One of the most important things a piano teacher can focus on is the “health” of their piano students’ hands, wrists and arms. Without this, teachers risk having to correct technique when poor habits are inevitably ingrained, or once strain and/or injury rears its ugly head.
But…young piano students don’t get too excited about stretching or strengthening… until you make these exercises into a game! Making learning fun is one of our favorite things on the Teach Piano Today blog! So today, check out our 5 Piano Student Games for Strength and Stretching…
5 Piano Student Games for Strength and Stretching
Beyond the warm-ups you do on the keyboard, there are some fun exercises you can do with your piano students to bring awareness to finger strength, wrist flexibility, and arm position. Print this post out and stick it to your piano… try a new one every week for 5 weeks and watch your piano kids develop strength, flexibility and body-awareness.
Important note: These exercises are intended to be used in moderation with piano students. As with any stretching or strengthening, care should be taken to introduce them slowly and to avoid strain… especially with young fingers.
- The Jellyfish – grab a thin and stretchy elastic band and place it around your student’s fingers while they are in a closed position. Ask her to gradually expand her fingers to stretch the elastic band with her finger tips on a table top. The motion should resemble the expansion and retraction of a jelly fish. This one is extra fun if you put a fishy cracker on the table and have the “jellyfish” expand and retract over his next meal 😉
- Nice Kitty, Naughty Kitty – Get your “hiss” on and ask your student to bend her fingers at their middle knuckles (making cat claws). Have her hold this for 5-8 seconds as she becomes “naughty kitty” (hiss!) and then relax her fingers to become “nice kitty”.
- The Hoooooo Squeeze – Ask your student to squeeze her thumb and index finger (on both hands) together as tightly as she can, making two circles. This should be performed without allowing her first finger joint to collapse, so relax the squeeze if needed to correct joint collapse. Next, have your student hold the circles together so they touch (making an “owl face”). You and your student should “hoot” when the circles come together and then again and again as your student switches to thumbs and middle fingers and then thumbs and 4 fingers and thumbs and 5 fingers.
- Thumbs Up for Yo-Yo’s – This one is great for loosening a tight wrist. If you have a yo-yo (and if you have yo-yo skills!) demonstrate for your student the fun that is… yo-yo’ing. Next, have her mimic the motion of “throwing” the yo-yo downwards (the hinging motion happens at the wrist). Finally, have your student alternate between two downward yo-yo throws, and then giving the “thumbs-up” sign while rotating her thumb in two full circles.
- The Moody Brotasaurus – As well as being great for wrist strength, this activity is also a good way to reinforce having arms parallel to the floor. Ask your student to hold out her right arm out while making a closed fist. Her arm should be at the angle you prefer when she’s on the bench. Her arm and closed fist represent the Moody Brontosaurus. Now present your student with several questions or statements, like… Do you like ice cream? or You lost your favorite stuffy! or We’re going to Disneyland! and have your student make the Moody Brontosaurus react in one of the following ways:
- For a happy response she can do the “Happy Brontosaurus” motion (her closed fist tilts up), or
- For a sad response she can rotate though the “Sad Brontosaurus” motion (her closed fist tilts down) and,
- To answer a question, she can make the “Brotosaurus Says Yes” motion (her closed fist nods) or the “Brotasaurus Says No” motion (her closed fist rotates back and forth like a shaking head).
What About “On The Keys” Warm-ups?
Starting with “on the keys” warm-ups is another important way to prepare your students’ fingers for their repertoire work and to teach important concepts within the context of short excerpts. The only problem… technically work has always been sooooo boring.
Until now! If your piano students avoid technical warm-ups like the plague you’ll definitely want to check out our resource TEDDtales. With 72 hilarious, story-based technical exercises your piano students will be begging (yup… begging!) to do technical warm-ups.