The first thing you can do to encourage a harmonious habit is to set the stage. Reserve a quiet place in the house where your child can practice undisturbed by siblings, TV, or an enthusiastic housecleaner with a vacuum cleaner. A tranquil practice area is key to concentration — after all, your child is trying to make music, so he needs to hear the notes.
Second, schedule a regular practice time, just as you would for other routine tasks like homework. Suggest he practice for 30 minutes before dinner or for 30 minutes following his after-school snack, before his playtime. Thirty minutes a day, five days a week, is plenty at this age. If a straight, 30-minute session is too much for your child, try breaking it up into 15-minute chunks — one session in the morning before school, for example, and one in the evening. Three ten-minute shifts will work, too. The goal is to have focused practice time. If your child can concentrate better for ten minutes at a time, that's the best schedule for him.
Also, charting your child's progress is helpful: Try posting a calendar on the refrigerator where you place a gold star on the days he's practiced. You might put special stickers on dates when he's mastered a set of scales or learned a new segment of a piece. Charting progress is not only a good visual reminder that your child needs to practice, but it also shows him that his hard work is paying off — just look at all the songs and scales he's learned!
Casual performances for family or friends also motivate little musicians to practice, especially if your child knows ahead of time that he may be asked to share the fruits of his labor. Family members usually love to hear children play their instruments, and seeing Grandma delight in a performance is truly rewarding for a child. So that your child doesn't feel "put on the spot," warn him before a prospective audience member drops by, and suggest that he start thinking about a song or two he'd like to play for them. A simple tune that he likes and feels comfortable playing is a good choice. However, if your child shows reluctance, don't force it. A bonus to these informal mini-concerts: Performing at an early age can help prevent stage fright later on.