Music is often thought of simply as entertainment, but its power as a conjurer of emotions is undeniable. You probably have that song that transports you right back to your first big breakup, or to a special moment from childhood. Certain music makes you want to get up and dance, while other tunes can make you weepy for no obvious reason. Music’s unique ability to influence our emotions makes it a powerful tool to manage feelings and behavior.
For children, especially, music can help instill calm, promote self-regulation and impart joy. This is great news for parents, who are so intimately familiar with how quickly and unpredictably kids can “lose it.” Finding effective strategies to calm and comfort can be a challenge, and music is a good one to have in your arsenal.
Believe it or not, Thanksgiving has already come and gone. (Wait, did you blink and miss Halloween? Us too.) And with barely time to breathe—much less digest all of that food!—Americans have shifted focus from stuffing their turkeys to stuffing their Christmas stockings.
As the first big snowstorm of the season rolled into Washington, D.C., so did well over 10,000 people, who came to learn, collaborate, and network at the largest early childhood education conference in the world. Educators, advocates, and other members of the early childhood service community filled the Walter E. Washington Convention Center from November 13-17, 2018, for NAEYC’s2018 Annual Conference.
From July 25 to July 29, 2018, the city of New Orleans—always up for a party—was brimming with even more music than usual. That’s because more than 250+ Kindermusik educators gathered at Loyola University to sing, dance, and celebrate their shared passion for enriching children’s lives through music. The occasion? The 40th Anniversary Kindermusik Educator Conference—three jam-packed days of bonding and professional development for Kindermusik’s remarkable community of licensed educators.
Kindermusik is thrilled to be presenting at the 45th Annual National Head Start Association (NHSA) Conference and Expo in Anaheim, California, from April 23-27, 2018. We’ll be sharing our expertise on all things music and movement in four fantastic sessions. We hope to see you there, but if you can’t make it, here’s a sneak peek at some of what we’ll be talking (and singing!) about: Continue reading “NHSA Preview: Using Music Rituals to Create Calm”
Study after study after study in respected, peer-reviewed journals in a variety of fields tell us the same thing over and over, and we don’t mind pointing it out each time a new researcher adds to the heap of science telling us what we already know: if you make music, it positively impacts other areas of learning. In other words, music makes you smarter!
Humans are built for repetition. So much of what we do as living beings is rooted in repetitive structure. We have a cycle each day that we repeat: get up…do daily activities…eat…more activities…eat again…more activities…eat a third time…rest a bit…and sleep. The next day its starts again. We brush our teeth the same way each day. We shampoo, rinse, condition, rinse, and style. We put clothes in the hamper, wash them, dry them. and put them away. Over and over.
With over 30 years of observing children and adults in the Kindermusik classroom, we know from experience that music has a huge effect on the emotions. Science and research continue to affirm what we also suspect, and that is that music can significantly impact cognition as well – in the early years and later in life as we age.
And so we find articles likeMusic & the Brain: The Fascinating Ways Music Affects Your Mood and Mind to be very intriguing and incredibly confirming of the wonderful benefits of being enrolled in a music program like Kindermusik. The author of the article, Barry Goldstein, points out four ways that consistent participation in a “…musical program can target and enhance certain brain functions.” Here’s a quick summary of those four benefits that Goldstein identifies.
Music actually affects the brain emotionally because of the way specific brain circuits are wired to respond to music. The closeness and bonding times that come through singing and dancing together actually release the feel-good hormone, oxytocin, also known as the “cuddle hormone.” And when listening to music touches us emotionally, it’s because there’s a neurotransmitter produced in the brain, called dopamine, that helps feel the pleasure and connection of music.
Even when the mind is debilitated by the effects of Alzheimer’s, it can still be awakened when the patient hears music from his younger years to which he had an emotional connection. One of the most beautiful illustrations of this is an elderly man named Henry who was featured in the movie Alive Inside. Watch this and see if it doesn’t move you to tears! The music we love creates memories that stay with us for all of our lives.
Check out this charming older couple making music together.
Learning and Neuroplasticity
Did you know that the brain can literally reorganize itself by forming new neural connections? And that the formation of new neural connections can be significantly affected by music? We see this documented in extreme cases of brain damage when music is one of the stimuli used to cause the brain to rewire itself. For example, music therapy and singing were instrumental in helping former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords learn how to speak again. If music has this kind of powerful effect on a brain that’s suffered trauma, just think of what effects music can have on a healthy brain!
Unlike any other medium, music has the unique capability o capture our full attention, and as a result, can “activate, sustain, and improve our attention.” In a culture that’s full of distractions, the ability to focus our busy minds and allow our brains and our hearts to connect, we can find true balance and deep-seated joy. This wonderful phenomenon can occur for both adults and children alike.
All of this research and brain “stuff” can be a little dry; we admit it. But it also underscores the amazing and powerful effects of music, no matter what age or what stage of development the mind and emotions are in. Understanding a little of the science behind the powerful effects of music on our minds and emotions makes it all the more meaningful when experience music together in our Kindermusik classes. It reinforces again the immeasurable and lifelong value of early childhood music classes – something the children adore and memories that we as adults can hold in our hearts long after those precious years of childhood are left behind.
Shared by Theresa Case whose Kindermusik program at Piano Central Studios in Greenville, SC, has given her a heart full of songs and musical memories that she knows she’ll enjoy for the rest of her life.
[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]One afternoon, I walked into the living room and my very active 3-year-old daughter was just laying on the couch with a blanket. “What are you doing? Are you OK?” I asked her. “Yes mama, I’m just listening to the music,” she replied. And she stayed there for a good 20 minutes. Mind you, this is the child who barely sat down for more than 30 seconds at a time.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Listening to music is something of a lost art. Taking the time to just LISTEN with your child can help you to reconnect after a long day and teaches them that listening to music can be the main activity and not just background noise. Babies and young children especially benefit from mindfully listening to music. We forget that they are also exposed to stressors during their day and that relaxation is a LEARNED skill that we need to teach. It doesn’t have to be very long, try listening to 1 or 2 songs, especially if your child is very young and on the move! The idea isn’t to get them to “sit down and listen,” but to create an environment where they are able to enjoy the music.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text][/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]
A Few Tips for Mindful Music Listening
Start the music and then put your phone and all other technology away and out of sight.
Make eye contact with your child and smile.
If your child needs movement, try rocking with them on your legs.
Add some intentional touch such as rubbing their back or ears, or massaging their feet.
[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Quietly talk about the music. What instruments are being used? Is it a man or a woman singing? Is the music fast or slow? Does it sound happy or sad? If there are words, what language are they speaking? Even babies and toddlers benefit from you labeling these sounds for them, and children in preschool and beyond will enjoy having a conversation about the music they are hearing.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Make music listening a special part of your daily rituals, whether it’s when you come home from work, or before bedtime. Your entire family will benefit from a few minutes of mindful music listening![/vc_column_text][vc_separator][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]
[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]Jessica Solares and her husband Luis own Bucktown Music in Chicago, IL, which is recognized by Kindermusik International as one of the top studios in the world. Jessica holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Elmhurst Collegeand has been a licensed Kindermusik educator since 2008. She joined the Kindermusik University teacher training team in 2016 and is proudly sharing her expertise with the newest generation of Kindermusik educators![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]
[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]With its bright, colorful cover, Music Is…, wonderful board book, grabs your attention even before you even open it and read it. In many ways, it is a simple book with very few words on each page, but it is a wonderful teaching book – the perfect at-home library complement to the concepts children are learning and the musical styles they are being exposed to in Kindermusik class.
Each two-page spread is a contrast, which is perfect because young children learn best in contrasts. So just like Kindermusik introduces contrasting musical concepts and styles in class, Music Is… introduces contrasting concepts, moods, and styles, one concept per page, making it easy for young children to begin to grasp and for older children and adults to enjoy.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text][/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]It teaches concepts such as…
music is quiet music is LOUD
music is sad music is happy
music is lo-fi music is hi-fi a capella instrumental acoustic electric
[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]The really lovely thing is that as the book is teaching music concepts, it is also developing a basic music vocabulary for parents and children alike. As the story unfolds, it is delightful to see children of all ethnic backgrounds making music and also playing with music. There are instruments and music makers on every page.
It’s an entertaining read-aloud for younger children and an engaging conversation starter for older children. For the sake of the non-musical adult, there’s even a basic glossary of musical terms on the very last page.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text][/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]The simple story line is enhanced by whimsical and interesting illustrations that explain what music is and explore how music makes us feel. It’s the kind of fun, feel-good story book you don’t mind reading over and over again…which is a good thing since it’s sure to become a family favorite![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]At the end, the author brings it all together in this profoundly beautiful conclusion:
music is old music is new music is for everyone music is for you
[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Music Is… by author Brandon Stosuy and illustrator Amy Martin can be found at your favorite local book seller or online in both physical and digital formats.[/vc_column_text][vc_separator][vc_column_text]Shared by Theresa Case whose award-winning Kindermusik program at Piano Central Studios in Greenville, SC, has been a happy advocate for the benefits of music for over 20 years now.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]