Learning Through Music: Creating Community

Parenting should come with life vests. We’ve all had those days and moments where being a parent leaves us feeling isolated, exhausted, and so desperately craving a moment of silence or a word of affirmation (or dark chocolate!). Kindermusik gives you a place to just breathe and celebrate the wonder of parenthood and childhood along with other families who understand the joys and challenges of parenting a young child.

Each week in class we create a safe and joyful place to belong and connect with other families. From the first notes of “Hello, how do you do?” to the last wave (or hug!) good-bye, children and parents authentically bond while singing and dancing together. That sense of community is why you find yourself celebrating another child’s movement idea when travelling to “Clapping Land” or why your child loved showing Kindermusik friends a favorite stuffed animal in class. So, while we don’t actually hand out parenting life vests, the Kindermusik community we create with sand blocks, scarves, and more works, too! Thank you for being such an important part.

Everyday Connection: Recipe for Community. Next class, why not try out a new recipe to share with other parents while you wait. Bring a snack for all of the children and invite families to get together at a local park after class or eat lunch together before.

Learning through Music: Social Development

Before Facebook, making friends and maintaining relationships involved more than clicking yes to a “Friend Request” and commenting on the occasional status update. (Well, technically it still does.) To be a good friend, regardless of age, we need to share, use our “kind and polite words,” take turns, show empathy, listen, practice conflict resolution—essentially put into practice all those skills that make a good friend (or co-worker, neighbor, spouse, etc).

At Kindermusik, we know the first five years of a child’s life present unique and lasting moments for laying the groundwork for healthy social development. Each week in Kindermusik, we provide many opportunities for your child to practice cooperation, turn taking, active listening, paying attention, and other key social development skills that will help your child grow to be a socially confident and adept person. So while you see your child taking turns with a favorite instrument or rolling the ball back and forth with a friend, we see a child practicing social skills that will prepare your child for school—and life—success.

Everyday Connection: Friendly Gesture. Children love getting mail. With your child, pick a neighbor with a little one close in age to yours and become pen pals. Draw a picture. Leave a piece of candy or a special rock. Your child will enjoy leaving (and receiving) little reminders of friendship.

Learning through Music: Spatial Awareness

Do you remember that class in school where you wondered if you would ever use that skill in the real world? Quadratic equations and diagraming a sentence might come to mind. Spatial awareness, on the other hand, is something you use every day but never took an actual class on it. You employ spatial awareness when you use a fork to pick up food from your plate and put it in your mouth or when you read and recognize how each of the letters relate to each other and relate to the page. Simply put, spatial awareness is an organized awareness of the objects in the space around us and an understanding of our body’s position in space.

At Kindermusik, we know that to develop spatial awareness in children requires involvement with concrete situations and interactions with people and objects. (Cue the hula hoops, drums, and room full of children and adults!) So, each week when we pretend to be animals who fall into their holes or play the drums on “Bumpin’ Up and Down,” your child gains a greater understanding of spatial awareness, which leads to learning other concepts such as direction, distance, and location. That is a skill your child will use forever. Really!

Everyday Connection: Location, Location, Location. Try a new twist on an old favorite. Play “I Spy” but instead of spying colors use spatial terms. “I spy something on the table, under the tree, beside the cup, to the left of the car.”

Learning through Music: Silliness

With Kindermusik classes in over 70 countries, we know a thing or two about families and children around the world. We know, for instance, that every child speaks music and laughter sounds the same in any language. And, to a child, funny things can be found anywhere—mouth noises, made-up words, knock-knock jokes, chasing the dog, and even—sometimes—mommy’s “angry face.” (You know it’s true.)

On average, children laugh about 200 times every day. Silliness is a great way to evoke laughter and foster the development of humor. So, we include a lot of it in class each week, including singing songs with silly words (guli, guli, guli), playing one-bell jingles with our feet or on our head, and even a surprise tickle during “Itsy Bitsy Mouseykins.” All that laughing encourages your child’s physical, emotional, and social health. Plus, it’s a lot of fun and can be a developmentally appropriate way to motivate, engage, and redirect your child during these years.

Everyday Connection: Bathtub Shenanigans. Turn your child’s bath time into a silly time. As you bathe your child, let your little one know what you will be washing next. “I am washing your foot next” (as you reach for an arm) or “I need to wash behind your ears” (while you wash your child’s belly button instead!). Your child will love laughing at your silly “mistakes” and get super clean in the process.

Learning through Music: Steady Beat

Admit it.  You know you do it. You just can’t stop yourself. There you are driving to work, shopping at the grocery store, or maybe waiting at the doctor’s office and you find yourself doing it. Unconsciously, you tap your foot, nod your head, or drum the steering wheel along to the beat of the music you hear. Thanks to the steady beat of your heart, your body is naturally wired for responding to a steady beat. However, the ability to consciously recognize and demonstrate steady beat takes practice.

In Kindermusik, we know that the capacity to identify steady beat can be used for more than singing or playing an instrument. Your child will use steady beat in writing, dribbling, using scissors, dancing, shooting a basketball, and any other number of movement activities. Throughout the Kindermusik experience, we develop beat by rocking, bouncing on a lap, playing an instrument to one’s own internal beat, matching one’s beat to an external source—first whole-body movement, then body percussion (“Clap, Clap, Clap Your Hands” anyone?), and then instruments.

Everyday Connection: Steady Beat Treasure Hunt. Go around your house inside and outside. Search for things that make a steady beat. The clock? Dripping water? Microwave timer?  Crickets? How many can you and your child find?

Learning Through Music: Musical Notation

Pop stars may sing about the power of love, but in Kindermusik circles we sing about the power of music. Humming a favorite tune can lull a little one to sleep or make a sick child feel better. Listening to songs from our own childhood exercises our memories by reviving sights and sounds long since forgotten. And how many of us learned the alphabet through song or about the rhythm of language through nursery rhymes?

Each week in class we tap into the power of music to enhance your child’s creativity, social-emotional skills, and even boost your child’s reading and math abilities. For example, learning to read musical notation uses a similar set of cognitive skills and pattern recognition also found in reading. So, when your child sings high or low on “Star Light, Star Bright” based on whether a star is above or below the line or when your child imitates a door bell ringing by playing a C-A pattern on an instrument, your child is learning the symbolic representation for sounds already familiar to your child from previous listening and singing activities. Learning musical notation in this way mirrors how listening to and imitating spoken language evolves into reading. Now, that is powerful stuff!

Everyday Connection: A line in the sand (or floor!). Using a piece of string or yarn, make a line on the floor. Place objects above and below the line and practice singing high or low depending on whether the object is above or below the line.

Learning through Music: Sorting & Categorizing Sound

Parents provide children not-so-subtle verbal clues when they are in BIG trouble. The use of a child’s full name is a pretty basic one. (John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt!) The dreaded “Mommy or Daddy voice” gives a child another indication of a possible timeout in the immediate future. Hearing a parent speak in a staccato style supplies a child still another hint. (Do. Not. Do. That. A.Gain.) At three or four years old, your child can probably quickly sort through your sound clues and put them in the “I’m in big trouble” category.

That’s actually a good thing. Sorting and categorizing sounds strengthens your child’s listening acuity or your child’s ability to hear and understand clearly. In Kindermusik, we use music and movement to give your child many opportunities to practice sorting and categorizing sounds. So, when we explore the different sounds of drums and label them loud or soft or use them to imitate weather sounds in “Jingle Bell Symphony,” or even when we move fast or slow with the scarves on “Leaves in the Wind,” your child is practicing sorting and categorizing sounds. All this practice ultimately leads to better phonemic awareness, communication skills, and even boosts reading abilities.

Everyday Connection: Is that a bird or a plane? Take turns listening to the sounds outside your own windows. Then determine if the sound is loud or soft or an animal…or not. You can practice sorting and categorizing sounds almost anywhere!

Learning through Music: Security and Independence

From time to time as parents, we may find ourselves asking: Where has my sweet little baby gone? This question generally occurs during periods of intense growth and development, such as teething, moving to a “big kid” bed, and well, maybe right about now. Between 18 months and three years, children begin to realize that they exist as separate individuals apart from you. This revelation starts a revolution as your child begins to exert independence! Now, when it is time to get dressed, take a bath, or even get strapped in the car seat, your child says (or more accurately loudly demands!) “No! I do!” with escalating insistence. Where, oh, where has your sweet little baby gone, indeed.

Take heart. Your sweet little baby is still there. Your child might be stretching his independence muscles, but your little one still needs the sense of security that only you can offer during this emotionally turbulent time of development. Each week in Kindermusik class we provide a safe, predictable, and developmentally appropriate environment where your child can experience guided independence by practicing new skills, making choices, and sharing unique ideas with the class but still run back to the safety of your arms at a moments notice.  So, rock your little one during “Let Me Call You Sweetheart,” and know that this quest for independence will lead to a emotionally confident and capable adult…who will always be your sweet little baby!

Everyday Connection: Me Do…and You Do! Add an extra 5 to 10 minutes into your morning routine to give your child the time needed to get dressed, brush teeth, or put on shoes without your help. Some days your child will be all about “Me Do!” and other days “You Do!” Follow your child’s lead to best support your little one’s need for both independence and security.

Learning through Music: Active Listening

We live in a noisy world. Buzzing lawn mowers, phones ringing, cars honking, dogs barking and cats meowing, planes zooming—and those are just the sounds your child makes during play!  As adults, most of us know how to tune into important sounds and tune out the rest (well, usually!).  Children, however, need to learn how to identify and discriminate between sounds and tune into those sounds that matter most—like the sound of your voice instead of the sound of a toy.

During the school years, children will spend an estimated 50 to 75 percent of classroom time listening to the teacher, to other students, or to media. Developing strong active listening skills will prepare your child for classroom learning, including language and literacy development. Each week in Kindermusik we provide many opportunities for your child to practice active listening skills. So, when we intently listen for the sounds of the pipe organ in a Bach piece, use the wood blocks to produce a Staccato sound, or move smoothly with streamers when we hear the the music change from Staccato to Legato, your child is practicing active listening.

Everyday connection: M is for? Make a letter sound and ask your child to identify the letter and to name an animal that starts with that sound. How would that animal move? What would it sound like? Pick another letter. Try whispering so your child can practice listening even more intently to the sound of your voice.

Learning through Music: Self Awareness

As parents, no one can make us more self-aware than our own child. After all, our children do not need to look like us to be our mirror image.  They mirror our actions and reactions and the words we say in our best moments—and sometimes our not-so-best moments. They can even mimic our likes and dislikes. Eventually, as they become more self aware, children begin to express their own preferences for things, like wearing pajamas everywhere (Not a bad idea!) or eating ice cream for breakfast (Not a good idea!).

In Kindermusik, we support your child’s growing self-awareness and your unique role in it.  Each week we include activities that not only encourage your child’s personal choices but we actually incorporate them into the lesson. By including your child’s favorite way to say “Hello” at the beginning of class or movement idea during the “Monkey Dance,” we place value on your child’s ideas and preferences.  In doing so, your child learns to not only recognize and share ideas in a meaningful way but also to celebrate the differences of others.

Everyday Connection: Feelings, Nothing More than Feelings. Recognizing and responding appropriately to feelings further develop self-awareness skills in young children. Listen to music that expresses different emotions, like happy, sad, angry, or scared. Dance with your child based on the emotion and help your child label the emotion. Not only does this activity develop children’s vocabulary; it also helps them to identify—and even to manage—their own emotions.