An obvious core element of any Kindermusik class is the Instrument Play. You will always find a delightful variety of simple instruments, usually percussion based. Percussion instruments are ideal for young children because they are so simple to play! They require tapping, shaking, or striking. It is the perfect type of instrument to start learning on because its most fundamental element is steady beat.
Young children do not have the ability to externalize a steady beat yet, so we give them lots of practice by rocking them, bouncing them, patting them, etc. Listening to music, and playing along with a caretaker gives them additional exposure to this crucial skill. Steady beat will help your child as they develop gross motor movements, such as walking, running, and jumping.
These steady beat through instrument play experiences provide what we call a “synchronous social movement”. It has been shown through research that synchronous movement bonds a group of people, signaling to the child that the people with whom they share this experience are part of their tribe and are safe. It is socialization that the baby’s brain inherently understands.
These percussion instruments also give your child fine motor development practice. It takes skill to grasp an instrument, shake an instrument, release an instrument, and more. It also develops their hand-eye coordination, which will in turn help them as they learn to write, use scissors, play ball, etc.
Other benefits of instrument play include learning the pro-social skills of turn taking, observation skills, and the ability to follow. These skills will help them be ready to be in a musical ensemble once they begin instruction on a primary instrument.
Additionally, instrument play is the perfect opportunity for the caregiver to practice their skill of scaffolding. When you scaffold with a child you observe the skill they are already demonstrating, you validate that skill by labeling it and copying it, and then you add upon that skill. When you show your child how to take what they can already do and add to it, taking it to the next level, you are giving them growth opportunities, creative problem solving skills, and chances to utilize their autonomy to come up with new and diverse ways to play with their instrument.
So much is happening developmentally when you and your little one shake those little egg shakers or tap your rhythm sticks. Plus, it’s FUN and JOYFUL and breeds CONNECTION. And with all that joy and connection comes dopamine and serotonin and oxytocin. And who doesn’t need more of that?
We ended our 2017-2018 season with a bang at our annual Family Jam! Thanks to those of you who came to celebrate! Kicking off the event, we watched our precious Kindermusik graduates showcase their musical abilities and perform for their loved ones. It made us reflect upon all they have learned in the years they have been with us and how much joy we have shared. Transitions are always bittersweet; we will miss our graduates so, and yet we have so much joy in seeing them perform in a big ensemble.
After the graduation we had the wonderful opportunity to enjoy a comedic magic show by Magic Brooklyn, indulge in tasty treats provided by Pink Beehive Cotton Candy and Walker Pediatric Dentistry, make and take a simple instrument, enjoy face painting, pose with Maestro the dog, and even hear the wonderful talents of several Kindermusik graduates and parents who played and displayed their instruments for us all to enjoy.
One of the highlights of the Family Jam was the Instrument Petting Zoo, provided by Summerhays Music. We hope it inspired someone in your family to try a new instrument! Who knows what future musical journey may have received its seeds there! Did your child get to hold and touch a trumpet, or a flute, or a cello? We saw their eyes light up as they experienced the magic of gleaming brass, curious levers, slides, reeds, and bows. Best of all was the amazement they felt when they succeeded in producing sound on something so new!
Thanks to all of YOU, dear parents, grandparents, and other adult loved ones who have given your child the gift of Kindermusik at Song of the Heart Studios this past year. We hope that is has brought not only music into your family life but also growth, connection, and made your hearts swell with joy!
We are sharing the joy all summer long, so come sing with us at Summermusik!
Last year, my 9-year old son, seemingly out of the blue, came to us and said, “I want to learn how to play the bagpipes.” Consequently, I’ve learned more about bagpipes than I ever thought I’d learn. I now know, for example, that there are only 9 notes on a bagpipe, and none of them are sharp or flat. I’m also learning to appreciate that, since bagpipes are always “on,” the way to generate diversity in articulation is with a variety of embellishments, like grace notes.
When I first started playing guitar 24 years ago, I remember there being a little bit of a learning curve, in terms of getting my fingers to stretch over the fret board and developing some calluses on my fingers so that it wasn’t quite so painful to push down on the strings. Still, within a couple of weeks, I could strum a pretty decent version of “Leaving on a Jet Plane.” Of course, now that I have an electric guitar, I’m learning to value the dexterity involved in a complex guitar solo, but I think there is a reason that the guitar is the ubiquitous campfire instrument—you don’t have to be a virtuoso to get everyone to sing Sweet Caroline with you.
Not so with the bagpipes. My son spent 7 months just learning how to play a scale and enough embellishments to get to the point he could play Amazing Grace on a practice chanter. We’re almost to the point of acquiring a set of pipes, nearly 11 months later. Even after he gets his pipes, it will take several months to get to the place that he can play them with all the drones.
Several weeks ago, the Song of the Heart Studio Facebook page (a font of great information, and worth following, by the way) led me to this article from New York Magazine, written by Po Bronson. In it, the author details a research study that highlights how important it is to praise kids for their efforts, rather than their genius. Doing so leads kids, even those who may not be so “smart,” to choose harder puzzles without fear of making a mistake and looking not smart. They stick to a task and work at it more energetically–habits that lead, obviously, to other successes.
Research studies continue to tell us, “Organized music lessons appear to benefit children’s IQ and academic performance have a high correlation to success in school.” (American Psychological Association, June 2006, Vol 37, No. 6 Print version: page 13.) (And you can also find articles about it here and here.) I’m sure there are lots of things happening in the brain that support why this is so. But, based on my own anecdotal experience, I think that part of the correlation comes from the intrinsic payoff that comes after putting in the hard work of learning a song.
For instance, I’m noticing with my son that because he has to continue to work at his chanter, he’s learning to persevere through things that don’t come easily. He’s learning how to be careful and slow down so that he can get all the embellishments in while keeping to a steady rhythm. He’s learning the habit of practice, and the value of repetition in building muscle memory. In other words, an intrinsic reward of creating music functions as the praise for hard work, rather than for genius. Solving yet another math equation on a story problem worksheet just doesn’t generate that same emotional high.
That’s not to say that there aren’t tears and tantrums over practice time in our house. And I’m still on this parenting journey, so I can’t say that this one thing will be key to his overall success as a fully-functioning adult. Nevertheless, the fact that he dares to wear his kilt to school, he finds joy in a birl well done, and he has worked to save money for his pipes, as well, I think these are all promising factors.
I continually sing Kindermusik’s praises for developing the whole child. But part of this whole child development includes music instruction, too.
I find myself continually writing in this blog about how Kindermusik develops the whole child (here, here and here, just to name a few). But as I sat in my daughter’s Kindmusik for the Young Child class this week, I realized that Kindermusik actually teaches music, too. Fancy that!
The first-year Young Child students have recently acquired their glockenspiels and have been diligently studying two-note patterns. They even have a variety of musical poems to recite as they work through the idea that the low notes are on the left of the glockenspiel (where the bars are long) and the high notes are on the right (where the bars are short).
Second year Young Child students build on this concept as they continue to add more notes and experiment with the lengthening and shortening of strings on a dulcimer.
Ah! But it doesn’t stop there!
I first became interested in Kindermusik as I listened to my sister-in-law describe this very concept. With my background as a secondary school educator, my lifelong interest in music, and having just had my second child, I knew that music instruction was important, but that I couldn’t possibly dream of having my particular preschooler sit at the piano and work with me to learn the notes. (I know some kids are capable of doing this, but none of mine have been—or, maybe better, I haven’t been able to do this with them.) Therefore, I was elated when she described the idea of using age appropriate activities to teach these concepts.
One of my favorite Kindermusik songs for babies is “Zoom-e-oh!” You may notice with your little one that when you sing “Up in the sky!” the notes are higher, while “Down to our toes” we sing at a lower pitch. You may dance to this song, lifting your baby up and down through the room, or you may use a scarf to play with, swishing it high and low. Though the concepts are simple, this is where our babies can begin to distinguish high and low notes—in an environment filled with love and nurturing.
As our children grow and become toddlers, they continue to learn through movement. You may notice that if a child who is just learning to talk says “up” or “down,” he or she also demonstrates the movement somehow—pointing, or even moving his or her whole body. In our Kindermusik toddler classes, you’ll see that we use simple poems and songs to tie the musical concept of high and low sounds with imaginative play, language development and movement. For instance, “Can you stretch like a cloud in the sky? Stretch big and tall, stretch up high!” Or, in another one of my favorite Kindermusik songs, you may “Walk along, Rover” or “Crawl along, Rover,” which has the added benefit of encouraging kids to explore opposite movements.
Once children become preschoolers, their locomotor skills have drastically improved. Therefore, they can become much more sophisticated in their imaginative play—hopping, skipping or galloping. This allows us to go for a hike in the mountains and fly like birds or hop around on the ground like bunnies. Additionally, children this age explore a greater variety of musical instruments, so that they learn about the different timbre of each one and see that there are some that make higher sounds (like bells) and some that make lower sounds (like drums).
At the Kindermusik by Song of the Heart studio, however, musical learning doesn’t stop with a child’s graduation from Kindermusik. With the Suzuki Singers class, children can learn to match pitches with their voice, and in Simply Music Piano or ukulele classes, kids develop skills to produce a variety of pitches on a couple of different instruments that may appeal to them.
And, yes, I suppose I could make a case for applying musical concepts of high and low sounds to something philosophical, like helping kids understand the highs and lows of life. But, sometimes just learning the music is great, too!
It never fails. The more I learn about educational theory, the more amazed I am by the Kindermusik approach to early childhood education.
As I’m getting ready to return to a school classroom to teach Spanish (my job before being a mom and Kindermusik educator), I attended a conference for teachers of world languages last week in Denver. One of the big trends in foreign language education is Comprehensible Input, or the idea that we acquire and are able to use a new language when we understand what we hear. Of course, we have to grow, so we learn new, small chunks at a time, with lots of repetition of those chunks—it’s what Dr. Stephen Krashen calls a “plus one” component. We stick with what we can understand, and push ourselves a little bit. Over time, this brings fluency.
Kindermusik understands that a parent or guardian is the child’s best teacher, and Kindermusik educators are here to facilitate that interaction and learning. Instinctively, these caregivers are a child’s best language teacher. We simplify our vocabulary when referring to “mama,” “daddy” or “juice,” and we go from, “Juice?” to “More juice?” to “Want more juice?” in such a natural way that language educators look to them for guidance in teaching a second language.
You’ll see this mirrored in Kindermuik class, and not just in the Signing Time where kids are learning yet another new language. Specific words get repeated in songs and chants (rhythm makes everything better), and we repeat things from week to week, with little tweaks to the activity that make it grow from, for example, a seated game to a full dance.
In a Kindermusik class, our educators will model how to scaffold music-making with your child. We base this principal Vygotsky’s theories of child development. As Lynne Cameron notes in Teaching Languages to Young Learners, “(Other people) play important roles in helping children to learn, bringing objects and ideas to their attention, talking while playing and about playing, reading stories, asking questions. In a whole range of ways, adults mediate the world for children and make it accessible to them. . . . With the help of adults, children can do and understand much more than they can on their own.” (pg. 5)
In Kindermusik class, you’ll see this when you watch an adult and child tap rhythm sticks together. You’ll notice that it works best when a caregiver keeps his or her sticks still and allows the child to tap those. You’ll also see scaffolding when you watch a dance in one of the baby classes—as a little one gets twirled in the air, she gets movement through space in ways she wouldn’t be able to on her own (obviously!). Or, with the bigger kids, kids will learn the glockenspiel note by note, with lots of guidance and instruction from Ms. Carol.
In fact, this principal is so important, Vygotsky held that we measure intelligence not by what a child can or cannot do alone, but what they do with guidance. Personally, I believe the kids in our studio are extremely brilliant, but I’m probably a little biased.
Not many more weeks until Kindermusik starts back up again in the fall! Hope you’ve had a great time at a Song of the Heart Summer Camp, and we’ll see you soon. . .
The Blue Man Group came to my daughter’s school this week to teach them a little about what they do. You can read more about it here. My husband and I saw them in Las Vegas over New Year’s—I know I’m late to the party in discovering them, but I instantly fell in love.
I could probably write dissertation on the history of drums, and many people have done just that, with more expertise and eloquence than I can. Nevertheless, here are some interesting tidbits for you to think about, next time you find yourself drumming in Kindermusik class:
You don’t actually need a physical drum to do percussion for a song. While people have been using their bodies for percussion for centuries, the modern, human “beat box” developed as hip hop and rap began implementing drum machines in their music, starting in the 80’s. Of course, it didn’t take long for the human beat box to infiltrate all types of music:
Though it seemed obvious to me once I learned it, bagpipes are either “on” or “off.” A piper cannot employ volume swells. Therefore, the drums in a pipe band (though they have many functions) serve to lend a pipe band further interest through the addition of dynamics:
Steel drums from Trinidad and Tobago aren’t really drums—at least, not in the way we think of a snare drum or bass drum. They are called “drums” because they originate from oil drums or other similar steel containers. They are a percussion instrument, of course, but they belong to the “idiophone” group of instruments, rather than the “membranophones” (the difference being whether one is striking a membrane to cause a vibration sound, or the whole instrument itself). Being idiophones, the steel drums are related to wood blocks, triangles and marimbas (all instruments we get to play with at the studio!).
What a plethora of possibilities for participation n percussion!
The Opportunity Foundation of America is located in Salt Lake City, though they collaborate with Boston College to be the manufacturer, distributor and provider for the technology used in the EagleEyes Project
EagleEyes (if you opt not to watch the video) allows children and adults with severe disabilities (such as cerebral palsy or traumatic brain injuries) to communicate, using electrodes that sense the electrical signals of a person’s eyes. People who are otherwise unable to move or otherwise interact with their world, then, use their eyes to operate the mouse of the computer, enabling them to play games but also communicate in other ways.
I enjoyed hearing about the impact that volunteering had on the volunteers themselves, that they often come away with a greater appreciation for even the small things in their lives. As Debbie told us, the foundation trained the students in the Community of Caring class at Olympus High to volunteer. In addition to attending Hartvigsen School to work one-on-one with the kids using the EagleEyes, the Olympus students have also raised money for additional units to gift to children who need it at home.
To be sure, I appreciated learning about this project, especially at this time of year when we reflect on the many things for which we are grateful. Debbie told us of the gratitude that the people with disabilities have, as well as their families, for the good that has come through this technology (which, incidentally, was developed by a man who insisted it be a non-profit venture).
However, Debbie said that, especially with older kids and young adults, the first thing that they have to teach is the principle of cause and effect. People who have had someone do everything for them, since their birth, do not naturally learn that their actions have effects. As I have neurotypical kids, it hadn’t occurred to me until just that moment what might be involved in teaching cause and effect, and how critical it is to the rest of our learning.
Certainly, I’m still trying to work on this even with my kids—my daughter has to learn that when she doesn’t complete her typing practice for the week, she doesn’t get any faster. It’s hard as a parent not to interrupt this learning process sometimes, especially when we see our kids hurting. Of course, it’s one of the reasons why I like Love & Logic as a discipline system, because they emphasize that consequences are our children’s greatest educators.
Additionally, I reflected on the basic things we do in Kindermusik that help our children develop a sense of cause and effect. The bell ringing? You did that, oh little one.
As they say at St. Jude’s, give thanks for the healthy kids in your life. And if you know of anyone who may benefit from volunteering with the Opportunity Foundation of America, or who could use this technology, you can get additional information at their website: http://opportunityfoundationofamerica.org/
Bell choir season is upon us. I attended just such a concert last weekend and left in amazement. (Well, also with some bells still ringing in my head, but since I attend bell choir concerts very rarely, that’s OK.)
(This isn’t the choir that I saw, but in researching this post, I found this clip of young high school students performing “Rolling in the Deep” and thought it was worth sharing.)
As part of the guitar lessons I’m taking, I play in a band. Even though I played in a band in junior high school, this is a whole different experience for me. Perhaps because I’m an adult now, and can appreciate the challenge of needing a drummer who stays on beat and the role my electric guitar fills have in creating the final piece. Perhaps it’s because there aren’t 15 trumpets to drown me and my little ol’ flute out. Perhaps it’s because, you know, we’re not a junior high band (I think, if there is a special level of heaven for junior high teachers, as so many say, then there is an extra special level for the music teachers).
At any rate, with some experience now playing in a group (and there are only 6 of us), I walked away from the bell concert with total admiration for the level of ensemble work that the bell ringers (upwards of 40 people) exhibited. For instance, as every bell ringer plays just one or two notes, when they play a chord along with other players they have to figure out how to either play with the exact same volume (if that is what is required), or, conversely, which note will stand out. Then they have to do this across time, as well, so that multiple players participate in similar dynamics.
Those are just elements of teamwork that take place during the song. What if someone is sick? Or breaks their arm? Do they have understudies for different notes? What about practicing? They must spend a lot of time and energy preparing for such a concert. Much of a hand bell choir’s skill involves chiming in (hah!) at just the right moment, so being with each other to practice is critical.
In the Kindermusik for the Young Child classes, students begin learning how to play in an ensemble. Such a skill transfers directly over to other activities (such as sports or schoolwork), but it also creates a great foundation for additional music ensemble work. Turn-taking, cooperation, steady beat and rhythm all come together when kids learn how to create music as part of a community. One bell doesn’t sound very interesting, but put 40 bell ringers together and something amazing happens. The same is true of our Kindermusik students—they see that, when they all come together in something, the group creates something that any one person can’t produce alone. I have really appreciated that my kids have been part of just such a musical community, in part because by doing so, my kids are learning how to navigate the complexities of a world where we must work together.
After a moment, I became enthralled with her movements, realizing that for all the time that I’ve played with the castanets during instrument play in the studio, I have never once figured them out to my satisfaction. Yes, I find them just as much fun to play with as my kids. I promise I take turns.
Ah, grateful that we live in the information age, and for a wi-fi connection. For your education, I give you three “how-to” castanet videos that I found especially helpful (though I don’t have my castanets here to practice, you can bet I’ll put them on when I get home).
Do you wonder why we have castanets at the studio? First, it gives kids yet one more instrument to explore according to their own choice, helping them learn and retain information better. It’s also a great way to give our kids some power over their lives, something that in turn helps them follow our instructions when needed. Additionally, playing with castanets exposes to different timbres, and any time kids work on keeping a steady beat they are learning a foundational skill for many other activities, including running or cutting with scissors. Finally, it means that one day, they may be sitting in the audience of a play, and they’ll know what a castanet is, and stand in admiration of anyone who can make it look easy.