Be a S.T.A.R!

“Be a star!” at Kindermusik means a very different thing than if you heard that phrase at a dance studio, or even a different type of music studio. Elsewhere that phrase might bring up imagery of stages, lights, sequins, practiced smiles, and scripted choreography.

Here at Kindermusik, we focus on process based curricula, rather than performance based rehearsals. Every moment in a Kindermusik class is carefully planned to promote optimal age-appropriate development. Focusing on process rather than performance allows your children the time, space, and safety necessary to learn through exploration. This promotes cognitive development, social development, fine and gross motor development, and emotional development. We’re about the WHOLE child, not just the cute part that looks adorable on a stage. Joyful music exploration is the vehicle whereby we promote growth, rather than perfect performances being our goal.

So at Kindermusik, when we talk about being a STAR, we’re not talking about being a great performer. We’re talking about breathing. Breathing is such a fundamental part of being human, we do it without thinking. However, in times of stress our breathing becomes shallow and our brains don’t get the oxygen they need to function in the executive problem-solving state. In those moments when our brains are in flight-or-flight mode, we need a tool to bring our brains back up to the executive functioning level.

Enter breathing. Balloon arms anyone? Or perhaps some S.T.A.R. breathing? Studies show it takes about THREE deep, slow breaths to calm the nervous system and bring the brain out of fight-or-flight and return to a state of problem solving calm and learning readiness.

S. – Stop
T. – Take a breath
A. – and
R. – Relax

S.T.A.R. breathing is a technique you can use as an adult when work and parenting overwhelms you. It’s a technique you can teach your teens and tweens to employ when their lives get to be too much. It’s a process that elementary aged children and preschoolers can do when they need help with emotional regulation. And you can even hold your screaming infant to your chest and breathe deeply, helping them feel your slowing breath, to help them to slow and deepen their own breathing.

Calm breathing can help your child feel safe. Empathetic breathing between you and your child will remind them they are loved. Only when they feel safe and loved can they return to learning, focusing, cooperating, and functioning.

How’s your S.T.A.R. practice going at home?

Kindergarten? I’m Not Ready!! How To Prepare Your Child

In the not too distant future looms an important day. It’s almost time for your child to walk through the doors of Kindergarten as a student! Gulp. Take deep breaths. You’re an adult…you can handle this! Let’s focus instead on your child.

IT’S ABOUT MINDSET

The ultimate goal is that Kindergarten is a great experience for your child. An essential component of that is having a positive attitude regarding Kindergarten—one that rubs off easily on your son or daughter. That is best cultivated by maintaining a sunny outlook, being sure to take your child to visit the Kindergarten class and meet the teacher in advance of the first day, getting your child used to following routines, and other practical measures.

IT’S ABOUT THE WHOLE CHILD

But another essential component is doing your best to be sure your child has skills that set him or her up for success.

Remember the deep breathing strategy mentioned above? Try that now. Then read on…carefully.

Here’s the truth. Early Kindergarten success is not so much about reading and math readiness, alphabetical and counting skills. It is about the key characteristics Kindergarten teachers wish every child displayed:

  • Expressing feelings in healthy ways.
  • Displaying empathy.
  • Understanding and readily following direction.
  • Taking turns and sharing when playing with other children.
  • Practicing self-regulation (by delaying gratification, by stopping an action on demand, by adjusting voice volume to situations, by sitting still in order to pay attention).
  • Showing an interest in learning.

IT’S ABOUT PROVIDING THE RIGHT EXPERIENCES

So how do children get the skills Kindergarten teachers crave for them to have? It’s all about the experiences you provide.

Some of those experiences occur at home. You can give your child developmentally appropriate chores to do and routines to follow … and discuss how well your expectations are being met. You can ask your child to help you complete tasks, expressing your appreciation (and showing patience when small things might take longer to accomplish!). You can talk regularly to your child about how he or she feels. Show your appreciation about those feelings, modeling how to express them in calm ways. You can show your own joy at learning opportunities—whether it’s reading a book, cooking a new kind of food, or trying a new craft together. That joy is contagious.

For other experiences, go outside the home. Seek play opportunities with other children the age of your child. Find public library, museum, and recreational park activities to participate in. Join classes that focus on the well-being of the whole child.

Kindermusik classes, for example—that begin for babies and their parents and carry on through age 7—have all of the key skills for children baked into their lessons. Kindermusik music and movement classes offer natural ways to: reinforce self-regulation skills, highlight healthy expression of feelings, provide interactions with other children and parents, and set expectations for children to follow directions. For these reasons, many Kindermusik educators hear from elementary school teachers how appreciative they are when Kindermusik children enter their classrooms.

So, stop stressing in anticipation of the day you will try not to cry when saying goodbye to your Kindergartner. Focus on how well that day will go for your son or daughter!

Also helpful: Continuing to breathe. Be confident! The world is waiting to welcome your child.

-Republished from Kindermusik International

How to Calm an Upset Child with Music

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

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

How To Calm and Upset Baby | Kindermusik

Creating Feelings of Safety and Security

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

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

Singing calms babies longer thank talking. | Kindermusik

Building Self-Regulation

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

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

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

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

Managing Meltdowns

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

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

How to Calm an Upset Child with Music | Kindermusik

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

– Reposted from Kindermusik International

Babble On . . . It Benefits Baby!

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

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

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

Beyond Babbling

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

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

baby babble - kindermusik

Embrace Your “Baby Voice”

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

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

Cut Down on Cell Phone Babbling

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

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

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

baby babble - kindermusik

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

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

reposted from Kindermusik International

I Love You Rituals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Routines & Rituals

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Ready, Set, SING!

Here at Song of the Heart Studios we never stop working our hearts out to bring you the best educational musical experience for your children. Summermusik may be over, but we have been working behind the scenes to get ready for you to come back to us!

We’ve been planning all the fun and engaging events we will bring to you throughout the year.

We’ve been honing our skills to make sure we bring you the most talented and loving and skillful educators you could find anywhere.

We’ve been brushing up on our child development fluency to be able to communicate during class the benefits that are happening as they are happening.

We’ve been learning the best loving and gentle discipline practices and hope to impart them to you to help you at home in your parenting challenges.

We’ve been coordinating as a Joy Team to make sure our classes are both consistent yet distinct from teacher to teacher, from level to level, and from location to location.

Our commitment to you is that no matter what class you bring your child to, if you are in a new level, or if you are with a new educator, you will LOVE your experience. Not only are our classes jam-packed with JOY, CONNECTION, FAMILY, GROWTH, AND HEART, but you can rest assured that behind all of that fun is the invisible and crucial work of optimal whole-child development.

Kindermusik does ALL THAT. Who wouldn’t want THAT for their little one?

Can’t wait to see you. Monday classes start August 27th. All other classes start after Labor Day. Haven’t reserved your spot yet? See what’s available.

Kindermusik and I Love You Rituals = Perfection

Kindermusik class is like one long I Love You Ritual, isn’t it? We think that eye contact, touch, presence, and a playful structure are a fantastic combination. Mix them with MUSIC and it’s absolute perfection. We believe it’s the best combo for kids!

Why? Because music is the only activity that lights up the whole brain and I Love You Rituals are simple yet astoundingly powerful. Caring touch, kind words, and intentional routine will help form the kind of bond and connection that opens not just the heart but also the mind and the will. Because of the dopamine that’s released and the emotional connections that are made, I Love You Rituals actually wire the brain for greater impulse control, spur a desire for positive behavior, and increase attention span – all things that are crucial for children to succeed in relationships, in school, and in life.

Just as important as the I Love You part is the Ritual part. Rituals are those special ways you do things – the way you greet one another, the way you reconnect after time apart, or what you do every night before bed time. Rituals are not only meaningful, they are also deliberate and predictable. A simple I Love You Ritual strengthens relationships, builds trust, and makes life kinder and happier. Who doesn’t want that for their family?

– some content from kindermusikwithdana –

The Emotional Requirements of Parenthood

Downton Abbey“One forgets about parenthood. The on and on-ness of it.” –Violet, the Dowager Countess.

I know I’m a little late to the game, but I’ve been catching up on Downton Abbey before too many spoilers unwittingly come my way. We know Maggie Smith gets to deliver the best, most humorous lines, but this one left me virtually rolling on the floor the other night. (Season 3, episode 8)

It pretty much sums up exactly how I’m feeling these days, navigating the waters of middle school education and taking on extra work as a substitute (no, not much has changed about the life as a sub since you remember those days from your own schooling, except now there are cell phones), especially when I combine that work with the parenting challenges I’m facing.

There were great things about being an only child, and I’m firmly convinced that there is no perfect type of family. But daily I’m experiencing in my parenting life something I rarely encountered growing up as an only: sibling rivalry. It’s compounded by a day spent listening to my young students vocalize the same complaints: “She’s bugging me!” “He took the book I was reading!”

Aarrrgh!  It just keeps going!

I’m learning a lot personally this year as I navigate these discipline stressors.  I’m amazed at how often I’m required to be emotionally centered. Or, at any rate, how often I have to find the balance within myself to generate the emotional intelligence to deliver an appropriate, adult response.  The teenager still living inside me wants to roll my eyes and mouth off some sarcastic response like, “Oh, yeah? Well, you’re ALL bugging ME!” But the adult in me knows that this isn’t really going to help anything, and it may make it worse.

Instead, I have to take a few deep breaths and engage some empathy. Do I know what it is to feel like life is unfair, even if the details differ? (Hello, yes, I’m writing a whole blog post here about how tough it is to manage all the child development jobs I have right now.) Can I remember how frustrating it was to sit in school with kids I just didn’t like? (Yes. . . [shudders]) Are there times when I feel just plain tired or frustrated and all I want is for people to be patient and loving with me?

Pretty much, all the time.

Dr. John Gottman is a psychology professor emeritus.  His work centers around helping us understanding our emotions—how to develop, as he calls it, emotional intelligence, and then how to use specific skills to channel those emotions in the painful times, especially in family and marriage relationships.  He says, ““Much of today’s popular advice to parents ignores emotion. . . Instead it relies on child-rearing theories that address children’s misbehavior, but disregards the feelings that underlie that misbehavior. The ultimate goal of raising children should not be simply to have an obedient and compliant child. Most parents hope for much more for their children.”

Georgia Anderson, a Gottman trained Educator, will bring some of these skills to our Kindermusik studio on April 21 at 6:30, specifically focusing on the language of encouragement. You can see the steps on her blog (describe situations using facts, share your feelings and effects of the situation, and show gratitude in meaningful ways), but the best part of coming to a coaching session is the time we get to practice these skills so they become our first responses to parenting challenges rather than the “wish I coulda done that differently” thoughts after-the-fact.

Yes, at Song of the Heart, we have Kindermusik classes.  We encourage ongoing musical lessons through ukulele lessons and we continually broaden your child’s interests through other programs, like Spanish classes this summer. But we are in the business of educating the whole child, and guiding you on your parenting journey is one way we can do this. Can’t wait to see you there!

I Choose Long Division

piano heart

This little exchange from Mr. Holland’s Opus has been running through my head this week:

Principal: Each school in the district has been asked to submit proposals on ways of reducing costs by 10% in September. This is what I’ve decided.

Mr. Holland (looks at paper): The entire music department.

Principal: And art, and drama.

Mr. Holland: Well, congratulations, Gene. You’ve been looking for a way to get rid of me for 30 years and they finally gave you an excuse.

Principal: You know, I’m not as popular as you. I’m not anybody’s favorite anything.

Mr. Holland (interrupts): That’s because you’re the enemy, Gene. You just don’t know it.

Principal: BUT, I care about these kids as much as you do, and if I’m forced to choose between Mozart and reading and writing and long division, I choose long division.

Mr. Holland: Well, I guess you can cut the arts as much as you want to, sooner or later these kids aren’t going to have anything to read or write about.

In his well-known commencement speech at Stanford, Steve Jobs talked about dropping out of college and “dropping in” to classes that he enjoyed. He said, “Much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on.” Mr. Jobs chose to attend a calligraphy class during that time, and consequently you can read this blog in an interesting typeface. In fact, Tim Carmody, in a Wired business article, wrote, “Jobs’ ability to bring these two cultures [technology and the creative industry] together and translate between them contributed directly to Apple’s transformation from a computer company to a media company.”

Did you know that Mark Zuckerberg majored in psychology? It takes skill and proficiency in all kinds of domains to solve the challenges of the 21st Century. Unfortunately, our college graduates don’t seem to be getting the critical thinking skills they need. In 2011, a study led by Richard Arum, a New York University sociologist, showed that upwards of 45% of college students “made no significant improvement in their critical thinking, reasoning, or writing skills during the first two years of college.”[i] But, as Sara Rimer writes, “Students who majored in the traditional liberal arts — including the social sciences, humanities, natural sciences and mathematics — showed significantly greater gains over time than other students in critical thinking, complex reasoning and writing skills.”[ii]

For what seems to be my entire life, I’ve heard about the funding cuts that arts and music programs suffer at the hands of those with power to cut it. Richard Dreyfuss delivered those lines as Mr. Holland way back in 1995, after all. But we keep hearing about it, even in 2016.

If you’re reading this, I’m probably preaching to the choir. As part of our Kindermusik community, you come to class and appreciate the value of music and movement for our young children. Nevertheless, sometimes it’s helpful to keep in mind the bigger picture, when you’re asking your child to practice her recorder or clearing space in the family calendar to get your baby to the studio. This is more than just a fun way to spend a half an hour, to get out of the house for a break. You are helping build your child’s brain in ways that will have far-reaching consequences.

[i] http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/national/article24608056.html#storylink=cpy

 

[ii] ibid