Adult Learning in a Kindermusik Class

We’ve had such a wonderful summer with all your beautiful families! We’re on hiatus to give us all a breather and some time to refresh ourselves before the Fall, as it will be back-to-school for so many of you with older kids.

We hope this time will be restful and joyful for you. If you are looking for a way to keep the musical experiences going in between Kindermusik sessions, don’t forget all the tools your educator has given you this year!

Did you even realize that your educator has given you tools to help you in your caretaking role? Music class is a joyful and enriching musical experience for your child, it is true. But our Little Learner classes are also chock-full of child development education for the adults too!

Our educators are child development experts. They not only have years of experience and training, but our JOY Team also engages in ongoing professional development to make sure we keep our skills sharp and learn the newest evidence-based best practices for teaching and raising children. We implement those practices in our classes, and in so doing model them for you.

From substituting “Good job!” for “You did it!”, to S.T.A.R. breathing, there are so many moments of a Kindermusik class that you can integrate into your routines at home. Try engaging your child’s mirror neurons with deep breathing and some musical cuddle time before tucking them into bed. Use an I Love You Ritual before a diaper change to set the connection and calm your child. Sing “toys away!” between activities to remind them to clean up at home as well and prepare them for transitions in their day.

And of course if you need a little extra fun during an unscheduled day, you can always tap into your Kindermusik @home activities for inspiration. There are fun craft activities, video field trips, dance-along music, and more. There are a lot of often untapped resources available to you with your Kindermusik enrollment.

As always, together or (briefly) apart, you are always in our heart. We wish you well and will sing with you soon!

Instruments! Playtime with Purpose

“I have a sound, a mighty fine sound, and it sounds just like this . . .”

Occasionally your Kindermusik teacher will bring out something new, something different, something special. It could be a giant rainstick, or a cymbal, or a buffalo drum, or a gong! There are so many interesting and varied instruments to learn about and play with.

This fun activity always seems to captivate little children. Their eyes widen as they experience something novel, something they’ve never seen or heard or held before! This is one of those WOW moments in class.

Several things are going on during this moment. First, your child is practicing their active listening skills. They are tuning out the chatter of the adults, the movements of the other children, and any other distractions. They laser focus on the new sound, shape, and timbre of the instrument. Timbre is the sound quality or “voice” of the instrument. It what makes a violin sound like a violin and a flute like a flute. They sound nothing alike! Even if they are playing the same notes and rhythms in the same register. We can tell which is which by its “voice”, or timbre.

This exposure to a new timbre is developing your child’s inner musician. As they are exposed to more timbres, your child will develop auditory discrimination. This is the ability to distinguish one sound from a group others, such as recognizing their mother’s voice in a sea of other parents calling out to their children on the playground at the park. Having developed auditory discrimination will help them develop tonal awareness, the ability to match pitch, the ability to play in tune, the ability to harmonize, and more.

Sometimes the new instrument is appropriate and safe for your children to handle, and other times it’s not. If it’s safe to do so, your teacher will walk around the circle and allow each child a turn to play the instrument. They always LOVE this opportunity.

This is when your child is practicing their “wait their turn” skill. Also called inhibitory control, this is the ability to hold back their urges and delay gratification. This is a CRUCIAL skill for humans to learn to protect themselves, prevent injury, get along with others, work in teams, and get along in polite society. Practicing this skill will help prepare them for when they start going to school or out to restaurants, church, concerts, and other public venues.

As your children step up through the Kindermusik levels they will be introduced to more and more interesting instruments. It will spark a love of music within them that will last a lifetime. Giving them this gift of music appreciation will enrich their lives as they attend live concerts, ballets, theatrical productions, and more. Art in all its forms enriches our lives and music is a key part of that. Thank you for letting us be the ones to plant this seed of music appreciation in your child’s life!


Fingers, Footsies, and Fun

We often have short activities in a class that we like to call “Fingerplay.”

Fingerplays are short poems, verses, chants or stories that rhyme. The lyrics correspond to hand movements and pair the words with actions. Fingerplays and action rhymes have been shaped and passed down through generations by the caregivers of history; parents, grandparents and teachers. They have been used to teach counting, colors, rhyming, and other language structures, and also help children sharpen their memory through imitation and repetition. They also encourage children to match words with physical actions. You may remember finger plays like The Itsy-Bitsy Spider or Johnny Whoops!

Fingerplays, footplays and action rhymes are simple, fun, and all children love them – from the smallest of babies to the early elementary aged child. However, did you realise just how many educational benefits they provide?

Fingerplays and action rhymes offer a multisensory approach to learning, engaging multiple senses – visual, auditory, touch and movement. They build language and speech skills, gross and fine motor skills, coordination, body awareness, rhythmic proficiency, social skills and auditory discrimination.

These games offer children learning experiences that help to build solid foundations for learning.

Exploring rhythm and wordplay with fingerplays will introduce your child to the sounds in spoken language. This develops phonemic awareness – the ability to segment and manipulate the sounds –  a key component of reading readiness. When children sing, listen and act in response to songs and fingerplays, they increase their vocabulary and develop listening and comprehension skills. Fingerplays help children practice speaking their language. Repeating phrases and words encourages the shaping of vowels and consonants in an enjoyable way.

Try to make them a part of your everyday routine and have fun whist helping your child’s development in so many ways!

Bouncin’ Babies!

First comes Brain Gym.
Then comes Hello Song.
Then comes the LAP BOUNCE.

Every Little Learner’s class (those are our baby and toddler classes) has a lap bounce near the beginning. After our “activity to reduce stress” (Brain Gym) and our  “activity to connect” (the Hello song) we have our lap bounce.

This is always a sweet, fun, and short activity. It is an opportunity for you to trigger the giggles. If it goes as planned, your children will be begging “again!”

The first element is a rhyme or a song. Don’t make your educator perform a solo! Remember, she is the facilitator and you are your child’s partner. Sing or chant along so that your child can hear their favorite sound in the world: YOUR voice. Nothing makes them feel more loved or safe than you.

The next element is steady beat. This is crucial to early childhood development as well as early musical development. Learning to feel a steady beat lays the foundation for your child’s gross motor movements. It helps in smoothing their gait, making it easier for them to walk and run and jump with ease and confidence. It helps them organize and coordinate movements and develop coordination, which will benefit them when they learn to bounce and catch a ball.

It also helps with their pattern recognition, and in developing their auditory discrimination. This foundation will aid them as they learn to speak fluently and eventually read smoothly and with cadence. And of course this lays the groundwork for further musical skills, but in a developmentally appropriate way.

The next element of our lap bounce is, of course, the BOUNCE. This is the fun part. This is where you can play with up and down, side to side, wiggles, rocking, and always a big finish PLOP! 

Besides being fun, this motion stimulates your child’s proprioception. Also known as kinesthesia, this is the body’s ability to sense movement, action, and location. Simply put, it is your child’s awareness of where their body is in space, time, and in relationship to other people and objects.

It also develops your child’s vestibular system. This is their sense of balance and coordination. As the bounce sends their brain information about how their body is moving, it learns how to make compensatory movements. The brain then teaches the body how to regain balance, and as they do so they gain in muscle and core strength.

Who knew there was THAT much developmental work going on in such a little activity? 

But don’t forget that it’s also a great CONNECTION activity. All the lap bounces you learn in class are now in your parenting toolbox that you can use when you need to connect and play with your little one. After all, remember that children learn best through PLAY. So don’t forget to have fun with it!

Gathering Time: A Good Beginning

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.