This Is Your Brain On Music – Cognitive Development in Kindermusik

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I was going to write a long blog post about cognitive development. However, as I was searching for a quote to open the post, I found this article. It says it all. All I want to add is join us for a Kindermusik class and you will see all of this happening for 45 short minutes! Contact me for a free preview if you have never experienced our program before.

Learning Through Music: the Support of Brain Research

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Sing Sing Together – Music Development in Kindermusik

Music! Music! Music! Most parents, when they first contact us, are looking for music instruction for their children. First and foremost, Kindermusik is a music and movement program for children. All learning that takes place in class, is done through the beautiful and fun exploration of song.

Humans are inherently musical. We hear parents say over and over again, “She loves music.” “He’s always dancing.” “She loves to touch the piano, guitar, drums, etc.”  Every single person has the ability to experience, share, and enjoy music.

As with every other developmental area, we are conscientious about the activities being age appropriate and accessible to the children in class. Our instruments are safe for mouthing, are shaped to be easily held, are pleasing to the eye and the ear for our youngest infants. It is vitally important that children are active participants in our classes and not just passive listening. The instruments we use in class change as the children get older – always being inviting for exploration and creative play. By the time a child is five years old, he begins to learn to care for and carefully play instruments that are used by adults as well. He will receive his own glockenspiel, dulcimer and recorder by the end of Young Child 4.

Group singing without instrumental accompaniment ( a capella) is prevalent in every Kindermusik class. We are not auditioning for The Voice of American Idol. Children love the sound of the parent’s voice. Sing with joy, sing with enthusiasm and it will be a pleasing sound to your child. Our teachers love to sing, but they love the community of everyone in class singing along. Again, interaction and active participation are much preferred over passive listening. Each family receives the recordings of the songs used in class for use at home. In this way, the music learning continues throughout the week and the familiarity of the songs creates comfort in the classroom.

Variety is the spice of life! We use many different genres of music (classical, jazz, world music, children songs, newly composed songs) and many different timbres (orchestras, wind bands, jazz bands, choirs, male or female singers, world instruments) in every single class. Exposure to a variety of sounds and music from an early age makes new neural connections in the brain. When these sounds are repeated then those connections are strengthened and learning occurs.

Have you ever taken a child to church or a concert and tried to make them sit still and listen? It is like trying to pin down a cloud. In Kindermusik, we love when children use their bodies to explore the music. Movement is led, dances are taught, and using the body to explore rhythm and emotion are encouraged. Image

Come sing with us and see how much you and your child learn!

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We Like to Move It Move It – Physical Development in Kindermusik

”  Movement is essential to learning. Movement integrates and anchors new information into our neural networks.  Every time we move in an organized . . . manner, full brain activation and integration occurs, and the door to learning opens.” Carla Hannaford, Smart Moves

One of the things I noticed immediately when I first enrolled Hannah in Kindermusik is that she and her classmates were encouraged to use their bodies to learn. Both gross motor movement (jumping, running, stretching, bending, marching, dancing, twisting) and fine motor movement (grasping instruments, finger plays, manipulating scarves or hoops) were integral in all aspects of her toddler class. Having recently come out of teaching public school where I was not provided the space to have children move during music, and I fought constantly to try to keep children still and in their seats, I was so impressed and refreshed as my heart knew that more learning happens when we move.

We honor and encourage a child’s need to move to learn in Kindermusik classes. Even in the infant classes, where our youngest students are really mobile yet, we help parents encourage vestibular system development through bouncing, twisting, swaying, and rocking. This is a great article about the importance of movement in developing this crucial part of the brain.

We also provide ways for the babies to learn to control the movement of their limbs through songs that encourage clapping, shaking, swishing, grasping, marching, bicycling etc – whether propelled by the parent or completely by the child.

Toddlers move! Any parent who has ever taken a child to a restaurant or church knows how hard it can be to get a 2-4 year old to sit still for more than two or three minutes. In Kindermusik, we capitalize on this need to move by keeping the class very active. We begin to teach the children to still their bodies through inhibitory control (independently stopping on command) games, short periods of quiet listening (sometimes they don’t even stop during this period and it is okay – they are still learning that it is possible), and by leading them through songs that encourage marching, jumping, spinning (still great for that vestibular system), running (learning to control indoor, little step running versus what they would do on the playground), twisting and encouraging them to make up their own moves as well. Finger plays and instrument play are included in every class to develop fine movement skills that are necessary for typing, holding a pencil, using eating utensils, playing instruments, coloring etc.

Once in preschool, we are ready to continue to create even more ways to control our movement. Dances begin to have patterns to be recognized and learned, the instruments become smaller to grasp, the children’s ideas for movement are integral to every single class. Now inhibitory control may even be included in waiting turns, standing in line etc. Hopping on one foot, balancing on a “tightrope” (piece of tape on the floor) or following a prescribed movement pattern (zigzag, spin, curvy) are integrated into class.

Finally in our school age classes, children are encouraged to sit for longer periods of time (3-5 minutes)  but they are interspersed with periods of free dance so children may be creative in their movement, and group dances that use more intricate steps ready to be tackled with a stronger sense of balance. Fine motor skills include gripping the glockenspiel mallets which are thinner than most standard pencils, pinching a pick for the dulcimer between the thumb and forefinger, and covering the holes completely for a great sound on the recorder.

Children like to move it, move it and so do we. Every Kindermusik class is a high energy, fun-filled, movement packed 45 minutes of learning!

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If Only She Could Talk – Language Development in Kindermusik classes

Language development is a large focus of every Kindermusik class. It is very hard to do an activity that does not enhance language/communication in some way. There are many ways to communicate. In class we use words, signs, and non-verbal cues to aid children in being able to use language to their greatest advantages.

I remember when our daughter, Sarah, was a baby, I said “I wish she could tell me what she wants.” Babies do communicate from the very hours of life, but sometimes parents have a hard time understanding the language. In our infant classes, we do many things to start children on their way to a life time of sharing their thoughts and responding to others through language. Vocal play such as buzzing lips, humming (place your child’s hand on your throat as you hum a tune and watch her delight at the feeling), popping lips, clicking the tongue etc teaches a child, through observation and example, how the mouth, lips and tongue are used for forming words. In our classes at Miss Christa’s, and I know many of my colleagues around the world do this too, we use American Sign Language signs in our classes for STOP, LISTEN, HELLO, FINISH etc. Sign language can be utilized by children before the can talk to communicate their wants and needs. By teaching these signs to parents, we can alleviate frustration on both the parent’s and the child’s part during those years when vocal language is still in the developing stage. In all of our classes, but especially in this youngest age group, we label every movement. If we are walking, we state we are “walking” while we are moving. Moving and saying at the same time makes a definition and understanding connection for children before they can speak for themselves.

At the toddler age, the “terrible twos” or “tantrum threes” aren’t really about fit throwing, causing problems and intentional misbehavior, but stem from the frustration a child seeking independence feels at being unable to communicate in his world. Many parents tell me their favorite take away from class is the Clean Up Song. Why? Because they can use it to communicate with their children without yelling and screaming to get a desired outcome. We also begin to allow children choices by offering the “green” scarf or the “blue” scarf. Naming the colors makes a definition connection, and also allows the child to express his preference. At this age, we read a book in every class.Children begin to point out elements of the story in the picture, recite repetitive phrases and “read” it themselves. Active listening, providing feedback often through imitative vocal play once a sound has been heard, improves not only a child’s listening skills but also his ability to use his voice. We hear a sound of dog, and then make the sound of the dog ourselves. Identifying the source of the sound, and reproducing it is making strong language connections for your child.  We continue to label movements, name instruments, and explore the concepts of opposites in this age group.

Many of our infant and toddler classes use a variety of lap bounces and nursery rhymes.

“Nursery rhymes present stories in rhyming format, in a way that is not normally heard in everyday speech. This makes it easier for the child to pick out the rhyming words. Studies have shown that children who have trouble with rhyming words also have trouble learning to read. Introducing rhymes early gives your child practice with them.” From article on Wikiparenting – read the rest here

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When a child reaches preschool age, vocal language is becoming quite developed, and in most cases, children are communicating in sentences. We encourage this communication through pretend play, story telling, making up silly rhymes and reading more complex stories in class. In addition, children are taught songs to be song together in the group and independently at home. We do activities with graphic notation (representative pictures for music, movement or stories) as pre-reading skills. We also do many listening activities encouraging auditory discrimination. “Phonological awareness involves an appreciation of the sounds, as well as the meanings of words” (from Starting Out Right: A Guide to Promoting Children’s Reading Success, M.Susan Burns, Peg Griffin and Catherine E Snow editors, Committee on the Prevention of Reading Difficulties in Young Children, National Research Council) Instrument exploration activities encourage children to be sensitvie to nuances of different sounds. This also helps them become sensitive to and appreciative over the subtle differences in the sounds of language as they continue to develop and fine tune their language skills.

Finally as the children reach the school aged group, we continue to add more musical terminology to their vocabulary, introduce them to opera and ballet stories, and music and tales from around the world. Through these sources they experience more culture and enhance their understanding of both music and the world around them. We encourage them to express themselves through song and encourage individual and group singing.

Want to see for yourself how language rich a Kindermusik class is? Contact us for a free preview and participate with your child.

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Happy children Happy parents – Emotional Development in Kindermusik classes

Last week I started a series of posts about the different areas of development targeted in each and every Kindermusik class. We discussed social development at length and the importance having a group of children in class has in our curriculum.

Equally important is a child’s personal emotional development. In class, we are able to provide a place for parents and children to bond without the distractions of household, work, electronics, busyness and to make music together. As a former Kindermusik parent, this was one of the most important benefits I saw in class. For 45 minutes each week, I had complete permission to do nothing but play, sing, dance and cuddle my daughter. There were no papers to grade, no clothes to wash, no mail to open, bills to pay, floors to vacuum. Just time for us. And, we took home songs and activities that made the times I needed to do those things even easier!

Infants – In the infant class, intentional touch (massage) is a routine part of every class. This touching and the eye contact made between parent and child during this activity. Studies show that massaging an infant can reduce crying and fussiness, help her sleep more peacefully and alleviate constipation and colic. We also dim the lights during every class and take a few minutes of quiet, listening time. This is a time parents, as well, as the children, can take a deep breath and relax. I often say in my classes that no one is born knowing how to relax. We must learn as parents so that we can then teach by example for our children. To that end, to community of parents in the Kindermusik class often becomes a support network for each other providing emotional support and strength for adults as well as children.

Toddlers – We like to say the toddler age is the Kangeroo stage. The child is exploring independence (I can do it myself!) but still wants and needs to security of the parent to be present at all times. Through the music and play in this class, the child and parent explore together. We can encourage the child’s desire to become independent thinkers and creators through the play and interaction we have in class. Often we encourage parents to allow the child to be the leader, copying the way he moves, plays an instrument, or sings gives validation to the child’s skills and helps lead the child to new more complex skills by creating a common jumping off point. Just as in the infant class, parents also development a network of support for the exciting but challenging events having a toddler in the house can present. 100_1881

Preschool – Most parents I know stress just a little at the thought of separating from their child when it is time to go to daycare, school or even a babysitter. In the preschool class, we provide a secure place where the separation distance is usually only divided by a wall. This security, I find, is as important for parent as it is for child. We also begin exploring emotions through instrument play, words, and movement. The preschooler’s developing oral communication (an upcoming post) provides a newfound way to express feelings, but it still can be hard to have words. Being able to express through movement and sound can be a great emotional release.

Young Child (school-age) – Music is a time honored vehicle for expressing emotion. In the Young Child class, the children develop the skills to play instruments, sing on pitch, and begin reading music to continue on a lifelong journey of self-expression. This alone, is a strong emotional skill. But, the confidence, pride and self-esteem they gain in achieving this level of learning also carries over to success in sports and school as well.

I am so happy to have been able to share these thoughts with you. At Kindermusik with Miss Christa and Friends all of the teachers find great joy in reaching out and encouraging children and parents to explore music and feel good about themselves. Until next week – have musical days!

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Plays Well With Others – Social Development in Kindermusik

Plays Well With Others – Social Development in Kindermusik.

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Plays Well With Others – Social Development in Kindermusik

This is the first in a series of blog posts that will explain how your child benefits developmentally from being enrolled in class. I have mentioned many of these learning opportunities before, but I don’t think I have ever pulled them apart and really talked about each.

I have always wondered if we could create world peace through the skills learned in Kindermusik. As we sing, play, dance and laugh together there is joy. As we work together to assemble a puzzle, build a tower, clean up the instruments, there is unity. I just wonder if we piped across the world “guns away, bombs away, time to put our hatred away”, if we could have a global effect on people’s attitudes. I’m sure that is probably an extremely lofty goal, but I know that Kindermusik kids learn quickly to interact and participate within a social setting through our games of play and cooperation.

No child is born knowing how to interact with peers, feel comfortable around strangers, or share personal space. Most children are often the center of the universe for the first years of life. As with everything a child learns, the best way to learn during the earliest years of life is through exploration, process and play. Through supervised, organized play such as happens in Kindermusik children learn how to express themselves, socially appropriate ways to mingle with others, and comfort of being with children and adults outside of the family circle.

In our infant classes, babies learn about themselves and gain new skills in part through interaction with other people. When we do a circle dance and face those babies in a circle, they are exposed to others their own size. They see others and learn to recognize themselves as well. Often in the infant class, we begin to see those on their way to the toddler years sitting with other parents, touching noses, ears, hair (yes we have to learn that pulling hair and poking eyes is not an okay way to say hello) on other friends, and being fascinated with babies smaller than themselves. For our youngest infants, we observe how they fixate on the movement of their older, bigger peers and often these students who start in class at a very young age (we’re talking just a few weeks old) , develop faster due to imitation of their peers. Image

In the toddler class, we want to foster both independence and a place for the child in the group. One, of many ways, we do this is through our Hello Song. We always sing hello to each child and select a movement including the child’s name in the verse. As children become familiar with the routine of class, we begin to solicit the child’s ideas for movement. This acknowledges their important presence in the group and begins to foster leadership skills. Another way we develop social skills in this age group is through activities that have multiple instruments that do not all look the same. Everyone gets an instrument, but there may be a wait for the most popular drum or tambourine. Waiting, trading (taking turns), sharing are all skills parents and teachers want these children to have mastered in the future. This is where the development of those skills begins.

In our preschool age classes, our students begin to attend class without their adult for a short 30 minute period of time. For some students, this is the first time they have been separated from family. This is a social skill that will serve for future trips to camp, participation in sports and attending school. Within that class, games begin to have rules, sometimes students have to wait for a turn with only one instrument to explore, and children are encouraged to contribute to pretend play and story creation.

Finally in our Young Child classes, we bring this social learning more specifically to music sharing. We begin to work on singing, dancing and playing instruments in ensemble. We continue to take turns, use our words, and interact nicely with each other.

All of our Kindermusik classes have a minimum enrollment requirement. We do not offer private lessons in Kindermusik. The development and exploration of these crucial social skills is why this is true. When you sign up for a Kindermusik class, you are providing your child with the opportunity to grow into an active, confident member of their community through the learning that takes place. Not only that, but you and your child are there for the other families in the class to also develop these classes.

 

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