Getting back into a routine after the summer break

Posted by on Sep 16, 2013 in Blog, Practice | 0 comments

It’s September. This post is going to be more about my experiences practicing with my now 5 year old daughter, Aya. I have many students and parents who go through similar struggles to ours, and I’m hoping it will be helpful for you to read about the start of our second year.

We took the summer off. In May, Aya had her first group concert, and was very very proud and happy. I was hoping it would motivate her to take more ownership over her practice. I hoped she would see where she was headed, and understand why she was doing all this work. That didn’t happen. She LOVED the concert. She still didn’t love practicing. At her last lesson of the semester, she was making her body all floppy and playing badly on purpose. Her teacher suggested we take a break. At first I didn’t want to. I was afraid that once we stopped, it would be too hard to start again. But then we did stop, and it was so easy to not practice! Have I mentioned that I was never the most enthusiastic practicer either?

So, all summer we didn’t practice, but Aya still told lots of people that she played the violin, and had graduated Twinkle, and was working on Lightly Row (which she was not). When school started last week, we got back into a routine, and started practicing again. Not surprisingly (to me at least) she forgot how to play almost everything, and was really frustrated. I decided to start off small, and give her short practices, with things she could do. The first few practices were one bow exercise, one rhythm on an open string, and one time playing the Flower song.

I’ve noticed that kids like to know in advance how much they have to practice, and how long it’s going to take. On the first day, she decided to make a list. Making the list took about 3 times as long as practicing…


Since the 20 minute list making wasn’t realistic, I started looking around for other ideas. I discovered that if you look on Pintrest for “suzuki practice ideas”, there are SO MANY great ideas that parents and teachers are sharing. This is another great aspect of Suzuki: teachers don’t try to guard their secrets so that their students are the best. We are always happy to share ideas, so that other teachers can use something we have had success with. You can check out my Pintrest page to see what I’m talking about. These are just ideas that I’ve copied from other people.

After being inspired by those ideas on Pintrest, I came up with my own idea: a practice scavenger hunt. We have been doing scavenger hunts all summer. When we had visitors at my parents summer house, I would set up a treasure hunt with clues leading the kids around our property, so they would get familiar with the space. When we went on a hike, my husband told the kids he was just going on a run, and set up clues along the way, ending with a treasure. I’m not really very organized and I always think up these ideas about 3 seconds before I plan to execute them. Setting up the practice scavenger hunt consisted of me writing in sticky notes all the things Aya could easily do on her violin, and sticking them all over the house while she got out her violin. The game is that she has to go around the house (with her violin in rest position) and every time she finds a note, she has to do what it says in that spot. The notes say things like:

Monkey on A
Monkey on E
1, 2, Shh, 4 on E and A
Mississippi Stop Stop on E
Stop drop and pop
Dirty Doggy Scrub Scrub on E
Up like a rocket
Twinkle 4 notes


(She can’t read, but can figure out what it is based on the first letter. You could also draw pictures if you had more time to get ready.)
I place the notes in fun spots: on the stairs, on the toilet (and she stands on the toilet to play), behind doors, on the couch, etc. Every morning–we’ve been practicing before school– I spend 30 seconds moving them around to new spots.

She’s gradually remembering how to play, and she’s having fun. I’m hoping the scavenger hunt stays fun for another week or so, and then I’ll look for a new idea.

Update, October 3rd:

Aya’s teacher suggested we do a real scavenger hunt with clues. I’ve been doing this once a week. I set it up the night before, and when she finishes breakfast,  I give her the first clue. The clues lead her around the house, and each new clue has something on the back of the card for her to play (for example: play Down Pony Up Pony Twinkle with mom helping your wrist stay straight.) For some reason, when it’s on the card, she actually lets me help her. The last card says “Go to school!”

On the other days, she’s been just trying to play as many Twinkles as possible, filling in a 100 star chart along the way. I told her when she has played 100 Twinkles, she will feel better about her playing, and be ready to start Lightly Row. I might have mentioned a celebratory trip to the toy store too…. She’s about half way through, and is playing beautifully, and feeling really proud of herself. Two weeks ago she couldn’t remember Twinkle, and now she can play it seven times in a row easily.



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