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

 

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.

Survival of the Nurtured

“We are not the survival of the fittest, we are the survival of the nurtured.” ~Louis Cozolino

Did you just get chills? Read that again:

“We are not survival of the fittest, we are the survival of the nurtured.”

When a quote speaks such a truth that clears away the mental chatter and resonates right down in your bones, you know you need to stop and sit with that for a while.

The author of that quote, Louis Cozolino, is an attachment scientist and professor of psychology at Pepperdine University. He says “Those who are nurtured best, survive best. . . . The brain is a social organ, it evolves to connect with other brains. When others feel something, we do too.” Hello mirror neurons!

Isn’t that interesting, that we humans are wirelessly connected to each other? That connection is the foundation of empathy and compassion.

When we nurture children and adults, we ensure their survival. It’s the compassion that bonds us in tribes that allows for our survival as a species. But being nurtured doesn’t just promote our survival, it promotes our THRIVING. It all comes back to . . . CONNECTION.

That’s what we are ALL ABOUT here at Song of the Heart Studios. Our goal is to forge connections between you and your child, between your child and their educator, and between children within a class.

Music has been used throughout human history as a tool for forging social bonds. Those social bonds make someone feel NURTURED. And when someone is nurtured, their overall growth and development is enhanced. When a person is nurtured, they can learn. When a person is nurtured, that allows neuralplasticity to literally rewire the brain, heal from trauma, and create new and healthy thinking patterns and problem solving skills.

This is the foundation of our classes. This is why we engage in I Love You Rituals. This is why we encourage partnering with your child during class. This is why we provide Kindermusik Online materials for you to take the musical learning with you, and give you another tool in your parenting toolbelt to enhance the nurturing you do at home.

Enrolling your children in Kindermusik classes is a slice of evidence that YOU are invested in your child’s development and well-being. It is evidence that YOU are nurturing them; when they are nurtured and connected to you, you BOTH will thrive. We are honored to be a part of your family’s journey of development and connection. We hope that when you engage in our classes that YOU feel nurtured, and that your child’s eyes will shine and your hearts will flourish!

Holiday Traditions: Cultural Rituals

It’s one of our favorite weeks of the year: our annual holiday lesson. Each year we teach our holiday classes, filled to the brim with joy and tradition. We spin bilibo “dreidels”, we dance with candy cane streamers, we go for sleigh rides (complete with reindeer antlers) and we go ice skating to the beloved Skater’s Waltz.

This time of year is replete with traditions across many cultures as so many holidays converge during this month. Traditions bind together a community and a culture across the years and give symbolic meaning to that’s culture’s beliefs. That sounds almost like a routine or a ritual, doesn’t it? Family traditions, holiday traditions, religious traditions, and even our studio traditions, all work in the same way. With intention and practice, these traditions, or rituals, create connection.

It all comes back to connection. Human beings crave connection to one another, and it is the absence of connection that leads to so many of our society’s problems. Where there is connection, there is safety. And where there is safety, there is the ability to learn, to grow, to resolve conflict, to build relationships, and to build self-worth.

That is the heart of all we do here at Song of the Heart Studios. It is our mission to make your children’s eyes shine and help them flourish. We hope we did that for you this week, every week, and throughout the years. We thank you for letting us be part of your child’s and family’s journey. Thank you for being part of our Heart-y studio family.

Happy Holidays from Song of the Heart Studios and the JOY Team.

Parents are Partners

One of the most important aspects of the Kindermusik experience is the opportunity we provide you to truly partner with your child. It is absolutely critical that you spend the time you have together in class each week to be fully present with them. Developing a habit of connecting with them will pay huge dividends in your relationship at home, and what better place to make that time investment than at Song of the Heart Studios where we prime their brains and bodies for learning and connection?

Dr. Becky Bailey of Conscious Discipline teaches us that we must focus on our inner state before we can control our behavior. The same is true for children. They must be in an inner state of calm and security before they can learn, comply, or make sense of the world around them. The ability to self-regulate and manage our emotions and inner state requires TWO people. For adults, those two people are YOU and YOU. Your INNER VOICE is what regulates your INNER STATE.

Children have no inner voice to help them self-regulate. And yet two decades of research has shown that self-regulation is more critical to a child’s future happiness and success than early academic achievement. A child’s ability to self-regulate is more important than early reading, writing, or math skills. The average child does not develop inner-speech until around 6 years of age. Some girls may develop it as early as 4, and some boys may delay until 9!

So how can children manage their emotions and self-regulate if they have no inner-voice?

They can’t.

That’s why they need YOU. Remember that it takes TWO to self-regulate? THIS is why we partner with our children. This is why we focus on connection so much. This is why children crave and need your attention. It is through your guidance and example that they can learn to calm their inner state and to manage their emotions.

Every Kindermusik lesson has a moment or many for you to connect with your child. Our Foundations through Level 2 classes are non-stop parent-child partner joy-fests. Our Level 3-5 classes are focused on more musical training and less parent partnering, but even in those classes you are given a few moments at the end to join in with your child and partner with them. Make the most of our structured sharing time! And remember that you always have access to the at-home materials online that you can utilize to partner with your child.

Remember you are your child’s PARTNER as well as their parent. Partner up in class. Partner up at home. Partner with them whenever they need help navigating their overwhelming emotions. Use those I Love You Rituals, or a favorite fingerplay or lap bounce from Kindermusik, or your own special family brand rituals. And as always, remember that connection builds cooperation and promotes JOY.

Connection: The Pathway to Cooperation

We’re often terribly frustrated when we try to get our children to cooperate. Many of us get so fed up with our inability to control our kids that we give up. We just pick up the toys or clear the table ourselves, but resentment builds over time, creating distance between ourselves and our children. We feel inadequate.

Our lack of confidence makes our children’s world feel shakier.

Others of us get so triggered by lack of cooperation that we might yell, shame, blame, or punish until the deed is done by force. Here, too, we feel badly. Anger and frustration reign. Our children can’t help but internalize the message that they are not good enough, which hinders their ability to learn and make friends.

There’s another way.

In seeking cooperation, we must think of our children as partners in a relationship. Paying attention to connection before asking a child to cooperate is like greeting a neighbor and chatting a bit before mentioning that the fence between your yards needs repair. You honor the relationship, since it is the foundation for any positive action to follow.

Bring to mind the familiar scenario of telling your child to hurry up and get on their shoes so you won’t be late for an event. Your request is met with silence, as your child ignores your imploring and continues to play with their toys. You beg. You cajole. You bribe. Your child continues to defy you and picks up a piece of lint on the floor as if it is the most important thing in the world. Eventually, you find yourself yelling and they are crying and you are delayed and inevitably you are late once more.

Next time, try this: instead of begging, bribing, or threatening to take away a privilege, try connecting with them. Get down on the floor with them, and engage in play. It only takes a moment to bond and remind your child of your relationship. Once the feel seen and loved and valued, then inform them it’s time to leave and to get their shoes on.

Set yourself up for success by connecting first. When children feel connected to their parents and truly seen, cooperation comes naturally. Rather than preparing for a showdown with an uncooperative child, remember Conscious Discipline’s I Love You Ritual components: eye contact, intentional touch, presence, and playfulness.

We parents often feel urgent about getting things done right now, a feeling that tends to arise when we feel burdened and alone. We want to feel better, so we try to get the kids to sit down to lunch now, or get the bedroom cleaned up now, or get them piled into the car now. And there are times to force cooperation immediately. When your child is darting out onto a busy street, you’ve got to scoop him up right away, no matter how insulted he may feel! But otherwise, to win cooperation, you need to allow a bit of time for connection between the two of you.

This is what Kindermusik is all about. One of the primary functions of a Kindermusik class is to provide a culture that fosters a climate of connection between you and your child. We give you the tools. We give you the rituals. You partner with your child and forge the bond in class. Then it is up to you to take those tools home and use them. So when you’re feeling frustrated and burdened with parenting, remember that Joy Juice and how you get it. Both you and your child will feel closer, happier, less stressed, and more cooperative. You are a team! Partner with your child in play, and watch their cooperation naturally follow.

Rituals vs Routines

We are now five weeks into the new Kindermusik season (can you believe it?) and by now you and your child should be familiar with the routines and rituals of our studio. These routines and rituals have a variety of intentional purposes.

The words routine and ritual are sometimes used interchangeably, but there are important differences.

Our Hello and Goodbye routines that start and end each class provide a structure of stability for your children. This structure signals to them that it is time to begin class and helps them with the transitions into and out of class. Having a routine built into the class gives children a sense of security and a sense of comfort. It also helps them regulate their behavior and manage their expectations.

We’re sure you have routines in your family life, certain patterns of behavior that help you or your child move from one task to another throughout the day. The lack of these routines is why summer and the holiday season is at first freeing, but ultimately too much of a good thing. There’s always a bit of a sigh of a relief when the vacation is over and the family returns to the normalcy and stability of routine.

But routines are different from rituals, which also have a beneficial and intentional purpose. A ritual is a specific action or set of actions that help us regulate our emotions, build relationships, and mark significant events or transitions in our lives. A wedding is a ritual. A bar mitzvah is a ritual. A christening. But so is meditation, prayer, yoga practice, etc.

Conscious Discipline teaches about I Love You Rituals, which we incorporate into many of our classes. The purpose of these rituals is to build CONNECTION between you and your child, because research has shown that CONNECTION builds COOPERATION. Again, it’s a set of discrete actions that are done in sequence that form the basis for interpersonal bonding.

It’s no different than the timeless classic nursery rhyme “this little piggy went to market” that you lovingly recite when you have your baby on the changing table. It is a moment where you repeat a set of actions with the intention of regulating your emotions, or building a bond, or marking an event. Our handstamp ritual at the end of class is another example; it provides a moment when your educator can bond one-on-one with your little one with a little eye contact, a little touch, a little smile, and a goodbye.

Routines and rituals can definitely have overlap, but they are different things with different purposes. BOTH are necessary for children to form attachments, build connection, feel security, so that they can GROW and develop into their best self.

What routines and rituals do you have in your family? Do you incorporate any you have learned at Kindermusik? If not, try one at home that your educator has taught you. And then let them know how it went!

5 Tips for Kindermusik Success

As we have had a few new families join us for Summermusik, it’s important for you to know a few of our best tips to get the most out of your experience. It’s a good reminder for our returning families as well!

  1. PARTNERSHIP:You are your child’s partner in class. What does this mean? It means you make eye contact with your little one. It means you engage playfully with them. It means you notice what they are doing, label what they are doing, and help them build upon what they are doing. It means that you are fully present with them, fully engaged, and focused on them and their process. If your older child is in a drop-off class, the same thing goes for the few minutes of sharing time at the end of class. Let them show off and shine and share. Watch them. Encourage them. Cheer them on. Hug them. Sing with them. Make your time together special.
  2. MOVERS GOTTA MOVE:

    Maybe your child is one of those children that just can’t sit still. That’s okay and totally normal. Movers gotta move. It’s how they process information. If your child needs to get up and walk away from the circle and explore, go with them. Follow them, meet them where they are, then bring them back when they are ready.

  3. EVERYONE’S EXPERIENCE IS RIGHT:

    Every child experiences Kindermusik in just the right way for them and their development. There is no wrong way to experience Kindermusik. If your child doesn’t appear to be fully engaged in the activity, don’t stress. They are still learning. They are still taking it in. They are absorbing the information and experiencing it in a way that is just right for them. Is your kid off in the corner looking at the lights? Is your child sitting on the rug content to watch others instead of joining in? Does your child avoid eye contact with the educator and want to be held the whole time? Great! Do what they need. Follow their lead. Their brains and bodies are still benefiting from the class experience.

  4. REPETITION:

    Children learn best through play, and repetitive play at that. They need repetition of activities in order to fully process that information and formulate the dendrite connections in their brains. Our educators are experts at reading a classroom and repeating an activity as needed by the students. They tailor their lessons on the spot, in the moment, based upon what the children before them need. And more often than not, children need just one more repetition. Adults always tire of an activity quicker than a child does because an adult’s brain can assimilate new information more rapidly. There’s a developmental and cognitive reason that children ask for the same bedtime story over and over and over. They need that repetition to learn. So even though you may feel like an activity is tired, trust that your child needs it to reap the brain benefits.

  5. CLASS FAMILY:

    Here at Song of the Heart Studios we strive to develop a sense of community and culture, and we want all of you and your children feel like a part of it. That extends into the classroom. Your class is unique. The specific blend of children, adults, and educator all bring something different to the experience; you all contribute. So please think of your class as your musical tribe. Participate fully. Get to know each other’s names. Make eye contact with other adults and children in the room. We invite you to become part of our studio family.

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!