Playing with kids

September 24, 2020, 7:35 PM · Hello all,

It has been a while since i logged here (or played my instrument). Many things have happened in my life and only now I am looking at my little fiddle again.

However, i have a problem that I am having trouble solving:

How do you manage to practice with kids around (say, under 3).

Whenever I try to play, it is either "i want to play too", or "please stop, i want to [whatever]".

I have tried to provide the little one with an instrument - for the kid to join my activity. Not only a violin, to be honest (i have several instruments at home). But of course my instrument is much more interesting than a small one that can only make noise.

I also tried other approaches, but without any success.

Id like to ask for advice. Did anyone here went through a similar experience? This is a new situation for me (i didnt have kids before), and I don't know how to manage it. I can obviously not play (which is what I've been doing), and my attempts to make the kid interested in music so far have all backfired (i dont mind the noise of another instrument, but i cannot use an my violin if someone else trying to take it from me)

Thanks in advance!

Replies (10)

Edited: September 24, 2020, 9:32 PM · Assuming that practicing time does not have to overlap with sole childcare responsibility, I'd practice with a mute or otherwise reduce the sound that might bother people and continue practicing despite whatever objections might remain, because I'd have to be able to do that.

For the child's playing, I'd guess that the child would appreciate specific focus, so would have the child play or play with an instrument or proxy and attend to and praise the child for doing so.

But I didn't start my own child with music until much later, so don't have experience with very young children in this regard. I did start with formal instruction, which might be another approach - I'd think that teachers who would take such very young children would know how to approach them based on experience.

I'd also have the child hear music and sing when possible.

Edited: September 24, 2020, 9:45 PM · I imagine this question applies to a whole range of activities in which you might be involved, but you don't want your toddler participating. Working with power tools, drinking Scotch, cooking over the stove, watching racy or violent television shows, conversing with adult friends, etc. The methods you use to exclude your child from these should be equally effective with your violin practicing.
Edited: September 24, 2020, 9:54 PM · Paul is correct. The simplest answer is "Practice after the kiddo goes to bed."

But there are other answers like "Have a spouse watch them while you practice" or "Teach enough discipline that they will remain a respectful distance from you while practicing."

September 25, 2020, 3:04 AM · Thank you for the insights so far.

I really do not think that this can be solved with usual methods used to exclude kids from other activities. You see, all examples given by Paul can be juggled with a kid, or done outside hours (those who work with power tools in a regular basis are a very particular case). Playing an instrument cannot.

From this aspect, i suppose buying an electrical instrument and playing after hours might be a solution.

September 25, 2020, 10:52 AM · I believe every family situation would be different, i.e. what your family dynamics are, do you have a boy or a girl, etc.

In my particular case, I never tried to exclude my kids when practicing the violin, in fact, I encourage them to join me.

Basically, they just want to play with Dad and be involved in whatever "Dad" is doing.

So what do I do, or rather what "did" I do? I involved them in my practice. I have girls, so I involved them by playing "Disney" songs, i.e. Beauty and the Beast, Frozen songs, Aladdin songs, Tangled songs (you get the picture), and they would start dancing or singing with the music. Once that's done, they may still stay in the room but by then they will be playing with their dolls or whatever, and I can continue with my practice without them bugging me.

Sometimes, they would want to take my violin, and I let them for a few minutes to satisfy their curiosity. Once their curiosity is satisfied, they either go to Mommy and bug her (LOL), or do whatever to entertain themselves.

In our home, it's my policy never to close my door when I practice or work, because I always want to be accessible to my kids regardless of how busy I may get.

My kids are both taking violin and piano lessons now, and thriving on both of them. Sometimes we practice together, sometimes separately. Sometimes we practice at the same time, but in different rooms. Sometimes we are all in the music room and play whatever piece in both violin or piano. Or sometimes we just purposely annoy each other with our music while in the same room to entertain ourselves (LOL).

September 25, 2020, 12:23 PM · At least in the US, it's common to put toddlers to bed by 7 or 8 pm in the evening. That's generally well before most adult bedtimes, leaving significant time to practice.
September 25, 2020, 4:06 PM · "i suppose buying an electrical instrument and playing after hours might be a solution"

It depends on which instrument you're talking about. If it's a piano, yes, that's one of the advantages of an electronic one. If it's a violin, a good/heavy practice mute often yields comparable results, and is generally a better choice for ergonomic/learning consistency than a new instrument, especially as electric violins can be quite varied.

In this COVID era, we get a lot of accidental visibility into households, children and pets via video meetings, and it's apparent that some are more manageable than others. Children do need their parents/guardians, and aren't necessarily able to distinguish "very important work" from any other time the parent is at home and available to attend to their needs, but whether or not they (or pets) literally or figuratively crawl all over you is also something of your choice.

September 25, 2020, 10:11 PM · When my oldest daughter was around 3-4 she liked me to practice the violin in the next room while she was going to sleep.

But I agree with Lydia. We just taught our kids not to bother us when we were doing stuff where we didn't want to be bothered. Children need to learn how to entertain themselves.

Edited: September 25, 2020, 10:27 PM · In the vein of the above. I know it's easier said than done, but it's not a bad thing to just practice while the kids are playing. When I had two under 3, and then three under 4, I'd seta time and have "music time" while they played in the same room. Did I have to deal with interruptions and distractions? Yes, but they learned. It was usually about a 20-minute timer at first, with reminders to let mommy practice and occasional emergencies that killed the time, but as they got used to it I was able to go longer and actually get pieces prepared! Now I don't have it formalized, but they've learned to function more independently. Not that there aren't still interruptions and emergencies (apparently not being able to find the remote is an emergency!) but I can sustain a thought for more than a minute at least :)

btw, they usually just played toys on the floor. At the end I would sometimes put them on my lap to hold the bow and "play" something, but at that age just having music in the home, playing in their presence, is including them. On really antsy days sometimes I would just play them kids songs and try to incorporate the techniques I was working on :D

September 26, 2020, 12:36 AM · Not a perfect solution, but I also use timers with my kids, because it helps both them and me be aware of what's coming/when. In this case, something like, "I'm going to set a timer for 20 minutes while you play with legos, and then we'll do X." I have a kid who struggles with transition and this also helps him with that (knowing that this activity will end in a certain amount of time). Not a perfect solution, but may give you an extra 10/20/30 minutes from time to time.

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