"To stimulate creativity, one must develop the child-like inclination for play.”- Albert Einstein
As a piano teacher, I love teaching young beginning students. I love their enthusiasm, the questions they ask, their excitement over little successes, and most of all, their creativity.
Young children are naturally curious and inquisitive, with vivid imaginations. I love finding ways to bring that into our piano lessons and their practicing at home. I added a "Creativity Challenge" to the bottom of my assignment sheets a few years ago (available as a free printable here) and each week, I write a short prompt to encourage creative exploration, discovery, and music-making during the week.
Researchers indicate that open-ended questions and materials that allow children to construct their own ideas or solutions promote creativity (source). In addition, elements of structure provide not only a starting point, but helpful boundaries that foster creative thinking and promote the use of problem-solving skills (source).
Many of the activities on this list are designed for beginning students, particularly during the first few months as they explore new sounds, technique, and symbols on the page. Others are designed for elementary-age students who have a little more experience. Mix and match the examples below for even more ideas!
40 Creativity Challenges for Elementary Piano Students
1. Make a piece using forte and piano sounds on groups of two black keys.
2. Create a song about a flying a kite on the beach using C, D, and E.
3. Write a "musical Valentine" using the rhythm _____ and words, "Will you be my Valentine?". Use one of these handy printables.
4. Make a piece about a roller coaster using notes that step up AND down.
5. Use high sounds on the piano to create a piece about snow falling.
6. Compose a short 5-finger warm-up in the key of ___ major.
7. Write a song (with words) about baking an apple pie.
8. Make a piece about the moon at night using middle and low sounds. Add the sostenuto pedal for special effect!
9. Make up a song about Olaf the Snowman!
10. Compose a short, spooky piece about Halloween in ___ minor.
11. Make a piece about splashing in puddles using harmonic 2nds.
12. Compose an 8-bar, 5-finger piece in the key of ___, then transpose it to the key of ___.
13. Create a musical joke by setting one of your favorite jokes to music!
14. Make a piece about a cat using smooth, legato sounds.
15. Compose a short piece with ABA form.
16. Make your own piece using Middle C and Treble G.
17. Compose a short piece in triple meter about leaves falling using the notes of the ___ major 5-finger scale.
18. Compose a short march in duple meter using the notes of the ___ minor 5-finger scale.
19. Make a piece about Spring using your new warm up (5-finger scale in ___ major).
20. Create a short piece (two phrases) in ___ major that uses quarter rests and 5ths. Give your piece a name and draw a picture that tells more about it.
21. Compose a warm-up pattern using fingers 2, 3, 4, and 5.
22. Make two pieces that use octaves: one with staccato octave jumps and one with smooth octave leaps (using the sostenuto pedal).
23. Make an accompaniment to go with the first four measures of "Au Clair de la Lune."
24. Make a piece called “Airplane” using notes that (a) repeat, (b) step up, or (c) step down. Use the words, “We are flying, up and away! Soaring in the clouds all day!”
25. Make your own version of a piece in your Lesson Book by rearranging the patterns, switching hands, or adding new ideas of your own!
26. Make a piece about a cat and a mouse (one hand is the cat, one hand is the mouse!).
27. Create a blues melody (right hand). Accompany your melody with alternating blocked 5ths and 6ths in your left hand.
28. Create a two-phrase piece using a musical question and a parallel answer.
29. Create a two-phrase piece using a musical question and a contrasting answer.
30. Improvise a new melody to go with the chord progression for "Lightly Row."
31. Transpose a well-known piece from your lesson book to two keys of your choice.
32. Make your own arrangement of Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" with introduction and accompaniment.
33. Can you figure out how to play "Amazing Grace" using only the black keys?
34. Create two different accompaniments for "When the Saints Go Marching In."
35. Compose four rhythm patterns using quarter notes, quarter rests, half notes, and dotted half notes.
36. Find three ways (or more!) to play dotted rhythms in your warm-ups this week.
37. Create an 8-bar piece in triple meter using only notes that move by step!
38. Compose a rhythm duet to perform with your teacher or a family member. Write eight measures for each part (find places to repeat patterns in each!).
39. Create a piece using staccato and legato sounds (AAB form).
40. Choose your favorite children's book and "accompany" the story with musical sound effects!
What are your favorite creative activities? How do you encourage creativity in your students?