Kindermusik Promotes Optimal Brain Development

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keep Learning Going Through the Summer

Deep into summer, children thriving through play, free from the strictures of the academic year, full-time caregivers are starting to count down the days to the start of school. Concerns about the inevitable “summer backslide” might be creeping into some parents minds.

Here are a few suggestions to keep the learning going through the summer, without resorting to workbooks or learning apps. Keep the summertime fun going . . . just sneak in some surreptitious brain development.

1. GAME NIGHT

Enjoy a weekly game night as a family. Try games that promote critical thinking skills and strategy. Or perhaps a game that requires letter recognition, or basic mathematics. Card games, Scrabble Jr, Think-it Link-it, Backgammon, Jenga. A little healthy competition between kids and parents can motivate them to think ahead and recognize patterns.

2. CREATIVE CONSTRUCTION

Legos, Lincoln Logs, Magnatiles are all great options. But so are less expensive options such as wooden blocks or even your basic cardboard box. Provide them with paint, glue, scissors, tape, construction paper, popsicle sticks, and even toothpicks. Challenge your child to build a bridge or a tower and see what engineering skills they can develop.

3. MATH PRACTICE

Draw a series of targets in sidewalk chalk on your driveway. In each target write a number. Give your child a bucket of water and a couple of sponges. Have them throw their sponges and whatever numbers they land on can be combined in different equations. Or do the same with hula hoops and bean bags. Or put numbered targets on the wall and get out a nerf gun.

Perhaps you could go treasure hunting on the beach. Count up all the seashells you find and add them to how many your child found. Who found more and by how much? Real-life story problem solving right there.

4. LIBRARY TREASURE HUNT

Weekly visits to the library are one of the best ways to spend the summer. See if your child can find a book on dinosaurs, or dogs, or pirates, or whatever their current interests are. Or find a book with a certain letter in the title. Or a book of a certain color. Check out at least one new book each week. Sign them up for their very own library card and let them learn the responsibility of checking out and returning on time.

5. STAY ACTIVE

Active bodies mean active brains. The hottest days of summer can make us stay indoors,  usually in front of a screen. You can beat the heat and stay active by hitting the pool, running through the sprinklers, or hiking in the mountains. Staying indoors is sometimes necessary, so throw on a Cosmic Kids Yoga video and let your kids move their bodies through a variety of poses as they get immersed in the storytelling. Or take them to an indoor jumping center or rock climbing wall. Air conditioning and physical exertion! Win-win.

Don’t forget that you are your child’s partner. Immerse yourself in these activities with them. Keep the connection alive. They’ll be back in school before you know it.

Rainbow Connection: A Pathway to Social Bonding

In 2012 an archaeological site in Europe unearthed the oldest musical instrument artifacts ever found: flutes carved from bird bone and mammoth ivory. These instruments date back ~42,000 years. That means that when our Paleolithic ancestors were engaged in the life-saving activities of hunting and gathering they were also prioritizing the making of music.

A 2013 review of musical research describes how when playing music in a group individuals have contact with others, engage in social cognition, develop empathy, communicate, and coordinate their actions. Music actually impacts the brain circuits involved in empathy, trust, and cooperation. Perhaps this explains why music has developed and thrived in every culture of the world.

The key here seems to be shared music making, not merely listening to recorded music. It’s the act of connection that occurs when people gather together to experience and create music. It’s why every world religion employs music in its services. It’s why musicians tour and do live concerts. It’s why political rallies include performances by popular musicians. When you share music together your brain releases oxytocin and chemically bonds you to those around you.

Oxytocin is the same chemical released during breastfeeding. It’s the same neuropeptide associated with physical touch. It is a proven hormone that increases bonding and trust between people. Remember the feeling of love and affection wash over you as your breastfed your little one? Or when you gazed into their eyes as you rocked them and sang a lullaby? That was oxytocin bathing your brain, connecting you and your little one.

THAT is what we do here at Kindermusik. It is an intentional shared musical experience between you and your child that optimizes brain development in them and heightened emotional pleasure in both of you. For our older students, the sharing time with you at the end of class is limited. So it’s even more important that you engage in at-home music making.

THAT is the purpose behind our Rainbow Connection efforts these next two weeks. We provide tools for you to take the Kindermusik experience that you’ve invested in and bring it into your home. We want you to get the full benefits of our program and make shared musical experience a natural, daily part of your family culture. Because it will make your family even more bonded, and make your children even more cooperative, and bring you all emotional well being.

 

Music builds connection.
Music builds brains.
Music builds culture.
Music builds cohesion.
Music builds cooperation.

 

And, as we have learned from our Neanderthal ancestors, as they have passed down in our very DNA, music breeds life.

So dig into your at-home materials with renewed interest and enthusiasm and intention. Develop your own family musical rituals with purpose. And keep coming back to Kindermusik. Keep this development and bonding going through Summermusik and into the next year.

Can’t wait to see your beautifully colored Rainbow Connection papers as you bring them back next week!