how to help a 5 yr old boy stay focused
I have a 5 yr old son who has just learned violin for 3 months. Before going further, I want to say that he is the one who wants to learn a musical instrument and chooses the violin. It's not me to push him. He picks up the notes and rhythms quickly. BUT he has a hard time focusing and especially when it comes to practice again and again one piece to master it.
His routine is like: he practices one tiny piece, then gets distracted by something else, then gets back. He feels hard to focus straight 5 mins. This makes the practice section last twice longer although his real practice time is only 30-50% of it.
I hope to look for some advices for how to deal with kid's distraction and improve my son's concentratio, from teachers and parents.
I wouldn't concern yourself. Let him enjoy music/art/building blocks when it suits him, leave a cheap violin lying around and notice what he attends to. Offer gentle encouragement towards whatever seems positive. Maybe the best thing we cam do is to help our kids find their way, not what we think should be their way- even if it means buying him an accordian.
50% duty cycle? At age 5? Picks up the notes and rhythms? Wants to learn violin? I'd say you're ahead of the curve.
Young children have shorter attention span, make sense. There are 4 principles I try to observe: low, small, many, and quick:
Vy, are you musical? If you learn/play with him, he will be super motivated :)
Oh! I have a 5 yo who started in September.. same scenario here. Practice is a sort of a play time with Mommy(I really enjoy it!) for about 10-15 min (something that would litterally take 2 min...). I have to be a little creative to make the assignment fun. So yeah... 5 yo, especially after a day of school, my goal is for her to have fun and enjoy the instrument. Sometimes she picks it up and decides to practice by herself (with a music stand, random sheer music and the metronome... it really falls into « mimic the adult » games kid that age still do). Teacher has the same vision (and she also is the mom of a 5 yo), which is perfect. She is progressing and is happy.
@Horace Kiang: "There are 4 principles I try to observe: low, small, many, and quick"
Why would 5 years old stay focused? There so much to explore. Emotional well-being of your child comes before the queen of all instruments.
I second Paul's idea about having a piano. When the boy has trouble getting the idea of the melody on the violin he can work it out on the piano too. Worked for me when I was little - and it is another outlet to help musical focus.
Thank you Carlos!
30%-50% focus for a 5 year old boy is actually very good.
vary the subject matter all the time - and mostly OFF the violin. Thus: listen to a bit of a recording, do some rhythmic drumming, look at the parts of the violin (or piano, open the lid, talk about the bits); sing some violin music; dance while playing/listening/laughing; talk about other instruments; etc etc Just DON"T make him hold the instrument for more than he wishes to.
I assume that at that age the thing that works in any activity is producing results. They explore. If they find nothing, they explore somewhere else.
Do 5 minutes 3x a day. Once he masters that, go to 6 minutes 3x a day. And keep pushing it slowly. 5 minutes of sustained focus is actually good for a 5yo. Also, alternate playing with games -- singing games, theory games, etc. And definitely play with him!
The best piece of advice I have ever gotten in regards to teaching is that "A child can only focus on something for as many minutes as they are old". Changing gears constantly is a necessity. Also always start with review and questions and go through the easier pieces. Gradually I build up to more challenging things at the end of the practice session. I find these things will keep their attention for the full 30 min of a lesson
Excellent, Mr. Kiang.
I second Paul's suggestion about learning piano.
Don't expect a 5-year old to focus more than 5 minutes. All young beings are so full of energy and inquisitiveness, they want to explore everything immediately. They are not programmed to focus like a nuclear scientist on an invisible particle for years on end!!! Be happy your son is enthusiastic about music, reward him for any and all practice, and thank your lucky stars for this wonderful child!
I agree with all my colleagues that small chunks of work are the best, and really only route for young children. 15 min chunk of practice is an amazing feat and should have plenty of variety in it. The only thing that I can add is that gamifying things really helps and makes it more fun. Some examples:
This is brilliant. Thanks, Horace.
Thank you. I hope it helps!
Susanna, very inspiring!! I'm buying a shaker, thanks!!
Thanks, Horace :)
Most of the kids of age 5 are not able to focus for a long time. You just have to accept it and the practise takes a lot longer than the actual playing time.
I have no idea about the pedagogy, but the nervous system works differently for individuals. My observation is that sometimes it's better to just play a little for feeling well (you have to have a good technique for that, but it is an older tradition, but I don't know).
Sorry, I have been educated here that I should not post things in a different comment, but I also think that a calm concentrational state for a 5 year old heavily depends on bowing technique, and sound production. Which is the Kreisler highway, so perhaps asking the teacher to give more tasks, so that less time is spent on one piece, but then this IS a motivated state, to attain a goal.
Make sure that it is not your ego wrapped up in the way the child is progressing. I know you said you're not pushing him, but, you might be having grand ideas about his future, and not able to make peace with the messy beginnings now.
David, I agree. :)
Thank you so much for sharing your experience, thought, advice and tips. I find all super helpful and begin to implement some into his practice.