“Mom . . . I’m Bored!” Embrace the Summertime Blues

Summertime: when the livin’ is easy . . . except when it’s not.

Holiday celebrations, hosting barbeques and picnics, finding child care, taking kids to their various enrichment activities, swimming lessons, road trips, family reunions, and more. What a wonderful time of year! But with all that joy and all those fun activities we can get stressed from all the running around. Our children can be over-stimulated and under-rested. And over stimulation and sleep deprivation can lead to behavioral and developmental problems.

Summer has changed a lot in a generation. In the 80s the days were filled with running around the neighborhood in bathing suits and cut-off shorts, chasing the distant jingle of the ice-cream truck, dashing through sprinklers, and playing pick-up games of Kick the Can. And don’t forget laying out in the backyard with tanning oil slathered all over you. Some things have changed for the better (thank you sunscreen!) but other things seem a bit . . . much.

With all the wonderful opportunities and activities and year-round schools that we have now, there is one thing oftentimes missing from our children’s lives: BOREDOM.

Did you know that some child psycholgists say that boredom is good for our children?

Yes, it’s true. Boredom is actually a benefit, and not something to be avoided.

Boredom has been proven to promote creativity, problem-solving, and independence. Boredom may be just the stimulus that your children need this summer. Yes, all those enriching camps and lessons are wonderful. And yes, those sanity-saving screens are convenient and easy to hand to our children when we need a few minutes to ourselves.

However, if we schedule every minute of the day and fill the leisure minutes with mind-numbing online content, we are doing our children a disservice. They need to be bored in order to have the time to tinker, time to think, and time to explore. Boredom helps them learn self-regulation. It provides them opportunities for conflict resolution (sibling rivalry anyone?). It gives them a chance to be in charge of themselves and flex those developing independence muscles.

It is HARD at first to shed the assumption that we need to be full-time entertainment directors for our kids. And if we don’t provide the fun and refuse to hand over a screen, that’s even harder. At first. But if you can cope with the complaining and bickering for a few minutes, it won’t take long before you’ll see your kiddos find something to make or break or solve or climb.

So lean in to the summertime blues. Let your kids be bored. It’s good for them. It’s good for you.

“Aaah, summer – that long anticipated stretch of lazy, lingering days, free of responsibility and rife with possibility. It’s a time to hunt for insects, master handstands, practice swimming strokes, conquer trees, explore nooks and crannies, and make new friends.”
~Darell Hammond

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!

How to Calm an Upset Child with Music

Music is often thought of simply as entertainment, but its power as a conjurer of emotions is undeniable. You probably have that song that transports you right back to your first big breakup, or to a special moment from childhood. Certain music makes you want to get up and dance, while other tunes can make you weepy for no obvious reason. Music’s unique ability to influence our emotions makes it a powerful tool to manage feelings and behavior.

For children, especially, music can help instill calm, promote self-regulation and impart joy. This is great news for parents, who are so intimately familiar with how quickly and unpredictably kids can “lose it.” Finding effective strategies to calm and comfort can be a challenge, and music is a good one to have in your arsenal.

How To Calm and Upset Baby | Kindermusik

Creating Feelings of Safety and Security

Many children struggle with change and transitions. Drop-off at school or Grandma’s house, getting into the car for an outing, abandoning a favorite activity for bathtime…all of these things can be stress triggers. The good news is that building music into transitions can help smooth things out.

Try introducing a favorite song during times of transition to set the mood. Want your child to relax? Play something calm. Does your child need to perk up and get moving? Play something lively! Music can also help define and communicate your expectations, so your child understands what’s about to happen and how he or she should respond. Sing “It’s time to take a bath,” or “It’s time to clean the toys” to the tune of “The Farmer in the Dell,” for example. When you choose music that’s familiar, predictable, and used routinely, your child feels calmed by the certainty and familiarity of it all.

Singing calms babies longer thank talking. | Kindermusik

Building Self-Regulation

Another way to ensure calmer, happier days with your child is to help strengthen his or her self-regulation skills. Children who can self-regulate are able to remain calm and soothe themselves in stressful or frustrating situations, delay gratification, and adjust to unexpected changes. Self-regulated children wait their turn, share easily with others, and listen carefully.

Sounds dreamy, right? Well, if you don’t feel like this perfectly describes your child, you’re not alone. Self-regulation develops gradually, across the years of early childhood, and it is definitely a process. The beginning stages of self-regulation are about impulse control, so the first step is understanding what it feels like to stop yourself from doing something.

Betsy Flanagan | Stop=and-go games teach self-regulation | Kindermusik

That’s where musical “stop-and-go” activities can help. Remember playing “Freeze Dance” as a kid? Everyone dances to music and then freezes in place when the music stops. Try this with your child. Sing or play music and let loose dancing together! Then stop the music abruptly to challenge your child to control the impulse to continue moving. In the ensuing silence, your child can literally feel themselves stop; they can feel that they are in control of their actions. This is such a fun and easy way to build important self-regulatory skills. Think about it: In order to play the game effectively, your child needs to focus, listen, and react to aural cues. These are the very things that help children develop attention and control—the building blocks of self-regulation.

Managing Meltdowns

Even children who feel safe and secure and show good self-regulatory skills will occasionally have what we lovingly refer to as “meltdowns.” (And don’t we adults have them, too?) Music can be especially effective at easing everyone back into a better state of mind. And there’s a powerful brain theory behind this.

Research has shown that listening to music lowers cortisol levels. Since cortisol is commonly known as the “stress hormone,” it follows that listening to music reduces stress. Scientists have also proven that listening to music increases dopamine. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter that is known as the “motivation molecule” because it leads to the type of feel-good moments you might experience when eating a favorite food or completing a physically satisfying workout. Feeling blue and out of chocolate? Turn on a song for a dose of mood-enhancing dopamine.

How to Calm an Upset Child with Music | Kindermusik

So if your child is feeling stressed, frustrated, angry—any of the emotions that might lead to the dreaded meltdown—turn to music. It just might be the cure.

– Reposted from Kindermusik International

The Child’s Brain on Music

The majority of scientific studies about music and the brain are done on adults, but there is a premiere neuromusicologist at Harvard Medical School that studies the effects of music on children’s brains.

Gottfried Schlaug M.D. PhD tested the brains of 6 year olds, giving them 15 minutes of keyboard instruction for a period of 15 months against the brains of a control group of 6 year old children that received no musical instruction.

The musical children’s brains showed measurable increase in the auditory and motor centers of the brain. Additionally, they outperformed the non-musical children on tasks of sound discrimination and motor sequencing.

What does that mean?

Kids who engage in musical training and practice have more developed brains than their peers. Kids who engage in musical training and practice have a higher capacity to sort and identify sounds. What does that matter? Auditory discrimination sounds fancy, but essentially it is the ability to distinguish phonemes, the most basic unit of language and speech. The child who studies music has increased ability to both express and understand language. Language expression and reception is a crucial skill throughout life.

Additionally, the musically trained children had higher ability in motor planning. Motor planning is the ability to conceive, order, and carry out a sequence of non-habitual movements from beginning to end. So much of what we do in life is motor sequencing: cooking a meal, dressing ourselves, cleaning a room, exercising, driving, and on and on.

Kindermusik is giving your child a leg-up in these developmental tasks. Don’t you feel glad that you are giving them the best foundation for growth? All wrapped up in one joyful package!

The WHY of Kindermusik and Online Parent Guides

There are two things you can be doing with your toddler now that could give your child a leg up when it comes time for them to start kindergarten. This is according to an impressive longitudinal study that tracked more than 3,000 children across Australia over the course of several years. The two things? Shared reading experiences and shared musical experiences. That’s right. It seems that 2- to 3-year-olds who enjoyed these purposeful interactions turned into 4- and 5-year-olds with more prosocial skills, better emotional regulation, and an increased ability to understand and work with numbers.

The idea that a shared reading experience (i.e. reading a book aloud in a way that engages and involves your child) is beneficial should come as no surprise. There’s been a lot written about how these interactions build early literacy and social-emotional skills. As you giggle together, wonder together, talk about the pictures and words in a book together, your child learns, but the two of you also bond.

Less attention has been paid, however, to the value of shared home music experiences; dancing with your child, humming and rocking together, singing along with your favorite recording—all of these have benefits beyond just being fun. And fun they certainly are. When you stop to think about it, don’t many of your fondest memories from childhood involve music?

The fun of Kindermusik and shared musical experiences between you and your child is what is happening in the foreground. It’s why your child loves coming to class each week. It’s why they are disappointed when they ask if it’s a music day and you reply that it isn’t. But in the background of all that fun and bonding is an incredible abundance of optimal development for your child’s brain and body. It’s the WHY we do what we do. Tangible long-term benefits hidden between the bars of our songs and movement activities.

It’s also WHY we provide to you the Kindermusik Online Parent Guides. These are tools for YOU, the adult, to supplement the Kindermusik classroom experience at home. When your little one is disappointed they can’t go to music class, you are prepared with streaming class music, a simple printable or craft that coordinates with the current curriculum, or a short video to spur connection and exploration. These nuggets of fun bring the benefits of shared musical experience into your home, on demand, when you and your child need a moment of connection. 

Just log into my.kindermusik.com to access the Kindermusik Online Parent Guide for your current or any of your past curriculum. 

Thank you for letting us be a part of your child’s development!

-partial repost from Kindermusik International

Babble On . . . It Benefits Baby!

If the hours of cute baby footage on YouTube are any indication, watching a baby babble is a pretty solid form of entertainment. Just check out one of the hundreds of videos with titles like “cutest baby babble videos ever,” and you’ll see what we mean. You won’t be able to resist the urge to giggle—and perhaps even babble right back yourself.

Actually, choosing to babble back to a baby is a great instinct. Babies love hearing you mirror their speech sounds right back to them—and doing so encourages them to continue with their own babbling. This is how babies first experience verbal back-and-forth communication and learn the patterns that characterize speech. So those seemingly nonsensical sounds are actually quite significant.  After all, sounds—which have absolutely no meaning in isolation—are the building blocks of words. When your baby babbles, he or she is putting together sounds in pleasing ways and learning how our language works. Babbling also helps develop the muscles a child needs to speak.

When baby babbles and mom responds, it creates a social feedback loop of communication and learning, which is what we call language.

Beyond Babbling

You can also respond to baby babbling in more sophisticated ways. Notice what’s prompting your child’s babbling (did he or she see something exciting or interesting? Is he or she imitating a specific sound?) and respond by affirming it. Use rich vocabulary to describe what’s going on: “Yes! That is a cute dog. Look at his big eyes. He is wagging his tail. He likes you, too!”

To help your child begin to develop listening ears as well as speaking skills, focus attention on specific sounds: “What’s that sound? It’s a dog barking. Woof, woof!” Don’t be surprised if the sounds then become part of your child’s babbling vocabulary.

baby babble - kindermusik

Embrace Your “Baby Voice”

Don’t be afraid to use that high-pitched sing-song voice that comes so naturally when you’re talking to a baby. This type of speech, characterized by a slower cadence, shorter sentences, exaggerated intonation, and lots of repetition, is known as “motherese,” or “child-directed speech.” Research suggests that speaking to your child this way can actually boost their language development and learning, since babies are better able to attend to and understand “motherese” than regular adult speech.

Whenever you talk to your baby, be sure to make eye contact. This is a very important part of meaningful communication. Even if your baby can’t answer you in words, you’ll know from his or her facial expressions that he or she is participating in the conversation.

Cut Down on Cell Phone Babbling

This comes as no surprise, but it’s a good idea to put away your phonewhen you’re spending quality time with your baby. Save texts, emails, and calls for later, and just focus on your child. Continually glancing at your screen not only interrupts the critical one-on-one interaction that teaches your baby about communication, but also distracts you from the important cues your child is giving you.

Don’t Have Preconceived Notions About When “Real Speech” Will Occur

Every parent waits for that magical moment when a child first says “Mama” or “Dada.” But that will come in each baby’s own time, not according to any particular schedule. It’s good to have a sense of the typical language development trajectory and milestones, but it’s a broad range, so try not to get too caught up on specific deadlines.

baby babble - kindermusik

In the meantime, keep up that back-and-forth babbling! As with almost everything, music makes it more fun and interesting. And (surprise!) we even have some babble-friendly suggestions for you: Try singing along to “Dipidu”  during your morning routine—during diapering, feeding, or dressing. And play “Bubbles on Me” during bath time, so your baby can practice forming syllables as he or she blows buh-buh-buh bubbles in the tub. These are the moments when you truly realize how important you are as your baby’s first teacher.

To experience this weekly at our in-studio experience, join us for a class!

reposted from Kindermusik International

I Love You Rituals

The last two weeks we have started incorporating I Love You Rituals in our classes. We LOVE these rituals as they perfectly align with Kindermusik’s child-development centered curriculum and our mission here at Song of the Heart Studios.

Not only do I Love You Rituals promote our studio values of JOY, CONNECTION, FAMILY, GROWTH, and HEART, but they have a direct and literal impact on your child’s brain development. Research based, these simple rituals soothe cortisol and release oxytocin in the brain. Without getting into the neurochemistry of it all, what this means is that these simple, quick, and fun rituals are a tool that will bond you with your child, will increase their self esteem, lengthen their attention span, promote cooperation, decrease power struggles, reduce hyperactivity, and facilitate language development.

Can you believe that all those benefits can come from such a simple ritual? It takes less than a minute to do, and can reap huge rewards.

We have been teaching the Twinkle Twinkle ritual in our classes in the hopes that it will inspire you to implement it at home. Here are some ideas of when to throw it into your daily routines:

  • In the morning, upon waking up
  • On the diapering table
  • During nap time and/or
    bedtime routines
  • When getting in or out of the carseat
  • Before or after meals
  • When saying goodbye

These delightful rituals were designed by Dr. Becky Bailey, renowned child education and developmental psychology expert, and founder of Conscious Discipline.

Please let us know how you incorporate I Love You Rituals into your family life. What benefits have you experienced?

Routines & Rituals

Have you noticed that our Kindermusik classes always start and end the same way? Even sprinkled throughout the class are little rituals and cues that give your child an expectation of what to do next. This is intentional. You’ll find these routines consistent from class to class, with creative variations between educators and level. We carefully craft these routines not just for fun, but to enhance learning and social cooperation.

Childhood is growth. And by very definition that means children experience change on a near-constant basis. Change is unsettling and can be hard for children to cope with. That’s why routines are so crucial. Routines have been shown to give children a sense of security and safety. It helps them know what to expect next and how to behave in certain circumstances. It sets them within a frame of predictability and comfort in which they can then explore, learn, play, and discover.

Structure teaches children how to control themselves and their environment. It facilitates constructive habits and life skills. From brushing their teeth, to feeding themselves, to cleaning up after themselves, routines make all these lessons easier to learn.

In Kindermusik we have routines to wake up our brains and bodies, to focus attention, to add cohesion to the group, to foster cooperation, and to signal to you and your child that this is a place that is predictably joyful. With routines in place and expectations set, connection and growth will follow.

Is your little one having trouble with putting away their toys at home? Sing-song “Toys away!” will remind them of how we clean up after ourselves at the Kindermusik studio, and will give them instant information about what you expect. Turn any orders you might need to give your child (example: “Find your shoes!”) into a song, and you’ve just created a new neural pathway to help them understand and follow through. And always finish with an encouraging “You did it!”

Try adopting one of our little routines at home, or develop your own, and see if it helps make a bumpy part of your day a little smoother. We’d love to hear about it!

 

How We See Ourselves

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Image by cohdra at morgueFile, used by permission

I’ve been volunteering at my daughter’s preschool all morning, where I got to observe first-hand the value of “being a helper.”  At every turn, the teacher was asking kid to be good helpers, good listeners, good friends–an interesting thing to note after reading this NPR article this morning.

In the article, the author, Maanvi Singh, notes the power of asking kids “please be a helper” rather than “please help me.”  Researcher and psychologist Christopher Bryan has published a study in Child Development this week in which he notes, “While the children were playing, an experimenter gave them various opportunities to lend a hand. Preschoolers who got the talk about being helpers actually dropped their toys to offer aid 20 percent more often than kids who heard a lesson about helping.”

Apparently, it even works on adults.  “Being a voter” is more important than voting.”

Erik Erikson defined the third stage of development as “initiative versus guilt.”  In other words, children about the age of three begin expanding their abilities, learning new vocabulary, or working on projects alone or with families.  Certainly, there are some cultural differences around the world; however, in the United States, where we are inclined to offer choices in parenting (“Do you want to wear the white shirt or the black one?”), children begin to develop a strong sense of themselves from a young age.

However, through this, Erickson noted that children’s beliefs about themselves are not always realistic.  How many times have I asked my preschooler, “Do you need help pouring that juice?” and to have her decline—only to then spill juice all over the counter?

Eventually we figure out that we can’t do everything.  But it’s super important to have this attitude when you are 3—think of all the new skills a child that age has to develop.  If they think they’re not even capable of doing it, they might not ever even try.

As adults, we all go through periods of self-doubt.  Yet one more thing my kids teach me, when I remember to learn from them—the power of seeing myself as a “risk-taker,” so that I can have the courage to fail, if it means opening myself up to succeed.

Oh, and I also need to remember to ask them to be my helpers.