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Practicing With My 3 Year Old

I’m not going to lie, when my daughter started learning the violin at 3 years old, I was shocked at what violin “practice” looked like.

Young girl gets ready to practice violin.

Initially I thought practice time with my daughter would look like, ya know, a much shorter version of my own violin practice except with a tiny adorable violin and violinist.

Turns out I was 100% wrong.

First off, my daughter was resistant to any form of me manhandling her into correct violin and bow positions. She also got frustrated when she attempted something with the bow and violin herself that didn’t quite work out. I was completely stumped as to how to make any movement with these things and basically was revisiting the same tactic everyday with the same horrible ending - my daughter getting mad at the violin.

This was all very confusing to me because as a music teacher myself, I was used to physically adjusting my students endlessly with little to no push back. I figured that eventually my daughter would just give in to it. But then I started to suspect that the parent/child relationship was never going to be the same as the teacher/parent one. I was going to have to come up with another in-road.

I thought about how I the teacher would have dealt with this parent/child conundrum in my baby and toddler pre-instrumental Suzuki classes. The answer came to me immediately and now seems embarrassingly simple - model the exercises that I wanted my daughter to do. Model it over and over and over again until she willingly comes to it on her own. It takes the pressure right off the child and gives them the autonomy they want.

So that’s what I did. With no preamble whatsoever about it being “violin time”, I would pick up the bow myself and pretend to have a horrible bow hold. Could she help me fix it? Yup, she could and did perfectly. Proving to me over and over again that she knew exactly what a good bow hold looked like. I would do a bowing exercise and purposefully muck my fingers up, which of course was hilarious to her. Then we would take turns scolding the slippery fingers and she would instruct me how to correct the bow hold. I actually grew weary of the game before she did! We were “practicing” and she was loving it! Occasionally I would ask her if she wanted a turn on the bow. She didn’t. But lo and behold a couple days into this strategy and she would spontaneously pick her bow up from time to time and put all her fingers on correctly.

The greatest thing to come from this new approach was much less frustration on her part and consequently less heartache on my side. Violin time slowly became just another part of the day - as natural as playing lego - and feeling like a much less daunting task for us to accomplish.

Alison Porter, director of Lovenotes School of Music

Alison Porter is the director of Lovenotes School of Music. You can learn more about her pre-instrumental classes for 0-5 year olds and the Suzuki curriculum by visiting

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