Teach Your Child a Second Language for a Full-Brain Workout

Lots of things are good for the brain, especially music.  But new research indicates that learning to speak more than one language is also exceptionally good for the brain.

exercise that's good for the brain

At first it might seem that the brain has to work harder to learn and speak two languages.  And in a way it does.  But it’s actually this hard work that exercises and strengthens the brain so that performing other cognitive tasks becomes easier and more efficient.  Think of it this way.  When you go to the gym, it’s hard work.  But along the way, your muscles get stronger and soon even everyday tasks, including lifting and moving, actually get easier.

The other very interesting thing that happens for bilingual speakers is that because the brain has to control and filter both languages, it becomes very good at two things:  inhibitory control and focus.

Lead research author and Northwestern University professor Viorica Marian puts it this way: “Using another language provides the brain built-in exercise. You don’t have to go out of your way to do a puzzle because the brain is already constantly juggling two languages.”

This kind of constant brain exercise not only has benefits for now, but it also appears to offer some “protective advantage against Alzheimer’s and dementia,” said Marian.

We all know that exercise is good for us. Now we are beginning to get a glimpse of just how beneficial exercising the brain can be too.  And the younger we teach children to exercise their brains, whether through music and movement or through learning a second language, the better!

Learn more about using music to teach young children a second language at www.Kindermusik.com/schools.


Rhythmic Dictation and Early Literacy Skills

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 children’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 a song, children gain practice in recognizing relationships between sounds and symbols, which supports children’s budding musicianship and early literacy skills.

Rhythmic Dictation Inside the Kindermusik Classroom

You can try this at home or in your classroom, too.  Clap out a rhythm and let child(ren) repeat it. Make each clapping rhythm more difficult than the last. Take turns being the copycat.

To learn more about the benefits of music on early literacy development visit http://www.kindermusik.com/schools/benefits

Contributed by Lisa Camino Rowell, a freelance writer living in the Atlanta area.

6 Ways Kindermusik Prepares Children for Formal Music Lessons

Which came first: the egg shaker or the violin? Well, if you ask us, we’d say the egg shaker of course! It’s a staple instrument in all Kindermusik classes from newborn through age 7. From that first instrument, we begin to teach children skills that can prepare them for formal music lessons when they are ready.

baby and mom with Kindermusik egg shakers

6 Ways Kindermusik Prepares a Child for Formal Music Lessons

#1 – Kindermusik develops the ability to keep a steady beat.
Steady beat is fundamental to music and absolutely essential for playing an instrument.

#2 – Kindermusik reinforces music patterning.  Learning to recognize patterns in music is vital to playing an instrument with musicality and with understanding.

#3 – Kindermusik teaches musical notation.  Without a foundational understanding of music symbols, there can be no music reading.

#4 – Kindermusik develops a musical vocabulary.  A rich musical vocabulary begins with an experiential knowledge of the words that help us describe music and express ourselves musically.

#5 – Kindermusik provides ensemble experience.  From playing egg shakers together in our Baby Class to playing the violin in an orchestra, making music together in a group is one of the greatest joys of music.

#6 – Kindermusik inspires a lifelong love of music.  When you plant the seeds at such a young age, a love of music will bloom and grow throughout a lifetime.  A deep love for music is one of the most important contributors to a child’s success in music lessons… and in life.

So when is a child ready for music lessons? 

Most music teachers agree that between the ages of 7 and 10 years is the best age for children to start formal music lessons.  By then, a child is usually able to read on his/her own, follow directions, sit still and focus for longer periods of time, and feel motivated to practice at home each day.

If you’re unsure about whether or not your child is ready for formal music lessons, long-time Kindermusik educator and Maestro Michelle Jacques recommends asking these questions:

  • Do you and your child understand the enormous amount of dedication needed to learn to play an instrument?
  • Are you ready to make the purchase or rental investment in an instrument to have in your home for practice?
  • Is your child ready to accept the rules, guidelines, and suggestions of the teacher?
  • Will your child be able to respond positively when the teacher asks him/her to play a certain way or hold his/her hand in a certain position?
  • Does your child have the fine motor control as well as the maturity and attention span necessary for daily home practice?
  • Can your concentrate daily for 15 to 30 minutes on a series of directed tasks?
  • Will your child thrive in a learning environment where it’s just she and the teacher, or does she learn best in a social, play-like setting?

Try A Free Kindermusik ClassWant to learn more about how Kindermusik prepares a young child for success in formal music lessons?  Come visit a Kindermusik class!  Find your local Kindermusik educator at www.Kindermusik.com and give your child the best gift ever – a love of music that starts with Kindermusik.




Leave the Detective Work to the Kids

The ability to think critically about a situationKIstock53_musicnotes_color is essential for all problem solving and academic learning. Deductive reasoning, the ability to reason from general premises to more specific premises, is one essential aspect of critical thinking. 

In fact, renowned educational researcher, Dr. Howard Gardner, includes deductive reasoning within one of his seven areas of intelligence—the Logical/Mathematical Intelligence. Dr. Gardner (and other researchers) argue that the ability to detect patterns, think logically, and to reason is critical for developing text comprehension, mathematical, and science skills later in school.

What might be surprising to some is that very young children are at the very tip of their capacity for deductive reasoning, but like many areas of development, the most effective growth in learning comes through practice – in this case, brain practice.

The Critical Thinking Co., puts it this way, “Deductive reasoning can be taught, but it is its regular practice that yields the benefits to students. The brain acts like a muscle and exercising it through logic, analysis, and critical thinking is what gives it the strength to question, to learn, and to discover.”

So… if your young child is at the tip of their capacity for deductive reasoning and practicing those skills is so vitally important for learning and discovery, how can a parent tip the cognitive development scale in a child’s favor?

Use this free Kindermusik@Home activity: “Who Could It Be?” to practice some deductive reasoning skills with your child.

Who Could It Be deductive reasoning development game

This activity may take some adult interaction and support—but then your child will be hooked! You’ll both delight in that first moment when your child figures out one of the answers on his/her own.

  • One way to reinforce a child’s growing deductive reasoning skills is for you to articulate your own reasoning for coming to a conclusion and then to ask your child to do the same. For example, in “Who Could It Be?,” you can clearly explain that you figured out that the sheep took the bunnies in his car because there were tire marks leaving the Pet Shop and only the sheep was driving a car. Then ask your child, “HOW do you know it was the monkey who made a mess at the ice cream cart?”
  • Predicting what comes next in a story is another way to develop deductive reasoning. For example, ask your child, “WHAT do you think will happen next? And WHY do you think that?”

It doesn’t take much to boost your child’s critical thinking skills, but it does take intentionality mixed with fun and engaging activities.  This is why Kindermusik has been such a favorite experience for parents for so many years – our class activities and @Home Materials give parents the time and the tools to make great parenting – including giving your child every possible cognitive and academic advantage – that much easier and that much more joyful.

To learn more about music supports the development of deductive reasoning skills, visit www.Kindermusik.com.



5 ways music can stop your kids’ holiday meltdowns

Ah, the holidays—A time of rest, joyous family time, and the harmonious sound of everyone getting along. Hmmm. That sounds more like a fantasy (or brief moments in time!) than reality. The fact is the holidays often bring more stressors into a family’s life, especially to the youngest members of the clan.

Children thrive on routines and rituals, however, the holidays often bring a more flexible schedule affecting everything from naptimes to snack times, which can contribute to not-so-merry meltdowns.

The holidays can be full of stimulating and fun experiences, such as a special Kindermusik celebration like this one:

However, during this time, it’s important to teach children how to relax even amongst the multiple holiday parties, travel plans, overnight visitors, and family photo sittings. Teaching children how to relax after an activity gives them time to recoup and get ready for the next event. Plus, you know what children want most when they are stressed out? Their parents! So, we put together five ways for parents to help their children relax and enjoy the holidays!

5 Practical Parenting Tips for Easing Holiday Meltdowns

Relaxing is a learned behavior and music can be a relaxation tool for young children (and adults!). Here are some of our favorite tips:

  1. Rock gently together. When you start to notice your child teetering on the edge of a meltdown, invite your child to step away from the activity and go with you to a quiet place. Gently hold your child and rock together. (Added bonus if you can find a swing or rocking chair!) While rocking together, help your child to label the feelings you saw. For example: “When I saw you stick out your lower lip, it looked like you were feeling sad because your cousin didn’t want to play what you wanted to play. After we finish taking a break together, can you think of something that you both might want to play?”
  2. Listen to soothing music. On the way home from a holiday party or activity, listen to some relaxing music in the car. Research shows that music can help children and adults relax. In fact, our heartbeats mimic the beat of the music!
  3. Give your infant a massage while humming a lullaby. It’s never too early to teach children how to relax. During the holidays (well, most days actually!), everyone wants to hold the babies. While a child can never receive enough love and snuggles, it can be overwhelming for babies. At the end of the day, make some special one-on-one time for you and your baby. Give your child a gentle infant massage to relax your little one. Adding a special lullaby makes it even more memorable—and relaxing.
  4. Create a bedtime playlist. Traveling with young children to see friends and family often means disrupted bedtime routines, whether adjusting to a new time zone or a strange bed. Help to ease your child’s anxiety by creating a lullaby playlist to signal the start and the end of the bedtime routine wherever you may be. This gives your child both a musical and familiar cue.
  5. Create a baby soother you can take anywhere. Try these DIY baby soothers from Kindermusik@Home. 


Looking for more ways to use music to help make parenting easier? Come visit a Kindermusik class! Find your local educator at www.Kindermusik.com.

Contributed by Lisa Camino Rowell, a freelance writer living in the Atlanta area.