To parents of young children, a night out at the movies can seem like a vacation and adds a little bit of variety to days often noted by routine. (And, no, the latest animated feature does NOT count as a night out!) On the other hand, staying in and watching a re-run of a favorite sitcom when your child (finally!) falls asleep can provide a sense of comfort. Plus, you often catch a joke or two that you missed the first time. Truth be told, we all need a little but of variety and repetition in our lives—and for your child, both actually support early learning!
Children need a variety of new experiences to help lay the groundwork for learning, but a one-time event does not make a lasting impression. Every new activity your child actively participates in makes a new neural pathway in the brain. Each time that activity is repeated that connection grows stronger. So, from week to week in class, we include an age-appropriate mixture of both new and familiar activities to help make the learning last and help children boost skills and gain confidence in their abilities. Plus, we give you the tools to repeat all of the activities at home—or on the go—so the learning continues throughout the week!
Everyday Connection: Repeat after me. The next time your child asks you to read the same book again and again or put the same song on repeat just say “yes!” Each new reading or listen can reveal something new to your child. Plus, now you know the reason behind the request!
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.
Lesson Focus: Rhythmic Dictation
Do you remember taking spelling tests as a child? Sitting at your desk, listening intently as your teacher said a word, and then trying to visualise what the word looked like while also attempting to write it on your paper or (gasp!) spell it out loud in front of the whole class? Ugh! For English speakers, that silent “e” caught many of us off guard. You probably didn’t realize it at the time but listening, identifying the word, and then writing the word down helped you become a better reader.
Although we don’t give spelling tests (or any tests, for that matter) in Kindermusik, we do give your child’s ears lots of musical practice in listening to rhythms, identifying what they hear, repeating them, and using rhythm cards to “write” the patterns down. We call this process rhythmic dictation. So, while we “ta ta ti-ti ta,” clap, pick out the right rhythm card, or play an instrument along with “Tepok Amai-amai,” your child gains practice in recognizing relationships between sounds and symbols, which supports your child’s budding musicianship and early literacy skills.
Everyday Connection: Are you copying me? Children love to be a copycat. Clap out a rhythm and let your child repeat it. Make each clapping rhythm more difficult than the last. Take turns being the copycat.
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.
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.”
Preschoolers need to hear three little words often throughout the day. No, not those three little words, but, of course, “I love you” can never be said enough! Telling a young child to “use your words” can profoundly impact a preschooler’s vocabulary development, and more. Although typically developing 4- to 5-year-old children know between 1,000 to 2,000 words, they still need help identifying the world around them, especially the increasingly complex range of emotions they experience throughout any given day.
At Kindermusik, we know expanding children’s vocabulary can boost their conversational abilities, early literacy skills, and even help with self-control. All key skills needed for early academic (and life!) success. This month we intentionally use music to identify, label, and explore feelings. So, in class, when your child shares reasons to feel happy, sad, or angry, then sings about that emotion or creates a story that starts sadly and ends happily, your little one is safely learning about feelings and gaining practice expressing them using words.
Everyday Connection: Feelings, Nothing More than Feelings. Listening and moving to music gives you easy opportunities to talk with your child about feelings. When listening to music, ask: How do you feel when you listen to this song? How would you dance to this song if you were feeling angry? Sad? Scared? Confused? Shy? Disappointed? Lonely? Joyful?
As a parent, you may wonder from time to time if you are doing the right thing and making the right choices for your little one. After all, you want the best for your child. It’s probably one of the reasons you enrolled in Kindermusik in the first place. Take heart. You ARE in the right place.
When young children are consistently engaged by music in an age-appropriate, socially accepting environment, they benefit on so many levels. Learning through music literally lights up every area of your child’s brain and teaches your little one to love learning. When we recite a nursery rhyme, participate in a circle dance or movement activity, play a vocal game, and explore instruments, children develop in so many ways:
- Early Literacy. They gain the phonological processing, spoken language, and comprehension skills that are the foundation of reading.
- Quantitative Reasoning. They build the spatial-temporal and reasoning skills required for maths, science, and engineering.
- Social-Emotional Skills. They develop social and emotional skills that are essential for school readiness—like the ability to regulate their responses and relate to others in complex ways.
- Physical Dexterity. By moving and dancing to music and playing simple instruments, children improve their gross- and fine-motor skills.
- Creativity. Activities that encourage freedom within a fun and friendly structure spark children’s creativity and provide inspiration.
- And, of course, they develop a lifelong love of music.
Everyday Connection: Let the music play. You are your child’s first and best teacher. Throughout the week, listen to music from class together, sing lullabies, dance around the house, or do favorite activities from last week’s lesson. Your child will love spending special time with you, and you will love the positive effects music has on your child!
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!
Every child’s birth is unique. In the delivery room, the mum- and dad-to-be, doctor, midwife, nurse, grandmother-to-be, etc. all contribute to the process—whether it’s physically labouring, checking vital signs, or offering a hand to be squeezed (ouch!). Ask each person post-birth to describe what happened and all would construct a slightly different story based on their own life experiences and contributions to the process.
While newborns regularly attend Kindermusik, we don’t experience many births! However, we do create a learning environment where every participant contributes and takes away something unique based on their own experiences, both inside and outside the classroom. This experiential environment where the learning process is shared by everyone in the group—including children, parents, and the teacher—is called “social constructivism.” Each week, a Kindermusik educator guides the class towards a learning objective, such as steady beat, timbre, or vocal play, with children as active participants in the learning process. Providing children with ample time to reflect, compare, make choices, express opinions and preferences, and engage in problem solving activities together teaches children not only the lesson focus but it teaches them how to learn.
Everyday Connection: A Puzzled Look. As a family, put an age-appropriate puzzle together without showing your child the picture as a guide. Along the way take guesses of what the puzzle is and create stories about what is happening. After the puzzle is complete, talk about what you discovered and how you figured out how to put the puzzle together.
Have you ever noticed that on Kindermusik days (or go-to-the-park days) your child can fly through the morning routine like a superhero leaping tall buildings; but on days that call for a trip to the supermarket, your child uses superhero brain power to think of every excuse NOT to get ready? Each day’s agenda can motivate a child to move faster than fast or sssssllllllooooowerrrr than ssssssllllooooooowwwwww.
In Kindermusik, we use music and movement to explore the concept of tempo by harnessing a child’s natural interest in moving fast and slow. When we listen to “Let’s Go Riding Together” and travel around the room quickly or slowly or when we play the sticks along with “Down by the Station” in different tempi, your child experiences the concept of tempo before being able to explain it with words. Using music and movement to express tempo helps your child learn to control and coordinate body movements that can lead to success in a wide range of activities, from using scissors to playing sports or piano and even to reading aloud.
Everyday Connection: Travelling at the speed of music. The next time your child tries to set a different tempo to your morning routine than you would like, try adding some music to the mix. Listen to “Hine Raveket” (or other songs with different tempi) and encourage your child to get dressed, brush teeth, etc. to the song’s tempo.
Lesson Focus: Steady Beat
Admit it. You know you do it. You just can’t stop yourself. There you are driving to work, shopping at the supermarket, or maybe waiting at the doctor’s office and you find yourself doing it. Unconsciously, you tap your foot, nod your head, or drum the steering wheel along to the beat of the music you hear. Thanks to the steady beat of your heart, your body is naturally wired for responding to a steady beat. However, the ability to consciously recognize and demonstrate steady beat takes practice.
In Kindermusik, we know that the capacity to identify steady beat can be used for more than singing or playing an instrument. Your child will use steady beat in writing, dribbling, using scissors, dancing, shooting a basketball, and any other number of movement activities. Throughout the Kindermusik experience, we develop beat by rocking, bouncing on a lap, playing an instrument to one’s own internal beat, matching one’s beat to an external source—first whole-body movement, then body percussion (“Clap, Clap, Clap Your Hands” anyone?), and then instruments.
Lesson Focus: Creating Community
Parenting should come with life jackets. We’ve all had those days and moments where being a parent leaves us feeling isolated, exhausted, and so desperately craving a moment of silence or a word of affirmation (or dark chocolate!). Kindermusik gives you a place to just breathe and celebrate the wonder of parenthood and childhood along with other families who understand the joys and challenges of parenting a young child.
Each week in class we create a safe and joyful place to belong and connect with other families. From the first notes of “Hello, how do you do?” to the last wave (or hug!) good-bye, children and parents authentically bond while singing and dancing together. That sense of community is why you find yourself celebrating another child’s movement idea when travelling to “Clapping Land” or why your child loved showing Kindermusik friends a favourite stuffed animal in class. So, while we don’t actually hand out parenting life vests, the Kindermusik community we create with sand blocks, scarves, and more works, too! Thank you for being such an important part.
Everyday Connection: Recipe for Community. Next class, why not try out a new recipe to share with other parents while you wait. Bring a snack for all of the children and invite families to get together at a local park after class or eat lunch together before.
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.
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, a lift, or a baby bed. Before heading to the recycle bin, encourage your child’s pretend play with an empty box or a kitchen roll tube.
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.