Pay It Forward: Jon Muth


Gonna try a new series here, called "Pay It Forward". We all know that (does it make me sound old if I use the phrase "in this day and age"?), word-of-mouth is THE way to get popular. But no longer are people talking about their favorite things, places, people, and experiences one-on-one with a neighbor over the backyard fence; today they spread the word digitally, globally, far and wide.

We know that most people who try Kindermusik love Kindermusik. And I mean REALLY LOVE Kindermusik.

So as a little "Pay It Forward" gesture to get people talking about the things they love (shouldn't we all be doing this more, after all?), I thought I'd have a little fun and also rack up a little karma by talking here about some of my favorite things, brands, places, people, etc. – and of course open it up to y'all to chime in with your own. Now let's be clear: these aren't official, Kindermusik-approved brands or partnerships or recommendations. They're just me and my own little life – but isn't that how today's marketing is? Word-of-mouth recommendations from one "little ole me" after another. 

So here goes – Pay It Forward, Installment 1: Jon Muth 

I love Jon Muth. Writer and illustrator of children's books, his top 4 (and the 4 I have) are Zen Shorts, Zen Ties, The Three Questions, and Stone Soup. I have a 3-year-old – and when I bought the first of these four books, I did it knowing full well that, let's face it, I was really buying the book for myself. Having been in the business of children's publishing for 10 years, I'm a sucker for a well written, beautifully illustrated children's book. Especially when it's a new title. We all have those beautiful, classic, hardcover books that we give new parents as gifts or hold onto for our own children's children – but a *new* book that gives me that want-to-hold-the-book-to-my-chest-and-hug-it feeling…well, that's pretty great. Optimistic. Right? 

So I bring the book home, leave it in the stack. (You can't suggest much to my daughter; you have to just leave things around strategically for her to discover so they seem to be her idea…sound familiar to anyone?) She plucks it out, we begin, and by page 3 I've already decided (shame on me) that it's over her head. I ask, "Would you rather read another book?" No, keep going. And at the end of the book, she asks me to go back to the beginning and read it again. She absorbs, laughs in the right places, asks these remarkable questions, and says "That's a pretty nice book, huh." And it ("the Stillwater book", a panda named Stillwater being a primary character) shot to the top of the rotation for weeks. And so on, until we have 4 Jon Muth books, each of which continues to stun me, after dozens of readings, with its ability to capture a young mind with such sprawling, universal, kindness-related topics that they'd be hard to even summarize here. These books aren't for everyone – see above re: little ole me and my little life – but they sure bowl me over. Our most recent favorite in this household is The Three Questions, a creative reworking of a Tolstoy short story. Man, is it great.


“Music and Literacy” in Encyclopaedia Britannica

File:Encyclopædia Britannica logo.jpg Britannica now has an entry for "music and literacy"! The entry begins somewhat disappointingly, proposing music as merely a handy tool to teach reading, but be sure to scroll past the advertisements to get into the more interesting music-related research. I think those who have seen Kindermusik in action would be able to do more with the music and literacy connection than they have here. Still – it's a start!

"It is widely believed that music learning, music reading, and music participation enhance academic achievement, especially reading and math (Tucker, 1981). Regardless of the method of literacy instruction, there is a growing body of literature that supports specific music experiences and activities to teach and practice essential literacy learning components. Previously noted abilities involving print–such as book handling, concepts of print, sense of story and sequence, printed letter and symbol recognition, basic spelling patterns, and early writing activities–are easily incorporated in and paired with music experiences."

Read the entire entry here:



For Babies, It’s All About Change


(First of all, how great are these pictures???)

Quick read about an interesting study, sent along by Kindermusik educator Sally Reynolds (Australia) with this note::

This is really interesting – entirely backs up what we see happening in Village classes all the time and makes the link between understanding emotion and developing language.”

Just as babies can intuit how to swim almost immediately upon birth, turns out infants sure know their music.

My favorite part, as always when it comes to scientific studies of infants, is the data-collection. Because researchers don’t have any specific linguistic communication to work with, they study attention span (thank goodness no one is using these methods on me) – finding reliably that babies lose interest in something once it stops changing or being interesting. (Sound about right?)

From the article:

First they displayed an emotionally-neutral face for the baby while music played. When the baby looked away from the face, the music stopped and the researchers queued up a new song from a playlist of five happy and five sad songs. For each song, observers recorded how long the baby paid attention to the face. The babies that noticed a switch from happy to sad, or vice versa, stared at the face three to four seconds longer than usual because of their heightened interest.

So despite what the hysterical pictures above show, what the study actually reveals is that babies sense not just that certain music feels “happy” and other music feels “sad” – but rather, they sense change from one to the other. Their attention is maintained if there is variety and lost if there is not. Totally, totally cool – and a good reminder to us all…though if you spend time with babies, you probably don’t need this particular reminder.

Can’t end without dropping in this excellent sentiment from the study’s author, Ross Flomm:

“Infants master so many things in such a short time frame. I can’t think of a better line of inquiry than how infants learn so much so quickly.”


Inside the Kindermusik “Bubble”

We have learned the hard way in this recession that things are not always as they seem. Banks are not as solvent, General Motors is not as mighty, real estate is not as valuable.  In fact, it seems as though we are in an epidemic of inauthenticity: character, genuineness, good faith, and sincerity are under siege. It’s no fun to read the paper anymore.

But from within the Kindermusik bubble, the world looks like it always has. The Kindermusik classroom bursts with authenticity: tender teachers, proven curricula, friendship, music, smiles. Perhaps what Kindermusik can teach all of us at times like these is that some things are truly timeless.  Just as a playground swing still brings delight to a child as it did before iPhones, Twitter, and debit cards, Kindermusik wraps parent and child in bona fide warmth. Provides a true, joyful, and nurturing place where we can come together, share our children, and sing.   

Nothing fancy, mighty, solvent, or newfangled.  

But valuable? Authentic? Genuine? Sincere?  

In a room full of children? Always.

contributed by Michael G. Dougherty (CEO, Kindermusik International)

Why Do We Teach Music?


I've run into this great, simple piece a zillion times (including on Kindermusik studio sites, of course), but still can't find its source. Is it possible it's from here? ( Anyone know more?

Why Do We Teach Music?

Not because we expect you to major in music.
Not only because we expect you to play or sing all your life.
Not only so you can relax.
Not just so you can have fun.

so you will be more human.
so you will recognize beauty.
so you will be sensitive.
so you will be closer to an infinite beyond this world.
so you will have something to cling to.
so you will have more compassion,
more gentleness, more good–in short, more life.

Of what value will it be to make a prosperous living unless you know how to live? 

Twitter Word of the Day: “Kinder”

From Twitter, July 5-6, 2009.


  • chloe_louise13: Is running the kinder room by myself today. My god is it hard work!
  • reportbusiness: The kinder and more thoughtful a person is, the more kindness they can find in other people. (Leo Tolstoy)
  • esachsenmaier: spent a lazy july afternoon wandering the new kinder gentler manhattan – bike lanes, high line, and lawn chairs in times square
  • apmom: Is it bad that I am having panic attacks when I think about sending Alex to kinder? It's over a month away and he's my 3rd kid.
  • HeidiNoelle: Finding out that traveling the kinder road is the sweeter road.
  • melomargarita: Off to Kinder Camp!
  • lisarosepickard: Dear Monday, I really wish we got along better. I wish you were kinder to me. Maybe one day I won't dread spending time with you.
  • jennjenn323: My son's first day of Kinder. So amazing.
  • tjandthesound: New backpack, clean shirt and breakfast. Kinder will never be the same. God save the teachers!
  • wisebody: Good morning everyone! “Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.” Smile and make someone’s day!
  • libertylights: I'm working with a friend on a project that seeks a kinder, more thoughtful conversation on today's sticky issues!
  • MakikiGirl: @eggiepuff Thank YOU! I'm so happy I comforted you. I don't always succeed when I try. I'm working on being kinder in general. I care. :c)
  • Guayakizy: After a three day weekend, going back to work feels like your first day in kinder garden XD



Twitter Word of the Week: “Giggle”

From Twitter, June 19-26, 2009




  • peerybingle: Beautiful breezes through open windows, kiddie swimming pools with giggling children, and laundry on the line: does it get better than this?
  • wendybear1: Silly children! Boys are running amok giggling in my house. It's all good. I need this more often.
  • BlauBlau66: Hilarious evening with children giggling non-stop throughout the entire meal – complete and utter lunatics!
  • celestialqueen: Auggghhhh! Children are frustrating but its so hard 2 discipline them when ur giggling
  • tifmar: is listening to her children giggle and play… they're supposed to be asleep
  • WFMommy: I just had fun talking to my children (through their stuffed animals). I love how they talk so openly to "toys" and how much they giggle.
  • Nicole_Cam: Spending the day with my nieces! Oh the JOY of 8 giggling children!
  • natpizzle: was awoken by three screaming and giggling children running in my house today :o) and im not even mad…ive missed them.
  • jameelee: Little giggling children running around our office…
  • poisoned_grace: Sitting in my house listening to my children giggle and laugh outside….ah summer
  • LakeviewMom: absolutely love listening to the laughter and giggles of children running through the house playing hide and go seek!
  • windcu: Now I get why children are called bundle of joy. Am in bootcamp of happiness and giggles y'all.
  • hmcsmama: I'm in my sisters backyard eating pizza and drinking apple juice with two of the silliest children EVER! Giggle boxes they are!!!
  • carole_hicks: Accomplishment du jour. I floated on an inner tube and looked up at a blue sky listening to children giggle. Perfect.

First Kindermusik Class

This blog post ( got me thinking about that FIRST CLASS EXPERIENCE.

Sometimes I think, as parents, we won't be happy with a new experience unless our children are squealing in delight, impressing everyone with how (brilliant/advanced/coordinated/social/musical) they are, sitting attentively, singing loud and clear, clapping, holding hands with other kids…

Me? I have a clinger. First Kindermusik class, first gymnastics class, first storytime at the library – she does what a friend of mine calls 'the starfish', wrapping all of her limbs around me so tightly that I can walk around with her 'stuck' like that, without even using my arms to hold her on. Singing? Not a chance. Pretending to be a train? You've got to be kidding me.

My friend? She has a runner. When her child transitions to something new, he just starts running and I'm not kidding you – he doesn't stop until you strap him back into the carseat. Then he's asleep before you pull out of the driveway.

What's funny – BOTH of these kids – later in the day – if you ask them, "Did you have a good time?" – will say yes. (???)

Every Kindermusik educator knows that every child is unique, and understands that everyone (grown-ups, too!) deals with transitions and new situations differently. Often, it takes a few weeks for children to settle into the routine, become comfortable with a teacher, the other children, and their parents.

And THAT'S when the magic happens. The first time he claps along, the first time she holds hands with a partner, the first time she contributes an animal idea to "Old MacDonald", the first time she sits on the floor instead of on your lap (this one's mine), or the first time she stops running and actually pretends to be a train instead.

What fun would it be if they did all these things the very first day??


3 signs you might be in a great baby-and-toddler music program:

1. Happy grown-ups!

Parents and teachers check their egos at the door. Grown-ups are clapping, wiggling, and bouncing just as much as the children. 

2. No one talks about the children as “musicians” and “non-musicians”:

The best early music programs for kids aren’t in the business of creating little virtuosos. They use music to grow great children instead of using children to make great music. Children who learn to love music are the ones who will end up doing it best, anyway.

3. A wonderful teacher.

Have you noticed that the most popular music programs are almost like fan clubs? When there’s a good teacher in town, you’ll hear about it! Definitions will vary, but fans seem to gather around teachers who are described not only as knowledgeable, but also genuine, and as easily able to relate (authentically) to adults as to children.