Why Toddler Music Lessons Aren’t the Best Idea

Stressing about whether or not toddler music lessons are worth it?

They’re not and here’s why…

Have you ever heard “my son started playing piano at age 2,” or “my daughter picked up her first guitar when she was 3!”

It’s true that early instrument exposure is important.

However, age-appropriate instrument exploration (like shakers and rhythm sticks), especially within a group setting, is a critical first step in 0-3 music education.

Plus, developmental milestones boosted through starter instruments are directly connected to whether a child will actually master (and stick with) an instrument like the piano or guitar later.

Here’s the logic behind this approach, how to pick the right starter instruments for your toddler, and why toddler music class is much more beneficial than toddler music lessons.

What’s Wrong with Toddler Music Lessons?

Think about toddlers and toys. Does s/he play with the same toy all day every day?

You probably rotate them in and out to help tune up different abilities and renew interest.

There’s a reason rotating learning tools (including instruments!) is important for our youngest learners. They lack the attention span needed to devote to just one activity.

So, even if your toddler took an interest in one instrument, the chances of her coming back to it over and over are slim.

Toddlers also need exposure to a variety of early instruments to help develop things like fine motor skills (grasping, pinching, pressing, etc.) and steady beat (think tapping on a hand drum).

These skills not only ramp up basic school readiness but help them excel at activities like music lessons when they’re older.

How Do I Know Which Instruments Are Best For My Toddler?

Toddlers need sturdy, safe, and easy-to-grasp early instruments.

Plus, early instrument exploration goes so much farther than learning about different sounds.

For example, making soft and loud sounds with an egg shaker is the perfect activity for boosting self-regulation (like calming down before a nap).

And simple, sheer scarves can really help toddlers imitate sound through movement, taking their imaginations to the next level.

The best part is, many of the instruments you might see in a toddler music class can be recreated with household items.

A box of rice is the perfect substitute for egg shakers and chunky wooden puzzle pieces are ideal sand blocks.

What’s The Benefit Of Group Music Classes For Toddlers?

When toddlers experience music and movement with others, they’re learning about important concepts in a fun, memorable environment, and gaining essential social-emotional skills they’ll carry throughout life.

That’s the big advantage over a lesson…at this age, the “group” is what makes the learning stick.

Studio Kindermusik classes also include a parent or caregiver.

Research shows that when trusted grownups are present, children feel the safety they need to create freely.

Plus, it supports an irreplaceable bonding experience that feeds into confidence, communication, and so much more.

So, should you be anti-music lessons? Absolutely not.

From dexterity to listening skills, exposure to age-appropriate instruments and fundamentals learned in a class setting will make all the difference when transitioning to the piano, guitar, or whatever single-instrument lesson your child desires when the time is right.

Help develop the foundations she needs to turn a love of music into a passion, and boost major cognitive skills along the way!

-Reposted from Kindermusik International

You Are Welcome Here

Here at Song of the Heart Studios it is our mission to be the place where hearts sing and children flourish. We hold values that guide everything we do as we bring an exemplary Kindermusik experience to you and your children. Those values are Joy, Connection, Growth, Heart, and Family. As we focus on our values, strive towards our mission, and deliver our curriculum, we hope that each and every one of you feels seen, valued, appreciated, and wanted.

Our world is a diverse place, but our society has never been fully inclusive of that diversity.  As our broader society is going through growing pains in trying to build a more inclusive culture, we are joining that journey. Song of the Heart Studios and our JOY Team are committed to welcoming the diversity of families that come to experience the gift of Kindermusik.

As we commit to being an inclusive studio and work towards that goal we hope that YOU and YOUR family will feel welcome here.

Come, come, whoever you are-

You are welcome here!

No matter your age, your size,

the color of your eyes,

your hair, your skin –

you are welcome here!

No matter how you came here,

if you came alone, or with others –

you are welcome here!

No matter whom you love,

how you speak,

or whatever your abilities –

you are welcome here!

Whether you come with laughter in your heart,

or tears in your eyes –

you are welcome here!

~Melanie Morel-Ensminger

 

How Imaginary Friends Help COVID-Era Kids

Does your child have imaginary friends? Wondering if it’s a positive or a negative phase? Let me tell you a story…

My mother grew up in a small southern US town in the 1940s, when polio was rampant. My grandparents, who were older and struggled to have a child, were naturally fearful of the disease and scared to lose her. So, Mom wasn’t allowed to play with other children very often.

Except for one.

Now in her mid-80s, Mom still speaks vividly about Sue—the imaginary friend who saved her from loneliness and helped her practice friendship skills. Sue helped my vivacious, extroverted mother thrive, even in her isolation.

Imaginary friends are more common than you think…especially in a pandemic.

Experts are weighing in on why they exist, if they’re a good thing, and if they’re a helpful developmental tool for little ones.

Why is there an uptick in imaginary friends?

Pretend playmates have always been around, in both uncertain and “normal” times. However, after nearly a year of COVID-induced social isolation, imaginary friends are reportedly popping up in more households than ever before.

Children who are entering the stages of cooperative play, and even older kids who are missing school, sports, and more, may naturally fill these developmental gaps by creating friends they can play with any time, anywhere.

Are imaginary friends healthy?

While it’s easy to wonder if imaginary friends indicate problems in children, early childhood experts disagree. In fact, children who have them (and approximately 65% under age 7 do!), might surprise you in how they interact with these made up buddies.

Maybe you notice them taking turns, showing empathy, or even disagreeing and compromising. These are all good things that may help keep your child on track with cognitive and social-emotional milestones.

How are imaginary friends helpful, especially now?

Not all children gravitate toward this type of behavior. But if you’re looking for a way to help yours combat loneliness (even children with siblings), consider encouraging them to create some playmates.

You could start by modeling conversations with their favorite teddy bear or inviting all of their stuffed animals to a dance party. Then, just see where their own imaginations take them.

By letting your children take the reins, you’re fostering neural connections, creativity, and so much more.

Perhaps most important, imaginary friendships offer plenty of safe practice in how to navigate social situations—the one area we know will be difficult for many children as we reenter a post-pandemic society.

What does music have to do with imaginary friends?

Music doesn’t have to be a part of the relationship, but it’s an easy and enjoyable shared experience. My mom, a lifelong musician, certainly remembers music as a big part of her memories with Sue.

So, put on a song, turn up the volume, and leave the room. Your child might soon be singing and dancing with a friend. Who knows…it might be a girl (or a boy) named Sue!

For a perfect song choice, check out “Best Friends.” Play it below or stream it directly from our app, which has a ton of other songs and themed playlists to choose from (available on the App Store or Google Play).

At Kindermusik, imaginary friends are welcome in both our virtual and in-person classes. Bring them along for some music and movement fun, and maybe get to know other children’s pretend besties while you’re there!

-Reposted from Kindermusik International; Written by Deanne Kells.

Rainbow Connection

Hopefully you’ve enjoyed our Rainbow Connection Week here at Song of the Heart Studios. Did you jump into your at home Parent Guides for the first time this past week? Or did you joyfully implement them for the nth time?

A lot of parents aren’t aware that Kindermusik can and should continue at home! Your in-class experience is only part of the fun. Sure, it’s the main feature. Our educators are positive and engaging and deliver the curriculum with joy and expertise. But all that brain growth and physical development and connection that is fostered within each of our Kindermusik classes is a launchpad for fun throughout your week.

We get it: parenting is exhausting. The last thing you want is another thing on your to-do list. Intentions to download your unit’s playlist on the app get forgotten in the daily business of parenting. That’s why we developed Rainbow Connection Week as a special invitation to engage with your home materials and we hope that it has brought you and your child an added measure of joy this week.

Not just for fun, when you utilize the home materials and engage with your child during the week you reinforce all the learning that takes place in the classroom. Remember, repetition is the GLUE for the brain. Children instinctively understand this, which is why they sing their favorite Kindermusik song or request their favorite bedtime book over and over and over again! Their need for repetition and reinforcement vastly outstrips our own.

Beyond the learning reinforcement, one of the most important features of the home materials is that it provides an opportunity for yet more CONNECTION between you and your child. You’ll have noticed that most of the activities are quite brief. It doesn’t take much time to remind your child through an engaging and playful activity that you are their safe place. Research has proven that connection promotes cooperation and decreases power struggles. Who doesn’t want that?

Process, Not Performance

Hopefully you saw that wonderful feedback we received from one of you Heartie parents this week. If not, here it is:


This comment brings focus to one of our core tenets as early childhood music educators: to focus on musical process, not performance.

Here’s why:

Focusing on performance invites criticism and correction. The focus becomes on doing it “right” rather than simply enjoying the process. There is a place for that, certainly, at higher levels of ability and development when skill and technique are being developed. But in early childhood, there is no place for that type of instruction. If the goal is to do it “right” then children who haven’t yet developed certain motor skills and cognitive processing skills can feel overwhelmed and will shut down.

The moment a child doesn’t feel safe their brain switches to a lower gear of emotional survival and all learning stops. Their sense of safety can be threatened simply by a teacher or parent trying to “help them succeed” or to “prevent them from failing” and giving well-intentioned but ultimately destructive feedback.

Children need a much more nurturing environment in order to learn. They need to be free to explore, free to express, free to move and experience the process in their bodies, rather than scrutinizing if they are doing things “correctly.”

We’ve all been to the dance recitals when the adorable 3 year olds come out in their frilly tutus and the crowd oohs and ahs. It’s adorable! We love those tiny dancers! But watch their faces as they try to perform. There’s always one stand out: the child who has a knack for charming and performing who was just born with stage presence. Then there’s the precise perfectionist child who has more advanced development and can perform “correctly”: the right move on the right beat in the right order. But the other ten children on the stage? Look at their faces. They’re usually just trying to keep up and sometimes are vaguely confused. And then there’s always the sweet little child who isn’t ready for such a feat and is afraid to go on stage and has to be pulled by the hand by her teacher. That child needs more feelings of safety and reassurance.

But where is the joy? Where is the connection? What are the children learning? Is this recital about providing a positive experience for the dancers? Or is it a performative reward for the parents?

This is why in Kindermusik our focus is on the whole development of the child and the connection between the child and parent. The focus is not on performance. We want your children to feel total safety and joy when they enter our studio. We want them to feel so safe that they are 100% free to learn through exploration in a rich sensory environment. We don’t want them focused on doing things “right” or following instructions to a T. Nor do we want your focus to be on getting them to follow the teacher’s instructions perfectly. We give them time to transition and grace to do things differently. It’s okay to just watch instead of participate. It’s okay to not be ready to give up their instrument on demand. The goal is to for your heart to sing and their eyes to shine.

And then, one day, when they’ve got the developmental skills to learn more, we teach them more. We introduce notes and beats. We teach them to read rhythms and hold mallets and play as an ensemble. The Kindermusik curriculum steps up perfectly in sync with your child’s development. And by the time they graduate the program they will be developmentally ready for formal instrument instruction. Kindermusik kids have a proven record of having a huge advantage in future musical studies over children who don’t experience our nurturing program.

So save the performance. There will be time for that later. For now, just focus on the process. And if that sounds too dry, then focus on the connection, the joy, the heart, and those shining eyes.

Kindermusik Promotes Optimal Brain Development

5 Ways to to Encourage Optimal Brain Development in Babies and Toddlers
– Sarah Ockwell Smith

1. Hug them lots! The best way to help to support your child’s development is to be responsive to their needs. When they cry, pick them up and try to avoid leaving them to cry alone. Babies and toddlers can’t self-settle. They need us to act as external regulators. Holding your baby in your arms helps to secrete hormones which grow the part of the brain responsible for emotion regulation. You can’t ever spoil a child with love or hold them too much!

2. Look after your own mental & physical health. To be responsive to your baby’s needs, you need to meet your own needs too. This means that looking after your physical and mental health is a key part of helping your baby to develop. We live in a society that is not especially supportive of new parents, having a baby or toddler is hard work at the best of times – during a global pandemic it’s even tougher. If you are struggling do chat with your family doctor, or get in touch with an organisation who can help (I’ve tagged some in this post).

3. Expose them to music. Music has a wonderful effect on the developing brain, it can help babies and toddlers to feel calmer and also helps with the development of language. You don’t need to have any musical skill or talent though, your child is not that discerning! Singing nursery rhymes (however off key), humming along to a radio station swaying with your baby or toddler in your arms, or making up your own tunes are just perfect.

4. Read to them. The more words a baby or toddler hears, the larger their vocabulary and their literacy skills will be as they grow. Reading is a lovely way for partners to bond, for instance taking the role of reading a bedtime story every night. Don’t worry if your baby or toddler never looks at the pages, doesn’t seem to pay attention, or would rather eat the book, your reading will still have an impact!

5. Play with them. Play is the primary tool of learning. You don’t need expensive developmental toys though, simple games of pat-a-cake or peek-a-boo are more than enough. Pull funny faces, blow raspberries and have fun!

***

What’s fascinating about this write up by parenting and child development expert Sarah Ockwell-Smith is how Kindermusik aids in all five of these suggestions.

Her first suggestion is to hug them lots. Intentional touch. Playful touch. We do that in every Kindermusik class from our I Love You Rituals to our cuddle times.

Her second suggestion is to look after your OWN mental and physical health. Kindermusik is meant to be enjoyable for the adult as well and if you engage with your child fully as their partner you will be given natural doses of Joy Juice, that wonderful cocktail of hormones and endorphins that make you feel good. Sometimes that’s just what a stressed out parent needs.

Her third suggestion is to expose them to music. Hello! We already know that music is the ONLY stimulus that lights up ALL areas of the brain simultaneously. It’s long been shown that early musical experiences promote optimal learning far into a child’s future.

The fourth suggestion is to read to your children. This is why we incorporate story time into every Kindermusik class and why Ms Maren gives us a weekly story time over Facebook live. Have you caught her most recent story?

The final suggestion is simply to play. Play with your children. Play is a child’s work. Play is how they learn. Simply being present and playful will give your child everything their brain needs to learn and to grow. Sometimes playfulness doesn’t come naturally to a parent. That’s where Kindermusik comes in! We’re here to support you in crafting playful experiences to share with your child as you partner together during our Kindermusik classes.

We hope that you can see how Kindermusik is the perfect tool to incorporate into your family’s lives and routine. It’s not just fun, it’s also developmentally beneficial. Those benefits will continue to flow over a lifetime. And it all starts here.

Playfulness Breeds Connection

We know from research that CONNECTION with your children is a mandatory prerequisite for their cooperation. Not only that, but it brings fulfillment and happiness as you and your child get a shot of Joy Juice hormones that make you feel good. And who doesn’t want more of that? It’s so crucial to the optimal development of a child that’s part of the reason it’s one of our five studio values.

One of the key components for building connection with your children is playfulness. We have learned from Conscious Discipline that the elements needed for true connection are eye contact, touch, playfulness, and presence. We strive to utilize these elements in every Kindermusik class, and most especially during our I Love You Rituals.

Let’s focus on playfulness for a moment. The following suggestions come from Sarah Ockwell-Smith, childcare and parenting author and expert.

Hands up if you struggle to be a playful parent? For some, being playful comes naturally, for others it can feel a little awkward and stilted. If you’re in the latter category, give these tips a try:

1. View play as a ‘must have’, not ‘nice to have’. We are so busy with adult life, that playing with our children often sinks to the bottom of our to-do lists. Viewing play as important, not as time wasted that could be better spent elsewhere, is the way forward. 15 minutes playing with your child is infinitely more valuable than 15 minutes sending emails, or vacuuming the carpet.

2. Play at your child’s level, not your own. What does this mean? It means not inventing mature games or activities that you think your child would like, or that you believe to be age appropriate or good developmentally. Watch and observe how your child plays and join in. It doesn’t have to make sense to you and it doesn’t have to have an obvious teaching moment.

3. Reconnect with your inner child.
As we grow we learn to be more self-conscious, we lose the value of play and we lose the skills to be great at it. Sometimes we need to go deep inside and remember how thrilling it is to be silly, how fun it is to lose ourselves in our imaginations. Dig deep and remember what you enjoyed at their age – did you like skipping/jump ropes, jumping in muddy puddles, Painting with your fingers? You’re not too old for those things now!

4. Make everyday chores more playful.
Invent a bedtime song, a tidying up dance, or a family race to get shoes on when it’s time to go out. Play can be incorporated into every aspect of family life. It doesn’t have to be a specific play time to make something more fun.

5. Get into role playing and drama.
Remember how fun it was to play schools, shops, or mums and dads as a child? Role playing/acting out different characters is such a lovely way to play with children, it’s also a great way to encourage them to do things they don’t usually want to do (e.g: pretending to be a dinosaur hunter when brushing teeth, or a grooming chimpanzee when brushing hair).

Do you have any other tips?

-Read original post by Sarah Ockwell-Smith on Instagram.

Empathy

Any parent who has had a toddler knows the power of a tantrum. Not only does it completely overwhelm your child’s body, it makes them irascible and unresponsive to any solutions to their problem that you might present. Not to mention it can also throw you as the parent into an emotional tailspin, overwhelming you with frustration, and you find yourself incapable of being your best parenting self.

Guess what? I have good news for you. There is a magical tool available to you that can take that tantrum and turn it into a teaching moment where you show your child how to manage those overwhelming emotions. This tool is called EMPATHY.

Simply expressing empathy to your child, instead of solving their problem, is the goal.

All conflict begins with upset. And you cannot solve the conflict unless you first address the upset. Empathy is the way to do that.

Here’s what that might look like:

Your child is in distress. Maybe they don’t like their dinner. Maybe they don’t want to put away their toys. Maybe they don’t want to give you that sharpie they’re using to color the walls.  Instead of trying to offer solutions, or putting them in time out, or explaining what they need to do, just get down on their level. Offer some gentle intentional touch. Validate their feelings. When you validate and notice their emotions that is called co-regulation.

Children lack the executive functioning skill of regulating their emotions. They require co-regulation from a trusted adult to show them how, so that as they mature they can develop the skill of emotional regulation. You co-regulate by offering empathy.

Next time your child is overcome with strong emotions and it’s triggering your own, take a breath. Notice how you are responding to them. How are you managing their emotions? Are you ignoring their feelings? Negating or minimizing their feelings? Even if their feelings are irrational or over something trivial, they are not trivial to the child. They are overwhelming for the child. So get down on their level, say “You seem sad” or “You seem frustrated” and just let their feelings be. Make space for those feelings. Validate those feelings. Your empathy will integrate their brain and help them to regulate their emotions. Only then will they be functioning in the executive portion of their brain and can accept help or find a solution to their problem.

Unless you were parented this way it may not come naturally to you. People tend to parent the way they were parented, but behavioral and brain science tells us there’s a better way. And it starts with empathy.

Benefits of Kindermusik: Boosting Early Literacy

Increased literacy development is one of the major benefits of a consistent music program. And that can happen before elementary school!

In fact, an independent research firm found that preschoolers who experienced just 30 minutes a week of Kindermusik demonstrated 32% greater gains in language and literacy skills.

 

How did researchers test for literacy development? *

Using the Phonological Awareness Literacy Screening (PALS)** pretest and posttest scores, a study conducted by SEG Measurement found that children involved in the Kindermusik program (starting at the same level of reading readiness) made 32% greater progress compared to those who did not participate.

An independent research firm found that preschoolers who experienced just 30 minutes a week of Kindermusik demonstrated 32% greater gains in language and literacy skills.

To evaluate the effectiveness of Kindermusik’s curriculum, the firm followed 299 preschool children during the school year. Aside from weekly in-class instruction, families of participating children were given extensive at-home materials with each unit (now included physically or digitally within our kits), to help continue the experience outside of the school day.

Why does music increase literacy development?

Why does music increase literacy development?

Music and literacy are processed the same way…through sound! 

That’s why, at Kindermusik, we introduce elements like steady beat to babies and build on it from there. And like rhythmic patterns, early childhood songs use simple language patterns, vocabulary, and storytelling. All of these elements contribute to a strong foundation for early literacy skills.

Music builds memory.

When instruction involves singing, dancing, and instrument play, children are forced to listen carefully and pay attention. That type of concentration builds memory, and memory is essential to nurturing reading readiness.

Music sparks imagination.

Music sparks imagination. 

Did you know that imagination is considered an advanced cognitive ability? When this concept is introduced at an early age, it naturally boosts other areas of development, including literacy.

At Kindermusik, we encourage imagination through song, sound exploration, and movement, but children also experience that opportunity through our read-aloud components.

Reading Aloud directly affects language development

In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics cites that reading aloud “directly affects language development, a major factor in school readiness, during the critical period of early brain development.”

Our units are accompanied by stories that take little minds to different places and encourage them to envision, recreate, and even empathize with the characters. The combination of bolstered imagination through music and read-aloud is a double recipe for success! 

Why-do-children-need-a-“music-program”

Why do children need a “music program”?

We know that children thrive on routines and that they actually foster positive overall behavior and performance, whether at home or in the classroom. That’s exactly what a music program, like a weekly Kindermusik class, does!

When kids can anticipate next steps and are genuinely excited about participation they will naturally build on those steady, positive experiences. Consistency in learning methods is key, and with just a little effort, you’ll see them expand all areas of development (like literacy!) in no time.

-Reposted from Kindermusik International

Our Guiding Light

It’s that time of year when we reflect back and look forward. And whooo boy! What a year to look back on. This year threw everyone for a loop. Plans made were cancelled. Goals were postponed or given up on. Realignments were made as we evaluated what really mattered and what was truly worth the effort in continuing during this historic year.

At Song of the Heart Studios it was our mission that carried us through the struggles that this year brought: to be the place where eyes shine and children flourish. Just because we are living through unprecedented times that have made literally everything more challenging, we didn’t want to give up on our mission. We knew that you needed a place to continue to turn to for the joy and growth and connection that happens in a Kindermusik class, but provided in a safe way. We knew that the joy and connection that happens in class could sustain you and your family during these hard times.

During the JOY Team’s summer retreat we discussed the WHY we do what we do. And WHAT did we want to focus on in continuing to keep the studio open during the pandemic. There was a unanimous consensus; what we wanted to focus on was YOU. We wanted to continue to serve the families we had, and keep the studio open for departing families when they were ready to return.

The world needs MORE joy, not less. The world needs MORE connection, not less. And so we stretched ourselves and changed our protocols and pivoted each time a new challenge presented itself. Our commitment to your families and your children has been our guiding light.

And so at this end of year we want to extend a heartfelt THANK YOU for sticking with us this year. Thank you for trusting us. Thank you for being part of our tribe. Thank you for sharing your children with us and letting us love and teach them. Thank you for giving us a reason to keep our doors open. Thank you for providing the means for us to keep our doors open.

In this coming year we renew our commitment to our studio’s values and will strive with each class to bring you HEART, JOY, CONNECTION, FAMILY, and GROWTH. May your family’s eyes continue to shine and your children flourish with each Kindermusik class.

Happy New Year!