Your child rocks!

When your baby cries, you instinctively scoop him up and rock him.  His need to move and his ability to be soothed by movement are vital in the first 15 months of life when the vestibular system – the area that gives him a sense of balance and distance – is developing.

Aside from the physical benefits of movement, your child also recieves an emotional benefit from rocking and bonding with you.  This quiet, rocking ritual can provide him with a sense of security, allowing him to grow into an assured, confident learner with a healthy self-esteem.

Rocking is still important as your young child grows and will often become a favorite – and memorable – activity for both child and parent.  Even older children benefit from the stimulation of the vestibular system.  Urges to run and tear around the house can be mellowed by taking a few minutes for quiet or even more active rocking.

Kindermusik Tips for your Baby, Toddler, and Preschooler

  • > Rocking your baby: Place a blanket on the floor and lay your baby in the middle.  With an adult caregiver on either side, pick up a corner of the blanket and gently “hammock” your child.  If your baby doesn’t like rocking this way, simple lay him on his back and gently rock him side-to-side to the rhythm of the music.
  • > Rocking with your toddler:  Toddlers can rock a favorite stuffed animal, or while you sit on the floor, your toddler can hug you from behind as you rock back and forth to the music.
  • > Rocking with your preschooler: Preschoolers will love to curl their bodies into little balls, and rock and roll around the room. Want to let your inhibitions go? Do this with them! Fits of giggles are sure to follow.

Music and movement: magical ingredients to learning

Music and movement are magical ingredients to learning for both the child and parent. A baby’s first communication is through movement. A toddler immediately responds to lively music with silly gyrations and flailing limbs – and while these movements usually make us giggle, to him they are serious attempts to coordinate movement with rhythmic patterns. The preschooler seems to be constantly moving – leaping off couches, rolling down hills, and spinning around and around until she falls down in a giggling flop on the floor.

Movement is fundamental for the development of the central nervous system, and science proves it. But what’s more, movement and rhythm are also essential for the development of the soul. These are things that can’t be measured with research and studies.

When a parent moves with her infant, a special bonding takes place that is key to social and emotional growth. When a parent sings to her child, not only are language skills being developed, but also a sense of love, comfort and harmony. The special touching, laughing, and rhythmic moving that takes place in a music and movement class lays a very strong and much needed foundation for a happy, healthy and joyful life!

Here are just a few of the ways that Kindermusik children learn through the interactive music and movement activities of the Kindermusik classroom:

  • Intentional touch is designed to provide stimulation of the nervous system, relaxation and bonding.
  • Activities involve unilateral, bi-lateral and cross-lateral movements that help develop the brain and muscles.
  • Movement and dance steps allow the caregiver and child to experience different rhythms and locomotor movements.
  • Synchronized dances develop sequencing, provide reassuring repetition and social interaction.
  • Expressive movement provides variety, creativity, and opposing feelings such as fast and slow, high and low.
  • Rocking and swinging stimulate the vestibular system, which is so important to balance and even eye movement.
  • Props, such as the “humongous” scarves and parachutes, provide tactile and visual stimulation.

So put on your Kindermusik CD at home and don’t worry about performing the dances “just right.” Don’t even worry about right and left! Simply move to the music and have fun! It all makes a difference.

-This post was adapted from a past issue of Kindermusik Notes and was originally written by Anne Green Gilbert, Director of the Creative Dance Center and Kaleidoscope Dance Company in Seattle, Washington, and a consultant for Kindermusik International.

Using movement to activate the brain

Mom and baby

Mom and babyResearch has proven that the area of the brain that deals with cognitive thought is activated through movement. In other words, movement can literally turn on your child’s mind! For example, when you hold your baby and whirl around in one direction and then whirl in the opposite direction, this stimulates his neural pathways and actually helps them develop.

Moving with your child is a great way to spend time because it’s fun and it has a great benefit.

We’ve put together a few ideas of movements you can do at home with your child. Try these to get those brain muscles flexing.

Kindermusik’s movement ideas for…

…your baby: Put on a favorite piece of music and pick up your baby.  While holding him, place one foot in front of the other and rock from front to back, balancing most of your weight on one leg at a time.  Swoop, swirl, and swing your baby high and low in response to the music.

…your toddler: The world of a toddler is a very physical place, and your child will learn a new word more easily when you pair it with the action. So try doing different actions together while saying the word. For example, jump up and down and say the word “jump.”

…your preschooler: Encourage your preschooler’s creativity. Play some music and ask her to make up a different dance for the verse and the chorus. Help her distinguish between the two. She will not only be stimulating her brain through movement, but also learning musical concepts as well.

Have a movement idea of your own? Feel free to share it in the comments area below.

Arts with the brain in mind

I believe that music, as the only activity that simultaneously stimulates every area of the brain, is the best choice for my children through first grade. But what after they were done with Kindermusik?

All my children are homeschooled, so I get to help make those choices. In my house, we continue music . Rob plays violin, Nathan plays flute. (And no, I don’t force them to do music!) But what about the other arts? Visual arts (painting, drawing, photography, graphics, set making, etc.), and kinesthetic arts (movement, dance, and theater).

My instincts told me that as my children were interested (Rob loves musical theater and gymnastics – Nathan loves Sculpey clay and drawing), I should let them integrate the other arts into their day.

Thanks to Facebook, I reconnected with 2 college girlfriends over Christmas. Pam the percussionist is now an elementary music teacher, Lucy the trumpet player now a Principal at middle and high school. We traded memories, laughs and books.

Pam gave me a book she’d read by Eric Jensen called Arts with the Brain in Mind. It confirmed what my heart already knew – arts enhance the process of learning. The brain systems they nourish, which include our integrated sensory, attentional, cognitive, emotional and motor capabilities, are, in fact, the driving forces behind all other learning.

That doesn’t mean your child can’t learn without studying music, or visual or kinesthetic arts. The arts, however, provide learners with opportunities to simultaneously develop and mature multiple brain systems.

The arts develop neural systems that often take months and years to fine-tune. The long-term benefits of the arts include everything from fine motor skills to creativity and improved emotional balance.

Maybe the most valuable benefit of including the arts in your child’s education is that the arts make better human beings. The arts promote self-discipline and motivation, social harmony, enhanced creativity, emotional expression and a greater cultural awareness.

What long-term studies are beginning to show is that students who participate in the arts may be less likely to be dropouts, have higher attendance, be better team players, and have an increased love of learning.

And who doesn’t want to have children grow up to be happy, well-balanced, creative, problem solvers, and work and play well with others?
-posted by Miss Analiisa, who as her children’s teacher, is seeing for herself the long-term benefits of clay, paint, band and drama.

Special thanks to Studio 3 Music for allowing us to share this great post from the Studio 3 Music Blog. Studio 3 Music in Seattle, Washington, the world’s largest Kindermusik program.

Thoughts on music, part 2 (“take full advantage of music’s power”)

Kindermusik 30-year veteran and guru Carol Penney shares some thoughts on music in a five-day, five part series. Check back with Minds on Music each day for the next post!

When my boys were babies, I was learning the Kindermusik curricula as a new educator. I was constantly singing, and quickly realized that soothing melodies could help with colicky nights and young ADD meltdowns. Singing and dancing could transform times of lethargy (i.e., the TV trance) into silly or joyful moments of movement, energy, and expression. Nursery rhymes and bouncing games could develop a strong sense of rhythm and beat (which helps in learning, sports, and music competencies).

In hindsight, I may have even underutilized these powerful tools that support development in all areas: social, emotional, physical, and cognitive. I can imagine that the busyness of today’s mom and dad allows precious little time to be together and sing, rock, bounce, dance, or listen.

In my next opportunity to parent — in that “grand” way — I will take full advantage of music’s power for learning, delight, and bonding. Nurturing a true music lover begins at birth (and probably even before).

Try following this prescription (begin practicing during pregnancy):

• Sing EVERY night at bedtime. (You don’t have to be a singer…the child hears the heart behind the voice.)
• Enjoy dancing with abandon every day to favorite recording. (You don’t have to be a dancer…all movement supports growth and development.)
• Accompany every diaper change with a nursery rhyme.
• Play calming music at naptime(s) or meltdowns.
• Incorporate a time to bounce to a beat. (Just bouncing steadily and stopping will evoke spontaneous giggles.)
• Rock, rock, rock.
-Carol Penney, Kindermusik educator and employee-owner

Check back tomorrow for part 3 of the series!

Group music activities and what they mean for your child

A recent study called “Effects of Parent/Child Group Music Activities on Toddler Development: A Pilot Study” turned up in the journal Music Therapy Perspectives.

Conducted out of Florida State by Standley, Walworth, and Nguyen, its goal was to assess whether structured group music activities have an effect, either positive or negative, on toddlers between 12 and 24 months old. As well, the study group combined children at typical developmental stages with those who were considered at risk of developmental delays.

Did the study get results? Well, let’s just post a quote:

“Results showed that participation in four to seven music sessions significantly increased higher level developmental skills. Significantly more children in the music group demonstrated higher level music and cognitive skills than did those in the control group.”

The study goes on to recommend that…

“Future research should pursue these findings with larger sample sizes and consider long term implications.”

We certainly hope they pursue a longer term study. We at Kindermusik believe the results will be just as encouraging!

It’s no secret that music is important to children’s development. But what this study adds to the mix is that structured group music activities appear to have measurable benefits.

Music is food for children’s brains. We want their brains to grow big and fat, right? So make sure you’re stuffing them full of music—and for some extra vitamins, try doing it in a structured group setting.

Want to learn more about the benefits of Kindermusik? Click here. For a link to the Music Therapy Perspectives website, click here.


The Amazing Effects of Music on Brain Development

Posted October 27, 2009

Recently, Miss Analiisa blogged about the healing power of music. She cited an article, “Better Minds Through Music,” written by Michael Shasberger, Adams Professor of Music and Worship. Because this is such great information, I’d like to build on her blog with further research I conducted, and tell you more about the fascinating, life-impacting research being done on music and the brain. Your children and mine can benefit immeasurably from putting into practice what researchers are discovering about the relationship between early exposure to music training and cognitive development.

Michael Shasberger’s excellent article was written primarily to fight the elimination of music programs from budget-strained elementary schools. He writes that study after study has demonstrated the profoundly significant impact music makes on children’s intellectual and social development. Academic performance and social behavior are positively impacted:

“Students involved in arts in the curriculum are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement, three times more likely to be elected to class office, four time more likely to participate in math and science fair, three times more likely to win an award for school attendance and four times more likely to win and award for writing an essay or poems. Young artists, as compared with their peers, are likely to attend music, art and dance classes nearly three times as frequently; participate in youth groups nearly four times as frequently; read for pleasure nearly twice as often; and perform community service more than four times as often. The benefits of exposing children to music and the arts are indisputable.

Music’s power to heal is also well-documented. Neuroscientist Daniel Levitin has written books and produced an award-winning documentary, “The Music Instinct: Science and Song.” His research explores music’s power to touch our emotions, which has impact on our psychological and physiological systems. Findings show that music can alter and heal parts of the brain. For example people with Parkinson’s disease have been able to walk better because of listening to a rhythm soundtrack. And some stroke patients with aphasia (lack of speech) have been able to regain speech by beginning with singing what they were trying to say.

We know of music’s restorative properties, but how does music impact the brain development of our children? Researcher Sheila Woodward of USC discovered that fetuses in the womb respond to music at 17-19 weeks gestation. Michael Shasberger’s research suggests that music integrates both sides of the developing brain. Playing notes is a very sequential left-brain process. Seeing overall patterns, integrating the expression of the whole piece and dealing with rhythmic patterns are right brain skills. Math skills are required in timing and counting and fine motor skills must put it all together in the playing of the instrument. Music provides a total brain workout, Strasberg concludes.

The College Board that runs SAT testing backs this up. Music students post a consistent 10 % advantage in math and verbal scores. Dr. Frances Rauscher, a psychologist at the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh states that musical training enhances abstract thinking and spatial-temporal ability even more than computer training. He concludes; “Music has an obvious impact on the brain and should be supported and encouraged in early childhood education.”

In conclusion, providing a music-rich environment early on can have a very positive impact on our children. Here are a few practical suggestions to integrate music into your kids’ daily lives:

Expose your kids to high quality music. Borrow CDs from the library. Listen to your Kindermusik CDs. Find the classical radio stations in your area. Purchase an inexpensive CD player for your child to enjoy his or her “own” music. Pair special occasions with special songs.

Enroll your kids in Kindermusik classes. Take them to concerts. There are many free ones in the summer and at libraries. Check the schedule for kids’ concerts at Benaroya Hall. Check the regular concert schedule too. Kids enjoy more kinds of music than you might think!

Make music at home. Invest in a musical instrument set to play rhythms, march and sing along to. Sign your children up for music lessons. My kids loved piano lessons.

-by Donna Detweiler who has a new appreciation for her husband’s habit of turning classical music on every night at dinner time.

Special thanks to Donna Detweiler and Analiisa Reichlin for allowing us to share such an informative post from the Studio 3 Music Blog. Analiisa is Director of Studio 3 Music in Seattle, Washington, the world’s largest Kindermusik program.