Little musicians’ holidays: should we bring their instrument along for the ride?

The holidays are finally here. While it might be a blissful time for children, two months away from school requires a lot of planning by the parents. On the do-not-forget list: the youngest brother and his musical instrument. But wait, should we really bring the latter or not?

Little musicians’ holidays: should we bring their instrument along for the ride?
© Stephen Simpson Getty Images

Suitcase? In the boot. Mini fridge? Under granny’s feet. Tent? on the roof (so that's where I left my cell phone). The dog? Lying under the front seat. Beach gear? Under the umbrella. The canary and goldfish? Safe and sound with the neighbour. Passports and prescription drugs? In the glove box. The children have their teddies and toys. Everybody’s strapped in, there’s water for everyone. OK, everything is here. Holidays here we come!

You’re all set and ready to get the engine started when you hear a small voice in the back of your neck: "Did you remember to bring the piano? The teacher told me I absolutely had to practice during the holidays...

Indeed, what should we do with the instrument when on vacation? No, you didn’t think about it. And yet, you have planned everything from books and board games to colouring books, grammar and math exercises. Enough to entertain hot afternoons and rainy days, wherever you are . But the piano doesn’t fit in the car. Two months without their instrument, it's not so much, after all... (Why the hell did we say "no" when he asked us if he could take up the trumpet?)

Rookie mistake. The teacher had very good reasons to tell your child to practice. Not only does he want your budding musician to avoid losing everything he learned this year, but he also wants to keep him motivated and maintain the great momentum they built together throughout the year.

Keeping his piano muscle memory fresh, maintaining his finger flexibility, remembering the notes and rhythms, these are what will keep your young musician in touch with what he learned during the year. He doesn't stop reading during the holidays, does he?

So don’t panic. It’s okay not to have a piano, a harp or a double bass in your holiday house - or any other instrument that doesn’t travel well for that matter. For the others, you may still have some room in the suitcase... 

Whatever happens, here are three solutions for musical holidays. 

A classic high-risk solution: continue as usual

The ideal solution, if there is one, and if you’re lucky to have a child that plays a transportable instrument, is to take everything with you. Do not expect the pace of daily practice to be maintained during holidays. That would be too easy. Not sure your camping neighbours would appreciate the sound of a trumpet during nap time anyway. But perhaps suggest occasionally replacing bedtime or afternoon reading with a bit of music practice. Why not review together the songs your child learned during the year? Or invite said neighbours to a small recital as a prelude to a well-deserved aperitif? The plan may not work every time, but it's sure worth a try.

“The Holiday method” solution: get your hands dirty.

Motivation is the key, so try to take the instrument out of its usual "homework" context. If you play a bit of music yourself or if you have musicians around you, try to create a convivial moments where you sing and play together. Long evenings under the stars work well and if you know how to play a little guitar, that’s all you need. In both cases, sing a little song, prepare a repertoire to play on various summer occasions. Your child will join you with or without the instrument, if he has the opportunity or if he feels like it. But he will realise that making music together is fun. And so will your friends.

The “not even scared” solution: try something different

Maintaining the bond with music also goes through discovery. Instruments, musical genres, composers, everything can be turned into a game. This approach has two key advantages: on the market, there is a plethora of media dedicated to music, including audio-book, films, cartoons, apps, radio shows and online videos... and the rewards are great when you choose something in line with your child's interests. One small thing to remember: this steo requires time to invest time, prepare and create a worthy holiday collection!