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.

 

Screen Time Can Boost Development in a COVID-Era World

 

3 Ways Screen Time Boosts Development in a COVID-Era World

For years, parents have been advised to limit screen time. We’re all aware of the limits suggested by organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and families try hard to follow them.

But then…a pandemic hit, and the world turned upside down. Routines and rules changed, and technology was recast as a positive necessity.

In the wake of COVID-19, researchers/authors Sonia Livingstone and Alicia Blum-Ross found that of their three classes of digital parents(Embracers, Balancers, Resistors), “complete resistance” became nearly impossible. Who can completely resist technology?

Many little ones can only see their extended family members via FaceTime. School-aged children must use technology to continue learning. Stressed out families need to relax together, and watching a wholesome movie is a great option. But when you add up all of that screen time, isn’t it alarming?

Siblings look at content on a smartphone together. While screen time should be closely monitored, it can have major benefits to early development.

Screen time experts say…”Relax.”

As times have changed, so have guidelines. In March, the AAP released a statement about technology use. What’s missing from this statement are any guidelines around technology time limits for young children.

That was a deliberate choice—there’s not a “one size fits all” standard anymore. Instead, the focus is on what Dr. Jenny Radesky (one of the writers) calls the Three C’s: Child, Content, and Context.

In a nutshell, trust yourself.

Parents know their children better than anyone else does. You also know the content you value and when it’s appropriate to incorporate it into your family routines.

According to Livingstone and Blume-Ross, the important question to ask isn’t “How much screen time?” It’s “How do we want to live, and how does technology fit in?”

Here are 3 ways you can use screen time to boost early development in a COVID-era world:

1. Stay in Touch with Loved Ones

Staying connected is one of the most important things we can do for everyone’s mental health (especially when it comes to children), even in quarantine.

The AAP reminds us that children are more likely to thrive when they are able to see friends and family—even if it’s on a screen. Connection is key to fostering positive social-emotional skills, which is an essential part of early childhood development.

2. Create Memorable Shared Moments

At Kindermusik, we believe one of the best ways to stay connected is to enjoy shared musical moments. Keep those scheduled virtual family chats going, but mix them up by singing favorite songs together and maybe even start a weekly family dance party!

Need some help? Grab our free Kindermusik app (download it on the Apple Store or Google Play), and find something everyone will love. And don’t watch the clock! You’ll be moving, grooving, and making memories, so it doesn’t count as actual “screen time.”

3. Sign Up for LIVE Virtual Classes

To capitalize on early developmental benefits through digital instruction, sign up for live virtual classes, like the ones Kindermusik offers!

Digital instruction is on the rise, but in order to really capitalize on early development and social-emotional benefits, choose live, interactive virtual classes. This type of setting allows you to share learning experiences, conversations, and even laughter with other families. Trust us, children can tell the difference between when a teacher is actually asking them a question, and when it’s a recording.

At Song of the Heart Studios, ALL our classes have an in-person and a LIVE VIRTUAL option, so that you can connect with your class family and still have the Kindermusik experience at home. You can keep the JOY and CONNECTION and GROWTH happening from the safety of your living room.

On that note, take a deep breath, and use technology when it makes sense for your family.

-Reposted with edits from Kindermusik International

 

Healthy Helps in Tough Times

It’s that time of year when our schedules and routines are being renegotiated and shuffled around again. It’s exciting to anticipate back to school, back to Kindermusik, and transitions in our daily lives.

But given the current state of the world, it’s also stressful! Planning the upcoming months under our present circumstances is a new challenge we haven’t met before. So as you adjust your routines and expectations, here are some ideas to build into your daily habits for keeping it healthy and keeping it happy.

1. Follow the Rhythm

Normally you hear advice about establishing a schedule. And yes, schedules can lead to routines that structure your day. If you have to be to a certain place at a certain time, schedules are essential. But if you’re now homeschooling, or your kids aren’t yet of school age, try following a rhythm as opposed to a schedule.

Our bodies have natural rhythms. So do our families! Your weekend rhythm might be different than your weekday rhythm. Your family rhythm might fluctuate depending on what configuration of caregivers are in the home, and how that configuration changes throughout the week and month.

Just as you listen to the beat of a song, and match your body’s movements to its rhythm, match your day’s tasks to the rhythm of your family. Follow the ebbs and flows of energy and tiredness, of alertness and sluggishness. Mold your daily activities around that rhythm.

2. Take a Walk

Studies show that getting outside is good for our mental health as well as our physical health. Maybe you’re not comfortable letting your kids play on the public playground at the park right now, but a walk is always a good idea. Send them on a visual scavenger hunt where they have to look for cracks in the sidewalk, a certain colored front door, unique yard art, ant colonies, etc.

Have them be sound detectives and go on a listening walk. Have them practice active listening so they can tell you what they heard. Birds chirping? Someone mowing their lawn? A truck driving by? A dog barking? Hummingbird wings? What else can you and your children hear?

3. Dance it Out

Joyful movement releases endorphins and decreases stress hormones. Who doesn’t want that? Especially nowadays! Your children are so perceptive that they will echo whatever energy you are putting out into your home. Stressed with distance working or learning? Your kids feel it too. One of the quickest and most sure-fire ways to break up the stress pattern and hit the reset button is to get up and move. Put on your favorite playlist or open the Kindermusik app and find a favorite tune from class, then invite your child to dance with you. You will BOTH feel INSTANTLY better.

4. Color and Crafts

Remember those Kindermusik online materials you have access to? Dust off an old unit you haven’t experienced in a while and print off a coloring sheet or craft page. There are so many ideas there for simple, quick, and easy activities you can do together at home. Or just pull out an old coloring book and some colored pencils. Let your child color outside the lines and use nontraditional colors for each element of the picture. As you color together, those feel-good hormones will flow.

5. Bring Back Family Dinner

It doesn’t have to be elaborate. It doesn’t have to take lots of ingredients or time. The simple task of teaching your child to set the table while you pull dinner out of the oven teaches them teamwork and responsibility. And then as you sit together at a table at the end of the day, it brings structure to the day, and kicks off the evening routine as you prepare for bed.

You could even put on some dinner music to set the mood, each night rotating which member of the family gets to choose the genre or playlist.

6. Set Quiet Hours

Every caretaker needs a break, some downtime, and some self-care. Is your little one too old fo nap time? Mandatory quiet time in their room is a gift to your child and to yourself. Put them to bed 30 minutes earlier. Require an hour of solitude in their room after lunch. This may be an extremely challenging one to implement, but it will reap rewards once your child learns to entertain themselves quietly for a while. Maybe they will read a book, look at pictures, color, do puzzles, play with toys, and just find ways to keep themselves to themselves. It’s a learned skill! And it gives you a few minutes to slip in a quick mindfulness meditation or cup of coffee. Put your own oxygen mask on first, grownups.

8. Give Yourself Grace

We are living in unprecedented times. It’s been a century since the last pandemic affected us this much. And we’ve never had to parent during a pandemic during the digital age before. Online learning, remote working, still trying to meet our regular responsibilities. Everyone’s cortisol levels are high right now. So give yourself some grace. You are doing a fantastic job. You’re showing up each day and giving your child what they need. You may not be perfect, you may not meet all their needs all the time, but you are doing amazingly. You are enough. Reconnect to your breath, and give yourself some grace. Carry on, Hearties.

Puppet Play!

Have you noticed the AMAZING collection of puppets we use at Song of the Heart? We find that puppets always add a splash of excitement and an extra layer of enjoyment during our classes. We often look for new and different puppets that we can add to our collection to add variety and value to our classes for you.

Not only have our puppets been a beloved part of our in-person classes, they have been invaluable props during our virtual classes the last several months. Nothing quite beats the excitement in a child’s eyes when they see a giant whale appear on the screen, or maybe a parrot, or a princess, or a donkey, or a monkey!

Puppets are a whole lot of fun, but they are actually an important developmental and pedagogical tool as well. Puppets can have incredible benefits in a child’s early development. Here are a few:

Language Development

A shy child who is uncomfortable using their voice may be more confident in letting the puppet be their voice. They can practice using their voice and making different sounds when it’s the puppet speaking, and not them. Even if a child isn’t shy, they will automatically be inspired to try out new phonemes and blended sounds as their imagination sparks and they make their puppet speak.

Social Development

That shy child may be uncomfortable interacting with their teacher or classmates. Sometimes children are even unsure when interacting with their own immediate family members. But pull out a puppet, and they instantly have a safe and nonthreatening companion to interact with.

Emotional Development

It can be difficult to find words for our feelings. It’s a challenge even for grown ups to express, find validation, and process difficult emotions. A person may not feel comfortable talking about their feelings to another person, parent, friend, or teacher. But that nonthreatening puppet can be a friend that’s much easier to talk to. This is why Mr. Rogers, virtual childhood educator extraordinaire, used puppets so extensively. Through puppet play he was able to show children how to process challenging experiences and make sense of the world.

Listening Skills

A child may not listen to their mother or teacher, but pull out a puppet and just watch their attention change. This magic Mr. Rogers understood, which is why he built an entire Neighborhood of Make Believe. Acting lessons out through puppet play prompted the children to pay attention, truly listen, and learn.

Fine Motor Skills

We love our classroom finger puppets! It’s such a delightful way for a child to practice moving their fingers individually, pulling a puppet on and off, switching fingers, and more. It’s great for coordination, control, and dexterity. This will have long-term benefits as they learn to play instruments, type, and write.

Creativity & Imagination

A child with a puppet naturally creates new scenarios, acts out behaviors, makes new sounds, and has new conversations. They automatically flex their storymaking skills, which is fundamental to learning sequencing, an essential pre-reading skill. Not to mention just learning through exploration as they create new ways of playing with their puppets and scaffold new skills upon that puppet.

We wish we could all be sharing our puppet library together right now, but you can still benefit from puppet play at home. Grab an old sock or a paper bag, some glue, yarn, crayons, markers, pipe cleaners, felt, etc. Let your imagination run wild as you and your little one create and make your own puppet pals.

We’d love to see what you create! If you make a puppet with your child, please snap a photo and tag us on social media! Have fun with those puppets!

Unstructured Play Boosts Learning

Pediatricians believe in free play as a fundamental healthy-child strategy. How important is it? Enough that the American Academy of Pediatrics dedicated an entire article discussing the “why’s” of play, the reasons it has become more rare in the lives of many young children, and how doctors should encourage parents to incorporate it into their daily lives.

Why Is Unstructured Play Important?

Creative play is something that the average adult is…well…not very good at implementing. But it’s not solely the result of increased responsibilities. Actually, the reduced potential for creativity begins much younger. Research shows that by age 10, many children have lost up to 70% of their creative capacity (yikes!). This is because we do not actively encourage play enough.

5 Ways Child-Led Playtime Boosts Learning

So, if most grownups are bad at playing, how can we learn to nurture play in our children? By watching them! What you will see—children’s cognitive, physical, and social-emotional development propelled forward—is astonishing. That’s enough proof to ensure hours and hours of unstructured, undirected play each week.

Here are 5 key reasons to let your little ones loose and watch their skills take off without a plan of action:

  • Play leads children to sort information in new ways and to seek symbolic representations. For example, just watch toddlers begin grouping items by color or shape or other categories they clearly understand (even if you don’t!).
  • Play allows children to imagine whole new ways of being, pushing their minds and bodies in new directions. You know how preschoolers love to move like their favorite animals? That’s free play plus imagination at work.
  • Play leads children to solve problems with perseverance and creativity! Have you seen your child try over and over and over again to construct something tall or to fit objects into specific spots? Even if they don’t succeed the first time, they already have the goal in mind.
  • Play stretches the imagination through fantasy. Just wait…you’ll see a superhero “flying” through the room or a wizard using the power of his magical wand before you know it.
  • Play invokes laughter, which is one of the best “nutritional supplements” we have! That’s because play is FUN. Laughter relaxes the body, boosts immunity, triggers the release of endorphins (our “feel good” chemicals), and improves the functions of the cardiovascular system. Additionally, your child’s laughter draws you closer together, causing you to join in and laugh yourself, which creates a bond that lasts well beyond that moment.

What Does Unstructured Play Look Like by Age?

  • Babies: Arms flail, legs kick, hands fist and unfist…baby giggles. This active play is all about discovering how their bodies move. It’s fun to learn how to be in charge of those body parts, and you get to witness this truly joyful play.
  • 1-2 years: Young toddlers love to play alone, so they need things like blocks and other sturdy toys that can be manipulated in many different ways. They busily occupy themselves bringing their imaginations to fruition through the ways they move objects, propel themselves through space, and interpret what their senses tell them. In fact, you might notice your little one starting to watch how others play, but she probably isn’t too interested in joining them, and that’s OK. Focus on watching her personality emerge!
  • 2 years+: Older toddlers start to participate in parallel play alongside or near others, but not with them. You’ll find that you begin to have fun playing in the same area your child plays in, encouraging her to explore by example versus directing or interfering.
  • 3-4 years: Early preschoolers begin to associate play with others—for example, playing on a piece of climbing equipment at the same time—but still pursue their own interests. You can best participate in play by following, not leading or interjecting your own ideas.
  • 4 years +: By age 4, children really begin to play with others and are truly interested in what they’re playmates are doing (and how they’re participating together). At this point, you can plan to layer in some daily structured play. For example, you might spend 30 minutes a day with your child doing things such as putting together puzzles or engaging in games that include rules, while saving that remaining time for independent exploration.

The most important thing to remember about unstructured play is that you really don’t need to sweat it. You just need to implement it! As long as your child is in a safe environment, you’ll be surprised at how she moves through these milestones on her own given a little bit of this priceless freedom. You may feel like you’re not being “hands-on” but you are!

In fact, if you need a reminder, stream that motivating chant “Ev’rything Is Just Fine!” Download our free app on the App Store or Google Play, and tap play…you might even encourage some interpretive dancing without having to lift a finger.

At Kindermusik, one of our most important principles is to follow the child, which is something we encourage families to do at home. We treasure each little one’s creativity, imagination, and unique style. And we know that by providing the music and carefully observing independent responses to activities like dancing, playing instruments, and storytime, we foster the critical elements of free play. Come join us!

– Reposted from Kindermusik International

Music Making Brings Us Together

As cities all over the world shut down to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, a new crop of videos emerged on the internet: Italians singing from their balconies, policemen in Spain playing guitar while on patrol and New York City apartment dwellers singing along to The Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine” from their windows.

People across the globe started making music together from their windows and balconies. As music neuroscientists who study how music affects our bodies and brains, we would like to shed light on the question: why do we turn to collective music-making in times of crisis?

Universal Response

Music is universal — no human culture exists without it. Even if we only tap or move along, our universal response to music is to join in. This inclination is deeply rooted in neurobiology — our brain’s neural motor, or movement, system lights up when we hear music, even if we appear to be remaining still.

Research has shown that the motor system is particularly responsive to the beat, the regular pulse in music that people typically tap or dance along with. The beat has a privileged role in music, capturing our attention and sometimes driving us to move without us even being aware of it.

The process by which we synchronize movements to the beat is called entrainment. Entrainment occurs when ongoing brain activity aligns in time with the beat of the music. Entrainment has been observed not only in auditory brain areas but also in motor brain areas.

Entrainment is central to our ability to accurately perceive and produce the beat with our bodies, as we do during tapping, singing or dancing to music. In fact, research suggests that the better our brain entrains to the beat, the more accurate we are at perceiving and synchronizing with music. Our desire to move to music may be rooted in our brain’s spontaneous alignment of its activity to the beat.

Making Music Together

The ability to entrain to a musical beat may also be what allows us to produce music with others. Group music-making is a remarkable phenomenon when considered from the perspective of neurobiology: not only are individuals playing music together, their brains are finding the same beat.

Entrainment allows us to achieve what researchers call interpersonal synchrony, or the alignment of behaviour in time. Being in sync with others is important for many kinds of human behaviour. It enables us to coordinate synchronized actions as a group, from singing in a choir to rowing a boat, as well as the turn-taking behaviours that make for good conversations. The desire for interpersonal synchrony may drive humans to perform music together during this pandemic.

Interpersonal synchrony is a powerful tool that creates a sense of belonging and participation. When people produce actions in synchrony, they later feel more connection or affiliation towards one another, and are also more likely to trust and co-operate.

The social benefits of interpersonal synchrony have been observed early in child development. One well-known study shows that toddlers are more likely to help an adult — for example, retrieving more dropped items — when the child has previously been bounced in synchrony with that adult.

The bonding that arises through group synchrony serves practical societal functions: army troops march in step, children bond with parents by singing songs together and now groups clap, bang pots and cheer for health-care workers to signal solidarity. Interpersonal synchrony can also improve one’s emotional state, increasing mood and self-esteem.

Music’s Cultural Role

There is a reason music is found in every known culture. Music moves us at the level of the body, the brain and the group. The interpersonal synchrony that we achieve through making music links our minds and bodies, enhancing social cohesion, bonding and other positive outcomes.

Right now, in the midst of a period in which the need for social bonding is perhaps greater than ever, we are glad to see socially isolated people still finding a way to make music together. Sing on, together!

Thank You For The Music

During this time where we are more distant than we would like from our friends and loved ones, connection has become ever more important. Many of us are suffering from lack of connection from sources we used to rely upon. Children are out of school, missing their school mates. Extended family gatherings have been cancelled. Sporting events have been cancelled. Theatrical productions are cancelled. Many summer celebrations have been reimagined or cancelled.

We’re all feeling the strain of loss of connection. It’s why people are so “over it” and aren’t being as vigilant with their distancing protocols. It’s evidence as to why human connection is so crucial to human happiness and wellness. This is why CONNECTION is one of our studio’s core values.

During the early days of the pandemic we saw viral videos of people singing outside of apartment building windows. We saw musicians serenading their neighbors from an apartment common space or rooftop. It’s interesting that disconnected people are turning to music as a way to connect, even across distance.

Music is a universal component in all human cultures across the globe and across the time our species has been alive. Music is used to instruct, to celebrate, to worship, to communicate, to explore, and more. And of course, music has always been used to connect.

So if you’re feeling particularly disconnected from your support network right now, remember music. It’s a tool you can use. It’s at tool we use every day in our virtual Kindermusik classes to connect with your little ones. It’s a tool you can use as you invite your parents to join your children in one of our virtual PlayDates.

Please enjoy this video of a Virtual Choir, using the connective power of music and combining it with the miracles of technology to continue creating music during a time when in-person music making isn’t possible.

Thank you for continuing to join us in virtual music making.