Gathering Time

Every Kindermusik class begins before it begins.

Let me explain.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summer Fun!

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

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

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

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

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

Happy music making!

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.

Ready, Set, Sing!

It’s that time of year again! There’s been a run on school supplies and the stores are wiped out. You can’t find a pencil case to save your life. There’s an excitement in the air for children as they return to school. There’s a nervousness in the air for the adults about the new Delta variant. Crossing guards, 20 mph school zones, and yellow busses slow down our morning commutes once more.

What does this mean for us at Song of the Heart Studios?

It means we have been working behind the scenes getting ready for a brand new season of joy and music making with you! Our summer break is anything but. We spend our break time dreaming up new ways to bring extra sparkle to your Kindermusik experience. We have been sprucing up the studio. We are brushing off our lesson plans and brushing up on our pedagogy skills. We’ve been learning about positive psychology and refocusing our attention on the details in a class that make the biggest impact for you. We are reviewing our Covid protocols to make sure that we are providing the safest possible environment for your families to continue to come and enjoy the Kindermusik experience during these crazy times.

Everything we do at Song of the Heart Studios is motivated by our love for music, our love for our Kindermusik families, and our deep belief that the answer to all of society’s problems is excellent early childhood education. When you invest in your child’s development at this age, their brains are wired in healthy ways that sets them on a trajectory for mental and social health and happiness. So thank you for doing not only what is best for your child, but what is best for the world. Thank you for letting us be a part of their childhood development.

We can’t wait for you to walk through our doors soon so we can watch your hearts sing and your children flourish!

Summer Evening Listening Walk

The school year has wound down. The pleasant days of summer are here. The weather has heated up and the Covid cases are low and we can emerge from our wintery cocoons. It is the perfect time for a special activity we like to call the Listening Walk. But first, an explanation about listening.

In our classes we nearly always include a focused listening activity. The children love this! It’s so fun to “get out our listening ears to listen, listen, listen” and rub our ears to ready for listening. This not only helps focus the children’s brains for listening, but rubbing the ears stimulates nerves that awaken the brain and send out “feel-good” endorphins. We could all use a little more of those happy brain chemicals, so rub rub rub those ears!

We set aside time every week for focused listening because we know how important it is for children to develop the skill of listening. We must help support that development. It aids in their cognitive development, their social and emotional development, and of course their musical development!

We take a simple sound and help your children prepare for listening, going through the physical steps of calming their body, focusing their mind, processing the sound, and then developing a socially and emotionally appropriate response to the sound.

One of the best parts of a focused listening activity is seeing their eyes light up as they try to figure out what the sound is. You can practically see the wheels in their brains turning!

A way to extend this activity is with the previously mentioned “listening walk”. This is particularly effective and fun with preschool aged children and older. You can of course go on a listening walk with your babies and toddlers as well, but it will require more modeling and labeling from the parents.

First, tell your child you’re going on a special walk. Not a normal walk. A listening walk. You’re going to be completely silent as you walk down the street and be detectives. You’re going to see if you can figure out what people, animals, and the environment in your neighborhood are doing simply by being still and listening.

Walk a few steps. Do you hear a lawnmower? Walk a few more steps. Do you hear some birds chirping? Maybe your hear the whirring of a hummingbird’s wings. Walk down the block some more. Do you hear the sound of your own feet hitting the sidewalk? What else can you hear? Do you hear splashing? Does it sound like people swimming in a backyard pool? Or perhaps it’s a dog walking through a puddle left behind by the sprinklers.

This is such a fun way to get your child to wake up their senses and explore the world around them. You’ll enjoy it too!

And just in case you miss storytime with Ms Maren, here’s a perfect story about going on a listening walk. Watch this video with your child and go out on a walk together. What did YOU hear on YOUR walk?

5 Ways to Stay Connected as Your Children Grow

A familiar scene: your toddler clings to you, unsure of this new Kindermusik classroom environment. Then they excitedly leave your arms to engage with the activities, only to return to you for reassurance. As you see your little one cling to you for security and then venture off to explore, only to return to you again, you will notice them learning to assert more and more independence. This is a good thing! But as we are all about CONNECTION here at Song of the Heart Studios, we know that a strong bond with your child is what will give them the confidence to spread their wings and soar.

Parenting guru and child development specialist and author Sarah Ockwell-Smith has so much wisdom for both new parents of young children and veteran parents of growing children who are claiming more independence. In a recent Instagram post she shares her top advice for staying connected to your child as they grow. Read her wise words:

The early years of parenting can feel stifling, your child’s intense need for you – day and night – can leave you desperate for some time away from them. Your worlds revolve around each other, closely tied in the same orbit, as if you and they were one being – extensions of each other. Their need and love for you so strong. As children get older, that orbit grows. The pull of the outside world ever increasing. Until one day, you realise you miss that tight knit connection and begin to mourn it, wondering if things will ever be the same again, but there are ways to keep a strong connection as your children grow.

Here are my top 5:

1. Accept the change in need for you. It may seem counterproductive, but the more you allow your child to break away from you now – by giving them freedom, the more likely they are to return to you in the future. Recognise you are their ‘safe base’, that they will always return to, but their job now is to explore the world away from you.

2. Always be there to support them. Waiting in the wings, unjudgementally, to listen and ‘hold’ them when they need it.

3. Rein in the punishments (especially exclusion based ones). If your children feel safe to express themselves and tell you about their mistakes, they are far more likely to be open with you as they grow. If they are raised with fear of retribution and exclusion, you will push them away.

4. Work on your own feelings. If your child’s growing independence leaves you feeling a hole, don’t expect them to fill it. Now is the time for you to rediscover who you are, learn new skills and develop new passions. Learn how to feel comfortable being ‘just you’ again.

5. Connect on their level – if they love video games, ask them to explain them to you and play together. If they love making Tik Tok dances, ask if they can teach you one.

And here at Song of the Heart Studios of course we recommend you maintaining an active role in their Kindermusik experience by helping your Little Music Maker engage with your at home materials, help them practice their Young Child instruments, and do our special sharing time activities. It not only enhances their (and your) musical experience but it also maintains and extends your special parent-child bond.

Why Toddler Music Lessons Aren’t the Best Idea

Stressing about whether or not toddler music lessons are worth it?

They’re not and here’s why…

Have you ever heard “my son started playing piano at age 2,” or “my daughter picked up her first guitar when she was 3!”

It’s true that early instrument exposure is important.

However, age-appropriate instrument exploration (like shakers and rhythm sticks), especially within a group setting, is a critical first step in 0-3 music education.

Plus, developmental milestones boosted through starter instruments are directly connected to whether a child will actually master (and stick with) an instrument like the piano or guitar later.

Here’s the logic behind this approach, how to pick the right starter instruments for your toddler, and why toddler music class is much more beneficial than toddler music lessons.

What’s Wrong with Toddler Music Lessons?

Think about toddlers and toys. Does s/he play with the same toy all day every day?

You probably rotate them in and out to help tune up different abilities and renew interest.

There’s a reason rotating learning tools (including instruments!) is important for our youngest learners. They lack the attention span needed to devote to just one activity.

So, even if your toddler took an interest in one instrument, the chances of her coming back to it over and over are slim.

Toddlers also need exposure to a variety of early instruments to help develop things like fine motor skills (grasping, pinching, pressing, etc.) and steady beat (think tapping on a hand drum).

These skills not only ramp up basic school readiness but help them excel at activities like music lessons when they’re older.

How Do I Know Which Instruments Are Best For My Toddler?

Toddlers need sturdy, safe, and easy-to-grasp early instruments.

Plus, early instrument exploration goes so much farther than learning about different sounds.

For example, making soft and loud sounds with an egg shaker is the perfect activity for boosting self-regulation (like calming down before a nap).

And simple, sheer scarves can really help toddlers imitate sound through movement, taking their imaginations to the next level.

The best part is, many of the instruments you might see in a toddler music class can be recreated with household items.

A box of rice is the perfect substitute for egg shakers and chunky wooden puzzle pieces are ideal sand blocks.

What’s The Benefit Of Group Music Classes For Toddlers?

When toddlers experience music and movement with others, they’re learning about important concepts in a fun, memorable environment, and gaining essential social-emotional skills they’ll carry throughout life.

That’s the big advantage over a lesson…at this age, the “group” is what makes the learning stick.

Studio Kindermusik classes also include a parent or caregiver.

Research shows that when trusted grownups are present, children feel the safety they need to create freely.

Plus, it supports an irreplaceable bonding experience that feeds into confidence, communication, and so much more.

So, should you be anti-music lessons? Absolutely not.

From dexterity to listening skills, exposure to age-appropriate instruments and fundamentals learned in a class setting will make all the difference when transitioning to the piano, guitar, or whatever single-instrument lesson your child desires when the time is right.

Help develop the foundations she needs to turn a love of music into a passion, and boost major cognitive skills along the way!

-Reposted from Kindermusik International

Process, Not Performance

Hopefully you saw that wonderful feedback we received from one of you Heartie parents this week. If not, here it is:

This comment brings focus to one of our core tenets as early childhood music educators: to focus on musical process, not performance.

Here’s why:

Focusing on performance invites criticism and correction. The focus becomes on doing it “right” rather than simply enjoying the process. There is a place for that, certainly, at higher levels of ability and development when skill and technique are being developed. But in early childhood, there is no place for that type of instruction. If the goal is to do it “right” then children who haven’t yet developed certain motor skills and cognitive processing skills can feel overwhelmed and will shut down.

The moment a child doesn’t feel safe their brain switches to a lower gear of emotional survival and all learning stops. Their sense of safety can be threatened simply by a teacher or parent trying to “help them succeed” or to “prevent them from failing” and giving well-intentioned but ultimately destructive feedback.

Children need a much more nurturing environment in order to learn. They need to be free to explore, free to express, free to move and experience the process in their bodies, rather than scrutinizing if they are doing things “correctly.”

We’ve all been to the dance recitals when the adorable 3 year olds come out in their frilly tutus and the crowd oohs and ahs. It’s adorable! We love those tiny dancers! But watch their faces as they try to perform. There’s always one stand out: the child who has a knack for charming and performing who was just born with stage presence. Then there’s the precise perfectionist child who has more advanced development and can perform “correctly”: the right move on the right beat in the right order. But the other ten children on the stage? Look at their faces. They’re usually just trying to keep up and sometimes are vaguely confused. And then there’s always the sweet little child who isn’t ready for such a feat and is afraid to go on stage and has to be pulled by the hand by her teacher. That child needs more feelings of safety and reassurance.

But where is the joy? Where is the connection? What are the children learning? Is this recital about providing a positive experience for the dancers? Or is it a performative reward for the parents?

This is why in Kindermusik our focus is on the whole development of the child and the connection between the child and parent. The focus is not on performance. We want your children to feel total safety and joy when they enter our studio. We want them to feel so safe that they are 100% free to learn through exploration in a rich sensory environment. We don’t want them focused on doing things “right” or following instructions to a T. Nor do we want your focus to be on getting them to follow the teacher’s instructions perfectly. We give them time to transition and grace to do things differently. It’s okay to just watch instead of participate. It’s okay to not be ready to give up their instrument on demand. The goal is to for your heart to sing and their eyes to shine.

And then, one day, when they’ve got the developmental skills to learn more, we teach them more. We introduce notes and beats. We teach them to read rhythms and hold mallets and play as an ensemble. The Kindermusik curriculum steps up perfectly in sync with your child’s development. And by the time they graduate the program they will be developmentally ready for formal instrument instruction. Kindermusik kids have a proven record of having a huge advantage in future musical studies over children who don’t experience our nurturing program.

So save the performance. There will be time for that later. For now, just focus on the process. And if that sounds too dry, then focus on the connection, the joy, the heart, and those shining eyes.

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.

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!