Do It Together
Most likely, when your child first starts playing an instrument, he or she will need more coaching during practice time. But this doesn't mean that music practice should involve you standing over your child and calling out orders -- or that you should abandon your child once they can practice independently.
Most of us who played an instrument as a child have fond memories of playing for parents, siblings, and friends. If you can recreate that opportunity to show off for your child, you will make practice time into something enjoyable instead of something to be dreaded.
Set Reasonable Goals
Build confidence and teach focus by starting with very small goals when your child is a beginner. This might even be just to learn a few bars of a new song. As your child develops better skills and focus, goals can be longer, such as learning several lines of a new song. A more experienced child could even make several goals for one practice session, such as learning more than one song at once.
Reward Your Child
Even though you might be skeptical, a reward can have its place with the arts and little kids. Rewards are a powerful incentive for children, often powerful enough to convince them to do something even when they don't want to.
If you are going to use rewards, make it a consistent system where your child can earn stickers, beans, or some other form of reward for every ten or fifteen minutes of practice. Once the sticker chart or bean jar is full, your child has earned their reward. Another option is to treat the stickers or beans as a currency that can be exchanged for treats.
Make It a Game
Since the key to successful musical education in children is making it fun, turning practice into a game can make music hour easier. One example is the penny practice game.
Start your child off with three pennies on one side of their music stand. Set a simple goal, such as to play a short section without errors. Each time your child plays the section error-free, she gets to slide one penny over to the other side of the stand -- but if she makes a mistake, all the pennies go back to the starting side. She earns the three pennies when she plays the same section error-free three times in a row.
Don't Put It Away
Learning an instrument isn't about forcing a kid to sit down and practice. Ultimately, you want your child to live and breathe that instrument. You want your child to want to play.
To encourage that to happen, stop having your child put away their instrument at the end of practice. That signifies that they're done until the next day. Instead, find a safe place to leave the instrument out. Make it easy for your child to pick up her instrument, play a little, and go back to what she was doing.
Making Music Fun
Music for children is so much more enjoyable for both of you when it's something your child wants to do and takes pride in doing. Sure, there will still be some bad days, but overall you're creating a lifelong habit and an appreciation of the arts.