Why Practicing Works

What a fascinating video from TED Education. It explains "muscle memory", what effective practice looks like, and why repetition is SO important. All parents of Suzuki kids will benefit from watching this!

Characteristics of a Preschool Beginner

In my Suzuki teacher training (looooong ago), I received a fantastic handout charting the characteristics of the preschool aged child (broken down by age). There's no author named on the handout, but I believe it is the work of Marilyn OBoyle (Suzuki teacher-trainer extraordinaire). I have often referred to this handout, and believe it will be useful to other teachers and parents, so I'd love to share it here.

5 Year Old:

Relationship to Mother: Easy to work with, more independent than in the past
Relationship to Teacher: Usually work well for teacher
Relationship to Peers: Good friendships develop
Anxiety Level: Usually low. Work through things easily
Special Needs: Needs sense of progress and accomplishment
Special Gifts: Easy to work with
Physical Relationship to Violin: Beginners are sometimes stiffer but really try to do it right.

4.5 Year Old:

Relationship to Mother: Stabilizing from past desire to be independent, but unpredictable
Relationship to Teacher: Not as stubbornly independent as in the past
Relationship to Peers: Need to relate and succeed with peers
Anxiety Level: Unpredictable highs and lows
Special Needs: Esteem building and praise. Stable relationships

Special Gifts: More attentive and concentration is good (but not consistent)
Physical Relationship to Violin: A little uptight and tense but more willing to try

4 Year Old:

Relationship to Mother: Some retreating to earlier stages
Relationship to Teacher: Ups and downs
Relationship to Peers: Enjoys peers but experiences anxiety
Anxiety Level: Very high and internal
Special Needs: Need calm regular routines. Lots of praise
Special Gifts: Desire to please even when anxious
Physical Relationship to Violin: Can work longer but instability shows up sometimes

3.5 Year Old:

Relationship to Mother: Developing independence
Relationship to Teacher: Independence can block relationships
Relationship to Peers: Wants to relate to peers, and begins to
Anxiety Level: Low. Independence-created stubbornness
Special Needs: Small steps. Change pace often.
Special Gifts: Greater ability to concentrate
Physical Relationship to Violin: Have to be very exact and work from different angles.

3 Year Old:

Relationship to Mother: Close and more obedient
Relationship to Teacher: Begins to relate, if mom is close.
Relationship to Peers: Lots of watching others
Anxiety Level: Low, but some stubbornness
Special Needs: Need much repetition, very small steps
Special Gifts: Increasing attention span (still short)
Physical Relationship to Violin: Very relaxed, mold-able, but fall apart

2.5 Year Old:

Relationship to Mother: Close but willful
Relationship to Teacher: Mostly through mom
Relationship to Peers: Curiosity but no relationship
Anxiety Level: Medium - related to outside events
Special Needs: Games and tricks (don't follow directions well)
Special Gifts: Great curiosity - love to mimic
Physical Relationship to Violin: Mostly readiness. Very small steps and short sessions required.

Suzuki Review Chart (Books 1-7)

It was brought to my attention that the link in the sidebar for my Suzuki Review Chart is not functioning properly. I'm posting it as a jpeg in this post until I can get the link fixed. The resolution may not be great, so please click the image to view the original size.http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-qFLZbeenzRo/U7Q5obwOArI/AAAAAAAAFn0/ugEGTaGve2A/s1600/Suzuki_WEEKLY+REVIEW+CHART.jpg

Is Your Child Ready for Violin?

4 skills
your child should have before he/she's set up to succeed in violin lessons
(or, 10 skills we will be working on with your small child during their first year of lessons):

Number Recognition:

Preschool age children can often count to 10, 20, or even 100, but sometimes cannot recognize the written numbers. This picture links to a great activity that can help with that -

Another skill pertaining to number recognition is knowledge of ordinal numbers. 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th fingers are essential to learning the violin. Talk to your child about lining things up in height order, and discuss which comes "first", "second", "third", etc.

Finger Strength and Dexterity:

If your child is not writing yet, or has trouble holding a crayon to color, they might lack the finger strength/dexterity to play violin just yet. For gaining strength, specifically in the LEFT hand, try letting them squeeze Silly Putty. Also, "finger pops", i.e. tapping each finger individually against the thumb, can help to build strength.

Lacing cards, seen below, can help with dexterity and fine motor skills (click the picture to link to directions for making your own)...

Montessori activities for pre-handwriting skills are also great for pre-violin skills. Let your child use tweezers (left handed) to sort puff balls from one bowl to another, or kitchen tongs to move larger items.
Squeezing a turkey baster in the bathtub (left handed), can also build strength and dexterity. All fun stuff and super useful!

Crossing the Midline:

Crossing the midline means that one hand spontaneously moves over to the other side of the body to work there. Before this ability is established, you may have noticed that your young child tends to use the left hand on the left side of the body and the right hand on the right side of the body. -Quoting from ot-mom-learning-activities.com

If you've noticed your child is still working on this skill - read through the article linked to in the picture below, and try some of the activities mentioned...


The ideal is that your child can focus and follow directions for up to 15 minutes. I often start 2 - 4 year olds with 15 minute lessons (as opposed to 30 minute lessons), and my expectations for their practice time at home is based more on correct repetitions and building a routine than amount of time spent practicing.

Fantastic Articles

Musicians are known to have greater connectivity in the corpus callosum, parietal, temporal and frontal lobes of the brain. Autism may be a disorder of underconnectivity. The Theory of Underconnectivity suggests that early rapid brain growth leads to fewer long distance connections and more local connections. Anatomical brain studies have demonstrated the corpus callosum to be less dense suggesting that there are fewer long distance connections in & between parietal, temporal & frontal lobe areas. This anatomic finding can be translated into difficulties with sequential thinking and putting the pieces together in the right order. As suggested above, music making may improve or rehabilitate structural brain abnormalities and reduce epilepsy. Music making has been used in the remediation of language and reading disorders.
excerpt from Music for the Brain:|| Music for the Soul:||. Read the rest at Spruce Kids

The high-level musicians who had studied the longest performed the best on the cognitive tests, followed by the low-level musicians and non-musicians, revealing a trend relating to years of musical practice. The high-level musicians had statistically significant higher scores than the non-musicians on cognitive tests relating to visuospatial memory, naming objects and cognitive flexibility, or the brain's ability to adapt to new information.
excerpt from Childhood Music Lesson May Provide Lifelong Boost. read the rest at medicalxpress.com