New parents tend to invest in tons of baby gear—a Moses basket, a buggy, a baby swing, a bouncy seat, a car seat, and, of course, nappies, nappies, and more nappies. Sometime around the one-year mark, though, parents realise that they need to invest in one more vital item: a good pair of shoes…for themselves. When you have a toddler, it sometimes feels like you’re never ever going to have the chance to sit down again. After all, toddlers love to be on the go and are constantly looking for ways to try out their developing gross-motor skills—walking, running, hopping, and even climbing stairs and furniture. (Yikes!)
We get it. Toddlers learn to move and move to learn. It’s exhausting for parents, but crucial for kids. That’s why we’re so focused on movement in Kindermusik class. We stomp hello at the beginning of the lesson, fly like birds, stand and stretch our arms high like trees, and dance around the room to strengthen and refine the children’s gross-motor skills. All this movement also stimulates the release of brain chemicals that support memory and learning! And the best news for you: no shoes required.
Everyday Connection: I got moves like…. Put on some music and play the “I got moves like…” game. Name an animal and ask your toddler to move like that animal. Then, switch it round and name different ways to move: walk, hop, march, twirl, crawl, gallop, and more!
Do you ever just stop and really listen to your surroundings? It’s kind of noisy. You might hear the sounds of music or television commercials, the humming of the refrigerator, birds singing, cars driving by, your baby babbling, wind blowing, a coffee maker brewing, the microwave beeping, someone talking, and more. Thankfully, as an adult, you know how to tune in to the sounds that matter most and tune out the sounds you don’t need to focus on. Babies, however, are still working on this skill.
In Kindermusik classes, we enhance your baby’s growing discriminatory listening skills when we listen to and imitate instruments, animal noises, and all kinds of other sounds. This ability to detect and attend to sounds, and to distinguish between them, sets your baby on the path to fine-tuned listening and receptive language.
Everyday Connection: Tell Me More! Model and encourage active listening—and the art of conversation—by talking with your baby. Pause. Listen to your baby’s reply. Then respond by saying, “Tell me more,” or, “That sounds interesting.”
Do you remember your child’s first few words? Although the Oxford English Dictionary didn’t include definitions for “da,” “ba-ba,” or “la,” you knew—without a doubt—your little one said daddy, bye, and mummy. (Or, something along those lines!) Now, as a toddler, you may hear your child deliberately making up silly sounding words and giggling profusely. I mean, seriously, blibber-blobber, really is funny! Laughing together over nonsense words supports your child’s growing sense of humour!
In Kindermusik, we know that nonsense words also support your child’s early language and literacy development. While your child may laugh at the silliness of nonsense words from class like “Fiddle-dee-dee” or “fuzzy wuzzy,” your child is also practising in the development of specific oral motor skills that create vowels, consonants, or cluster sounds. Nonsense words often employ alliteration and rhyme, which fosters phonemic awareness or the understanding that words are made up of small speech sounds or phonemes. So, blibber-blobber or fiddle-dee-dee away!
Everyday Connection: Call the Doctor. Dr. Seuss made a living making up nonsense words like wocket, grickle-grass, and zizzer-zazzer-zuzz. Read some Dr. Seuss this week and add some new nonsense words to your family’s vocabulary.
Walk into any family-friendly restaurant, indoor playground, or arcade, and chances are you’ll encounter the Claw. This “game” boasts a glass case full of stuffed animals, sweets, and toys. It looks simple enough: All you have to do is move the lever to position the claw, push the button to drop the claw over the desired item, pick the item up, and bring it to you. Simple, right? Except that it generally doesn’t work out that way. Instead, the claw grasps at nothing, or the item slips back down into the pile, and you’re left empty-handed and a pound or two out of pocket.
Young toddlers’ first attempts at using their fingers to pick things up look a bit like most people’s experiences with the Claw. But with time and practice, children eventually master all kinds of precise movements. In Kindermusik, we use fingerplays, sign language, hand motions, and instrument play to give children opportunities to strengthen the fine-motor muscles in their fingers, hands, and wrists. Fine-motor muscle control eventually translates into the ability to write, use a fork, button buttons, zip zippers, and more!
Everyday Connection: Let your fingers do the walking talking. Children learn best through repetition. So go ahead and use sign language from Kindermusik throughout the week to support both language and fine-motor skills.
It’s hard to argue with a genius like Albert Einstein. After all, he was, well, an actual genius. So it’s no shocker that he was right when he declared that “Play is the highest form of research.” Turns out that even babies use play to research the world. Infants learn about new sounds, sights, tastes, movements, and touches—all through play.
During the first year of life, your baby engages in two types of play —social play and object play. In Kindermusik, we provide opportunities for both! When we play a peekaboo game while singing “I See You,” your little one develops his motor skills, his visual skills, and his understanding of object permanence. Best of all, he bonds with you! During object play with instruments, your baby begins to understand cause and effect and how objects can be grouped—all by reaching, grasping, touching, mouthing, pushing, kicking, and even dropping the instruments! And throughout this play, you’re there to support your baby’s “research” with smiles, singing, and encouragement.
Everyday Connection: All the world’s a playground! Your baby plays inside and outside the Kindermusik classroom, in the car and in the crib, in the stroller and in the shopping cart, and everywhere in between. Support your child’s play by talking to your child to enhance his language development, stepping in when he needs help, or stepping back and watching your little scientist figure it out himself!
Becoming a parent means becoming a teacher—as in your child’s first and best teacher. But it also means becoming a student. Children teach us how to move and sound like a rubbish truck, an aeroplane zooming in the sky, popcorn popping in the microwave, or even how to spin around in a circle faster than fast pretending to be a whirlpool. (Most of us need help learning how not to feel queasy after that one!)
Supporting your child’s expressive movement helps connect the outer world of movement and sound with the inner world of feelings and observations. In class each week, when we dance around the room in time to the music, reach for a star in the night, or spread our robin wings and fly in search of food, your child taps into a growing imagination and experiences support for early artistic expressions.
Everyday Connection: Take a Bird Bath. Expressive movement isn’t just for class. Tap into your child’s imagination during bath time. After feeding all those baby birds in class, your little robin needs a bath. How would a robin (gently) splash in the water, wash the dirt from feathers, or even fly around the room to dry off?
Do you remember the first time you tried ice-skating? Clinging to the wall around the rink and refusing to let go. There was likely a good deal of wobbling, flailing, and slipping. The experience was probably a bit more like ice-sitting! With practice (and some help from your vestibular sense), you learned to balance, adjust your speed, and stop. And then, of course, there’s that crucial safety component.
The skill that guides you to follow the curve of the rink. It allows you to avoid crashing into the wall. Also granting you to navigate around a maze of other skaters to avoid a collision. That skill is called spatial awareness. It’s the ability to comprehend where you are in space. To understand the position of objects in relation to each other and to yourself. Your toddler needs to master spatial awareness in order to keep himself safe as he learns to walk, run, and negotiate the world around him.
In Kindermusik, we support your little one’s spatial awareness development through movement, songs, poems, and props. So, when we explore directions during a fingerplay, dance forwards and backwards during “Lost My Gold Ring,” or go on a swervy-curvy blanket ride, your little one gains a greater understanding of his body and where it is in relation to other things and people.
This will help him learn to manoeuvre through a busy school hallway, kick a ball on the playground, and glide safely around another ice skater on a crowded rink (as you applaud from the safety of the bleachers!). But spatial awareness will do more for your child than just keep him safe. Studies show a link between spatial awareness and artistic creativity, success in math, and the development of abstract thought.
Hokey-Pokey at the Store. “You put your toddler in (the cart), You take your toddler out.” Go ahead and use those directional words and songs throughout the day. Making personal connections helps your child gain a better understanding of spatial concepts.
In the words of writer Emilie Buchwald, “Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.” Being held by a parent during storytime promotes bonding and helps babies connect the sounds of words with pictures. This time provides a natural time to engage in conversations and vocal play. It also models for little ones how to read a book. Yet early literacy development for babies encompasses so much more than snuggling with your baby after a bath and reading Goodnight Moon (no matter how much we love that book!).
At Kindermusik, we understand that early literacy extends beyond a parent’s lap. It involves the development of key skills. These include cross-lateral movement, spatial awareness, eye-hand coordination, and eye tracking. Each week in class we intentionally provide music-and-movement activities to support all the areas of your baby’s early literacy development. For example, we move in a variety of cross-lateral ways during “Wash the Dishes,”. We label the movements in “I Like to Sing,”. Whilst also developing spatial awareness during “Water Come a Me Eye.” All of these seemingly unrelated skills combine to help your little one eventually read the words on the page of a favourite book—a moment in which you might find water come a your eye!
Mr. Brown Can Mooove. Throughout the day, support your baby’s early literacy development by adding in some of your favourite movement activities from class. Have fun with a little cross-lateral movement after a nappy change, or try labelling a movement as you rock your baby before naptime.
The signs are all there. The glazed eyes, unwashed hair, clothes with stains of undetermined origin, and a nappy bag the size of a small country. First-time parents of a newborn certainly stand out in a crowd. As an “experienced” parent of a toddler, you can empathise with those new parents. It’s why you may let them go ahead of you in line, smile encouragingly, say a kind word in passing, or even bring them dinner. After all, you survived it and your empathy helps a new parent feel like they will, too!
Over the years, you learned how to understand another person’s feelings and to respond with care and concern. Now, as a parent, you model for your child how to do the same. Even a young toddler can begin to show empathy by offering a stuffed animal to an upset child or by giving you a hug when you seem sad. In Kindermusik, we give your child plenty of opportunities to discuss, explore, and understand a wide range of feelings and to practice kind behavior in a safe and loving environment. So each time your child experiences happiness when singing a favorite song or sees another child’s frustration when it’s “egg shakers away” time, you are supporting your little one’s development of empathy.
Everyday Connection: Feelings nothing more than feelings.
Throughout the day, label your child’s feelings and the feelings of others. “I see you feel happy when you listen to your favourite song.” “It looks like you feel angry that I said you couldn’t eat a biscuit for breakfast.” Recognising your child’s emotions and giving your child the words needed to express and identify emotions helps to build empathy.
It’s a well-known fact. No matter how much parents wish for it and continue to wish for it, toddlers do not come with an on/off (or even a pause!) button. At some point around the one-year mark, a baby turns into an independent movement machine. Constantly on the go. They are crawling, standing, wobbling and walking. Then, yes, eventually running and jumping everywhere and anywhere. Of course, often away from a parent in a one-sided game of chase! All of this newfound independent movement is exhilarating for children and a wee bit exhausting for parents. Ah, to hit the pause button for a moment!
In Kindermusik class each week, we help channel all that movement energy in a way that fosters your child’s growing independence and gross-motor development, and emphasises your unique role as your child’s first and best teacher. When we listen to “Toodala” and practise different motions around the room, dance with our scarves using contrasting movements such as high and low or up and down during “Mrs. Murphy’s Chowder,” or even when your child sits (for a moment!) on your lap to bounce to “Pancake Day, Heigh-Ho,” your little one is discovering new ways to move.
On the Go-Go Dancer. Celebrate your child’s love of being on the go with music. Put on some of your favourite songs and dance, walk, wobble, run, and jump around the house. Mix up the music to include fast and slow, loud and soft, and energetic and calm.
Do you ever wonder what newborns would say if they could talk? Where am I? What just happened? Who turned on the lights? Whew, that was a lot of work! I’m exhausted. Why is everyone looking at me? Do I have something on my face? Mom! Dad! It’s me! Truth is—most newborns all say the same thing: WaaaaWaaaa! Of course, children aren’t born talking. However, even at birth, a child can usually respond to a mother’s voice, an early sign of communication.
Speech and early language development involve both receptive language (what a child hears and understands) and expressive language (what a child says to others through sounds and gestures). Receptive language skills show up first as babies learn to turn toward interesting sounds or respond to tones and even their own names. In class, we provide many opportunities for caregivers and babies to communicate with each other both verbally and nonverbally. So, when we actively listen to the Big Clock Sound, integrate language and movement during “Hickory Dickory, Dock,” or use sign language, your child gains practice hearing words and making connections to their meanings—and all of this heightens your little one’s abilities to communicate with you!
Cuckoo for Coos. Responding to your child’s first and continued attempts at communication teaches your baby about the give-and-take of conversation. So, go ahead, get face to face with your baby and repeat those smiles, “coos,” “bababababas,” and “mamamamas.”
Before Facebook, making friends and maintaining relationships involved more than clicking yes to a “Friend Request” and commenting on the occasional status update. (Well, technically it still does.) To be a good friend, regardless of age, we need to share, use our “kind and polite words,” take turns, show empathy, listen, practice conflict resolution—essentially put into practice all those skills that make a good friend (or co-worker, neighbour, spouse, etc).
At Kindermusik, we know the first five years of a child’s life present unique and lasting moments for laying the groundwork for healthy social development. Each week in Kindermusik, we provide many opportunities for your child to practice cooperation, turn taking, active listening, paying attention, and other key social development skills that will help your child grow to be a socially confident and adept person. So while you see your child taking turns with a favourite instrument or rolling the ball back and forth with a friend, we see a child practising social skills that will prepare your child for school—and life—success.
Everyday Connection: Friendly Gesture. Children love getting post. With your child, pick a neighbour with a little one close in age to yours and become pen pals. Draw a picture. Leave some sweets or a special rock. Your child will enjoy leaving (and receiving) little reminders of friendship.
While walking through my bank’s foyer the other day a brochure caught my eye. On the front was a photo of a dad with his young baby about 6 weeks old, fast asleep, lying across his arm and head resting in his hand. The words at the top of the page were, ‘Where’s the manual?’
When you see your newborn baby for the first time, all the knowledge you may have gained from books, courses attended, conversations seem to disappear as you see your own child before you, completely unique, totally original, and astoundingly wonderful and you are responsible for preparing them for life! Where is the manual? Oh if there could only be one manual that would help you to do this right!
Well, we know there is not one manual that can cover it all but if we can start by realising that our child is an original and begin to take time to discover and observe who they are as they begin to grow and develop this can be an enormous help.
I have had the privilege the last 18 years of taking parents on a 7 year journey of discovery with their children. Music and Movement are the key components and I am constantly sharing the benefits of these to families but I would like to focus on my core values which are to nurture and inspire children and parents and their relationship together so they can be better prepared for life. How do I do this?
I start by trying to create an environment that feels safe and appropriate for both the parent and child. For the very youngest age group, 0 – 1 years of age, this would mean asking the parent to take time to observe their babies, to watch their responses to sounds, touch and movement and to discover and adjust their responses accordingly. This brings such freedom in a group setting e.g. a new mum could stop an activity and see that their baby needs to stop being stimulated for now and needs to be fed, a parent may start rolling a shaker on the floor for the baby because the baby wants to be crawling around. The benefits of observation and then exploring together continue for the 1 to 2 year old. Many of this age group have discovered their feet and want to move, move, move and touch everything they can. They are absorbing so much of their environment but need mum or dad to be able to help to make sense of it all. Talking at every opportunity, putting into words and telling them what you see they are doing, saying that you see them rolling the ball, shaking the bell, affirming what they are doing, encouraging them to try something new; taking time to discover together.
At the age of three, when many children are adjusting to becoming more independent and going to nursery or playgroup, being safe will mean feeling secure and if you have had lots of times to observe and explore together you will have a good idea of how you think they are going to cope and you can support them accordingly. At the age of 3 and 4 I have a length of time with the child in a small group with other children on their own and then the parent comes in for a Sharing Time when they can not only see what their child has been doing but also share in the experience together. This Sharing Time is an integral part of every session. This kind of sharing time continues building foundations of trust and feeling valued.
There is a specific method of observing and exploring which is really worth looking into in more detail. This method is called ‘scaffolding’. I might give a family some shakers and give them free time to play with them together. I ask the parent to observe what their child is doing with them. I encourage the parent to describe to their child what they are doing while imitating their child’s action e.g. shaking fast. The parent then goes on to demonstrate another way of using the instrument, this could be tapping the shaker on the floor or on their knee, rolling the shaker, tapping shakers together, lifting it up high, playing it loudly and quietly, the list goes on. The child feels valued because the parent has shown great interest in what they can do by imitating their initial action and has also encouraged them to try something new. These are fantastic skills for life and learning.
With children from 3 to 7 a form of ‘scaffolding’can continue during the session as well as in the Sharing Time. I might get out hoops for example and encourage the children to discover the qualities of a hoop e.g., shape, colour, texture, the way it moves and to allow them free time while I affirm what I see them doing and then encourage them to try discover new things. The possibilities can be endless as hoops not only can be spun and jumped in and out of, they can become cages, boats to sail in, and a sun lifted high in the sky with both hands up!
The 5 to 7 year olds who have already experienced a number of years of exploring in this way are now ready to try anything new: reading musical notes, moving to different rhythms, playing a glockenspiel. Learning and discovery has become fun and their success is not based on doing everything just right but having the confidence to try and be encouraged in their own successes.
Understanding how children are all unique and have different ways of learning and expressing themselves has helped me on my journey as a parent of 4 children and as a Music and Movement teacher. My greatest joy, and when I know I have done my job well, is to step back and watch my parents begin to play and explore with their children without any prompting. I observe their children’s faces as they are getting all that eye contact and attention from mum or dad and I see the confidence of the parent as they understand what their children love to do and help them to discover new things.
I would like to finish with one of my opening thoughts. We don’t have one manual that tells us how to do everything right but if we realise that our child is unique and we take the time to observe and explore with them as they grow and develop this can be an enormous help!
One, two, buckle my shoe. Three, four, shut the door. Five, six, pick up sticks. Seven, eight, lay them straight. Nine, ten, begin again. You did it, didn’t you? Before you finished reading that nursery rhyme, you found yourself singing it, instead. It’s okay. You probably do that with the ABCs, too. We can relate. It’s how many of us learned those building blocks of maths and reading—through nursery rhymes, songs, and maybe a few dance moves!
And now, a generation later, your toddler learns the same way. Like you did, your little one learns to count by rote—a memorizing process using routine and repetition. Learning to count by rote helps your child develop number vocabulary, memory, patterning, and sequence—all foundational skills for maths. So, in Kindermusik classes each week, we give your child many opportunities to practice counting. When we “roll, roll, roll…1, 2, 3” the rainbow shakers, count to three and jump up during the circle dance, or recite numbers while playing with balls, your child practices counting in a fun, engaging way, which reinforces the beginning stages of learning numbers.
Everyday Connection: 1, 2, 3, Count with Me! Toddlers love games. Tap into that love to help reluctant toddlers make smoother transitions from one activity to another. Invite your child to play the “1, 2, 3, Count with Me!” game as you count together how many toys to put away, how many steps it takes to get to the bathtub, or even how many people need a plate for dinner.
Do you remember learning how to drive a car? Working out how to safely merge into traffic, learning the speed at which to take a curve, and even mastering (gulp!) parallel parking took practice. You needed to familiarise yourself with the size and shape of your vehicle, learn how to manoeuvre all the necessary gadgets, and figure out how close your car was to others on the road. Driving takes a keen sense of spatial awareness, which is the ability to be mindful of where you are in space and to see two or more objects in relation to each other and to yourself.
Although they’re not quite ready for their driving licences, babies are learning how to “drive” and control their bodies—and spatial awareness helps them, too. In Kindermusik, when you hold your baby “up in the sky” during the circle dance, interact with moving balls during tummy time, or even play with scarves, your baby gains a greater understanding of his body and how it relates to his surroundings. The music and movement activities in Kindermusik help your child begin to grasp concepts such as distance, speed, placement (over, under, behind, etc.), and even gravity.
Everyday Connection: Space (Awareness) Cadet. Any time of the day is the perfect time to support your child’s spatial development. So go ahead, put on some music, pick up your baby, and ziggy-zag-zoom around the house, down the street, or in front of the bathroom mirror. Your little space cadet will gain a greater sense of spatial awareness while you get a few extra snuggles and smiles!