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.
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.
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.”
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.
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?