Updated: Nov 30, 2021
By Christy | The Practicing Pro
Let’s talk about how to manage practicing with multiple players.
Sibling relationships are all unique, and that means every practice schedule needs to be unique as well. Having multiple players in the house can present challenges, so here are some strategies you can use to help your family make beautiful music now and for many years to come!
The key to finding balance is Switching Time with Two.
One child can do an activity that they can do on their own independently (or somewhat to start) like reading a book, doing an art project, making a practice activity, doing homework (or even playing a video game or watching a movie as a last resort). Now, you as the parent spend 15 - 45 minutes with their sibling practicing. Then, and this is where the magic happens, the kids SWITCH tasks.
Of course, in any routine there needs to be flexibility; if the sibling working on their own, meets a problem and you have to leave your practice time once in a while that’s OK! These moments provide the opportunity to teach patience. It works the other way too if the non-practicing child needs help with something you can also have them “wait” and teach them the life lesson that you need to sometimes be patient and wait your turn. With siblings very close in age and with twins, you might have to work extra hard on this one. But it’s worth it!
If there are two in your parenting team a GREAT way to practice is to have a routine. Any time you make a routine that can become a daily habit - the more success you will have and the less stress and fewer bumps! There are a few different approaches to creating the perfect practice routine.
You and your partner have set up a system. It begins in the “After School” time frame.
If you have TWO
You come in the door, one adult prepares supper with the first child, and the other goes with the second adult right away to practice. When supper is ready, one practice is complete! After supper, one adult cleans up with the new child and the second one does their practice. A tip is the kitchen workers can also clean and wash the lunch bags and pack the lunches for the next day.
If you have THREE
You come in the door, one adult prepares supper with the older child while the other does their homework at the kitchen table (or an independent activity) for easy access to the parent making supper if needed. The third child goes with the second adult right away to practice. Then the two younger ones SWITCH. When supper is ready, both shorter practices are complete! After supper, one adult cleans up with the two younger children and the older one does their longer practice. A tip is the kitchen workers can also clean and wash the lunch bags and pack the lunches for the next day. If the older child has extra homework they can also do their homework right away and skip the meal prep when needed. You can save some of the lunch bag cleaning and lunch prep for them for later after their practicing is done to still contribute.
What about when the kids have activities every day and come home tired?
I think this is the number one question and concern we face. “The kids are too busy”. Let's say you have them in a different activity every day, which is very popular here where I live in Halifax. Maybe it's swimming, then skating and gymnastics and maybe it's not every day but almost every day someone has an activity that you're going to. The trick with this is switching time, like in the example above, at either meal prep, right after school, or in the morning. Some daily tasks are mandatory (eating, getting dressed, meal prep/clean up, walking the dog, homework, etc...) and siblings allow us to take advantage of these moments to establish a practice routine plus spend one on one time together.
The point is that it’s a routine and not just a free for all. Make a structure - make a plan and stick to it. What makes it work is that every member of the system knows that 1) that they have a job for this chunk of time and 2) exactly what the job is then you all “switch tasks”! If there are one or two in your parenting team a GREAT way to practice is to have a routine - REMEMBER any time you make a routine that can become a daily habit that after a while you don’t even have to think about but you just do it automatically - the more success you will have!
Easy reference examples
I used two or more children and one or two parents in the following examples to give you the idea.
Practicing in the Morning:
TWO PARENTS, TWO CHILDREN
Job Set 1: One parent helps one get dressed and ready for school - the other practices with the eldest in their PJs.
Job Set 2: The oldest one who finished practicing now gets dressed and ready on their own, one parent makes breakfast and the other younger one who is now up, does a shorter practice.
ONE PARENT, TWO CHILDREN
Job Set 1: Parent practices early with older child in their PJs while younger one sleeps longer.
Job Set 2: The oldest one who finished practicing now gets dressed and ready on their own, they can also start getting breakfast ready and the other younger one, who is now up, does a shorter practice with the parent.
Job Set 3: Everyone gets breakfast ready together.
Right after School / Homework Time:
Job Set 1: Parent practices with one child while the other does homework on their own but close by in case they need help. When homework is done they bring it to the parent to check over and then they do a fun activity just for practice from a special shelf/box.
Job Set 2: Switch out.
On a special just for practice shelf/box: Have extra workbooks and art projects (like playdough, legos, painting, or sketching with sketch “how-to books” handy) for “table time” to occupy themselves while each has a turn practicing with the parent.
Meal prep at Supper Time:
See the original example above, for two parents and three children
Job Set 1: One parent practices while the other parent makes dinner with the other child.
Job Set 2: Eat together.
Job Set 3: Now the second child practices while the first child helps clean up the supper dishes and put the food away. They can also prepare lunches for the next day and make grocery lists. Learning valuable life skills!
Practicing before bed:
ONE PARENT, THREE CHILDREN
Job Set 1: Older child practices on their own (10 years old and up) while the younger two have a bath and get PJs on and get ready for bed. While they get Pjs on and pick out a book and wait in bed, the parent can spend some quality time with the older practicing child. For this child remember to have a clear practice chart & review chart for them to follow along. (see Blog -Practice Charts)
Job Set 2: Switch. Younger two take turns practicing in Pjs while the second child waiting reads their bedtime book. They can also have a journal and write/draw a picture about something that happened in their day. The older child gets ready for bed.
Job Set 3: Read a story all three together.
If you have three siblings, another option is the older shield does their homework while you practice with the younger two, then they get ready for bed when you are reading to the younger two. After that you spend time together before bed - I read novels aloud Novels to my children until they were into their teens and they always loved it!
These are just some examples of balances that can be found in the daily schedule to help prioritize practicing and making routines/habits. The main attribute of the “switching off” technique is that it allows you as the adult to spend focused and individualized attention on each of your children through music. Children need special time just for them each day and I can’t think of a better time than in a daily practice time! When the family is able to hold each other accountable to the routine, it lays a strong foundation to form a lifelong habit and THAT is how you become a Super Practicing Parent.
INVITATION from Christy Hodder:
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Your easy checklist to have successful home music practices from Christy, the practicing pro. Whether you are a new or seasoned practice parent this checklist will help you organize before, during, and after practices for effective and fun practices.
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