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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!”
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.
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 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.
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!
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.
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?
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.
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!
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?