Gathering Time

Every Kindermusik class begins before it begins.

Let me explain.

You enter the building, take off your shoes, lay down your bag, and enter your Kindermusik classroom.

Your educator greets you with a song and smile and has thoughtfully laid out instruments, books, puzzles, or other manipulative before you even walk in the room. Your child plays with a prop or instrument. You read them a book. You pass the time while you wait for the rest of your class to arrive, for the door to close, and the fun to begin.

You look at the clock. You notice that your educator hasn’t started the warmup or the Hello Song until 5-7 minutes PAST the “start time” of your class.

Guess what? Class HAS started. That time before class “officially” begins is what we call Gathering Time. It is a soft start for you and your child. It is a crucial transition time for your child to prepare to learn.

We are not just passing the time and waiting for the others. We are intentionally creating an environment, a space, and giving the time your child needs to ready themselves. It is a developmentally appropriate way to signal to their brains that learning is about to start.

This has a few benefits. First, it gives anxious or shy children time to adapt to the new environment before being asked to participate. A new room and new faces can be very overwhelming to a child. Some children run in and are ready to rock and roll. Others need time to transition.

Secondly, it provides your children with a routine that signals to them the end of one activity and the beginning of another. Children’s brains take 12 times longer than an adults’ to process information. Part of that brain work is learning they are in a new space and need to adapt to what is newly being expected of them.

Thirdly, it gives your child a chance at autonomy. Soon they are going to be asked to engage in all sorts of group activities and they need a chance to assert some independence, explore at their own pace, and feel confident in the space beforehand. They may need time to explore the classroom and sate their curiosity about the environment before they will be ready to sit down and participate.

Fourth, it brings a sense of calm and readiness for the whole class. It gives everyone a chance to greet their friends and prepare for the connective and unifying activities we’re about to engage in.

If you come running into class a minute or two late you are missing out on some of the developmental benefits of Kindermusik because your child is missing that readiness phase. When you come rushing in they have little time to transition and prepare. They may not be ready to go from napping in a car seat or working hard at school to go straight into musical learning.

We get it. We’re parents too. We know how hard it is get places on time when your children delay, or traffic is bad, or the carpool was late, or your little one needs a snack. We have endless empathy for the chronically late family and you are ALWAYS welcome regardless of whenever you arrive.

But perhaps commit to yourself to try and get to class right on time or 2-3 minutes early so that your child doesn’t miss out on this crucial transition time. It’s intentional. It’s developmentally necessary. It creates a mood where your child can do their best work and have the best experience.

And it gives YOU the opportunity to calm your nervous system, release whatever stress you’ve been feeling about being in traffic or finding those little shoes, and prepare yourself. When you are prepared you can be more fully present, more completely connect, and experience the JOY of a Kindermusik class with your child.

Just Getting Started

Now that we are a few weeks into this new Kindermusik season, we hope you are having a delightful time singing and playing with your children in our sensory rich, supportive, and safe environment.

If you drop your older child off and don’t get to share in the weekly joy-fest we have here, just know that your children are adapting to the new environment, to their peers, to their new educator, and to our studio expectations. They are learning all of this while engaged in fun musical activities that are so enjoyable they don’t really even know they’re learning.

To our new families, your faces are becoming more familiar. To our returning families, we are so glad to see your child’s shining eyes once again! And we are JUST GETTING STARTED! We have SO MUCH in store for your kids this year.

As families go through so many transitions at this time of year, it is absolutely crucial that you set up routines and rituals to help make the transition as smoothly as possible. At Kindermusik we have lots of routines so that children know what to expect next and what is expected of them. We have several rituals in every class that not only gives them predictability to rely upon but also provides an activity of connection which makes them feel safe so they can be ready to learn.

Routines and rituals are the foundation for a successful learning environment, at Kindermusik, at school, and at home. You will notice, the longer you attend Kindermusik at Song of the Heart, that our classes have a pattern to them. We establish this pattern thoughtfully, to maximize student comfort, safety, independence, creativity, and learning.

Though our class framework remains consistent throughout the year, be assured that your Joy Team educator is a master at flexibility as well. Within a class’s framework we allow the children room to explore and extend their learning. We pivot and follow their lead, scaffold on their skills, and lean into any activity that is turning out to be both highly effective and highly enjoyable. Your educator will meet your child where they are at and adjust according to their needs and developmental level.

And if your child is younger and you attend class with them, hopefully we can give you a few effective strategies to use at home as you establish your own family’s routines and rituals. And remember that practice makes progress. If your child isn’t comfortable in class yet, don’t worry. It’s only been a couple of weeks. Give them at least six weeks to become familiar to the Song of the Heart way.

May your next week bring joy to your heart and connection with your loved ones. Sing with you soon!

In the Mean Time

We are so excited to reopen the studio! In a few days our Monday classes will return, and the week after for everyone else! Soon we’ll be back together singing, playing, and making musical memories.

But in the mean time, here are a few more ideas to help you keep the musical joy and learning going at home.

  1. Take a MUSIC BATH. In class we often call this “cuddle time.” It starts with some connection and calming. Turn out the lights. Hold your baby or invite your little one to crawl into your lap. Make eye contact. Breathe deeply a couple of times. This sets up both you and your child in the right mind frame for the activity. Then put on a favorite lullaby. Sing if you wish, or open that Kindermusik app and search for Suo Gan, Brahms Lullaby, or Simple Gifts. Just let that music “wash” over you and your body. Feel how your body responds to music if you eliminate all distractions and just focus on cuddling and listening.
  2. Go for a LISTENING WALK. We’ve written about it on this blog before. Read about it here. It’s such a joyful way to practice active listening skills with your little one. As you walk around your neighborhood ask your child to tell you what they hear. Or maybe tell them what you hear. Do you hear a lawn mower? Do you hear bees buzzing? Do you hear cars passing? It can turn a family walk into an active listening game.
  3. Go on an INSTRUMENT SCAVENGER HUNT. Gather the family and ask them to find something in the house that makes an interesting sound and could be used as an instrument. Think about things that you can shake, swish, rattle, or drum. You could turn it into a game of show and tell. Explore the different timbres of the different objects. Try “playing” the object in a variety of ways and notice how it sounds differently when you tap it vs. when you shake it, etc.
  4. MAKE AN INSTRUMENT CRAFT. You know the drill . . . take an empty toilet paper roll, tape one end shut, fill it with beads, then tape the other end. Let your little one color it or cover it in stickers. Take and empty tissue box and stretch some rubber bands over it, turning it into a “guitar” they can strum or pluck. It can be as simple or as intricate as you have the energy and creativity for.
  5. Now that you have instruments handy, create a FAMILY BAND. Have everyone in the household grab their instrument or their “instrument” and play together. Turn on some favorite folk music and have a jam session. Make some joyful noise! You could take turns playing as an ensemble or performing solos for each other. The sillier the better.

Let us know if you try any of these activities at home and how it went! We hope you enjoy these ideas, and until we meet again, may you fill your days with music.

Sing with you soon!

Kindermusik Activities at Home!

During our seasonal break from the studio, lots of your little ones will be missing their music class. It’s so easy to have a little Kindermusik at home! And I’m not even talking about the vast library on the Kindermusik app or all your @Home materials available online. Just use a familiar Kindermusik class as inspiration for incorporating music at home.

1. Hello Song 
When you greet your little one first thing in the morning or after nap time sing “Hello” to the tune of your choice, or sing the Hello Song you know from class. Just substitute your child’s name. Extend it into an activity using familiar motions and have a little baby exercise as you’re getting going. Mornings are a great bonding time to incorporate a little music into your routine.

2. Dance Together
Open that Kindermusik app and search for one of these tunes:

  • Forte and Piano Dance
  • Tinga Layo
  • Peek-a-boo, I Love You
  • Bohemian Dance

Or simply play one of your own favorite upbeat songs. Slide around that Kitchen together. Sashay, zig zag, wiggle, glide, zoom, twirl, twist, bend, kick. Think of that movement poster in Studio Joy and think of creative ways to move together. 

3. Go for a Ride!
Maybe you don’t have a bilibo at home, but I bet you have bath towels! Put your little one on that bath towel facing backwards and drag them around the house. (Make sure they face away from the direction you are moving so that if they fall back their head is caught on the sling of the towel and doesn’t hit back on the floor.) Put on some music to make it even more fun. I suggest the Germans Band: Stop and Go or Surprise Symphony songs on the Kindermusik app. Those are great for a little anticipation and inhibitory control.

If dragging the towel around doesn’t feel secure enough, simply put an empty, sturdy laundry basket on top of that towel, let your child climb inside, and “drive” them around the hard floors in your house. Don’t forget to pretend to buckle up first!

4. Storytime
As an enrolled Kindermusik family you have access to all the Kindermusik books right on the Kindermusik app. You can read a favorite one together or explore new ones. Better yet, head to the local library. Find a book that rhymes and has rhythm and cadence. Add your own melody. Or maybe find a book that illustrates a well-known children’s nursery rhyme or song. Lay our a special “story time blanket” and sing our well-known auditory cue “Let’s get our blanket out . . . let’s get our blanket out . . . It’s time for a story . . . sit right down and read with me.” That will make your reading time together feel even more special.

5. Active Listening
Back to that Kindermusik app . . . on the bottom of the app in the center you’ll see a “library” icon. Click on that. Then head to the search bar and simply type in “sound”. You’ll find recordings of ALL SORTS of things. There are LOTS of ANIMAL sounds: elephant, lion, monkey, zebra, parrot, ponies, squirrels, crickets, and more. There are HUMAN sounds: laughter, chewing, knocking, walking and running footsteps, and more. There are INSTRUMENT sounds: drums, pipes, maracas, and more. There are VEHICLE sounds: sirens, engines, keys jingling, seat belts buckling, and more. There are NATURE sounds: ocean waves, wind blowing, birds chirping, and more.

Just like in class you can get your little one’s attention focused, rub those listening ears from top to bottom and say “Listen, listen, listen, shh.” Then play a sound. Mimic the sound. Guess what the sound it. Look up a picture of what is making the sound. Such a fun game to play at home!

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There are MORE ways to incorporate simple Kindermusik activities at home. Check back here soon for even more ideas!

Summer Fun!

Our summer camps for our Little Music Makers are wrapping up this week and we have had a BLAST. Your kids have been pirates and adventurers, drummers, pianists, and more. Seeing the older children develop their musical skills through these camps is always a pleasure.

Our Little Learner classes are also winding down soon, and so many of your children are STEPPING UP in September. Our ongoing enrollment is the BEST way to ensure your child continues to get the best in child development classes. Just think how much they’ve learned in the last year! They’ve grown socially, physically, cognitively, linguistically, emotionally, and musically.

Our classes are music classes, yes, but they are so much more than that. We use music as the perfect tool to light up all areas of the brain and support all areas of development. Kindermusik fosters the perfect environment for your child to explore, try new things, experiment, observe, and learn. Your children learn from this environment and the other children as much as they do from the educator.

Hopefully you adults learn from your educator as well! They are not just there for your kids, but are there for YOU. Our JOY Team has been thoroughly trained in Conscious Discipline and child development and they have so many tips and tricks up their sleeves. Hopefully through their modeling you’ve picked up on ways to manage, teach, and support your children at home. From I Love You Rituals to S.T.A.R. breathing we model these techniques for you throughout the year.

And when you find yourself missing Kindermusik during the month of August, come back here to our blog and you’ll find some fun ideas for how to keep the musical fun alive at home.

Happy music making!

Just Breathe

Something we educators notice during our classes is that very often the caregivers in class have rising stress levels as they try to control their child’s behavior.

We get it. Every JOY Team member is a parent. We know the feeling of judgment when our child acts out in public. We also know that parents have very little “control” over their children. What we mean by that is that your child is who they are.

If they are reserved and prefer to learn through observing, then people think they are well behaved and the parents are doing a good job. But truthfully your kid just came wired that way and it probably doesn’t have much to do with your parenting.

If your child is a runner or a screamer or a thrower that also is not because of your parenting. It is not a reflection of you as a parent if your child creates a ruckus in class. They are who they are. They just came wired that way.

But we do know that there are some socially unacceptable behaviors that we have to try to manage when we are out with our kid in public. So if you have one of those kids that seems hard to control, this post is for you.

First, breathe. Again. Again. Probably again.

You cannot help your child manage their behavior if you cannot manage your own. The first step in co-regulation is to regulate yourself. It is proven that 3+ breaths can calm your nervous system, bring your brain up to an executive functioning state, and allow you to be in control.

Second, recognize that ALL behavior is communication.

Your child is running laps around the room? They are telling you they are learning through their body and need physical stimulation.

Your child is screaming? They are having big emotions about something and they need help regulating those emotions.

Your child is hitting? They are frustrated that they aren’t getting their way.

Instead of focusing on the behavior, identify what your child is trying to communicate. Then you can co-regulate with them or help them find a solution to their problem or just validate their feelings.

Third, breathe again.

But this time, make sure your child sees you do it. Catch their attention with a sharp intake of breath and a gentle touch on their elbow. When they look at you . . . breathe. Slowly and deliberately. This will trigger their mirror neurons and they’ll begin to slow their breathing. This is the core of co-regulation. Getting on their level, calming their nervous system, then solving the problem.

Fourth, remember you are your child’s PARTNER.

You don’t need to control them. You need to teach them self-regulation through modeling and co-regulation. Partnering with them might mean going with them as they explore the room. That way you can connect and scaffold, but you can also prevent any potential dangers in the environment or with the other children. Partnering with them might mean removing them from the classroom temporarily so reduce stimulation so you can co-regulate their nervous system and bring them back to calm.

Fifth, remember we’re all in this together.

We are a class family. We support you. We know how hard it is to be a caregiver. We don’t judge you or your child. We understand that some kids are hard. Some days are hard. Don’t feel judged. And don’t give up. Just breathe.

Freedom and Unity

Happy Independence Day!

This year it feels a little different, doesn’t it? Freedom, individual liberty, the social contract, and patriotism have all become embroiled in controversy. We are a country that holds its history dear, and tries to live up to the legacy of freedom our founding fathers instituted. But with all the different ideas out there on what exactly that means, we have a lot of division in our country. Wherever you sit on the political, social, or ideological spectrum, it is a turbulent time to be an American.

Which, in our view, makes Kindermusik all the more valuable. Here at Song of the Heart Studios we strive to be inclusive and welcoming to all. We appreciate every person that contributes to our studio family. We recognize that it is through our diversity that we can appreciate the spectrum of humanity.

Children ARE the future, and there is no way around that. It’s our job, as the people that brought them here, to protect and prepare them. If they are going to enter adulthood in this world and be able to thrive, we need to give them the best foundation possible. And that all comes through connection and attachment. The more you connect with your little one now, the more confident and skilled they will become as they grow and enter society. And bringing them to Kindermusik at this tender age is truly giving them the best developmental foundation you could ask for.

Music is a universal human experience. All evolutions of human culture for millennia have had music. Humans use their bodies for percussion and their voices for singing and chanting. We have made musical instruments from natural resources. We’ve developed different systems of tonality. All humans have experienced music in their life. All people are innately and inherently musical.

As a universal experience, music can be a great unifier. There’s nothing quite like raising our voices in song together that can bond a group of people. Or the shared experience of live music at an outdoor concert. In a world of division we need more connection. And we can get that through music.

So dive in to the music of your soul, and the music that lives inside your very cells. Listen to your body’s rhythm, move freely in joyful dance. Teach that freedom of joyful dance and music making to your children. May we all have more freedom, more unity, and more MUSIC.

The Sounds of Summer and the Skill of Listening

Close your eyes and visualize. What comes to mind when you think of the sounds of summer?

Some possibilities might include:

  • Sprinklers running
  • Lawn mowers rumbling
  • Children playing
  • Pool water splashing
  • Birds chirping
  • Ice clinking
  • Ice cream truck music tinkling

Certainly you could add many more to the list. Each of those suggestions instantly brings an auditory memory to your brain, doesn’t it?

When moving around your life and days you may hear these sounds without even realizing that you’re hearing them. Unless you train your attention, you may not even notice them at all. But when you engage in active listening then you hear a whole host of things.

Active listening is an important skill, one that we seek to develop in every Kindermusik class. It’s not just listening. It’s listening. Children spend so much time making the noise they don’t often sit down to understand the sounds around them. And so we practice.

We rub our ears from top to bottom to stimulate the auditory nerve and its neural pathways. We say “Listen, listen, listen, shh” as a way of cueing our children’s brains to pay attention and hold still. We play a mystery sound and ask them what it was. We mimic the sound. We repeat the sound and listen again.

This skill can help children in their social development, cognitive development, and more. The ability to perceive, process, and comprehend the sounds around us is a key ability that hearing people need to foster. We could all spend a little more time listening, don’t you think?

So this summer, spend a little time listening. By yourself or with your child. In the cool of twilight, sit on your back porch and listen. What do you hear? Help your child identify the sounds of summer. And as you listen yourself, you’ll find a little more calm, a little more peace. Who couldn’t use that?

Happy listening.

Graduation and Goodbyes

This week our Level 3, 4, and 5 students have had their final classes. As our Little Learners continue classes throughout the summer, the Little Music Makers’ classes have wrapped up. It’s time to GRADUATE and time to say goodbye.

Ms. Maren with some of her her outgoing Level 3 kids, including a big sister former student and a younger brother future student!

Every year your Kindermusik educator falls in LOVE with your child. And it’s so hard to say goodbye, even if only moving from one level to the next. Please be sure to say hello to your past educators when you see us around as your child STEPS UP to the next level.

Ms. Patty celebrating her Level 4 kiddos.

Of course Kindermusik continues on with summer camps and music clubs, but it’s always hard to say goodbye to a class you’ve spent a year with.

Level 5 year 1 students celebrate Peter & the Wolf Day!

We love EACH of our graduates and EVERY SINGLE child that has been with us this year.

A graduating class showing off their recorder skills.

And don’t forget that even after Kindermusik graduation your child’s musical journey can continue! We offer Piano Club and Ukulele Club for them to really take their instrument playing abilities to the next level, preparing them even further for private instruction and future ensemble participation.

Ms. Rachel with her Piano Club kids.

Piano Club student shows off his skills at the end of year showcase.

Have the BEST summer filled with music and joy! We can’t wait to see you at Summermusik camp!

The Power of Singing to Kids

Father and daughter singing together into wooden spoons.

On one of our puppy’s first car rides, he began to whimper and tremble in distress.

“Try singing to him,” suggested my 7-year-old. And so I began to hum “Baby Mine,” a lullaby I have sung to my children every night since they were born. It’s what I sing when they wake up to nighttime thunder at 3am. It’s what I sing when they are sick and need some extra soothing. Sometimes I even catch myself humming it to myself before I give a presentation.

And as my son predicted, my puppy settled down by the second verse.

It’s not that particular song that’s special — it’s simply that act of singing. As Dr. Anita Collins, author of “The Music Advantage: How Music Helps Your Child Develop Learn and Thrive,” told me, “Song is our very first language, and it is an incredible mechanism to connect with babies and other human beings.”

Here are three reasons we should sing to our kids.

1. Sing to build connection.

Don’t worry if you can carry a tune, Collins said. “Your baby doesn’t care. They are picking up that you are a safe person, that you are a person they are connected to. You are your baby’s favorite rockstar.”

There’s a reason we instinctively use sing-song sounds with young children. Before they learn speech, they learn sounds — and melody is highly appealing to young children. Think about how kids light up when we do song-based finger plays with them, such as “Five Little Monkeys” or “Where is Thumbkin.” Preschool and children’s librarians know that an engaging opening song can grab kids’ attention and quickly build a sense of togetherness. Schools and faith traditions use songs to foster community. And a family dance party or karaoke night is a great way to get the wiggles out and make memories.

2. Sing to support brain development.

Nina Kraus is a neurologist who has spent years studying the effects of music on the brain. When it comes to helping kids develop the skills they need to learn, “music is the jackpot,” she told me. According to her research, music builds attention, working memory, and language development. It’s also highly motivating and emotionally satisfying, which is also key to learning.

And before kids ever take a music class, simply singing to them, rocking them, and bouncing them really pays off. Rhythm is directly linked with learning how to read. In fact, school-age children who struggle with keeping a beat are more likely to have reading challenges.

“Strengthening one’s rhythm skills, which is something that music does inherently, creates a biological foundation that helps with language and literacy,” Kraus said. When we sing to our kids, their brain is exposed to sounds, rhythms, and rhymes that are the building blocks of reading.

3. Sing to teach routines and skills.

If I asked you to recite the alphabet, chances are you would sing it to me. If you can recite all fifty states, you might have had an elementary school teacher who taught you a song about it. And there’s a reason every “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” episode contains a strategy song. Songs are memorable! Kids are still developing their executive function skills — including working memory — so putting a routine to music makes it easier for them to remember.

Singing to and making music with our kids is a winner. It builds connections, enhances feelings of safety, promotes brain development, and teaches skills. So don’t worry about the quality of your vocals. You really are your child’s favorite rockstar.

-Reposted from PBS; written by Deborah Farmer Kris