A Guide to Motivating Children

Updated: Oct 15, 2019

At EchoKids, we use a variety of different motivational tools to keep children engaged in their music lessons. After all, learning something new can occasionally be frustrating - especially for children under 10. Through the use of stickers, markers, and shapes, we quickly break the ice between student and teacher and get the student excited to learn more!

One of the first motivational hurdles is to get young children to view lessons not as a chore or something they “have to do”, but as an exciting activity for them to participate in. Once they understand that music lessons are not a boring class, the teacher (or “mentor”, as we call them) can really speed up the learning.

Teaching Music Like a Language

We believe music is a language. Thus, children’s music education should be approached in the same way they learn how to speak. Kids learn how to speak not by reading Shakespeare before they can read, but by constantly being around older figures who speak to them even without them understanding completely. When talking to babies, most of us use different movements, reaction and tone of voice to help them understand what we are trying to tell them. After a while, kids start to understand words, then phrases, then create sentences on their own.

We support this training of languages to kids through repetition, connecting things they understand (physical movements like BIG and SMALL, facial reactions and tone of voice) to a new language they already recognize through sounds they’ve heard – possibly even before birth: music. Stickers, colors, and shapes are all factors most kids are familiar with by the age of 3 as fun and positive.

Stickers, Markers, and Shapes


Stickers are an excellent motivator and reward to keep students engaged. Particularly in early lessons, when students are still figuring out the basics of music, stickers provide a type of instant gratification that gives students a sense of progress in their lessons.

At EchoKids, we have found notable success by personalizing the stickers to the child’s preference. There are hundreds of different sticker collections out there: cars, constructions, princess stickers. They become collectibles for the students and something that they take pride in.

We directly correlate the stickers to the lessons, not just through using them as rewards for certain milestones, but by sticking them on the envelopes of students’ roadmap cards. These cards outline the lesson curriculum and the goals that students are working towards.

As children collect more stickers on their cards, they become excited to show their parents. The parents, in turn, praise their children and make the child more confident. This creates a cycle of motivation as the student, teacher, and mentor are working towards and celebrating the same achievements.

Markers and Colors

Markers and colors are another simple tool for motivating young children. Children respond positively to colors and it assists in their memorization. The U.S. National Library of Medicine includes an article by Mariam Adawiah Dzulkifli and Muhammad Faiz Mustafar that directly correlates the use of color with improved memory capabilities.

At EchoKids, we use different colored markers to indicate movement in a piece. For example, red will indicate that a note is moving up. Blue will indicate a note moving down.

We also use colors to help children differentiate between the notes on a keyboard. This breaks up the monotony of letters and numbers that are typically associated with learning the keyboard and adds a level dynamism to the lesson. See below for an example of a worksheet that uses colors to reinforce the underlying music lesson.


In music, there are many shapes that all look very similar and can be confusing to children. For example, quarter notes, half notes, and dotted half notes have small differences between them.

To help children differentiate between these notes, we use shapes that they are familiar with to indicate time values.

Quarter notes: smiley face 🙂

Half notes: heart ❤️

Dotted half notes: triangle 🔺

Whole note: circle 🔵

This shape substitution bridges the familiar and unfamiliar and makes it easier for children to pick up basic musical concepts efficiently.

Every Student is Different

No two children are the same, and these motivational tools can vary in success from child to child. We are always looking for new ways to connect with our students and give them the tools they require to better learn the material!

Inside an EchoKids Lesson

As part of EchoKids’ commitment to making music education accessible for all children, we offer a free 30-minute meet & greet! You can also sign up for our monthly newsletter at the bottom of this page.

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