Pretend Play

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.

 

Moving to Learn and Learning to Move

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.    

Self-Awareness

As parents, no one can make us more self-aware than our own child. After all, our children do not need to look like us to be our mirror image.  They mirror our actions and reactions and the words we say in our best moments—and sometimes our not-so-best moments. They can even mimic our likes and dislikes. Eventually, as they become more self aware, children begin to express their own preferences for things, like wearing pajamas everywhere (Not a bad idea!) or eating ice cream for breakfast (Not a good idea!).

In Kindermusik, we support your child’s growing self-awareness and your unique role in it.  Each week we include activities that not only encourage your child’s personal choices but we actually incorporate them into the lesson. By including your child’s favorite way to say “Hello” at the beginning of class or movement idea during the “Monkey Dance,” we place value on your child’s ideas and preferences.  In doing so, your child learns to not only recognize and share ideas in a meaningful way but also to celebrate the differences of others.

Everyday Connection: Feelings, Nothing More than Feelings. Recognising and responding appropriately to feelings further develop self-awareness skills in young children. Listen to music that expresses different emotions, like happy, sad, angry, or scared. Dance with your child based on the emotion and help your child label the emotion. Not only does this activity develop children’s vocabulary; it also helps them to identify—and even to manage—their own emotions.

Empathy

The signs are all there. The glazed eyes, unwashed hair, clothes with stains of undetermined origin, and a diaper 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 empathize 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 favorite song.” “It looks like you feel angry that I said you couldn’t eat a cookie for breakfast.” Recognizing your child’s emotions and giving your child the words needed to express and identify emotions helps to build empathy.

Self-Regulation

Self-regulation is the ability to control our thoughts, feelings, and actions. As adults, we usually exhibit good self-regulation abilities. After all, self-regulation stops us from cutting in line at the supermarket, even though our shopping trolley contains a child on the brink of a meltdown. It keeps us from snatching the latest iPhone from the mum at the playground just because we want one, too. And it also motivates us to clean the kitchen when what we really feel like doing is going to bed!

In Kindermusik, we use music and movement to help children learn to tell their bodies what to do, when to stop, when to go, and when to move to another activity. So, when we play the “Stop & Go” game, participate in the “Bwana Awabaricki” circle dance, transition from one activity to another, and even share instruments, your child is learning and practising self-regulation skills. Those same skills will help your child pay attention in school, act and behave appropriately, and maybe even one day help you clean the kitchen.

Everyday connection: Freeze Dance Twist. Dance to your favourite music from class. Take turns pausing the music. When the music stops, stop dancing. When the music plays, start dancing again! Then switch the actions. Stop dancing when the music plays and dance when the music stops.

The Social and Emotional Toddler

People crave connections. It’s one of the reasons we have hundreds of Facebook friends, including that kid you played soccer with 10 (or 20!) years ago, that parent you met in birthing class, and, of course, your circle of closest confidants. However, social and emotional connections involve more than just making friends. Did you know those connections also prime our brains for learning and remembering?

 

At Kindermusik, we get it. We know the importance of your toddler making emotional and social connections with you—and with other children and adults. In fact, joyfully playing together in class teaches children that they are loved, important, and fun to be around. So, when we ask and implement each child’s idea for singing hello, point out a new way a child plays with an instrument, or engage in a game of peekaboo with scarves, your child receives positive social-emotional messages. Seeing you enjoy playing with him in class and at home offers your child the self-confidence he will need to build strong and loving relationships throughout his life.

 

Everyday Connection: What’s so funny? Be silly with your toddler. Have tickle fights. Make funny noises or goofy faces. Laughing together creates social bonds and healthy emotional attachments. Plus, laughing strengthens the immune system, lowers blood pressure, reduces stress—and is just plain fun!

Early Literacy Development

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!

 

Everyday Connection:

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.

Variety and Repetition

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!

Nonsense

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.

Fine-Motor Skills

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.

Tuning Baby’s Listening Ears

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.”

Imagination

Many parents love to imagine their little ones all grown up. Will she be a doctor, teacher, CEO? Will he travel around the world, open up a restaurant, or work from home to stay with the children? Ask your child what the future holds and you may hear any number of ideas: M&M chocolate maker, firefighter-super hero, monster catcher, parent with 20 children (whoa!), or mermaid. In a child’s imagination, anything is possible.

 

Each week in class, we create an environment that fosters your child’s growing imagination. When we pretend to ride bicycles, go on a mountain hike, or play in the waves at the beach, your child’s imagination (and gross-motor and social skills!) get a workout.

During the pretend play activities, the social interaction is usually characterised by a heightened use of action and language. At home, where your child is most comfortable, the imaginative play can become even more complex as your child reexamines life experiences and adds to or changes what really happened.

 

Everyday connection: Character Acting. Encourage imagination and emerging literacy by pretending to be the characters from a favourite book. Let your child lead the way…even if it differs from the story’s plot. You might even get your child to clean up (or eat vegetables!) while in character!  

Expressive Movement

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?

Benefits of Music

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!

Steady Beat

Parents of really young children develop interesting habits: the two-minute shower, the no-hands nappy check, and the need to smell newly opened jars of baby food. One habit above all else, however, catches the attention of music teachers. With a baby or toddler in her arms, a parent will steadily sway back and forth, left and right, just like a human metronome. No wonder steady beat is usually the first musical skill a child learns.

 

At every stage of development, Kindermusik includes steady-beat activities. We know that the benefits of steady beat extend well beyond musical skills. Steady beat gives children the ability to walk effortlessly, speak expressively, and even regulate repeated motions such as riding a bicycle, brushing teeth, or dribbling a ball. In Kindermusik classes, your child experiences and responds to steady beat during lap bounces, instrument play, and yes, even when you hold your little one in your arms and sway back and forth, left and right, at the end of class. Now, that’s a habit you will never want to break.

 

Everyday Connection: And the beat goes on. Look for opportunities for your child to experience steady beat outside the classroom. Put on some music and tap, sway, clap, walk, or bounce to the beat.

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