The Sense of Kindermusik

Once upon a time (because that’s how all good stories start), nine years ago, I was visiting my in-laws in Seattle.  My sister-in-law was, at the time, getting a license to teach Kindermusik.  She told me that one of the hallmarks of a Kindermusik class was how kids learned musical concepts through using their bodies—so, for example, kids would learn the difference in pitch by crouching low for low sounds and stretching high for high sounds.  Everything I had learned in my formal training to be a secondary educator led me to recognize immediately the sound pedagogy of what she was sharing.  Age appropriate?  Check.  High interest?  Check.  Incorporating a variety of learning modalities (in this case, aural and kinesthetic)?  Check.  I was sold.

However, a quick search revealed that there was no Kindermusik program within 50 miles of where we were living at the time and I decided that if my kids were going to benefit from the program, I’d have to be their instructor.  My Kindermusik career was born.

Flash forward nine years (even though few fairy tales ever share with us “the rest of the story”), and I realize that, yes, what my sister-in-law said was true.  There’s nothing like climbing up the ladder, climbing to the tip top and sliiiiddding down (especially when accompanied by a slide whistle) to help kids understand musical concepts.  I love that Kindermusik uses this approach to teach musical concepts.

But I’ve also learned that kids in a Kindermusik class learn more than just musical modalities.  Take, for instance, the concept that Ms. Carol was teaching in the preschool class this week: smooth and bumpy.  Of course, this is a great way to teach staccato and legato (because where would we be without great staccato songs, or amazing legato songs?).  But “smooth” and “bumpy” are themselves important concepts for preschoolers to learn.

When most of us are born, we have the capacity to learn about textures, but we haven’t yet developed the ability to distinguish between them.  This is why so many children’s books or toys have textures built into them.  It’s a way that we can wire kids’ brains for effective learning.  Nevertheless, if you ever question the role that processing different textures has our lives, you need only ask a parent or an instructor of a child who lacks this capacity.  People with sensory processing disorder will probably tell you how difficult it can be to manage such a thing.

Feeling the textures in a book (or even talking about the textures of the animals in the “Animals A-Dancing” unit that we’re doing) can give kids a kinesthetic sense of texture.  Nevertheless, tossing the parachute up and down, making it go slow and smooth or rough and bumpy, can also help kids develop a sense of texture—but this time, it’s through a visual cue.  And then there’s the sense of hearing—what does a smooth song sound like?  A bumpy song?

As children get older and can begin to process abstract concepts, we can look at “smooth” and “bumpy” in terms of metaphors.  If you’re anything like me, sometimes getting dinner on the table can be a fairly “bumpy ride.”  Or, maybe it’s “smooth sailing” from here on out?  Have you ever stopped even notice that a smoothie shouldn’t still have chunks of fruit in it?  No bumpy smoothies!  The definitions of those words become so ingrained in our brain’s make-up, we sometimes don’t even notice how they form the basis for so many other phrases.

So, yes, our kids are learning musical concepts in Kindermusik, and this helps them foster a lifelong love of music.  But that’s only because music is such a great way for our kids to develop into whole people.  And that, in the end, is what Kindermusik is all about.

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