As a parent, some things are worth repeating—the first time you hold your baby, your child’s first laugh or first few steps, watching your child make a new friend, and even a random snuggle on a rainy day. Other moments are best left in the past—your child’s first bout with croup (or an ear infection or a stomach bug!), the, um, nappy incident that happened on a quick trip to the shops, and yes, even the 95th reading of your child’s favourite book.
However, from a child development standpoint, reading that same book over and over again is actually a good thing. Few things build your child’s brain and open opportunities for learning more than consistent repetition of healthy activities and experiences. Every new activity your child participates in makes a new neural pathway in your child’s brain. Each time that experience is repeated, the neural pathway (learning!) is strengthened. So, every week in Kindermusik class, we intentionally repeat some of the same activities from previous weeks and also give you the music and resources to repeat them at home. It’s how your child learns best!
Everyday connection: Practice makes perfect learning. Listen to the music from class and do the activities together at home. Repeat. Listen to the music from class and do the activities together at home. Repeat.
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!
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.
Walking, running, riding a tricycle, dancing, kicking a ball: you name a whole-body movement and your child is probably trying to master it….in the house, in the garden, at the supermarket, and sometimes while in the car. (Please, stop kicking Mummy’s seat.) All this movement takes a sense of time and the ability to organise and coordinate movements within time.
In Kindermusik, we call this regularly paced repeated motion: steady beat! The most basic property of music is beat, the underlying, unchanging, repeating pulse. When playing the sandblocks while listening to “Donkeys Love Carrots” or tapping, shaking, or jingling the bells during “Sweet Potatoes,” your child is practicing steady beat. That same sense of steady beat will help your child walk, run, ride a tricycle, use scissors, and, yes, even kick the back of your seat in time to the music.
Everyday connection: Can’t catch me! Put on your favorite Kindermusik songs and pretend to be the Gingerbread Boy (or Girl!). As you take turns chasing each other, try stomping, running, marching, or jumping to the beat to get away. If the Gingerbread Boy gets caught, try tickling to a steady beat!
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, an elevator, or a baby bed. Before heading to the recycle bin, encourage your child’s pretend play with an empty box or a paper towel tube.
Do you remember the first time your child said your name (or something that closely resembled your name)? Your heart melted a little bit, didn’t it? Then, you probably encouraged your child to say your name again and again, while repeating your name and pointing to yourself—all while holding a camera inches from your baby’s face. You instinctively created a contextual learning experience for your child when you supported the use of your baby’s new word in this way.
Now, as a toddler, your little one has probably moved beyond just saying your name. However, contextual learning—talking about and naming an object during an interaction with that object—remains a key way your child learns new words. In Kindermusik, we intentionally include contextual learning activities that support your child’s language development skills. So, when we talk about our hands or fingers, move them in different ways, gaze into mirrors and talk about what we see, or even sing about shaking out our tummies, your toddler builds vocabulary in a meaningful—and personal—way.
Everyday Connection: Rub-a-Dub-Dub, Washing Knees in the Tub! During bath time, label your child’s body parts as you bathe your little one. For older toddlers, try mixing up the names. “I’m washing your toes” (while you scrub your little one’s belly). Your child will love correcting your “mistake.” Plus, all this fun helps your child learn new words.
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.
New parents tend to invest in tons of baby gear—a Moses basket, a buggy, a baby swing, a bouncy seat, a car seat, and, of course, nappies, nappies, and more nappies. Sometime around the one-year mark, though, parents realise that they need to invest in one more vital item: a good pair of shoes…for themselves. When you have a toddler, it sometimes feels like you’re never ever going to have the chance to sit down again. After all, toddlers love to be on the go and are constantly looking for ways to try out their developing gross-motor skills—walking, running, hopping, and even climbing stairs and furniture. (Yikes!)
We get it. Toddlers learn to move and move to learn. It’s exhausting for parents, but crucial for kids. That’s why we’re so focused on movement in Kindermusik class. We stomp hello at the beginning of the lesson, fly like birds, stand and stretch our arms high like trees, and dance around the room to strengthen and refine the children’s gross-motor skills. All this movement also stimulates the release of brain chemicals that support memory and learning! And the best news for you: no shoes required.
Everyday Connection: I got moves like…. Put on some music and play the “I got moves like…” game. Name an animal and ask your toddler to move like that animal. Then, switch it round and name different ways to move: walk, hop, march, twirl, crawl, gallop, and more!
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.
The signs are all there. The glazed eyes, unwashed hair, clothes with stains of undetermined origin, and a nappy 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 empathise 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 favourite song.” “It looks like you feel angry that I said you couldn’t eat a biscuit for breakfast.” Recognising your child’s emotions and giving your child the words needed to express and identify emotions helps to build empathy.
It’s a well-known fact. No matter how much parents wish for it and continue to wish for it, toddlers do not come with an on/off (or even a pause!) button. At some point around the one-year mark, a baby turns into an independent movement machine. Constantly on the go. They are crawling, standing, wobbling and walking. Then, yes, eventually running and jumping everywhere and anywhere. Of course, often away from a parent in a one-sided game of chase! All of this newfound independent movement is exhilarating for children and a wee bit exhausting for parents. Ah, to hit the pause button for a moment!
In Kindermusik class each week, we help channel all that movement energy in a way that fosters your child’s growing independence and gross-motor development, and emphasises your unique role as your child’s first and best teacher. When we listen to “Toodala” and practise different motions around the room, dance with our scarves using contrasting movements such as high and low or up and down during “Mrs. Murphy’s Chowder,” or even when your child sits (for a moment!) on your lap to bounce to “Pancake Day, Heigh-Ho,” your little one is discovering new ways to move.
On the Go-Go Dancer. Celebrate your child’s love of being on the go with music. Put on some of your favourite songs and dance, walk, wobble, run, and jump around the house. Mix up the music to include fast and slow, loud and soft, and energetic and calm.
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.”
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.
While walking through my bank’s foyer the other day a brochure caught my eye. On the front was a photo of a dad with his young baby about 6 weeks old, fast asleep, lying across his arm and head resting in his hand. The words at the top of the page were, ‘Where’s the manual?’
When you see your newborn baby for the first time, all the knowledge you may have gained from books, courses attended, conversations seem to disappear as you see your own child before you, completely unique, totally original, and astoundingly wonderful and you are responsible for preparing them for life! Where is the manual? Oh if there could only be one manual that would help you to do this right!
Well, we know there is not one manual that can cover it all but if we can start by realising that our child is an original and begin to take time to discover and observe who they are as they begin to grow and develop this can be an enormous help.
I have had the privilege the last 18 years of taking parents on a 7 year journey of discovery with their children. Music and Movement are the key components and I am constantly sharing the benefits of these to families but I would like to focus on my core values which are to nurture and inspire children and parents and their relationship together so they can be better prepared for life. How do I do this?
I start by trying to create an environment that feels safe and appropriate for both the parent and child. For the very youngest age group, 0 – 1 years of age, this would mean asking the parent to take time to observe their babies, to watch their responses to sounds, touch and movement and to discover and adjust their responses accordingly. This brings such freedom in a group setting e.g. a new mum could stop an activity and see that their baby needs to stop being stimulated for now and needs to be fed, a parent may start rolling a shaker on the floor for the baby because the baby wants to be crawling around. The benefits of observation and then exploring together continue for the 1 to 2 year old. Many of this age group have discovered their feet and want to move, move, move and touch everything they can. They are absorbing so much of their environment but need mum or dad to be able to help to make sense of it all. Talking at every opportunity, putting into words and telling them what you see they are doing, saying that you see them rolling the ball, shaking the bell, affirming what they are doing, encouraging them to try something new; taking time to discover together.
At the age of three, when many children are adjusting to becoming more independent and going to nursery or playgroup, being safe will mean feeling secure and if you have had lots of times to observe and explore together you will have a good idea of how you think they are going to cope and you can support them accordingly. At the age of 3 and 4 I have a length of time with the child in a small group with other children on their own and then the parent comes in for a Sharing Time when they can not only see what their child has been doing but also share in the experience together. This Sharing Time is an integral part of every session. This kind of sharing time continues building foundations of trust and feeling valued.
There is a specific method of observing and exploring which is really worth looking into in more detail. This method is called ‘scaffolding’. I might give a family some shakers and give them free time to play with them together. I ask the parent to observe what their child is doing with them. I encourage the parent to describe to their child what they are doing while imitating their child’s action e.g. shaking fast. The parent then goes on to demonstrate another way of using the instrument, this could be tapping the shaker on the floor or on their knee, rolling the shaker, tapping shakers together, lifting it up high, playing it loudly and quietly, the list goes on. The child feels valued because the parent has shown great interest in what they can do by imitating their initial action and has also encouraged them to try something new. These are fantastic skills for life and learning.
With children from 3 to 7 a form of ‘scaffolding’can continue during the session as well as in the Sharing Time. I might get out hoops for example and encourage the children to discover the qualities of a hoop e.g., shape, colour, texture, the way it moves and to allow them free time while I affirm what I see them doing and then encourage them to try discover new things. The possibilities can be endless as hoops not only can be spun and jumped in and out of, they can become cages, boats to sail in, and a sun lifted high in the sky with both hands up!
The 5 to 7 year olds who have already experienced a number of years of exploring in this way are now ready to try anything new: reading musical notes, moving to different rhythms, playing a glockenspiel. Learning and discovery has become fun and their success is not based on doing everything just right but having the confidence to try and be encouraged in their own successes.
Understanding how children are all unique and have different ways of learning and expressing themselves has helped me on my journey as a parent of 4 children and as a Music and Movement teacher. My greatest joy, and when I know I have done my job well, is to step back and watch my parents begin to play and explore with their children without any prompting. I observe their children’s faces as they are getting all that eye contact and attention from mum or dad and I see the confidence of the parent as they understand what their children love to do and help them to discover new things.
I would like to finish with one of my opening thoughts. We don’t have one manual that tells us how to do everything right but if we realise that our child is unique and we take the time to observe and explore with them as they grow and develop this can be an enormous help!
One, two, buckle my shoe. Three, four, shut the door. Five, six, pick up sticks. Seven, eight, lay them straight. Nine, ten, begin again. You did it, didn’t you? Before you finished reading that nursery rhyme, you found yourself singing it, instead. It’s okay. You probably do that with the ABCs, too. We can relate. It’s how many of us learned those building blocks of maths and reading—through nursery rhymes, songs, and maybe a few dance moves!
And now, a generation later, your toddler learns the same way. Like you did, your little one learns to count by rote—a memorizing process using routine and repetition. Learning to count by rote helps your child develop number vocabulary, memory, patterning, and sequence—all foundational skills for maths. So, in Kindermusik classes each week, we give your child many opportunities to practice counting. When we “roll, roll, roll…1, 2, 3” the rainbow shakers, count to three and jump up during the circle dance, or recite numbers while playing with balls, your child practices counting in a fun, engaging way, which reinforces the beginning stages of learning numbers.
Everyday Connection: 1, 2, 3, Count with Me! Toddlers love games. Tap into that love to help reluctant toddlers make smoother transitions from one activity to another. Invite your child to play the “1, 2, 3, Count with Me!” game as you count together how many toys to put away, how many steps it takes to get to the bathtub, or even how many people need a plate for dinner.
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 class, your child experiences and responds to a 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.