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.

Categorising

When you say your preschooler’s name, your child has learned to “listen and categorise” the sound of your voice to understand: “What I am doing is okay and everyone likes it;” OR “Something is wrong,29 and I need to change what I am doing.”

 

That’s actually a good thing. Sorting and categorising sounds strengthens your child’s listening acuity or your child’s ability to hear and understand clearly. In Kindermusik, we use music and movement to give your child many opportunities to practice sorting and categorising sounds. So, when we explore the different sounds of drums and label them loud or soft or use shakes to imitate weather sounds in “Jingle Bell Symphony,” or even when we move fast or slow with the scarves on “Leaves in the Wind,” your child is practising sorting and categorising sounds. All this practice ultimately leads to better phonemic awareness, communication skills, and even boosts reading abilities.

 

Everyday Connection: Is that a bird or a plane? Take turns listening to the sounds outside your own windows. Then determine if the sound is loud or soft or an animal…or not. You can practice categorising sounds almost anywhere!

Tempo

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.

Routines and Rituals

Parents of babies need special superpowers. Forget about leaping tall buildings in a single bound or even flying. Parents really need the ability to become invisible in order to check on a sleeping baby, the power to fully function on only 3 hours of interrupted sleep, and the capacity to do the laundry faster than a speeding bullet! Your baby also needs a superpower—the ability to predict the future—and you can help your child by establishing routines and rituals.

 

At Kindermusik, we understand that babies’ brains seek predictable patterns to help regulate their internal clock and navigate daily transitions. Routines and rituals teach your baby that the world is a predictable (and safe) place. It’s one of the reasons we always mark the official start of class with “Heigh-ho Hello” and the end of class with “Goodbye, Babies.” Your baby learns to expect musical playtime after hearing the hello song and predicts it’s time to leave after the goodbye song. Rituals and routines work closely together to provide continuity and connectedness—both vital to your child’s development. (By the way, “eyes in the back of your head” is a handy superpower for the upcoming toddler years.)

 

Everyday Connection: Not Stuck in a Rut. Turn daily routines into special family rituals. Add infant massage after bath time. Dance to a favourite song together after naptime. Go for a stroll after dinner, or snuggle together and read books.

Social Constructivism

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.

Security and Independence

From time to time as parents, we may find ourselves asking: Where has my sweet little baby gone? This question generally occurs during periods of intense growth and development, such as teething, moving to a “big kid” bed, and well, maybe right about now. Between 18 months and three years, children begin to realise that they exist as separate individuals apart from you. This revelation starts a revolution as your child begins to exert independence! Now, when it is time to get dressed, take a bath, or even get strapped in the car seat, your child says (or more accurately loudly demands!) “No! I do!” with escalating insistence. Where, oh, where has your sweet little baby gone, indeed.

 

Take heart. Your sweet little baby is still there. Your child might be stretching his independence muscles, but your little one still needs the sense of security that only you can offer during this emotionally turbulent time of development. Each week in Kindermusik class we provide a safe, predictable, and developmentally appropriate environment where your child can experience guided independence by practising new skills, making choices, and sharing unique ideas with the class but still run back to the safety of your arms at a moment’s notice.  So, rock your little one during “Let Me Call You Sweetheart,” and know that this quest for independence will lead to a emotionally confident and capable adult…who will always be your sweet little baby!

 

Everyday Connection: Me Do…and You Do! Add an extra 5 to 10 minutes into your morning routine to give your child the time needed to get dressed, brush teeth, or put on shoes without your help. Some days your child will be all about “Me Do!” and other days “You Do!” Follow your child’s lead to best support your little one’s need for both independence and security.

1 2 3 10