Square Peg in a Square Hole: Music in the Preschool Experience – A Natural Fit

Preschool music

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]It fits; it really fits. In fact, there’s no better fit in the preschool years or for a preschool curriculum than music and music classes. Here are a few reasons why.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]

  • Introducing children to abstract musical concepts will also develop their abstract thinking skills, expressive speaking, and creative expression.
  • Learning musical terminology significantly expands a child’s vocabulary, language awareness, and literacy development.
  • A child’s physical, emotional, social, cognitive, and language development is not just nurtured, it can actually be accelerated with the music class experience.
  • Music classes encourage every child to be a contributor to the learning process, providing a secure learning environment where children explore, grow, contribute, and flourish.
  • A regular weekly music class is a unique setting that continually invites new ideas, curiosity, investigation, listening, engagement, and discovery – all of which promote confidence and self-esteem.
  • With a music curriculum that is enriched with a carefully integrated selection and development of musical concepts and activities, each child experiences physical, emotional, social, cognitive, language and musical development – development that is not just supported, but also enhanced.
  • Outside of the music class time, songs and rhymes can easily be carried over throughout the day, easing transitions, enriching learning, encouraging cooperation, and improving classroom management.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]If you’re looking for that square peg for your square hole, look no further than Kindermusik @School.  Kindermusik offers easy-to-implement curriculum solutions that are already at work in all types of early childhood learning environments – all around the world. Here’s how to find the best fit for your program.[/vc_column_text][vc_separator][vc_column_text]Contributed by Theresa Case whose award-winning Kindermusik program at Piano Central Studios in upstate South Carolina has been inspiring children and families for over 20 years now.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Four on the 4th: Four Ways Early Music Classes Prepare Your Child for School… and for Life

Why Early Childhood Music

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]We’re pretty sure we could have listed forty-four ways early childhood music classes prepare your child for school and for life, but we don’t want to make your eyes glaze over. After all, this is a blog post, not a doctoral thesis. Plus, “Four on the 4th” just sounded catchier…so we’ll just point out four of the many ways music makes a difference in the mind and heart of a young child.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]

Learning Music Makes Kids Better Learners

Maybe it’s because we as humans come hard-wired to respond to music.  Or maybe it’s the way music wakes up the brain, causing learning to happen with greater ease and impact.  Thanks to technological advances, we know that musicians’ brains actually work differently than non-musicians’ brains.  The really exciting thing is that educators and researchers continue to find undeniable links between early childhood music experiences and enhancement in every of a child’s development.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Early Childhood Music Classes Promote Creative Thinking

In Kindermusik, there’s a reason why our emphasis is on process and not performance, on exploring rather than precisely imitating. We want the children in our classes to explore without defined parameters, to move and play instruments in all different kinds of ways because we understand that creative thinkers become expert problem-solvers and solution-finders. These creative thinking skills lead to success in the classroom, in the workplace, and in life.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Being Part of a Musical Group Encourages Cooperation and Teamwork

Whether it’s exploring instruments with mom or dad or being part of an ensemble play-along later on, working together in a group music class requires an attitude of cooperation and a spirit of teamwork. Developing cooperation and teamwork is often happening without conscious effort because both really are a natural outcome of the way the music class and the activities themselves are presented. These are two essential skills, success predictors even, that a person will benefit from for the rest of their lives.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Music Classes Strengthen Emotional Bonds and Social Abilities

At first, parents might enroll in a weekly music class in order to bond with their child. Music elicits all kinds of emotional responses, creates unique memories, and helps parents and children connect in a deeper way. But what also becomes apparent is that music classes are a beautiful place to foster friendships and give kids practice interacting socially. There’s just something uniquely special about making music together.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Music has the potential to do so much good – in our hearts, in our minds, in our communities, and throughout our entire lives. And the greatest potential for impact on a child starts in the very early years when the critical windows of learning are open the widest, when the brain is primed for learning, and when the memories of those consistent early music experiences will be most deeply embedded. There is no other single activity that is better for a young child – indeed for all of us – than the rich experience of enjoying music, learning from music, and making music.

For those celebrating – Happy Independence Day! Be safe![/vc_column_text][vc_separator][vc_column_text]Contributed by Theresa Case, whose award-winning Kindermusik program at Piano Central Studios in upstate South Carolina has been inspiring children and families for over 20 years now.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Music from Birth: In It for the Long Haul

from Birth

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Today is the longest day of the year! To mark this in a musical way, Theresa Case brings us a post about keeping music in our lives from the very beginning so we might enjoy its benefits for as long as possible! – Dr. B[/vc_column_text][vc_separator][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]“What if there was one activity that could improve our cognitive function, help our memory systems to work, help us to learn language, help us to moderate our emotions, help us to solve complex problems, and help our brains to be healthier later in life?”

This is the question famously posed by Anita Collins in her TEDTalk given in October of 2014. Her answer? Music.

There’s no disputing the power of music. The research findings are powerfully conclusive and the evidence is overwhelmingly affirmative. Music is THE one activity that improves and enriches every area of a child’s development and indeed, every area of a child’s life – for now and for later. And the earlier and more consistently a child is involved in the experience and process of learning music, the better.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]With Kindermusik, the musical journey actually begins with infants – and grown-ups get to sing, dance, and play along, too – no prior musical skill required, by the way! As your child’s first and best teacher, cheerleader, and most enthusiastic supporter, you play an active and very vital role in your child’s musical development right from the very beginning.

Some of our favorite benefits of consistent group music instruction in the early years include:

  • Fostering a love of music before a young child can even speak or sing
  • Instilling a love of learning that will later increase academic performance and success
  • Layering a consistent foundation of musical concepts upon which later formal music instruction will build
  • Focusing on every area of a child’s development
  • Contributing to the development of character traits such as patience, perseverance, empathy, cooperation, independence, commitment, and self-control
  • Improving the brain’s ability to process sound and identify patterns
  • Increasing self-confidence, social skills, imagination, and creative thinking
  • Enhancing the executive function skills that are so necessary for success in school, in work, and in life
  • Deepening the enjoyment all humans are pre-wired to experience only through music

[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]The early years are the most formative; on that we can all agree. There is also increasing consensus that choosing to make music a part of those early years (and beyond) can help put your child on a path toward being a happier, well-rounded, and successful adult.

By the way, have we mentioned how much you’ll enjoy and benefit from being a part of these music classes with your child? We hear from parents that Kindermusik classes are one of best parts of THEIR week – try it and you’ll see what we’re talking about![/vc_column_text][vc_separator][vc_column_text]Contributed by Theresa Case whose award-winning Kindermusik program at Piano Central Studios in upstate South Carolina has been making a difference for children and families for over 20 years.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

The Surprising Connections Between Social-Emotional Skills and Cognitive Development

Brain

We all want our children to be smarter, to excel academically to the best of their abilities, and to have every possible advantage.  Thus, researchers continue to probe what it is that improves cognitive development, especially in young children.  Most recently, a study at the OECD’s Centre for Educational Research and Innovation found a direct link between socio-emotional skills and cognitive skills. This study demonstrated that children who have opportunity to improve their abilities to stay focused and on task, work cooperatively with others, and manage their emotions. They gain greater benefits in learning situations which enhances and drives their cognitive development.

 

Cognitive development

 

Knowing that social and emotional skills can be influenced and shaped, especially during early childhood and the teen years, parents and educators should deliberately seek to develop the socio-emotional skills that so effectively and permanently impact cognitive development (and by the way, it is interesting to note that while socio-emotional skills do drive cognitive development, cognitive skills do not drive social and emotional learning).

For infants to children age 7, music experiences like those in our Kindermusik classes can be a big part of providing those rich socio-emotional experiences that impact cognitive development, in addition to laying a vital foundation for musical development.  A lifetime of success starts in the early years with developing not just cognitive skills, but also strong social-emotional skills.

Here are just a few of the many ways in which music classes can foster the connections between social-emotional skills and cognitive development:

  • Cooperation: Taking turns sharing instruments and sharing ideas
  • Social interaction: Participating in circle songs and dances
  • Perseverance: Exploring a variety ways to play with one instrument
  • Focus and concentration: Listening during Story Time and short musical excerpts or sounds
  • Adaptability: Contributing to a musical ensemble
  • Self-confidence: Finding success in age and developmentally appropriate musical experiences
  • Inhibitory control: Learning to stop on cue in stop-and-go games and activities
  • Self-esteem: Enjoying group activities that provide bonding experiences with loved ones, teachers, and/or peers

Want more tips on using music to support social-emotional development in young children? Here’s a free e-book!


Shared by Theresa Case whose award-winning Kindermusik program is located at Piano Central Studios in the beautiful upstate of South Carolina.

 

Baby Brains: Music and Speech

Baby Brains

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Music is full of patterns. It’s why educators and researchers have pointed out for a long time now that music helps kids with math. And now, thanks to technological advances that help us “see” inside the brain, we’re starting to understand more and more of how music shapes and impacts cognitive development, therefore significantly impacting other areas of development such as language acquisition.

In the earliest years, a child’s ongoing cognitive development and experiences are a big part of his or her language development. The cognitive aspects of learning to speak and communicate have a great deal to do with memory, focus, and understanding patterns.

This is where early childhood music classes come in. Recent research has found that music and movement classes literally changed how the brain processed “both music and new speech sounds.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

NEW RESEARCH

The findings of this study were incredibly exciting to those of us who are so passionate about providing early childhood music enrichment experiences through our weekly Kindermusik classes.

“Our study is the first in young babies to suggest that experiencing a rhythmic pattern in music can also improve the ability to detect and make predictions about rhythmic patterns in speech,” said lead author Christina Zhao, a post-doctoral researcher at University of Washington’s Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences.

“This means that early, engaging musical experiences can have a more global effect on cognitive skills.”

“In both the music and control groups, we gave babies experiences that were social, required their active involvement and included body movements – these are all characteristics that we know help people learn. The key difference between the play groups was whether the babies were moving to learn a musical rhythm.”

Music and movement classes like Kindermusik baby and toddler classes check all of these boxes and more – a rich social experience, delightfully engaging parent-child play and interaction, rhythmic experiences through instrument play and movement activities, an immersive language environment, and a beautiful, sequential curriculum. These curricula are thoughtfully and carefully designed, not only to be joyful and playful, but also meaningful and impactful on a child’s long term learning and development.

“This research reminds us that the effects of engaging in music go beyond music itself. Music experience has the potential to boost broader cognitive skills that enhance children’s abilities to detect, expect and react quickly to patterns in the world, which is highly relevant in today’s complex world.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Now more than ever, we’re proud to confidently assure parents that one of the very best learning experiences you can give your little one are the delightful and developmentally rich experiences you will both have in a weekly music and movement class like Kindermusik.

And we promise, you’ll get the extra bonus of being a part of putting that adorable smile on her little face and that sweet song in his little heart…to stay.[/vc_column_text][vc_separator][vc_column_text]Contributed by Theresa Case whose award-winning Kindermusik program at Piano Central Studios in upstate South Carolina has been making a difference for children and families for over 20 years now.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Why Songs Stick in our Heads

Ear-worm

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Ever wake up with a song running around in your head? Or how about the song that you sing or hear one time…then stays in your head the rest of the day? (Disclaimer: Yes, this can happen after attending a Kindermusik class with your child, but it’s probably because he’s singing the same song out loud!)[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]Why is it that songs stick in our heads? Well, as annoying as it can be when it happens, there are actually some very positive reasons why those songs stick and you might be happy – in some ways! – that they stay stuck.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]

A Foundational Skill

For those who claim not to have a musical bone in your body, you should feel musically accomplished when such a thing occurs. On a very basic level, the ability to hear a song in your head is called audiation (the aural equivalent of imagination), a foundational musical skill. One author refers to the songs that get stuck as “ear-worms.” An apt description, but somehow thinking of it as audiating sounds more musically sophisticated.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]We as humans come hard-wired to enjoy and respond to music.

We see it in Kindermusik class all the time – a little baby’s eyes widen with delight when she hears her mama singing her a lullaby, or that toddler immediately stops wandering around the room and starts bouncing when the music comes on. Or your preschooler asks for his favorite song every time you get in the car to go somewhere.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]

Repetition is a Sign of Enjoyment

We repeat songs multiple times in a single Kindermusik class and again for several weeks in a row because repetition is such an important tool for learning and strengthening the brain. But outside of class, repeating a song over and over – even when it pops into one’s head uninvited or when your child sings the same song for the one-hundredth time – signals that a particular song brings much joy.

Your brain is using those songs.

Researchers continue to uncover the power of music and how it impacts cognitive development in the early years and cognitive retention in our later years. So tucking all of those songs into your memory now could have benefit later on if indeed some of the theories about music and memory prove correct.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]So the next time that song in your head won’t go away, maybe you won’t feel quite as annoyed when you remember some of the good reasons why it happens.

And by the way, if you regularly attend Kindermusik classes, we promise to make sure that we’re always teaching you and your child lots of lots of new songs that yes, might get stuck in your head, but will also wind their way into your heart.[/vc_column_text][vc_separator][vc_column_text]Shared by Theresa Case, who as director of Piano Central Studios in Greenville, South Carolina, since 1995, has had a lot of songs get stuck in her head over the years![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Moving and the Mind

When does the most powerful and sustaining learning happen?  Look in the window of any Kindermusik classroom, and you’ll see the answer right away.  The best and most effective learning happens when both body and mind are engaged.  Simply put, movement wakes up the brain, enhances understanding, and increases retention.

Kindermusik movement and learning

Interestingly enough, researchers and professors are beginning to take the concept of “embodied cognition” and applying is the field of technology and learning that is explored and done on computers.  Two different independent studies demonstrated that college students ability to learn, understand, and apply increased significantly when they physically manipulated animation or who used a joystick to move gears.

It is helpful to point out that moving to learn (and learning to move!) become even more critical when the challenge of understanding is greater; for example, the younger the student, the more important it is to add an element of physicality to the learning process.

But why does involving the body in the learning process improve the learning and enrich the understanding?  Here is a brief summary of some of the key points in Annie Murphy Paul’s fascinating article, “Let’s Move! How Body Movements Drive Learning Through Technology”:

  • Hands-on, physical participation in the learning process makes the abstract more concrete.
  • When movement is connected to a concept, it provides the brain with pegs, or cues, for recalling that learning.
  • Acting on information more deeply ingrains the learning in the mind.
  • Moving as part of the learning process improves the cognitive process by making it less mentally taxing and frees the mind to understand at a deeper level.

It is becoming more and more evident that there is a compelling connection between movement and the mind.  This is precisely why joyous, early learning music and movement experiences like those experienced in a Kindermusik classroom are so potent and have such a lifelong benefit for children.

Shared by Theresa Case whose award-winning Kindermusik program is located at Piano Central Studios in the beautiful upstate of South Carolina.

Music and Memory – Helping Stroke and Dementia Patients

Brain

Sometimes I apologize in advance to my Kindermusik families for how many times we repeat a song in class.  But then I cheerily remind them that experts tell us that repetition strengthens the brain – especially musical repetition!

Kindermusik songs that stay in your head may be a little annoying to parents, even though the kids love it!  But it turns out that having songs in our heads – and hearts – may actually help us later on if we eventually suffer from a stroke or develop a degenerative disease such as Alzheimer’s or dementia.  Just do a search – the videos out there will bring tears as you watch how an almost unresponsive elderly person suddenly lights up when hearing music or being sung to.

Scientists still cannot tell us how the same brain that loses its ability to retain memory will still retain and respond to lyrics and music, but as the author of this article describes it, it’s as if the music “tickles the brain circuits,” the same neural circuits that “…may help restore speech and cognition circuits” lost by Alzheimer and dementia patients or stroke victims.  But best of all, listening and singing old songs makes these patients happy and for some, responsive on some level once again.  It’s as if music brings them to life again, and it’s only music that has had that effect in study after study.

This is the power of music – the same power that makes such a difference in the mind and heart of the very young.  And one of the reasons that I believe so strongly in the power of Kindermusik to change lives – for now and for life.

Contributed by Theresa Case whose award-winning Kindermusik program at Piano Central Studios in upstate South Carolina has been building musical memories with children and families for over 20 years now.

RESERVED SPACE: DEDICATED GREY MATTER FOR MUSIC!

Brain

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Last month, The New York Times reported on new research conducted at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology involving the most musical of organs: the brain. Professors Nancy Kanwisher and Josh H. McDermott, and postdoc fellow Sam Norman-Haignere have proven that there are neural pathways dedicated to experiencing music – think a special HOV lane specifically reserved for musical transportation. And it doesn’t seem to matter what type of music it is. Regardless of the style – hip hop, show tunes, rock and roll – these pathways only light up in scans for music. Other sounds seem to have no effect.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]

The Auditory Cortex

The part of the brain in question is rather small, but important. The Auditory Cortex, as you might have guessed, is responsible for processing aural info – any sounds that come at you get dealt with here.

Music and the Brain
image source: Wikipedia

The area in question is that tiny pink part of the temporal lobe. Now, why does that matter? Well, I thought it might be worth mentioning that the temporal lobe, among other things, is responsible for long term memory, and we know that music and memory are closely related. I’ll admit it: sometimes I have to sing the alphabet song in my head when putting things in alphabetical order. And those of you of a certain age might remember this gem from Cheers:[/vc_column_text][vc_video link=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-F_tT-q8EF0″][vc_column_text]Come on now, friends…the brain is a complex subject. I’m never above bringing in a 1980s sitcom to underscore a point. The fact that the Auditory Cortex is located in the lobe of the brain that deals with long term memory AND there are pathways nearby that only light up when we experience music is telling and perhaps more than coincidental.

So…beyond the fact that music is an incredibly enjoyable pastime, why does this matter to us? Well, there is a theory out there that music is actually older than speech. If music is “more fundamental” to the human brain than everyday verbal communication, than it can have tremendous impact on the human experience. Dr. Josef Rauschecker, the director of the Laboratory of Integrative Neuroscience and Cognition at Georgetown University puts it this way:[/vc_column_text][blockquote cite=”- NYT, 2/8/2016″]…music works as a group cohesive. Music-making with other people in your tribe is a very ancient, human thing to do.[/blockquote][vc_column_text]More proof that music is integral to our lives. So get out there! Light up those pathways that seem to have been put in place just to respond to music. Make some musical memories. And as we have learned over the past few posts, make those memories meaningful by creating them with someone special – your spouse, your kids. Hey, if you build a bookshelf, you put books on it. Your brain is built to respond to music: give it what it wants.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][class_finder_form css=”.vc_custom_1457675287583{padding-top: 20px !important;padding-right: 20px !important;padding-bottom: 20px !important;padding-left: 20px !important;}”][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Music in the Baby’s Cry

music baby's cry

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]We are musical beings. From the beginning, we are designed to make music. It’s in the rhythm of our movement, of our breathing. If we listen carefully, we can hear music in a baby’s cooing, in her babbling. This music reassures us that our child is content. He’s happy with the world around him. The reality is that this aural connection, the music in the sounds we hear while in the womb preprogram us to make specific music in our first cries. Some of the initial external programing for our growing brains comes from the rhythms, highs, and lows of the speech sounds outside of our little natal apartment. Researchers have discovered that babies in different countries cry in different “accents”. Those accents closely match the cadences (think rhythm, rise, and fall of an area’s speech patterns).  Check out a portion of Annie Murphy Paul’s TED Talk – What we learn before we’re born:[/vc_column_text][vc_video link=”https://youtu.be/stngBN4hp14?t=4m48s”][vc_column_text]Annie Murphy Paul and the “accents” of infants’ cries.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]

Crying as Language: Language as Music

Murphy is most likely referring to studies conducted by Kathleen Wermke of the Center for Prespeech Development and Developmental Disorders at the University of Wurzburg in Germany. Wermke found that this accented crying occurred as early as the first days of ex-utero life. The music of the mother’s voice helps to provide a foundation for the maternal bond long before birth. While this crying is not technically a language, it certainly has linguistic qualities – flow, intonation, varied volume. And it’s precisely those aspects that, in turn, have musical qualities – melodic shape, repeating patterns, and tempo.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]

So What of Actual Music?

The womb is actually an incredibly noisy locale. Lots of musical sounds besides speech make their way to the developing ear. It’s like a street level apartment in New York City. You have the ever present heartbeat of the mother, the whooshing of blood pumping, the gurgling of food digesting, and the sounds of the lungs constantly inflating and deflating. Can actual music get through this biological big band and have an effect on a baby in-utero? Annie Murphy Paul thinks so.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”8449″ img_size=”medium” css=”.vc_custom_1454220063752{padding-top: 2px !important;padding-right: 2px !important;padding-bottom: 2px !important;padding-left: 2px !important;}”][vc_column_text]

Simple is Best

I need to disclose that I am a classically trained musician – and I love classical music. But as it turns out, it’s likely that the complexity of this music is lost while competing with the “street noise” of the womb. In her interview with New York MagazineDr. Deborah Campbell, the Director of Neonatology at The Children’s Hospital at Montefiore, reminds us that infants have the capacity to recognize simple melodies experienced while displacing mom’s bladder. Think folk music. And guess what? As it turns out (here’s where we tie a bow on all this), folk music is often based on the pace, rhythm, and melody of a region’s speech patterns!

So…if you put the headphones on your tummy, or sing to your partner’s navel, stick to the classics, time-tested folk music. Kindermusik uses a great deal of this music in our classes, and while there are many reasons this category of music is so effective with new humans, its ability to be internalized quickly and repeated easily is certainly connected to its special relationship with the language of origin.

Next time you hear your baby cry, hear the music. She’s singing to you in your language.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]