How To Teach Piano To Wiggly Walter; Off Bench Activities For Kids Who Can't Sit Still

If you're a teacher, whether it's in a school or in a private music setting, chances are you've had a student who just will not sit still.  This article offers up some great ideas for your "Wiggly Walter" piano students who can't seem to stay on the bench.  Enjoy!

How to Teach Piano To Wiggly Walter; Off Bench Activities for Kids Who Can’t Sit Still

Young piano students crave lesson activities that get them up and off the bench. It is natural for kids to want to use their bodies to learn and to demonstrate their understanding.  So, piano teachers need to have an arsenal of “move it” activities for those moments when you know your student needs to burn off some energy!

Wiggly piano student

5 PHYSICAL ACTIVITIES FOR PIANO STUDENTS

Try these 5 activities with your young piano students as a mid-lesson break or as a reward for an extended period of quiet focus, and get rid of the wiggles in a positive way…

1.  Piano Yoga – Kids love to challenge themselves physically.  Stretching and balancing can be incorporated into your piano lesson by having your students do your own form of Piano Yoga.  Try these 4 “piano yoga poses”

The Quarter Note - Your student curls up in a ball on the floor and extends their right arm as high and as straight as they can (making the stem of the quarter note).

The Bass Clef - With their hands above their head as though they are about to dive, your student curls their body to emulate the curve of a bass clef.

The Slur – Balancing on one foot, your student tips forward while reaching one leg out the back and one arm out the front creating a “slur”.  This is a hard one!  Use the piano bench for balance with one hand if needed.

The Accent – This is like the Downward Dog pose in Yoga – your student bends over to put both hands flat on the ground in front of their feet, creating an “accent” with their curved back.

2.  Beethoven May I?  Do you know how to play Mother May I?  This is the piano version!  Your student stands at one side of the studio and asks “Beethoven, may I take a half note step?” You answer “Yes, you may!” or “No, you may take a quarter note step.”etc.  Each kind of step is coordinated with the number of beats in 4/4 time (for example, a quarter note step is 1 step, a half note step is 2 steps and so on).  The object of this exercise is for your piano student to travel from one side of the room to the next.  You can have your back turned and can delay or aid their progress as you see fit based on the kinds of note values you allow!  If you have a particularly active child the steps can become jumps instead!

3.  Get Moving With Theory – many of the activities in our “Pssst…Your Piano Teacher Thinks This is Theory Book” were designed to get kids moving and using their bodies to learn and show understanding.  Try this one (free download!) to get your kids moving and to shift focus in your lesson while teaching them both theory and listening skills.  This is just one of 88 activities in this book… there’s lots to help you and your wigglers out!

4.  Step Skip Boogie – Using flash cards with steps vs. skips (or by pointing to places in your students’ method book), have your them tell you if they see a step or a skip. If they determine it’s a step then they stomp in place.  If it’s a skip, they hop.  If you get moving through the flash cards really quickly then they’ll be a stomp hoppin’ machine.  Get ‘em good and sweaty and they’ll be happy to return to the bench for some quiet time! :)

Piano kids are movers and shakers.  If we tried to emulate even just a smidge of the physical activity they pack into their day we’d all look like Jillian Michaels! Movement is a natural part of learning for kids, and if we can harness this and incorporate it into piano lessons in a meaningful and music-centered way we’ll have much happier piano students.What are your favorite off-bench “move it” activities?