Sing Away the Stress

Ahh, Springtime. It’s finally here! The forsythia and daffodils are blooming. The weather is maddeningly unpredictable. We’re shrugging off the winter blues and producing more Vitamin D. You’d think it would be all sunshine and flowers . . . but the modern parent knows better.

Spring also ushers in just the next busy phase of a parent’s life. You know what I’m talking about: Easter baskets, teacher appreciation week, planning your family’s summer schedule, supporting your students through standardized testing, finding the perfect Mother’s Day gift, getting the yard in order before the weeds take over . . . . All this on top of our regularly scheduled programming? It never ends.

Even here at Song of the Heart we’re feeling the crunch! We are continuing to provide you with stellar classroom experiences, but are also managing t-shirt orders and trying to provide you with your Heart’s Desire for classes next season. Lots of logistical things happening all. the. time.

So if you’re anything like us, you’re feeling a bit stressed. Well guess what? Kindermusik helps with that!

Did you know that music therapy studies with critically ill adults and children have shown that music can reduce stress, anxiety, and even physical pain by as much as 50%?

FIFTY PERCENT!

That’s right, every time you snuggle up for some musical cuddle time under the “stars”, your brain is getting a dose of oxytocin, the CONNECTION hormone. Every time you engage in creative movement around the room with your little one you are getting a shot of serotonin, the feel-good hormone. Every time you see your child make a friend, put away that scarf, or master a new movement, you are getting a shot of dopamine, the JOY hormone. Kindermusik brings it all!

Here’s some ideas to musically battle the stress and helps your kiddos cope too:

KEEP THOSE ROUTINES IN PLACE. Sing that bedtime song. Keep coming to your Kindermusik class. Children thrive on routine and feel safe with predictability. It gives them a sense of security.
THROW IN A DANCE PARTY. Turn on a family favorite tune and dance with your kiddos for 3 minutes. The blood will pump, bathing your brain in oxygen and oxytocin. Cortisol levels will dip. You’ll all feel refreshed.
I LOVE YOU RITUALS: Sing that Twinkle Twinkle ritual we’ve been working on all year. Use it at diaper changes. Use it at bathtime. Use it before mealtime. Use it at bedtime. Take the time to slow down, intentionally touch, make eye contact, be playful, and connect with your little one through a simple song.
USE YOUR KINDERMUSIK AT HOME MATERIALS. Maybe you use them regularly. Maybe you’ve never looked at them. Open up your Kindermusik account and see what golden nuggets are there. It only takes 5 minutes, but it is the perfect way to connect with your child and reinforce their musical learning at home.
STREAM YOUR FAVORITE KINDERMUSIK PLAYLIST IN YOUR CAR. By now you have the whole year’s worth of albums in your app’s library. Which was your child’s favorite? Turn it on while you run errands and let them jam out and relive their favorite Kindermusik unit. Or maybe put on a playlist of your favorite music and educate your kids on popular music from your generation.

We hope you can integrate music into your daily lives in a way that is fun, joyful, and stress free.

Mamma Mia!

Here we go again . . .

And once again we find ourselves pivoting to online school, mask mandates, and doing our best to protect our loved ones and our communities from this virus.

But we have what we didn’t have two years ago when this whole thing started: some hard-won experience. We know what we’re doing. We’ve been there, done that. We’ve had live virtual classes. We’ve learned how to efficiently clean instruments between classes. We adjust our classroom rituals to be more distanced. And your JOY Team is fully vaccinated and are PROS at teaching in masks.

We have another new thing that we didn’t have two years ago: many of YOU. We have so many new babies that have joined our music family. Babies born into a world and at a time not of their choosing. A time of division, of complication, and of confusion. And most importantly to a developing infant, a time lacking in social connection.

We know that healthy and loving connection is the most important part of a new child’s development. And while we know your children are getting all the love and connection from you at home, there’s just no substitute for the socialization that can come from seeing their peers and going out into the world.

Our Kindermusik classes and curriculum are designed specifically to optimize the growth and development of your child. And during these covid-times we have re-designed our studio protocols to ensure your family’s safety.

We are so honored that you continue to trust us with your children and thank you for being part of this studio family. We wouldn’t be here without you.

Winter Solstice

The Winter Solstice is upon us. This is the darkest day of the year. The day that we are farthest from the sun, and we have the least amount of sunlight. And now we experience a return of the sun, a little more light, day by day.

Symbolically, this is a time of sacred rest and reflection, before the awakening.

As you spend this time of year in reflection and preparation for the new year to come, what are you grateful for? What has challenged you? What do you hold dear? What do you want to preserve? What do you want to let go?

These questions of growth are personal, but also apply to what we wish for our children. As we raise these precious humans and prepare them for independence and adulthood, an investment in connection to them must be of the highest priority. What about your relationship with your child are you grateful for? How do they challenge you? What do you want to preserve in your relationship with them? What would you like to let go of?

Perhaps you’re grateful for the joyful way you interact with each other. Perhaps they challenge you with their intense needs that takes time away from your own needs. Maybe you want to preserve your bedtime routine of songs and books. Maybe you need to let go of the expectation that they’ll always listen and obey. Or perhaps it’s time to implement a renewed commitment to joyful connection with them. After all, connection breeds cooperation.

Whatever your goals for your child, Kindermusik at Song of the Heart can only assist them getting there. The growth and connection that happens here benefits every domain of your child’s development. The skills they (and you!) learn in class benefits them socially, academically, emotionally, physically, and more. We love being part of your child’s growth and development. We delight in watching them change and master new skills.

From your infants learning fine motor skills as they practice grasping a baby bell, to your school-aged child flexing their cognition skills as they master rhythmic dictation in our Young Child classes, every age of early childhood benefits from Kindermusik.

Enjoy these wintry days of rest, reflection, and rumination. After the holiday celebrations are over and done, we’ll be here. We’ll be ready to welcome your children back to our loving studio’s arms, to support them, and you, in the important work of joyful growth.

It’s the Most Wonderful Time . . .

. . . When we have our traditional Song of the Heart Winter Holiday class.

We’ve had fun ice skating on paper plates, playing our jingle bells, going on sleigh rides, spinning in dreidels, and creating snow storms. And when we say traditional, we mean traditional. We have one Song of the Heart Family that has been coming to our studio for 11 years. Four of their children have enjoyed our Sleigh Ride at the age of 2 years old. Unfortunately their oldest didn’t join our studio until he was 3, so he is not pictured here, but he still became a Kindermusik graduate! We simply LOVE being part of your children’s lives.

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CONNECTION

This is where it all starts.

The solution to all your parenting woes. The starting place to solving your relationship conflicts. The key to understanding and resolving your child’s behavioral problems.

Whenever you or your child is struggling, go back to basics. Go back to connection.

Research has shown that humans are not capable of being rational, of making good decisions, of getting along with others, of handling stress, or basically ANY executive functioning skills unless two basic needs are met first: SAFETY and CONNECTION.

When you are threatened, your brain goes into fight, flight, or freeze mode. Your conscious brain is hijacked by the hind brain as you seek safety. When you are in this “survival state” you can’t respond to stressful situations with grace or empathy. Nor can your children. Your brain and body asks “am I safe?” If the answer is no, that need must be met before you can move up to the next brain state.

Let’s say you feel safe and can calm your hind brain into understanding that you are not under threat. The next thing your brain asks is “Am I Loved?” If you are lacking connection with a loved one or a trusted friend, you will have trouble having patience and choosing positive behaviors. The same thing goes for your child. If your child feels disconnected from you, they won’t feel loved. They won’t feel safe. They won’t be able to listen to you and respond calmly. They won’t be able to make decisions, follow directions, or remain calm.

So what do you do when your hind brain hijacks you? What do you do when your screaming toddler gets red in the face and fluids drip down their face?

You meet the first two needs. First, remind yourself that you are safe. So what if some judgmental person at Target is watching your child’s melt down. Ignore them. Take a deep breath. Release some tension in your shoulders. Next, approach your child.

Get down on their level. This is a non-threatening approach. Some children will want to be touched. Some will not want to be touched, even by Mom. Try for eye contact. Tell them they are safe. Tell them they are loved. Tell them that when they are ready, you are there to help them.

This is called coregulation. Children simply do not have the executive functioning skills or inner voice that is needed for regulating their emotions. You have to co-regulate with them. Show them how it’s done. Calm yourself first. Then help them calm themselves. This is all accomplished through CONNECTION.

So the next time you see your child’s behavior taking a turn for the worse, remember that their behavior is communication. Their tantrum or resistance is telling you that they are slipping down from the higher brain state and need help to feel safe and to feel loved. Spend some time connecting with them. Slow down. Take a breath. Be present. Be playful. You’ve got this.

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.

Rainbow Connection

Hopefully you’ve enjoyed our Rainbow Connection Week here at Song of the Heart Studios. Did you jump into your at home Parent Guides for the first time this past week? Or did you joyfully implement them for the nth time?

A lot of parents aren’t aware that Kindermusik can and should continue at home! Your in-class experience is only part of the fun. Sure, it’s the main feature. Our educators are positive and engaging and deliver the curriculum with joy and expertise. But all that brain growth and physical development and connection that is fostered within each of our Kindermusik classes is a launchpad for fun throughout your week.

We get it: parenting is exhausting. The last thing you want is another thing on your to-do list. Intentions to download your unit’s playlist on the app get forgotten in the daily business of parenting. That’s why we developed Rainbow Connection Week as a special invitation to engage with your home materials and we hope that it has brought you and your child an added measure of joy this week.

Not just for fun, when you utilize the home materials and engage with your child during the week you reinforce all the learning that takes place in the classroom. Remember, repetition is the GLUE for the brain. Children instinctively understand this, which is why they sing their favorite Kindermusik song or request their favorite bedtime book over and over and over again! Their need for repetition and reinforcement vastly outstrips our own.

Beyond the learning reinforcement, one of the most important features of the home materials is that it provides an opportunity for yet more CONNECTION between you and your child. You’ll have noticed that most of the activities are quite brief. It doesn’t take much time to remind your child through an engaging and playful activity that you are their safe place. Research has proven that connection promotes cooperation and decreases power struggles. Who doesn’t want that?

Playfulness Breeds Connection

We know from research that CONNECTION with your children is a mandatory prerequisite for their cooperation. Not only that, but it brings fulfillment and happiness as you and your child get a shot of Joy Juice hormones that make you feel good. And who doesn’t want more of that? It’s so crucial to the optimal development of a child that’s part of the reason it’s one of our five studio values.

One of the key components for building connection with your children is playfulness. We have learned from Conscious Discipline that the elements needed for true connection are eye contact, touch, playfulness, and presence. We strive to utilize these elements in every Kindermusik class, and most especially during our I Love You Rituals.

Let’s focus on playfulness for a moment. The following suggestions come from Sarah Ockwell-Smith, childcare and parenting author and expert.

Hands up if you struggle to be a playful parent? For some, being playful comes naturally, for others it can feel a little awkward and stilted. If you’re in the latter category, give these tips a try:

1. View play as a ‘must have’, not ‘nice to have’. We are so busy with adult life, that playing with our children often sinks to the bottom of our to-do lists. Viewing play as important, not as time wasted that could be better spent elsewhere, is the way forward. 15 minutes playing with your child is infinitely more valuable than 15 minutes sending emails, or vacuuming the carpet.

2. Play at your child’s level, not your own. What does this mean? It means not inventing mature games or activities that you think your child would like, or that you believe to be age appropriate or good developmentally. Watch and observe how your child plays and join in. It doesn’t have to make sense to you and it doesn’t have to have an obvious teaching moment.

3. Reconnect with your inner child.
As we grow we learn to be more self-conscious, we lose the value of play and we lose the skills to be great at it. Sometimes we need to go deep inside and remember how thrilling it is to be silly, how fun it is to lose ourselves in our imaginations. Dig deep and remember what you enjoyed at their age – did you like skipping/jump ropes, jumping in muddy puddles, Painting with your fingers? You’re not too old for those things now!

4. Make everyday chores more playful.
Invent a bedtime song, a tidying up dance, or a family race to get shoes on when it’s time to go out. Play can be incorporated into every aspect of family life. It doesn’t have to be a specific play time to make something more fun.

5. Get into role playing and drama.
Remember how fun it was to play schools, shops, or mums and dads as a child? Role playing/acting out different characters is such a lovely way to play with children, it’s also a great way to encourage them to do things they don’t usually want to do (e.g: pretending to be a dinosaur hunter when brushing teeth, or a grooming chimpanzee when brushing hair).

Do you have any other tips?

-Read original post by Sarah Ockwell-Smith on Instagram.

Our Guiding Light

It’s that time of year when we reflect back and look forward. And whooo boy! What a year to look back on. This year threw everyone for a loop. Plans made were cancelled. Goals were postponed or given up on. Realignments were made as we evaluated what really mattered and what was truly worth the effort in continuing during this historic year.

At Song of the Heart Studios it was our mission that carried us through the struggles that this year brought: to be the place where eyes shine and children flourish. Just because we are living through unprecedented times that have made literally everything more challenging, we didn’t want to give up on our mission. We knew that you needed a place to continue to turn to for the joy and growth and connection that happens in a Kindermusik class, but provided in a safe way. We knew that the joy and connection that happens in class could sustain you and your family during these hard times.

During the JOY Team’s summer retreat we discussed the WHY we do what we do. And WHAT did we want to focus on in continuing to keep the studio open during the pandemic. There was a unanimous consensus; what we wanted to focus on was YOU. We wanted to continue to serve the families we had, and keep the studio open for departing families when they were ready to return.

The world needs MORE joy, not less. The world needs MORE connection, not less. And so we stretched ourselves and changed our protocols and pivoted each time a new challenge presented itself. Our commitment to your families and your children has been our guiding light.

And so at this end of year we want to extend a heartfelt THANK YOU for sticking with us this year. Thank you for trusting us. Thank you for being part of our tribe. Thank you for sharing your children with us and letting us love and teach them. Thank you for giving us a reason to keep our doors open. Thank you for providing the means for us to keep our doors open.

In this coming year we renew our commitment to our studio’s values and will strive with each class to bring you HEART, JOY, CONNECTION, FAMILY, and GROWTH. May your family’s eyes continue to shine and your children flourish with each Kindermusik class.

Happy New Year!

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