How to Get Your Kids to Self-Start their Practice


✅ Download The Practice Chart

✅ Download the Practice Guide

What if your kids practiced on their own each day, without being asked or reminded? 

Let me show you how! Follow these steps - and make sure to follow them all!

Step #1. Make it DAILY

Everyone says this... but why? Because if it’s not every day, it’s hard for kids to remember which days are “on” or “off.” (And without Step #1, there can be no Step #5. Keep going!)

Step #2. Choose a Specific Practice Deadline

Habit formation experts call this step "intention setting." Basically, that means pre-determining when, where, and how practice happens. That's fine for regular practice routines where parents usually do the work of keeping every child on-task for every task... But to make it self-initiating practice, you have to reverse the stakes by become the "Fail-Safe" rather than "Order Barker." Here's how:

In this step, you’ll set an alarm to go off each day at the latest time you consider reasonable for practice. This is when you remind them if they haven’t already remembered on their own. That way, if practice doesn’t happen, you can “take the blame” and spare some negative feelings!

When choosing your cutoff time:

  • Take into account home dynamics like personal energy reserves and attitude for all children AND adults!
  • If you already have a timer for something else that happens close to the cutoff practice time, just add this to it! Habit experts call this "Habit Stacking." For example, at my house, we already have a timer set for every day at 8:30pm to remind us to turn on my son’s lava lamp, so it now doubles as our practice deadline reminder. Younger kids need a much earlier time!
  • Pick a time that works every day. Don't make it harder by having different deadlines for weekdays and weekends, for example.

Step #3. Check Off Each Practice on a Daily Chart

At Microsoft Corporation, they say "What gets measured gets done!"

The attached BIG-BOX chart is easy for kids to follow, and gives a BIG sense of achievement for each BIG checkmark! (See "downloads" above) And, it's designed to be easy enough for kids who haven't even learned to write. 

  • Put it on the fridge or in a similar place you'll both see it often.(We love the fridge at my house!) Make sure it it's at your child's eye-level. Keep a pencil nearby so they can always draw the check marks!
  • Teach them to move a magnet onto the current day of the week so they know which day it is!
  • Did you notice the strong emphasis on them doing every step? In music, we want their hands doing all the work because “the brain that does the thinking does the learning!"

Step #4. Give Special Recognition for Self-Initiated Practice

THIS was the layer that made the difference between ME doing the reminding and HIM trying to do it before the timer went off! (It’s so simple!)

  • Teach your child to write a “Check” for practice they start AFTER the cutoff reminder, and a “Check +” if BEFORE the reminder alarm goes off! (In my house, I’ll let him earn a “Check +” for any practice before the alarm even if I suggested practicing early, for example, when I know we’ll have a busy evening.)

Step #5. Count Practice Streaks! 

THIS is the layer that LOCKS IN the practice routine! 

  • After we had lots of “Checks” and “Check +’s” we grew curious about how many… so we started to write the day number in a corner of each box! Each day the number grows, the LESS likely he wants to LOSE that number because each day it grows, so does the sense of achievement! (Today is "Day 209!")

Special Circumstances: 

Sick days, vacations, shared custody, and holidays are just a few exceptions you may choose for practice streaks to not “count” on those days.

Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide what rules to put in place. Be flexible, be creative with exceptions, and remember the BIG goal is your child making progress on the inside!


What a clever teacher trick it is to make the learning sink in by having you review the steps... So I won't do that.

Instead, I'll suggest considering what happens to the system if any of the 5 steps gets removed... Can any be removed without the whole system falling apart?

Give it a try! And let me know what you think in the comments below!

Best wishes,
Mr. Zach

P.S. If you remember, come back and let me know how it's going! I'd love to see some small "streak" numbers turn into BIG ones!


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