The Power of Singing to Kids

Father and daughter singing together into wooden spoons.

On one of our puppy’s first car rides, he began to whimper and tremble in distress.

“Try singing to him,” suggested my 7-year-old. And so I began to hum “Baby Mine,” a lullaby I have sung to my children every night since they were born. It’s what I sing when they wake up to nighttime thunder at 3am. It’s what I sing when they are sick and need some extra soothing. Sometimes I even catch myself humming it to myself before I give a presentation.

And as my son predicted, my puppy settled down by the second verse.

It’s not that particular song that’s special — it’s simply that act of singing. As Dr. Anita Collins, author of “The Music Advantage: How Music Helps Your Child Develop Learn and Thrive,” told me, “Song is our very first language, and it is an incredible mechanism to connect with babies and other human beings.”

Here are three reasons we should sing to our kids.

1. Sing to build connection.

Don’t worry if you can carry a tune, Collins said. “Your baby doesn’t care. They are picking up that you are a safe person, that you are a person they are connected to. You are your baby’s favorite rockstar.”

There’s a reason we instinctively use sing-song sounds with young children. Before they learn speech, they learn sounds — and melody is highly appealing to young children. Think about how kids light up when we do song-based finger plays with them, such as “Five Little Monkeys” or “Where is Thumbkin.” Preschool and children’s librarians know that an engaging opening song can grab kids’ attention and quickly build a sense of togetherness. Schools and faith traditions use songs to foster community. And a family dance party or karaoke night is a great way to get the wiggles out and make memories.

2. Sing to support brain development.

Nina Kraus is a neurologist who has spent years studying the effects of music on the brain. When it comes to helping kids develop the skills they need to learn, “music is the jackpot,” she told me. According to her research, music builds attention, working memory, and language development. It’s also highly motivating and emotionally satisfying, which is also key to learning.

And before kids ever take a music class, simply singing to them, rocking them, and bouncing them really pays off. Rhythm is directly linked with learning how to read. In fact, school-age children who struggle with keeping a beat are more likely to have reading challenges.

“Strengthening one’s rhythm skills, which is something that music does inherently, creates a biological foundation that helps with language and literacy,” Kraus said. When we sing to our kids, their brain is exposed to sounds, rhythms, and rhymes that are the building blocks of reading.

3. Sing to teach routines and skills.

If I asked you to recite the alphabet, chances are you would sing it to me. If you can recite all fifty states, you might have had an elementary school teacher who taught you a song about it. And there’s a reason every “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” episode contains a strategy song. Songs are memorable! Kids are still developing their executive function skills — including working memory — so putting a routine to music makes it easier for them to remember.

Singing to and making music with our kids is a winner. It builds connections, enhances feelings of safety, promotes brain development, and teaches skills. So don’t worry about the quality of your vocals. You really are your child’s favorite rockstar.

-Reposted from PBS; written by Deborah Farmer Kris

Jingles: More than Commercials

Ice cold milk and an Oreo cookie. They forever go together; what a classic combination.

You’re thinking about Oreos now, aren’t you? Maybe you’re experiencing either a positive association (“Oh, I like Oreos! I have a hankering for some Oreos.”) or a negative association (“Yuck. I hate Oreos.”)

Let’s try another one.

Ba da ba ba ba . . . I’m lovin’ it.

You’re either picturing those Golden Arches in your mind or your mouth is watering as you think about salty fries.

These jingles are used in marketing because they hardwire the brain to trigger thoughts of their product whenever you hear that melody. It’s a pavlovian response.

Music is the ONLY stimulus that lights up ALL areas of the brain at the same time. This makes it an overwhelmingly powerful tool to train, hijack, or hack our brains.

Marketers use it to make us think about and therefore crave their products. Runners use it when they play their favorite playlist to get them through the mental wall that can happen on a long run. Television and film directors use music to manipulate the emotions of their audience and to enhance the story they are trying to tell.

Well you might have noticed that we employ this same technique in Kindermusik classes. One of our favorite class “jingles” is 

Bells away, bells away, it’s time to put the bells away.

(For those musicologists among us, we sing our “clean up” song on the interval of a simple descending minor third, known in solfege as sol-mi. Why? Because this is the first and most commonly occurring interval in nursery rhymes and children’s songs. It is familiar and easy way to trigger that little brain.)

We SING the instruction to clean up instead of speak it because it creates an auditory cue. An auditory cue is a sound signal that represents an incoming sign, received through the ears, and interpreted by the brain. When used regularly in Kindermusik classes it signals to your child, even the nonverbal babies, that it is time to clean up. That it is time to put away something they are having fun with. At first many children will resist the transition of putting away the instrument they are exploring. But through time and repetition when they hear their teacher sing the cue “instruments away” they have a much easier time letting the item go, understanding that this activity is coming to a close, and it is time to move on.

We do the same thing with our Goodbye Ritual. We sing goodbye. We wish each other well. (This time we sing our wish well on a descending open fifth, or sol-do.) This simple auditory cue lets the children know that it’s time to leave the room, put on their shoes, and get in the car.

We see children ALL THE TIME who struggle mightily with transitions. They do NOT want to put away their shaker. They do NOT want to leave Kindermusik class when it’s over. But with time, they learn these cues, and its helps them in their transition.

Everything we do in Kindermusik has a developmental and pedagogical reason. Even our simple clean up tune.

You can try this at home. Every time you need to get your little one to put away their toys and put on their shoes to get out the door, start singing “toys away.” Or perhaps “shoes on, shoes on, it’s time to put our shoes on.” (You’re hearing our clean up melody in your head now, aren’t you?)

You will see your little one’s ability to transition from one activity or task to the next improve. See what parts of your day you can insert a little musical cue into and watch how it helps your child understand the routine and expect what’s next.

Welcome Back

Happy New Year to all our music friends! We hope you rang in the new year with loved ones and celebrated in whatever way brings you joy. Whether you stay up late and count down until midnight, or you tuck in early to get a good night’s sleep.

Now that we’ve had two weeks off of our normal lives and routines we all feel a little off-kilter. Our routines ground us. Our routines give our children a sense of security and predictability. When those routines go out the window and are replaced with vacation, holidays, visits, celebrations, or parties, we all feel a little out of equilibrium.

Have you noticed your children are more irritable than usual? Are they more prone to tantrums lately? It’s likely because their routines have been disrupted. So this week as you get back into the swing of your regularly scheduled lives, we encourage you to re-establish your children’s routines as well. Bring back that security and sense of normalcy for them and you’ll see them slip back into normal behavior patterns.

That is if you can consider any child’s behavior patterns normal. It seems like just when we get a grip on whatever development changes our children experience they are changing again and we are back to figuring out how to manage them. So keep those rituals and routines you have in your family rock-solid.

Sing that bedtime/bath time/diaper time song together. Pull out the I Love You Ritual that you learned in your Kindermusik class. Slow down for a minute and CONNECT with your little one. Engage in some intentional touch, be fully present, make eye contact with them, and enjoy a little playfulness. It will boost those feel-good hormones for both you and your child and ground you, ready for what comes your way next.

From the HEART of our studio and our JOY team we wish you the happiest of New Years as we get through this winter together. See you soon!

Ready, Set, Sing!

It’s that time of year again! There’s been a run on school supplies and the stores are wiped out. You can’t find a pencil case to save your life. There’s an excitement in the air for children as they return to school. There’s a nervousness in the air for the adults about the new Delta variant. Crossing guards, 20 mph school zones, and yellow busses slow down our morning commutes once more.

What does this mean for us at Song of the Heart Studios?

It means we have been working behind the scenes getting ready for a brand new season of joy and music making with you! Our summer break is anything but. We spend our break time dreaming up new ways to bring extra sparkle to your Kindermusik experience. We have been sprucing up the studio. We are brushing off our lesson plans and brushing up on our pedagogy skills. We’ve been learning about positive psychology and refocusing our attention on the details in a class that make the biggest impact for you. We are reviewing our Covid protocols to make sure that we are providing the safest possible environment for your families to continue to come and enjoy the Kindermusik experience during these crazy times.

Everything we do at Song of the Heart Studios is motivated by our love for music, our love for our Kindermusik families, and our deep belief that the answer to all of society’s problems is excellent early childhood education. When you invest in your child’s development at this age, their brains are wired in healthy ways that sets them on a trajectory for mental and social health and happiness. So thank you for doing not only what is best for your child, but what is best for the world. Thank you for letting us be a part of their childhood development.

We can’t wait for you to walk through our doors soon so we can watch your hearts sing and your children flourish!

Healthy Helps in Tough Times

It’s that time of year when our schedules and routines are being renegotiated and shuffled around again. It’s exciting to anticipate back to school, back to Kindermusik, and transitions in our daily lives.

But given the current state of the world, it’s also stressful! Planning the upcoming months under our present circumstances is a new challenge we haven’t met before. So as you adjust your routines and expectations, here are some ideas to build into your daily habits for keeping it healthy and keeping it happy.

1. Follow the Rhythm

Normally you hear advice about establishing a schedule. And yes, schedules can lead to routines that structure your day. If you have to be to a certain place at a certain time, schedules are essential. But if you’re now homeschooling, or your kids aren’t yet of school age, try following a rhythm as opposed to a schedule.

Our bodies have natural rhythms. So do our families! Your weekend rhythm might be different than your weekday rhythm. Your family rhythm might fluctuate depending on what configuration of caregivers are in the home, and how that configuration changes throughout the week and month.

Just as you listen to the beat of a song, and match your body’s movements to its rhythm, match your day’s tasks to the rhythm of your family. Follow the ebbs and flows of energy and tiredness, of alertness and sluggishness. Mold your daily activities around that rhythm.

2. Take a Walk

Studies show that getting outside is good for our mental health as well as our physical health. Maybe you’re not comfortable letting your kids play on the public playground at the park right now, but a walk is always a good idea. Send them on a visual scavenger hunt where they have to look for cracks in the sidewalk, a certain colored front door, unique yard art, ant colonies, etc.

Have them be sound detectives and go on a listening walk. Have them practice active listening so they can tell you what they heard. Birds chirping? Someone mowing their lawn? A truck driving by? A dog barking? Hummingbird wings? What else can you and your children hear?

3. Dance it Out

Joyful movement releases endorphins and decreases stress hormones. Who doesn’t want that? Especially nowadays! Your children are so perceptive that they will echo whatever energy you are putting out into your home. Stressed with distance working or learning? Your kids feel it too. One of the quickest and most sure-fire ways to break up the stress pattern and hit the reset button is to get up and move. Put on your favorite playlist or open the Kindermusik app and find a favorite tune from class, then invite your child to dance with you. You will BOTH feel INSTANTLY better.

4. Color and Crafts

Remember those Kindermusik online materials you have access to? Dust off an old unit you haven’t experienced in a while and print off a coloring sheet or craft page. There are so many ideas there for simple, quick, and easy activities you can do together at home. Or just pull out an old coloring book and some colored pencils. Let your child color outside the lines and use nontraditional colors for each element of the picture. As you color together, those feel-good hormones will flow.

5. Bring Back Family Dinner

It doesn’t have to be elaborate. It doesn’t have to take lots of ingredients or time. The simple task of teaching your child to set the table while you pull dinner out of the oven teaches them teamwork and responsibility. And then as you sit together at a table at the end of the day, it brings structure to the day, and kicks off the evening routine as you prepare for bed.

You could even put on some dinner music to set the mood, each night rotating which member of the family gets to choose the genre or playlist.

6. Set Quiet Hours

Every caretaker needs a break, some downtime, and some self-care. Is your little one too old fo nap time? Mandatory quiet time in their room is a gift to your child and to yourself. Put them to bed 30 minutes earlier. Require an hour of solitude in their room after lunch. This may be an extremely challenging one to implement, but it will reap rewards once your child learns to entertain themselves quietly for a while. Maybe they will read a book, look at pictures, color, do puzzles, play with toys, and just find ways to keep themselves to themselves. It’s a learned skill! And it gives you a few minutes to slip in a quick mindfulness meditation or cup of coffee. Put your own oxygen mask on first, grownups.

8. Give Yourself Grace

We are living in unprecedented times. It’s been a century since the last pandemic affected us this much. And we’ve never had to parent during a pandemic during the digital age before. Online learning, remote working, still trying to meet our regular responsibilities. Everyone’s cortisol levels are high right now. So give yourself some grace. You are doing a fantastic job. You’re showing up each day and giving your child what they need. You may not be perfect, you may not meet all their needs all the time, but you are doing amazingly. You are enough. Reconnect to your breath, and give yourself some grace. Carry on, Hearties.

Back to Basics

Ah, January. The magic of the holiday season is behind us. We have overdosed on fun and food, and on free-time and screen-time. Returning to the routines and schedules of work and school is both a relief and a shock to our system. The re-entry to responsibility after time off can a difficult adjustment. Good thing we had all those routines in place beforehand! They are like gold to parents now as we struggle to get back to normal.

Combine the holiday hangover with the cold temperatures, dreary gray sky, limited outdoor time, and dark mornings, and you have a tough month to get through.

Luckily you have Kindermusik at Song of the Heart to help you through this transition!

Kindermusic classes are filled with familiar routines, and as we welcome you and your children back into our studios, we hope getting back to normal here with us feels good to your brain and body. As with any re-start after a break, there can be some bumps in the road. Don’t be surprised if your child has a hard time settling down in class, or things feel a bit chaotic for a while. Don’t get discouraged! Your child is transitioning back, and that will take some time. We are here to support you!

Here’s a reminder of a few things you can do to ease this transition and get the most out of your time in our studio:

1. Partner up. Focus on bonding with your child during your time together in class. Pay attention to what they are doing and follow their lead. They’ll feel supported and connected.

2. Move! Get up off the rug and dance with your child. Part of this is partnering and part of it is allowing the movers who need to move the time and space to do so. If your child gets up off the rug and needs to explore the room, that’s fine! Go with them. Bring them back when they’re ready.

3. Presence. Put that cell phone down and lose yourself in the silliness and joy of whatever activity is happening. Throw your inhibitions out the door and let your inner-child dance. Your child will feel the difference when you are experiencing class with them instead of just attending class with them.

4. Use those Kindermusik Online materials. With each new unit we push out to you online support materials that can take the Kindermusik experience from the studio and into your home. A dreary January afternoon is the perfect time to do a Kindermusik curriculum-related craft, dance, video, or activity. These resources are included with the cost of your monthly tuition and are a great way to transform your child’s screen time from one of disconnection to one of developmentally appropriate engagement and connection.

We are so glad to be back in the studio with you and your families this New Year!

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!

Welcome Back!

It’s Welcome Week here at Song of the Heart Studios and we are THRILLED to see you and your child’s shining eyes once more. We are in full swing teaching classes, reestablishing routines, forging new connections, and managing all the chaos that seems to accompany the return to the studio.

It is our mission that when you walk through our doors and experience a Kindermusik class with us, that your hearts will sing and your children will flourish. Everything we do as a studio and as educators is done intentionally with that aim in mind, as we strive to give you a stellar experience.

However, with the start of a new season, there may always be some bumps in the road. If your child is new to our studio or even just been away for a few weeks, the transition back into our routines can take some time. It is completely NORMAL for your child to act differently in class than they do at home. It is normal for them to seem overwhelmed, or shy, or hyperactive, or unsure. Our best piece of advice to ease this transition is to be patient. Give it time. Remember that repetition and consistency is KEY for children to learn.

Our delightful routines that take place in each class are carefully and intentionally structured to signal to your child what is about to happen and what is expected of them. As they (and you!) learn how our Kindermusik classes are run, their behavior will settle and become more predictable, your experience will become more consistently joyous, and you will see the benefits in their development over the course of the year. Raising these little ones is a marathon, not a sprint; we are overjoyed at the opportunity to be a part of this season in their development.

Now Let’s Sing!

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!