Spotlight on Laugh & Learn for Families: Splash (June Unit)
To parents of young children, a night out at the movies can seem like a vacation and adds a little bit of variety to days often noted by routine. (And, no, the latest animated feature does NOT count as a night out!) On the other hand, staying in and watching a re-run of a favorite sitcom when your child (finally!) falls asleep can provide a sense of comfort. Plus, you often catch a joke or two that you missed the first time. Truth be told, we all need a little but of variety and repetition in our lives—and for your child, both actually support early learning!
Children need a variety of new experiences to help lay the groundwork for learning, but a one-time event does not make a lasting impression. Every new activity your child actively participates in makes a new neural pathway in the brain. Each time that activity is repeated that connection grows stronger. So, from week to week in class, we include an age-appropriate mixture of both new and familiar activities to help make the learning last and help children boost skills and gain confidence in their abilities. Plus, we give you the tools to repeat all of the activities at home—or on the go—so the learning continues throughout the week!
Everyday Connection: Repeat after me. The next time your child asks you to read the same book again and again or put the same song on repeat just say “yes!” Each new reading or listen can reveal something new to your child. Plus, now you know the reason behind the request!
Spotlight on Wiggle & Grow for Toddlers: Down on the Ground (May Unit)
Do you remember your child’s first few words? Although Webster’s Dictionary didn’t include definitions for “da,” “ba-ba,” or “la,” you knew—without a doubt—your little one said daddy, bye, and mommy. (Or, something along those lines!) Now, as a toddler, you may hear your child deliberately making up silly sounding words and giggling profusely. I mean, seriously, blibber-blobber, really is funny! Laughing together over nonsense words supports your child’s growing sense of humor!
In Kindermusik, we know that nonsense words also support your child’s early language and literacy development. While your child may laugh at the silliness of nonsense words from class like “Fiddle-dee-dee” or “fuzzy wuzzy,” your child is also practicing in the development of specific oral motor skills that create vowels, consonants, or cluster sounds. Nonsense words often employ alliteration and rhyme, which fosters phonemic awareness or the understanding that words are made up of small speech sounds or phonemes. So, blibber-blobber or fiddle-dee-dee away!
Everyday Connection: Call the Doctor. Dr. Seuss made a living making up nonsense words like wocket, grickle-grass, and zizzer-zazzer-zuzz. Read some Dr. Seuss this week and add some new nonsense words to your family’s vocabulary.
Spotlight on Move & Groove for School Aged Kids: Drums, Drums, Drums (April/May unit)
Do you remember taking spelling tests as a child? Sitting at your desk, listening intently as your teacher said a word, and then trying to visualize what the word looked like while also attempting to write it on your paper or (gasp!) spell it out loud in front of the whole class? Ugh! For English speakers, that silent “e” caught many of us off guard. You probably didn’t realize it at the time but listening, identifying the word, and then writing the word down helped you become a better reader.
Although we don’t give spelling tests (or any tests, for that matter) in Kindermusik, we do give your child’s ears lots of musical practice in listening to rhythms, identifying what they hear, repeating them, and using rhythm cards to “write” the patterns down. We call this process rhythmic dictation. So, while we “ta ta ti-ti ta,” clap, pick out the right rhythm card, or play an instrument along with “Tepok Amai-amai,” your child gains practice in recognizing relationships between sounds and symbols, which supports your child’s budding musicianship and early literacy skills.
Everyday Connection: Are you copying me? Children love to be a copycat. Clap out a rhythm and let your child repeat it. Make each clapping rhythm more difficult than the last. Take turns being the copycat.
Becoming a parent means becoming a teacher—as in your child’s first and best teacher. But it also means becoming a student. Children teach us how to move and sound like a garbage truck, an airplane zooming in the sky, popcorn popping in the microwave, or even how to spin around in a circle faster than fast pretending to be a whirlpool. (Most of us need help learning how not to feel queasy after that one!)
Supporting your child’s expressive movement helps connect the outer world of movement and sound with the inner world of feelings and observations. In class each week, when we dance around the room in time to the music, reach for a star in the night, or spread our robin wings and fly in search of food, your child taps into a growing imagination and experiences support for early artistic expressions.
Everyday Connection: Take a Bird Bath. Expressive movement isn’t just for class. Tap into your child’s imagination during bath time. After feeding all those baby birds in class, your little robin needs a bath. How would a robin (gently) splash in the water, wash the dirt from feathers, or even fly around the room to dry off?
Driving in stop-and-go traffic can be frustrating. A quick trip to the store can turn into a 30-minute ordeal. (Will we make this light? Oh no, someone is turning left. Someone else is trying to merge. Urgh!) Stop and go. Stop and go. Will you ever make it to the store? Thankfully, adults usually practice self-control during stop-and-go traffic. Otherwise, drivers would use sidewalks as shortcuts, ignore traffic signals, or nudge the car in front of them just to get where they want to go.
Your child, however, is still learning self-control. Activities that encourage stopping and going in response to a cue helps children practice regulating their body movements or speech and waiting their turn. In Kindermusik class, we include many opportunities for your child to practice starting and stopping: from the first “Hello” song we sing, to starting and stopping when playing the rhythm sticks, and even when walking around the “farm” stopping to look at the animals we hear. All this practice boosts your child’s inhibitory control and confidence, which will set the stage for early academic success.
Everyday Connection: Toys Away! Using musical cues, such as “Instruments away, instruments away…” can make it easier for your child to handle transitions, such as picking up toys, getting out of the bathtub, or even putting on shoes. You’ve seen it work in class, now try it at home!
I hear it over and over again… “but if I sign with my baby, I’m afraid she won’t learn to speak…” That statement is simply not true. There are many benefits to using ASL with hearing babies and language development is absolutely one of them! In fact babies who sign usually speak sooner than babies who do not sign! Now that’s pretty powerful. Let’s take a deeper look at the benefits you bring to your baby through signing with ASL:
- Language acquisition
When you sign with baby, you are not merely pointing and labelling, you are attaching more meaning by adding a symbol to the word. The ASL symbol is an early representation of phonics and reading which gives baby a deeper understanding and meaningful connection with the word and promoting early pre-reading and writing skills.
Baby would talk to you if she could! Wouldn’t it be great if baby could describe to you all her needs? However, it takes time for baby’s vocal chords to develop and more time for her to categorize sounds into useful words. So until baby is physically capable of speaking, signs can aide you with communication and alleviate frustration felt by both you and baby when you are unable to communicate well.
- Early learning
When baby is at play, do you truly engage him in learning? Do you talk to baby and ask questions at play? Signing at play is a great way to add deeper understanding to baby’s world. By asking questions, signing and speaking to baby while he is at play you are signing when he is engaged and primed to learn.
- Brain development
Signing babies have enhanced brain development over babies who do not learn a second language. As ASL is a recognized language and additionally requires sight to process and understand it, baby is engaging in activity requiring both hemispheres of the brain. All languages are stored in the left brain, however the right brain processes visual information. Since ASL requires both, a stronger connection is made between hemispheres and more synapses are created.
If you ask me, those are some pretty powerful reasons to consider signing with your baby. In fact, if I were a mom, there would be no doubt in my mind as to whether I would sign with baby or not. I would absolutely use my ever-growing knowledge of ASL to benefit my child and our communication together.
The signs are all there. The glazed eyes, unwashed hair, clothes with stains of undetermined origin, and a diaper bag the size of a small country. First-time parents of a newborn certainly stand out in a crowd. As an “experienced” parent of a toddler, you can empathize with those new parents. It’s why you may let them go ahead of you in line, smile encouragingly, say a kind word in passing, or even bring them dinner. After all, you survived it and your empathy helps a new parent feel like they will, too!
Over the years, you learned how to understand another person’s feelings and to respond with care and concern. Now, as a parent, you model for your child how to do the same. Even a young toddler can begin to show empathy by offering a stuffed animal to an upset child or by giving you a hug when you seem sad. In Kindermusik, we give your child plenty of opportunities to discuss, explore, and understand a wide range of feelings and to practice kind behavior in a safe and loving environment. So each time your child experiences happiness when singing a favorite song or sees another child’s frustration when it’s “egg shakers away” time, you are supporting your little one’s development of empathy.
Everyday Connection: Feelings nothing more than feelings. Throughout the day, label your child’s feelings and the feelings of others. “I see you feel happy when you listen to your favorite song.” “It looks like you feel angry that I said you couldn’t eat a cookie for breakfast.” Recognizing your child’s emotions and giving your child the words needed to express and identify emotions helps to build empathy.
Children learn to read long before they can, well, literally read, by recognizing that one thing can be a symbol for something else. An infant may learn that a bottle means food. Hearing the same lullaby music each night can gently send a bedtime signal to a toddler. And those three little lines that appear on a parent’s forehead symbolize “uh-oh” to a preschooler who used permanent marker to decorate the couch.
At Kindermusik, we know learning how to recognize and read signs and symbols correctly takes practice and is an early step to knowing the letters and corresponding sounds of the alphabet. Each week in class, we use music to give your child a fun, age-appropriate way to practice. We call it graphic notation. In “The Elephant and the Waterfall,” we explore graphic notation or the relationship between printed symbols and the associated sounds, when your child sees a picture of a large dot and hears or plays a loud, short sound or sees a picture of dashes and hears or plays quiet, short sounds. Both music and reading literacy depend upon your child’s ability to make those connections.
Everyday Connection: A picture is worth a thousand notes. Put on your favorite Kindermusik songs and draw pictures together to represent what you hear. Ask your child to talk about each creation, including color choices. Bring to class to share or post on our Facebook page.
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.