Active Listening

We live in a noisy world. Buzzing lawn mowers, phones ringing, cars honking, dogs barking and cats meowing, planes zooming—and those are just the sounds your child makes during play!  As adults, most of us know how to tune into important sounds and tune out the rest (well, usually!).  Children, however, need to learn how to identify and discriminate between sounds and tune into those sounds that matter most—like the sound of your voice instead of the sound of a toy.

 

During the school years, children will spend an estimated 50 to 75 percent of classroom time listening to the teacher, to other students, or to media. Developing strong active listening skills will prepare your child for classroom learning, including language and literacy development. Each week in Kindermusik we provide many opportunities for your child to practice active listening skills. So, when we intently listen for the sounds of the pipe organ in a Bach piece, use the wood blocks to produce a Staccato sound, or move smoothly with streamers when we hear the the music change from Staccato to Legato, your child is practicing active listening.

 

Everyday connection:M is for?Make a letter sound and ask your child to identify the letter and to name an animal that starts with that sound. How would that animal move? What would it sound like? Pick another letter. Try whispering so your child can practice listening even more intently to the sound of your voice.

Dynamics: Loud and Quiet

While your child’s sense of hearing began developing in the womb, the basic concept of dynamics—loud and quiet—must be learned. In Kindermusik classes, we lead you and your child through a variety of activities to help your little yodeler learn to recognise the difference between loud and quiet sounds. When we play our clip clap instruments loud or soft, “go ‘round the mountain” with loud running feet or quiet tiptoeing feet, imitate the loud or quiet sounds of mama and baby sheep, or even move our scarves quietly or loudly through the corn, your child learns how to listen to and differentiate between loud and quiet sounds. So, the next time your toddler uses an “outside voice” in an inside situation, you can ask in your quiet voice: “How would baby sheep say that”? It just might turn down the volume!

 

Everyday Connection: Keep it Bottled Up. Make toddler-friendly shakers from plastic drink containers and soft (quiet) and hard (loud) items. Then, put on your favourite music from class and play loudly and quietly together!

Vocal Play

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!”

Spatial Awareness

Do you remember that class in school where you wondered if you would ever use that skill in the real world? Quadratic equations and drawing a sentence might come to mind. Spatial awareness, on the other hand, is something you use every day but never took an actual class on it. You employ spatial awareness when you use a fork to pick up food from your plate and put it in your mouth or when you read and recognise how each of the letters relate to each other and relate to the page. Simply put, spatial awareness is an organised awareness of the objects in the space around us and an understanding of our body’s position in space.

 

At Kindermusik, we know that to develop spatial awareness in children requires involvement with concrete situations and interactions with people and objects. (Cue the hula hoops, drums, and room full of children and adults!) So, each week when we pretend to be animals who fall into their holes or play the drums on “Bumpin’ Up and Down,” your child gains a greater understanding of spatial awareness, which leads to learning other concepts such as direction, distance, and location. That is a skill your child will use forever. Really!

 

Everyday Connection: Location, Location, Location. Try a new twist on an old favourite. Play “I Spy” but instead of spying colours use spatial terms. “I spy something on the table, under the tree, beside the cup, to the left of the car.”

Scaffolding

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.

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.

Stop and Go

Driving in stop-and-go traffic can be frustrating. A quick trip to the shop can turn into a 30-minute ordeal. (Will we make this light? Oh no, someone is turning left. Someone else is trying to merge. Urgh!) Stop and go. Stop and go. Will you ever make it to the shop? Thankfully, adults usually practice self-control during stop-and-go traffic. Otherwise, drivers would use footpaths as shortcuts, ignore traffic signals, or nudge the car in front of them just to get where they want to go.

Your child, however, is still learning self-control. Activities that encourage stopping and going in response to a cue helps children practice regulating their body movements or speech and waiting their turn. In Kindermusik class, we include many opportunities for your child to practice starting and stopping: from the first “Hello” song we sing, to starting and stopping when playing the rhythm sticks, and even when walking around the “farm” stopping to look at the animals we hear. All this practice boosts your child’s inhibitory control and confidence, which will set the stage for early academic success.

Everyday Connection: Toys Away! Using musical cues, such as “Instruments away, instruments away…” can make it easier for your child to handle transitions, such as picking up toys, getting out of the bathtub, or even putting on shoes. You’ve seen it work in class, now try it at home!

Colours and Shapes

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.

 

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!

Exploring the World

Think about your ideal place to go on holiday. For many, the beach ranks near the top. It’s no wonder: the feel of the sand between your toes, the smell of the salty air, the blue of the water, the sound of the waves crashing on the shore, the taste of fresh fish for dinner. (Ready for holiday yet?) Whether or not the beach is your top spot, your memory most likely draws from many of your senses when you think about your favourite location. There’s a reason for that—experiences that use more than one of our senses stay with us longer.

At Kindermusik, we understand that even the youngest baby benefits from hearing, seeing, tasting, touching, and smelling new things. Even the lesser-known senses, the proprioceptive sense (which reports information to the brain about body position) and the vestibular sense (which controls alertness and balance), are involved in discovering, exploring, and helping baby figure out how the world works. That’s why Kindermusik class is chock-full of opportunities for your baby to experience the world through multiple senses simultaneously. It’s one of the reasons we take off our shoes—so baby can feel with his feet! It’s why we listen to the sound of a buzzing bee, play with jingly bells, and blow a gentle “wind” on baby’s skin. So go ahead, kick off your shoes and enjoy a mini-vacation with your baby in Kindermusik class!

Everyday Connection: Sensational Learning—Go on a real nature walk with your baby. Let your little one feel the different textures of grass, leaves, tree trunks, or even feathers. Talk about what you see. Point out the different sounds you hear and the smells you encounter.

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

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.

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.”

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?

Spatial Awareness

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.

Everyday Connection:

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.

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