If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then your toddler probably lavishes you with flattery throughout the day. You might notice your child “driving” in the backseat, putting a nappy on a favourite stuffed animal, or even “taking a photo” and “posting” it to Facebook with your phone. All of this imitation helps your toddler to begin experiencing the world from an external point of view.
For toddlers, imitating the behaviours they see around them is an early stage of pretend play and lays the groundwork for the development of empathy, emotional intelligence, creativity, and imagination. In Kindermusik class each week, we include themes about familiar activities your toddler may experience every day at home. So, while your child imitates a dog barking, pretends to look for a lost dog, or even pretends to be Rover sitting down, lying down, and rolling over, your little one is exploring and developing pretend play.
Everyday Connection: A box is a box—unless it’s not. A box may be a box to you, but to your child it can be a computer, a car, an elevator, or a baby bed. Before heading to the recycle bin, encourage your child’s pretend play with an empty box or a paper towel tube.
Despite what your baby sounds like at times, your loved one is not in fact turning into a pterodactyl, a creature from the Amazon rainforest, or a boat. When you hear your baby exploring the wide range of noises produced by the human voice, mouth, and tongue, your little one is actually engaging in play—vocal play, to be specific. Cooing, babbling, blowing raspberries and, well, screeching like a pterodactyl are all part of it.
At Kindermusik, we know that vocal play is one of the early stages of language development and you play a pivotal role. In class, we create many opportunities for vocal play to happen. Whether singing, chirping, hopping, or pecking “Over in the Meadow” or laying together making popping sounds, you and your baby engage in vocal play by touching, gazing, observing, listening, and imitating. All of this vocal play supports your child’s vocal development by encouraging breath control, the use of the vocal cords, and the coordination of the small muscles in the face and mouth. Plus, the pausing and waiting during vocal play teaches your child conversational turn-taking.
Everyday Connection: Seeing (and Talking) Eye to Eye. Turn nappy changes into special moments together. A changing table makes it easy to gaze into your baby’s eyes and talk together. Repeat sounds your baby makes and smile. All those “goo-goo-gah-gahs” will eventually turn into “mamas” and “dadas!”
There is a reason children start out small. Changing nappies and clothes, strapping into car seats, bathing, feeding, sleeping (or not): it’s a steep learning curve for new parents! For many of us, it’s only after surviving that first year (and every year thereafter) that we recognise how much we learned along the way—and how much more we have to learn! Thankfully, as we built on what the previous day taught us, we gained both skills and confidence in our parenting abilities.
In Kindermusik, we call this learning process “scaffolding.” Each week in class, we support your child’s learning by building on your child’s current abilities and nourishing your unique role as your child’s first and best teacher. Scaffolding involves varying the level of the activity depending upon your child’s responses. So each week in class scaffolding occurs when you investigate together different ways to mend shoes with rhythm sticks or when you follow your child’s lead on how to move with the scarves on “Sing a Ling” while also offering suggestions based on the original idea. As with your parenting abilities, scaffolding helps your child gain both skills and confidence.
Everyday Connection: “Scaffolding Seuss.” During story time, use scaffolding techniques to support your child’s emerging literacy skills. Point out letters, label the pictures, ask your child questions about what is happening or encourage your child to make predictions about what will happen next or even after the book ends. Let your child’s responses guide the conversation.
Do you remember the first time your child said your name (or something that closely resembled your name)? Your heart melted a little bit, didn’t it? Then, you probably encouraged your child to say your name again and again, while repeating your name and pointing to yourself—all while holding a camera inches from your baby’s face. You instinctively created a contextual learning experience for your child when you supported the use of your baby’s new word in this way.
Now, as a toddler, your little one has probably moved beyond just saying your name. However, contextual learning—talking about and naming an object during an interaction with that object—remains a key way your child learns new words. In Kindermusik, we intentionally include contextual learning activities that support your child’s language development skills. So, when we talk about our hands or fingers, move them in different ways, gaze into mirrors and talk about what we see, or even sing about shaking out our tummies, your toddler builds vocabulary in a meaningful—and personal—way.
Everyday Connection: Rub-a-Dub-Dub, Washing Knees in the Tub! During bath time, label your child’s body parts as you bathe your little one. For older toddlers, try mixing up the names. “I’m washing your toes” (while you scrub your little one’s belly). Your child will love correcting your “mistake.” Plus, all this fun helps your child learn new words.
Children grow up fast, and the first year of life is no exception. Babies grow by leaps and bounds in their first year—or, more accurately, by grasps and scoots. One minute you hold a newborn who reflexively grasps your finger. Seemingly, the next minute your little baby intentionally reaches up to touch your nose. Whether reaching for a nose, lifting a head during tummy time, clapping, rolling over, sitting up, crawling, or (gasp!) walking, your baby exerts tireless hours to learning how to intentionally move.
In Kindermusik, we understand the importance of both fine and gross motor skill development. Each week in class, we provide many opportunities for you and your baby to engage in fun, musical activities that support and strengthen each stage of your child’s movement development. From tummy time to playing with baby-safe instruments to gently bouncing your baby in your lap, class activities will support the development of the small and large muscles as well as coordination for more complex movements like eventually kicking a ball, jumping, and even writing.
Everyday Connection: Just dance. In order to effectively learn to move, your baby must gain an understanding of gravity. Dancing together can help. So, put on some of your favourite music, and gently dance with your baby. Hold your little one in different positions: face down (while still supporting the neck), sideways, or face forward.
Do you remember when we actually called someone on a mobile phone? Ah, those primitive years! Then texting entered the scene. Many of us watched in amazement as those of a certain age moved their fingers at an alarming rate while we struggled to text even one word on the tiniest of keyboards. Our finger muscles and fine motor skills certainly got a workout as we learned this new skill.
Children also need to learn how to use and coordinate their finger, hand, and wrist muscles—not for texting—but for reaching, grasping, and more. In Kindermusik class each week, we include many activities that support your child’s fine motor skills development. Wiggling fluffy chicks in a “Ten Egg” finger play or striking the resonator bars on “Sweetly Swings the Donkey” helps your child learn to coordinate hand, finger, and wrist movements that support fine motor control and precision. The skills practiced in class and at home build the foundation your child needs for buttoning buttons, zipping zips, tying shoes, using scissors, and even writing. Texting will come later. Much later.
Everyday connection: Let your fingers do the walking. Finger plays are great activities to do together anywhere. Waiting at the doctor, food shopping, restaurants, or even at bedtime. Teach your favourite to your child or pick one from class.
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.