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!

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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!

Hygge

In the depths of winter Scandinavia only has approximately 3-6 hours of daylight each day. The sun peeks up above the southern horizon, giving them a twilight-like light for a few hours, before dipping down again. This may sound strange and even terrible to those of us who live a tad closer to the equator. Long winter days can lead to seasonal depression, especially once the sparkle of the holidays is over.

This winter, of course, will be harder than usual. It will be the long Covid night before the dawn of vaccine distribution. How will we manage without our usual slew of social engagements, concerts, and parties? Perhaps we can take a page out of Denmark’s book.

Enter hygge.

hyg·ge:
/ˈh(y)o͞oɡə,ˈho͝oɡə/
noun
a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being (regarded as a defining characteristic of Danish culture).

Hygge is more a lifestyle philosophy than anything else. It is the idea of leaning into any activities that create contentment and coziness. What things can bring you that feeling? A warm cup of your favorite beverage as you read a novel? A bath by candlelight? Your favorite handicraft as your kids play in a room as far away from you as the four walls of your house will allow?

What about music? Ahhhh, music is always there for us. It’s there for us in moments of celebration, in moments of sorrow, in moments of worship, and on and on. We encourage you to help heal your heart by indulging this winter in the music you love. Perhaps you love opera (we do!) and you can have your Level 5 child teach you about The Magic Flute (they learned about it last week!). Or you can join the Metropolitan Opera’s weekly stream. Perhaps you love James Taylor and listen to him on vinyl. Perhaps you like to stream Top 40 over your smart speaker at home. Or maybe you like to belt along to your favorite Broadway soundtrack.

Don’t forget the needs of your little ones to feel a little hygge too. Perhaps they could color while you play their favorite Kindermusik playlist over the app on your phone. Have the Carpenter’s Christmas album playing softly as you make cookies together. Or you could snuggle up together and watch a video field trip on your Kindermusik online account.

Lean in to those little, often simple, moments when you can find pleasure in simple daily tasks. And always add music and stir. There’s rarely a time when some quality music can’t enhance a moment.

Cyber Jam!

Thanks to all who donated to our Wear a Pair Share a Pair pajama drive for Candy Cane Corner! Special thanks to our virtual families that made the drive to the studio to drop off pajamas. There will be lots of warm and cozy kids this holiday season because of YOUR generosity.

And of course we could not skip our annual Pajama Jam just because of Covid19! We were delighted with the JOY and CONNECTION and HEART that we saw during our virtual Pajama Jam this year. We’re getting pretty good at managing and engaging in this virtual events, aren’t we?

We played with our plushies. We shook and tapped our instruments. We had story time. We cuddled. We danced. We played. We were even happily swallowed by our blankets! Thank you for bringing us into your homes and sharing a joyful Saturday morning with us. We hope it brought you some sparkle and gave you and your little one a squirt of “joy juice” heading into your weekend.

In this season of Thanksgiving we give thanks for YOU, our Song of the Hearties Families. Your families and your children’s development is why we keep plugging along in this crazy time. We are just so honored that you prioritize the Kindermusik experience for your children and continue to trust us to deliver that experience.

So until next time: We wish you well!

The Skill of Choices

Did you know that your JOY Team has been training in Conscious Discipline over the last year and are continuing to implement its practices into our classes? We have seen incredible changes in the behavior of our students and in our skills as educators. We want to pass on what we have learned to YOU.

This month’s post is regarding Conscious Discipline’s Skill of Choices.

When your child is starting to lose it just a little, and you can see their emotional and mental state slipping, employ the strategy of Two Positive Choices.

You see, when a person has some choice and autonomy, they feel in control. They feel safe. Their executive functioning remains intact. Many children start to exhibit negative behaviors not because they are bad kids, but because they are communicating that they have a need. And very often that need is for some control over their own lives. Even little children need control. So feed them a little power by giving them two positive choices.

You might see your Kindermusik educator use this in class. It might be something like responding to a child playing their instrument out of turn with “Sammy, do you want to put your drum in rest position, or put it back in your music tote?” Or perhaps when it’s time to put finger puppets away “Do you want to put the squirrel in the instrument tote, or give it to your grown up to put away?”

This is a fantastic tool to use at home and in your daily parenting.

This could look like “Do you want to clean up your toys by yourself or do you want me to help you clean up your toys?” Or perhaps “Do you want to brush your teeth before you put on pajamas, or do you want to put on your pajamas first?”

Both of these examples are structuring a choice that you, as the grown-up, can live with. Both of them will get the expected behavior done. But it’s giving the child a choice, some control, some power. And that feeling of power will help them feel good about themselves and promote cooperation.

Two positive choices are necessary because you don’t want the options to feel coercive. “You can put on your shoes now or you can miss Kindermusik today!” is not structuring the situation to enable your child to choose success. It’s punitive and coercive. Instead, try “Do you want to put your shoes on now, or do you want me to put them on for you in the car?”

“Do you want to eat your dinner or go to bed hungry?” is a classic example of a coercive choice. That’s not true choice. Instead, say “Do you want to eat your dinner, or put your plate in the dishwasher?” Same results, but less threatening and more empowering.

So when you see those facial expressions or body language start to show in your little one that signal “danger ahead”, stay composed. Offer them two positive choices. Give them the time and space they need to make the decision. And support them in the execution of their decision. Watch their emotional state rise back up.

Try it at home and let us know how it goes. We would love to hear how this tool strengthens your parenting skills.

 

How’s Your Heart?

It’s been a long year, hasn’t it? We have collectively been superstars as we figure out how to keep life managed as time ticks by during these unique circumstances.

We want to let you caregivers know that we SEE you. Enduring life during a pandemic is hard for everyone, but there are extra challenges when you are a caretaker. We see you being heroes for your little ones by the way you continue to show up to life each day. Each day you care for your children. Each day you manage the family schedule. Each day you continue to want the best for your kids, whatever that looks like for your unique family situation.

We see you in class with your littles. We see you trying. And we have to ask . . . how’s your HEART? How are YOU? The JOY team is very focused on the development of your children and in providing a positive Kindermusik experience for them, but just know that we care about you too. We care about your experience. We care about all the ways you are showing up and fighting hard.

No matter the hard, no matter the challenge, no matter the strain, you keep showing up for your children. We applaud you. We know these times will shape the psyche of this generation of children and parents, and you are there each day fighting for some normal, fighting for some balance. You are STILL providing a loving and enriching environment for your children.

For all we’ve been through this year, we’re not done with it yet. “And miles to go before I sleep . . .” as the great poet Robert Frost said.

Even though we have a long time to go to get through this pandemic together, we have come so far. So take a moment and remind your inner child that you are doing fine. You are doing enough. You are enough. Take care of YOUR heart too.

Music Matters

Right now, with everything happening in the country, we’ve all had to reprioritize our lives. We’ve had to let go of many things. Some have been hard sacrifices, and other things have been a relief. In truth, keeping Song of the Heart Studios open to serve you has been a mountain to climb and a labor of love. But we believe so much that music matters that we have to keep going.

There have been times when we have wanted to give up as we’ve tried to meet the challenges of continuing in a post-Covid world. Many Kindermusik studios across the country have unfortunately had to close their doors. But we just couldn’t. Our love for you and our belief in our mission has given us the motivation to continue on. 

Here at Song of the Heart we deeply believe in these facts:

  1. Early childhood education is the key to changing the world, both on a micro and a macro level. Society’s ills could be cured in a generation or two if each child was honored, nurtured, and allowed to grow in a developmentally appropriate way. 
  2. Music is the only stimulus that lights up every area of the brain, promoting growth in all developmental domains at once. It is therefore the perfect vehicle to facilitate early childhood education.

 

This is why we keep going. For you. For your children. For the future. To fulfill our mission in being the place where hearts sing and children flourish. To follow our studio values of Joy, Connection, Growth, Heart, and Family.

Thank you for being a part of our “Heartie” tribe. The fact that you are with us during these challenging times humbles us and honors us. Your prioritizing your child’s development through joyful musical learning, even in these challenging times, shows us that you share our mission. It shows us that you see and understand the benefits that Kindermusik can bring to your children and their futures.

We’d love to know what motivates you to keep going with Kindermusik. Why have you prioritized this for your child? How is it benefitting you and your family during this time?

We know that as you participate in your Kindermusik class each week and practice and play at home in between classes, your child will flourish and your heart will swell.