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

Sing Away the Stress

Ahh, Springtime. It’s finally here! The forsythia and daffodils are blooming. The weather is maddeningly unpredictable. We’re shrugging off the winter blues and producing more Vitamin D. You’d think it would be all sunshine and flowers . . . but the modern parent knows better.

Spring also ushers in just the next busy phase of a parent’s life. You know what I’m talking about: Easter baskets, teacher appreciation week, planning your family’s summer schedule, supporting your students through standardized testing, finding the perfect Mother’s Day gift, getting the yard in order before the weeds take over . . . . All this on top of our regularly scheduled programming? It never ends.

Even here at Song of the Heart we’re feeling the crunch! We are continuing to provide you with stellar classroom experiences, but are also managing t-shirt orders and trying to provide you with your Heart’s Desire for classes next season. Lots of logistical things happening all. the. time.

So if you’re anything like us, you’re feeling a bit stressed. Well guess what? Kindermusik helps with that!

Did you know that music therapy studies with critically ill adults and children have shown that music can reduce stress, anxiety, and even physical pain by as much as 50%?

FIFTY PERCENT!

That’s right, every time you snuggle up for some musical cuddle time under the “stars”, your brain is getting a dose of oxytocin, the CONNECTION hormone. Every time you engage in creative movement around the room with your little one you are getting a shot of serotonin, the feel-good hormone. Every time you see your child make a friend, put away that scarf, or master a new movement, you are getting a shot of dopamine, the JOY hormone. Kindermusik brings it all!

Here’s some ideas to musically battle the stress and helps your kiddos cope too:

KEEP THOSE ROUTINES IN PLACE. Sing that bedtime song. Keep coming to your Kindermusik class. Children thrive on routine and feel safe with predictability. It gives them a sense of security.
THROW IN A DANCE PARTY. Turn on a family favorite tune and dance with your kiddos for 3 minutes. The blood will pump, bathing your brain in oxygen and oxytocin. Cortisol levels will dip. You’ll all feel refreshed.
I LOVE YOU RITUALS: Sing that Twinkle Twinkle ritual we’ve been working on all year. Use it at diaper changes. Use it at bathtime. Use it before mealtime. Use it at bedtime. Take the time to slow down, intentionally touch, make eye contact, be playful, and connect with your little one through a simple song.
USE YOUR KINDERMUSIK AT HOME MATERIALS. Maybe you use them regularly. Maybe you’ve never looked at them. Open up your Kindermusik account and see what golden nuggets are there. It only takes 5 minutes, but it is the perfect way to connect with your child and reinforce their musical learning at home.
STREAM YOUR FAVORITE KINDERMUSIK PLAYLIST IN YOUR CAR. By now you have the whole year’s worth of albums in your app’s library. Which was your child’s favorite? Turn it on while you run errands and let them jam out and relive their favorite Kindermusik unit. Or maybe put on a playlist of your favorite music and educate your kids on popular music from your generation.

We hope you can integrate music into your daily lives in a way that is fun, joyful, and stress free.

Neuroscience Nugget

One of our favorite child development gurus is Sarah Ockwell-Smith, a British author and parenting expert.

She shares this “Neuroscience Nugget” with parents:

If your toddler regularly listens to music, their prefrontal cortex and auditory cortex, the parts of the brain which help to process speech, will be more developed than toddlers who are not regularly surrounded by music.

If your toddler regularly listens to music, especially in a playful way (singing nursery rhymes with you for instance), it can have an amazing positive effect on their brain.

You don’t have to be musically gifted yourself, just introduce music into your everyday life, sing to your child (it doesn’t matter how off key!), dance to fun music together, consider musical toys and just have fun with sounds!

Here at Kindermusik and Song of the Heart Studios we’ve known this for ages. Neuroscientists, musicians, educators, parents, and child development experts agree: music is like superfood for your child’s brain.

Each week when you come to class you are giving your child’s a brain a boost. You are giving them a super-dose of the only stimulus that lights up all areas of their brain. You’re boosting their verbal development, their cognitive development, their social development, their motor development, and their emotional development.

And the best part about Kindermusik is that it gives your child this boost without any stress of performance for you or for them. There are no wrong ways to experience a Kindermusik class. We are process oriented, not performance oriented. So even if you can’t sing in tune or know how to play an instrument, it doesn’t matter. Just by coming to class, or playing your current unit’s album on the Kindermusik app, or singing an I Love You Ritual you learned in class during diaper changes, you are giving your child the gift of music and all the benefits that flow from it.

You can feel good about that.

This is Your Brain on Music

You’ve heard us say it in class after class: music is the only stimulus that lights up every area of the brain.

Here’s a breakdown of your brain’s activity after the ear and auditory nerve has sent its signal:

Rhythm 

The belt and parabelt are located on the right side of the brain. They are mainly responsible for figuring out a song’s rhythm. When creating rhythm by tapping toes or beating a drum, the motor cortex and cerebellum get involved.

Pitch and Tone 

The recognition and understanding of pitch and tone are mainly handled by the auditory cortex. This part of the brain also does a lot of the work to analyze a song’s melody and harmony. Some research shows that the cerebellum and prefrontal cortex contribute, too.

Anticipation 

Research shows our brains create expectations when listening to a song. For example, it would figure out if a beat is steady or the melody makes sense. But we especially like it when songs surprise us with smart, quirky changes. This analysis takes place in the brain’s prefrontal cortex.

Memory 

People have an amazing ability to remember music. Chances are you can recognize your favorite song after hearing just a fragment. These memories are stored in the hippocampus.

Performance 

Musical acts like reading music, playing an instrument, and dancing fires up the cerebellummotor cortexsensory cortex, and visual cortex.

Emotion 

Music has the power to trigger feelings in listeners. Three main areas of the brain are responsible for these emotional responses: nucleus accumbensamygdala, and the cerebellum.

Now that you know how truly complete the brain activity is when engaged in musical activity, you know why Kindermusik is the BEST place for your developing child. We’re not just about musical development. We’re not just about fun. We’re about whole child development. We hope you see that development over the weeks, months, and years that you bring your children to us. Because we certainly do.

7 Benefits of Group Music Classes for Toddlers

Times are busy. Commitments are tough. So, what makes a music class for toddlers the right choice for your family?

Research tells us learning that happens in the first three years of life is vital to early brain development. And we also know that when multiple areas of the brain are activated at once, the brain gets a complete workout. Enter Kindermusik…

A Better Organized Brain

What exactly does that mean and why is it important?

Daniel Levitin (a researcher into early childhood music experiences and the brain) found “Musical activity involves nearly every region of the brain that we know about.”  Schlaug and other researchers (2010) claim that the benefits not only result in a better organized brain, but also produce long-lasting change even after the brain has reached its mature self.

A well-organized brain results in learning more easily and a higher level of skills. These benefits not only last for early childhood but lay the foundation for skills that will affect brain growth and formation well into adulthood.

Balance

Better balance comes through making sure the vestibular system is working accurately. The vestibular system is a small set of three semi-circular canals in the middle ear. It is the governor and chief of all sensory input, and allows us to stand, jump, balance on one foot, move in any way, and not be dizzy.

During a Kindermusik class, the vestibular system is connected to every activity, whether it be rocking, balancing on bilibos, or jumping like a rabbit.

Social Skills

Social skills are learned over time and with lots of practice. Reading cues, taking turns, and responding appropriately to other toddlers is an essential step in growing into a balanced adult.

In a group music class, toddlers dance and play instruments with their peers. They get their own instruments and learn to hand them back in a given timeframe. They wait for their turn during circle time. So, opportunities to refine how to interact with and respect others are always at the forefront.

Emotional Intelligence

Toddlers are (appropriately!) egocentric, but they can begin to learn what it means to be sorry, to think of others, and to recognize when others are hurting or sad and how to respond to that.

Kindermusik classes are a wonderful way for your toddler to begin learning those essential skills. Through the help of class interactions and parents or caregivers, they learn to build empathy, which is key to healthy social-emotional growth.

Language Skills

Increased language is one of the biggest benefits of Kindermusik classes for toddlers. At a stage where language is still developing, your toddler gets to hear different sounds, is exposed to a variety of musical styles, and plays with their voice in vocal play. All of these experiences allow your child to process and learn different nuances in sound, and the skills acquired translate to language where the differences between letters is so small.

Math Skills

Math and music share a lot of the same skills in a similar way to music and language.  Children learn skills such as division (as they hear the division of beats between slow and fast notes), counting (as they count the number of instruments they have and learn to count in their books) and categorizing and sorting (as they put instruments back in their correct container).

They eventually learn to count forwards and backwards and other opposite concepts such as fast and slow, high and low, all of which play a huge role in school readiness.

Confidence

Routines within a music class for toddlers encourage self-esteem and confidence, but only at a pace that each child is comfortable. The emotional security of knowing what is coming next helps a child feel more secure.

Plus, children who are shy are given the space to grow in confidence within timeframe. For example, they can slowly venture out to get their instruments for an activity and then return them again. Or they can sing along in a group with the comfort of their special grownup nearby.

You Can Benefit Together.

The best part about a Kindermusik class is that the adults benefit as much as the little ones. You’ll discover community with other parents and caregivers, learn musical tips to help better communicate with your child, and so much more.

If you’re looking to boost brain development in a joyful environment, a group music class might be the perfect way to keep your child (and you!) engaged with learning that sticks.

-Reposted from Kindermusik International

Music Matters

As we see school budgets being slashed, often one of the first things to get cut is music. This is unfortunate and will be to the detriment of students because music is not elective. Music is core.

Music is one of the most amazing ways to experience the world. Humans are able to appreciate music even from birth. Has your nighttime lullaby singing ever soothed your fussy infant? Has a favorite album played in the car ever quieted your restless toddler? Before infants learn to speak they are able to express themselves and respond to emotional stimuli through music.

This is why it is so crucial that children have access to musical instruments from the earliest days of their development so that they can explore the possibilities of self-expression through sound.

This musical experimentation helps them develop fine and gross motor skills. It helps them with emotional awareness. It gives them a sense of confidence and individuality as they explore different ways to play an instrument.

All these experiences are present in every single Kindermusik class. From our foundations classes for babies all the way up for our more advanced music education classes for our 5-7 year olds.

The intellectual and technical skills practised through learning an instrument benefit children in other areas. Children who begin to learn reading music at an early age typically do better in core subjects such as mathematics and literacy during their primary school years. This head start can set them on the path to lifelong academic success, as well as providing them with the foundations for a skill which can be developed throughout childhood and enjoyed in later life.

A musical start in life is a smart start. A musical start is a joyful start. A musical start is a beneficial start. The benefits roll in from the earliest of days and can continue through a person’s lifespan.

This is the why of Kindermusik. This is why Song of the Heart Studios exists. To bring the benefits of music to you, to your families, to your lives. It is our hope that your time here in our studio will set your children on a path of musical experiences, abilities, and appreciation that will last them for many years to come. The investment you are making now will pay dividends long into the future.

But as beneficial as it is to your child’s development, an immediate benefit is the joy and connection it brings to you both NOW. We hope every day that you join in with us is a day we bring you delight.

Now let’s make some more music together.

Jingles: More than Commercials

Ice cold milk and an Oreo cookie. They forever go together; what a classic combination.

You’re thinking about Oreos now, aren’t you? Maybe you’re experiencing either a positive association (“Oh, I like Oreos! I have a hankering for some Oreos.”) or a negative association (“Yuck. I hate Oreos.”)

Let’s try another one.

Ba da ba ba ba . . . I’m lovin’ it.

You’re either picturing those Golden Arches in your mind or your mouth is watering as you think about salty fries.

These jingles are used in marketing because they hardwire the brain to trigger thoughts of their product whenever you hear that melody. It’s a pavlovian response.

Music is the ONLY stimulus that lights up ALL areas of the brain at the same time. This makes it an overwhelmingly powerful tool to train, hijack, or hack our brains.

Marketers use it to make us think about and therefore crave their products. Runners use it when they play their favorite playlist to get them through the mental wall that can happen on a long run. Television and film directors use music to manipulate the emotions of their audience and to enhance the story they are trying to tell.

Well you might have noticed that we employ this same technique in Kindermusik classes. One of our favorite class “jingles” is 

Bells away, bells away, it’s time to put the bells away.

(For those musicologists among us, we sing our “clean up” song on the interval of a simple descending minor third, known in solfege as sol-mi. Why? Because this is the first and most commonly occurring interval in nursery rhymes and children’s songs. It is familiar and easy way to trigger that little brain.)

We SING the instruction to clean up instead of speak it because it creates an auditory cue. An auditory cue is a sound signal that represents an incoming sign, received through the ears, and interpreted by the brain. When used regularly in Kindermusik classes it signals to your child, even the nonverbal babies, that it is time to clean up. That it is time to put away something they are having fun with. At first many children will resist the transition of putting away the instrument they are exploring. But through time and repetition when they hear their teacher sing the cue “instruments away” they have a much easier time letting the item go, understanding that this activity is coming to a close, and it is time to move on.

We do the same thing with our Goodbye Ritual. We sing goodbye. We wish each other well. (This time we sing our wish well on a descending open fifth, or sol-do.) This simple auditory cue lets the children know that it’s time to leave the room, put on their shoes, and get in the car.

We see children ALL THE TIME who struggle mightily with transitions. They do NOT want to put away their shaker. They do NOT want to leave Kindermusik class when it’s over. But with time, they learn these cues, and its helps them in their transition.

Everything we do in Kindermusik has a developmental and pedagogical reason. Even our simple clean up tune.

You can try this at home. Every time you need to get your little one to put away their toys and put on their shoes to get out the door, start singing “toys away.” Or perhaps “shoes on, shoes on, it’s time to put our shoes on.” (You’re hearing our clean up melody in your head now, aren’t you?)

You will see your little one’s ability to transition from one activity or task to the next improve. See what parts of your day you can insert a little musical cue into and watch how it helps your child understand the routine and expect what’s next.

Mamma Mia!

Here we go again . . .

And once again we find ourselves pivoting to online school, mask mandates, and doing our best to protect our loved ones and our communities from this virus.

But we have what we didn’t have two years ago when this whole thing started: some hard-won experience. We know what we’re doing. We’ve been there, done that. We’ve had live virtual classes. We’ve learned how to efficiently clean instruments between classes. We adjust our classroom rituals to be more distanced. And your JOY Team is fully vaccinated and are PROS at teaching in masks.

We have another new thing that we didn’t have two years ago: many of YOU. We have so many new babies that have joined our music family. Babies born into a world and at a time not of their choosing. A time of division, of complication, and of confusion. And most importantly to a developing infant, a time lacking in social connection.

We know that healthy and loving connection is the most important part of a new child’s development. And while we know your children are getting all the love and connection from you at home, there’s just no substitute for the socialization that can come from seeing their peers and going out into the world.

Our Kindermusik classes and curriculum are designed specifically to optimize the growth and development of your child. And during these covid-times we have re-designed our studio protocols to ensure your family’s safety.

We are so honored that you continue to trust us with your children and thank you for being part of this studio family. We wouldn’t be here without you.

Welcome Back

Happy New Year to all our music friends! We hope you rang in the new year with loved ones and celebrated in whatever way brings you joy. Whether you stay up late and count down until midnight, or you tuck in early to get a good night’s sleep.

Now that we’ve had two weeks off of our normal lives and routines we all feel a little off-kilter. Our routines ground us. Our routines give our children a sense of security and predictability. When those routines go out the window and are replaced with vacation, holidays, visits, celebrations, or parties, we all feel a little out of equilibrium.

Have you noticed your children are more irritable than usual? Are they more prone to tantrums lately? It’s likely because their routines have been disrupted. So this week as you get back into the swing of your regularly scheduled lives, we encourage you to re-establish your children’s routines as well. Bring back that security and sense of normalcy for them and you’ll see them slip back into normal behavior patterns.

That is if you can consider any child’s behavior patterns normal. It seems like just when we get a grip on whatever development changes our children experience they are changing again and we are back to figuring out how to manage them. So keep those rituals and routines you have in your family rock-solid.

Sing that bedtime/bath time/diaper time song together. Pull out the I Love You Ritual that you learned in your Kindermusik class. Slow down for a minute and CONNECT with your little one. Engage in some intentional touch, be fully present, make eye contact with them, and enjoy a little playfulness. It will boost those feel-good hormones for both you and your child and ground you, ready for what comes your way next.

From the HEART of our studio and our JOY team we wish you the happiest of New Years as we get through this winter together. See you soon!

Winter Solstice

The Winter Solstice is upon us. This is the darkest day of the year. The day that we are farthest from the sun, and we have the least amount of sunlight. And now we experience a return of the sun, a little more light, day by day.

Symbolically, this is a time of sacred rest and reflection, before the awakening.

As you spend this time of year in reflection and preparation for the new year to come, what are you grateful for? What has challenged you? What do you hold dear? What do you want to preserve? What do you want to let go?

These questions of growth are personal, but also apply to what we wish for our children. As we raise these precious humans and prepare them for independence and adulthood, an investment in connection to them must be of the highest priority. What about your relationship with your child are you grateful for? How do they challenge you? What do you want to preserve in your relationship with them? What would you like to let go of?

Perhaps you’re grateful for the joyful way you interact with each other. Perhaps they challenge you with their intense needs that takes time away from your own needs. Maybe you want to preserve your bedtime routine of songs and books. Maybe you need to let go of the expectation that they’ll always listen and obey. Or perhaps it’s time to implement a renewed commitment to joyful connection with them. After all, connection breeds cooperation.

Whatever your goals for your child, Kindermusik at Song of the Heart can only assist them getting there. The growth and connection that happens here benefits every domain of your child’s development. The skills they (and you!) learn in class benefits them socially, academically, emotionally, physically, and more. We love being part of your child’s growth and development. We delight in watching them change and master new skills.

From your infants learning fine motor skills as they practice grasping a baby bell, to your school-aged child flexing their cognition skills as they master rhythmic dictation in our Young Child classes, every age of early childhood benefits from Kindermusik.

Enjoy these wintry days of rest, reflection, and rumination. After the holiday celebrations are over and done, we’ll be here. We’ll be ready to welcome your children back to our loving studio’s arms, to support them, and you, in the important work of joyful growth.