythms, makes piano lessons fun.
2. Throw In Some Games
Kids love games and they help in the learning process. For example, having a bag of tiny erasers, with each one shaped like a different animal standing for one of the notes. Give them an eraser and ask them to place it on a certain note, such as “the highest C you can find” or “the B flat nearest to middle C”. It gets tons of big smiles and laughter with this game. After getting quite a few animals in place, they naturally want to play each note with an animal on it, to see what music it creates. This also makes them laugh because it sounds bonkers! After the game, it’s great to let them keep one of the erasers, which leads to them asking if they can play the game every lesson so they can collect one of each animal. It’s a win-win, and an easy way to make piano lessons fun.
3. Let Children Explore the Inside of the Piano
Deliberately beating up an old piano can help in the long run. It happens to stay in tune for a remarkably long time and already has many chips from being used for a very long time, so there’s no need to worry about it getting damaged. Open up the lid and expose the inside of the piano (this is easiest with a grand, but can also be done with an upright) and let the child watch the hammers as he plays the notes. They find this fascinating. It also makes them feel more connected to the piano and more powerful as they connect their movements with what’s happening inside the piano. This is a great way to make piano lessons more fun!
4. Put Stuff in the Piano to Change the Sound
This is another great thing to do without having to worry about ruining the piano. It’s great to put different types of paper across the strings so we can hear the difference in sound. Regular paper, aluminum foil (which sounds like a harpsichord), or even a box of tissues. Lay a pencil across the strings and have the student play notes to watch the pencil jump about.
Again, that connection with the instrument and feeling of power is very valuable. When they understand what pressing a note does, they will sit down to concentrate on a piece of music, but now it has meaning for them.
5. Find Out Which Songs the Child Loves
It might be an Ed Sheeran song or it might be a song from the latest Disney film. Once in a while, you might get a six-year old desperate to play Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. Whatever it is that excites them, teach them to play some of it in the simplest way you can. This will make piano lessons fun for them. They will be keen to come back and learn the next bit.
6. Invite Children to Bring their Special Toy to the Lesson
Young children find it very comforting to have a favorite stuffed toy sitting on the keyboard, or on the music stand. Involve the toy in the lesson by having it “applaud” the child’s performance, or make the toy play a few notes. This makes a child laugh, and laughter encourages relaxation, and it’s a really easy way to make piano lessons fun! To take it one step further, you can even have your students dress up, whether it’s formal or a funny outfit. Make it feel like they’re performing in a concert and their toy is the audience.
7. Make Stuff Up on the Piano with Your Students
It’s great to ask them what kind of story they want to tell with music. Do they want to make up something that sounds “sad” or “happy”? This is a good time to explain the major and minor sounds. In general, improvising something in the bass and they bash away on the higher notes to see what they can find that they like the sound of. As a rule of thumb, remind them that there are NO WRONG NOTES because this is THEIR song. This frees them wonderfully and they can go to town bashing clumps of notes or individual notes or anything in between. It might be best to do this when a parent is sitting in so that when the child does this at home, the parent doesn’t say “Stop that noise!” We need children to be free on the piano and feel that they are in charge.
8. Use Flash Cards - Which Can Also be Used at Home
ComposeCreate.com has some wonderfully unique resources to make piano lessons fun for children. Soccer-themed flashcards, oversized ones, and Christmas-themed flashcards and all sorts of other fun resources. Check them out a ComposeCreate.com
9. Teach Students to Write a Treble Clef, a Bass Clef, and Other Notes
Children love to have their own manuscript book to write notes in. This is another way they can be creative, making piano lessons fun, and they happen to be learning to write music at the same time. It also strengthens their note reading and their connection to the written notes. There is an element of ownership that is very valuable.
If a child has difficulty writing notes, maybe it’s because their hand control isn’t there yet, allow them to write the note names as letters, if they can. Sometimes children will make up their own “code” to write music. It’s great to encourage this too, as anything that connects them with music and enables them to record it is empowering.
10. Incorporate Singing with Playing to Make Piano Lessons Fun
Children often instinctively sing along with the notes they are playing. Some respond far better to a piece of music if it has words, and sing out as they go along. Where there are no words, make up some words! This has all kinds of benefits because lyrics need to fit the rhythm of the music and the story the words tell need to fit with the style of the music. The need to rhyme at strategic points becomes obvious, and you can end up making piano lessons fun in so many ways!
Wrap it Up
All-in-all, in thinking of how to make piano lessons fun, doesn’t need to stress you out. Remember, each student is different and requires different attention and likes different things. Adjust the piano lessons to each individual student and soon they will all be having a blast while learning to love the piano.