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 shuffles. 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 favorite music, and gently dance with your baby. Hold your little one in different positions: facedown (while still supporting the neck), sideways, or face forward.    

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 football 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!

 

Baby’s Social and Emotional World

3,600. That’s the approximate number of times a baby needs a nappy change in the first year alone. (Wow! That’s a lot of nappies.) Each one of those nappy changes satisfies baby’s physical needs, but it also meets his developing social and emotional needs. That’s because every time your baby cries and you respond by relieving his distress, the vital parent-child connection is strengthened. Building an attachment and a sense of trust not only lays a solid foundation for social and emotional development, but also primes your baby’s brain for learning.

In Kindermusik class, we create many moments that strengthen and celebrate this vital parent-child connection. Every time you sing lovingly to your little one, your bond grows stronger. With each gentle touch, rock, or lap bounce, your bond grows stronger. And every time you gaze into your child’s eyes and smile during tummy time, your bond grows stronger. As your baby grows, this attachment—and the resulting sense of security and trust it fosters—gives your little one the confidence to explore new environments, try new things, and make new friends.

Everyday Connection: Make massage routine. Routines and rituals help your baby predict what comes next and provide a sense of security. Add infant massage to your nightly bedtime routine for a little extra bonding time. Added bonus: It might just help your little one sleep better, too!

Repetition

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. (Good riddance Goodnight Moon, indeed!)

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.

Gross Motor Skills

New parents tend to invest in tons of baby gear—a cot, a pram, 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 up and name different ways to move: walk, hop, march, twirl, crawl, gallop, and more!

 

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 ads, the humming of the refrigerator or air conditioner, 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 class, 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.”

 

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 practicing 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 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.

Baby’s Work Through Play

It’s hard to argue with a genius like Albert Einstein. After all, he was, well, an actual genius. So it’s no shocker that he was right when he declared that “Play is the highest form of research.” Turns out that even babies use play to research the world. Infants learn about new sounds, sights, tastes, movements, and touches—all through play.

During the first year of life, your baby engages in two types of play —social play and object play. In Kindermusik, we provide opportunities for both! When we play a peekaboo game while singing “I See You,” your little one develops his motor skills, his visual skills, and his understanding of object permanence. Best of all, he bonds with you! During object play with instruments, your baby begins to understand cause and effect and how objects can be grouped—all by reaching, grasping, touching, mouthing, pushing, kicking, and even dropping the instruments! And throughout this play, you’re there to support your baby’s “research” with smiles, singing, and encouragement.

Everyday Connection: All the world’s a playground! Your baby plays inside and outside the Kindermusik classroom, in the car and in the cot, in the buggy and in the shopping trolley, and everywhere in between. Support your child’s play by talking to your child to enhance his language development, stepping in when he needs help, or stepping back and watching your little scientist figure it out himself!

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 lorry, an airplane 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?

 

Positional Concepts

You’re spending lots of time teaching your little one words—and he’s absorbing them like mad right now. But while you’re thinking about cows and trucks and yellows and fives, how much time are you spending talking about above, under, next to, and behind?

Here’s a fun activity that opens the conversation. Use these simple pictures, which illustrate some positional concepts, and use the sample questions to chit-chat with your child about where things are.

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Sounds

In order to prepare for reading, young children need consistent practice listening for the differences in sounds–and it’s easier and more fun for them to start with animal sounds or environmental sounds BEFORE they start on letter sounds.

Most dogs bark! But they can say woof-woof-woof or arr-arr, arr-arr! Most cats meow, but they can say rowww, rowww or they can say merr, merr. Just like every human, every dog and cat has its own voice! Try out this youngster-friendly listening game. Can you remember whose voice is whose?

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Hoop Play

Hoop play is great for movement and muscle coordination, but did you know it’s just as good at stirring up creativity and imaginative thinking? And, how about all of those prepositions?

Betcha can’t think of more than 2 or 3 things to do with a toddler and a hula hoop. Well, get a load of this pack of industrious hoopers, with more ideas than you can count!

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Early Vocabulary Building

Extensive research proves that early vocabulary development has a long-lasting impact on success in school. Children need both receptive and expressive vocabulary skills. Receptive vocabulary is also known as listening vocabulary, or comprehension. Expressive vocabulary is known as speaking vocabulary, and includes the ability to identify images orally.

To play this game successfully, children must have a solid receptive vocabulary in order to understand and respond to prompts such as ‘Can you find’ (fish of specific colours, numbers, and shapes). Children also have the opportunity to use expressive vocabulary to respond to commands (e.g. ‘Say Hello, Red Fish!’).


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Reading With Your Baby

You keep hearing about how important it is to read with your baby—but that’s easier said than done. How do you get them to sit still? And why does reading matter for little babies, anyway?

Having a positive experience ‘reading with your baby’ often requires tweaking what you think of as ‘reading with your baby’! Here are some easy ways to set yourself up for success.

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