Through a Nana’s eyes

Special thanks to Studio 3 Music, the world’s largest Kindermusik program, for sharing this special post by from their blog with us.  The author, Colleen, is not just a grandmother; she’s also a licensed Kindermusik teacher at Studio 3!

It’s no wonder Grandmothers are afforded such a high level of respect in so many cultures: we are survivors!   We have borne children, raised them to adulthood and now stand ready to assist a whole new batch of babies.  Our hair a little grayer (not that anyone else will actually KNOW that fact), our gait a little slower, and perhaps our speech a bit more selective, having learned a thing or two along the way….hopefully!Each week I gather with a group of grandmothers much as I gathered with other moms when my children were young.   Oh, the special companionship we share!  We compare stories and pictures, laugh until we cry, cry until we laugh.  We celebrate remembered successes and occasionally can’t resist commiserating over the things we wished we’d done differently.  But in general, we relish the richness a new generation of babies brings to our lives.

Being one of the newer members of the Studio3 teaching team, I also have the special privilege of being the oldest and the one with the most (make that “only”!) grandchildren.   I could never have imagined even two years ago that my days would be spent so delightfully singing and skipping, hopping and bouncing, dancing and snuggling with little ones while learning a plethora of nursery rhymes, not to mention dozens of dances, silly songs and stories.   I feel I’ve been granted a rare and wonderful privilege.

But, of course, the best part is the children….and we Nanas and Papas see them very differently than Mommies and Daddies. Grandparent’s eyes are somehow different than parent’s eyes, probably because they are old and practiced.  We have seen how very quickly a little one pulls his way up to wobbly knees, quickly followed by toddling feet that all too soon make way for bicycle pedals.   Babies are not babies for long.   Toddlers are not toddlers for long.   Children are not children for long.

In the midst of the morphing the moments seem to stretch on forever!    Will they never sleep through the night?    Will he ever use a spoon?   Are diapers forever?   (Well, that Depends, I guess!)   It’s hard to take the long view when the short view involves such intensity.

I guess that’s one of the rewards of grandparenting.   We have seen the long view and discovered that it arrives all too soon!   I share with you a little poem someone took the time to embroider and frame as a gift for me when I was a young mom, in hopes you will pay it more heed than regrettably I, especially the last stanza.   Credited to Ruth Hamilton, it first appeared in the Ladies Home Journal in 1938 (before even MY time!).


Babies Don’t Keep

Mother, oh Mother, come shake out your cloth,
Empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
Hang out the washing and butter the bread,
Sew on a button and make up a bed.
Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She’s up in the nursery, blissfully rocking.

Oh, I’ve grown shiftless as Little Boy Blue
(Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
(Pat-a-cake, darling, and peek, peekaboo).
The shopping’s not done and there’s nothing for stew

And out in the yard there’s a hullabaloo
But I’m playing Kanga and this is my Roo.
Look! Aren’t her eyes the most wonderful hue?
(Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).

The cleaning and scrubbing will wait till tomorrow,
For children grow up, as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down, cobwebs. Dust go to sleep.
I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.

Splish, splish, SPLASH!

The following post was shared from Kindermusik educator Joy Granade.

Some days bathtime feels like a chore, just one more part of the day you have to slog through to get the kids into bed, so you can crash.  However, over the years it’s been amazing to watch the way my hubby has turned bathtime into a special ritual with the boys.

When my oldest was first born, my hubby proudly declared that he wanted the responsibility for bathtime.  At first I wasn’t quite so sure as his early attempts were filled with some crazy misadventures.  But before long I saw what a treasure bathtime was quickly becoming for my two (and now three) guys.

Proud Kindermusik mama that I am, I have seen in action how important rituals and routines are for helping babies, toddlers, preschoolers (and even grownups) find order and peace in their days.  Not only have I seen them ease tantrums and tears, but I’ve also watched how they help us as a family calm and connect to one another.  So, here are a few lessons I’ve learned from watching my sweet hubby at bathtime with the boys:

Give yourself time. When you don’t feel rushed, you both can be really present in the moment, which helps you make bathtime a bonding experience but also helps your little one feel relaxed and ready for bed.

Bathtime can be playtime. And of course for little people, playtime is always learning time.  Whether you just grab a small colander, funnel, and measuring cups from the kitchen or you buy bathtoys, water play is a blast and a great way to learn.  Watch how things sink or float.  Talk about colors.  Count.  Play with textures – washcloths or even sponges cut into shapes or animals.  Identify letters (foam ones are fun to stick on the wall).

We even used bathtime to teach a lot of sign language (DUCK, WATER, BATH, IN, OUT, MORE).  Our favorite toys:  ducks, stacking cups with holes that water can drip through, and now dinosaurs we can bathe.  I’ve also heard of families bringing baby dolls or cars to share in the bath as well.

Consider using your hands.  Touch is one of the most important ways we connect.  A long time ago my hubby declared that he didn’t want to use baby washcloths much, though they are sometimes necessary.  He knew that the special act of washing our boys with his bare hands communicated love and affection in a way that a washcloth couldn’t.

Add a little massage. With our littlest babies in the Village classes, we often share a time of baby massage.  Bathtime is the perfect time to extend this activity.  Whether you just give a little extra squeeze as you scrub your little one down, or you pull out some lotion for a sweet massage after you’ve toweled off, this kind of loving, intentional touch aids in digestion, relieves colic, promotes health, and might even help your child sleep.

Even after we quit giving massages at bathtime, I continued to give backrubs and leg and arm massage as we snuggled before bed when I knew our kids were having a hard time settling down for bedtime.

And of course…make music! Because transitions have always needed a little extra creativity in our household, we made up a bathtime song years ago.  (It sounds like the old Batman TV show theme but uses the word Bathtime instead of Batman.  Only my hubby.)  But it grew from there.  Before long we had songs we sang to calm crying babies as we toweled them off, chants for counting “piggies” in the bath (“This little piggy…”), and even songs about scrubbing in the tub.  Sometimes we just sang our latest favorite Kindermusik songs or even made up new silly songs.  It never matters what we sing, it always makes bathtime easier – especially when it’s been a long day.

Time to get out of the tub! And last but not least, all good things must come to an end, and with bathtime, sometimes the fun is so great that getting out is hard.  That’s why it’s a good idea to come up with a few rituals for getting out.

Over the years ours have evolved.  For our babies, we sang lullabies to help ease the transition.  Then as the boys grew, they counted down 5 minutes, 3 minutes, 1 minute till time to get out of the bath.  Soon they were making choices about how to get out of the tub – stomp like a dinosaur out of the bath or jump like a monkey.

But the best was what happened on the other side of the tub wall.  Whether they hid under the towel, played peekaboo, or pretended to be butterflies wrapped in a towel cocoon, there was always a big snuggle at the end of bath – my favorite part!

Special thanks to Kindermusik educator Joy Granade for sharing this post from her blog, Kindermusik with Joy. Information about Joy’s Kindermusik program in Kansas City, MO, can be found at her blog.

The “Process”

This post was shared from a mom enrolled in Kindermusik classes at Studio3Music, the world’s largest Kindermusik program.

As a mom of 2 very different boys, one with sensory processing issues and one with a severe bleeding disorder, I know things in my house can be far from considered normal.  I remember going to Kindermusik when the older one (with SPD) was little.  He was always so BUSY!

It seemed like all the other 6-9 month old babies were happy and content to sit in their mommies’ laps and smile and clap with the music.  They would wave as the shakers were put away and smile again when the next song would start.  Not my baby.  He would crawl around the room, looking under curtains, pulling himself up where ever he could.  He’d look for anything out of place to discover and get into.  I was practically chasing him around the room!

When shaker time was over, he’d fight to keep that thing in his hand and when the shakers disappeared, he’d scream and cry through the entire next song.  I’d quietly soothe him, whispering in his ear.  I could feel all the other moms looking at me.  Sometimes we’d leave the room until things got calm.

This is when I’d come back and Miss Allison would talk about “The Process.” My younger boy never had this issue, although his deal is to just lie like a log on the floor during the dancing music.  Everyone just dances over him like he’s a prop on the carpet.  Of course I’m used to being the family that stands out in a crowd.  Neither child really follows anything.

After years with Miss Allison and learning from Montessori school, I have become adjusted to knowing what “The Process” really means.  At 6-9 months old, the older child was processing everything in his environment.  Including the music and songs of Kindermusik.  A week or two after learning a new song or dance he’d try mimicking it at home.  Not often in class.  He was too busy there.  Too busy PROCESSING everything.

The little one does the same thing.  He may just lay and roll on the floor in class, but on the way home he sings every single word to every song.  I learned something else about The Process over these 5 years as well.  Letting go of the Perfectionist in myself.

After setting out all the supplies for our family gingerbread house, I had ideas of creating a masterpiece, but after several summers of Kindermusik crafts and home art projects I knew the house was going to be anything but that.  The boys jumped right in icing and decorating until every bit of candy was either on that house or had been eaten.

Throughout, I kept reminding myself that it’s all about THE PROCESS.  I’ve seen other moms do all the gluing and sticking and messy work for their art projects or have a separate “kid’s Christmas tree” so that the “real” tree can look like Martha Stewart’s, and that’s fine.  Those trees are beautiful and the projects look just like the originals.

What I’ve learned about The Process is that as much as I want that perfect looking tree and gingerbread house for my very own, I remember the original ones even more. I remember the hand turkey with 3 eyes and feathers on his head but none on the fingers part.  The gingerbread house with candy only on one side or only decorated with the blue candies.  I remember the Santa picture that I had to be in with my sweats on, hair a mess and no makeup because the little one would not go near the man in the red suit.  This is all part of The Process.

The Process, where not only the children are learning and growing and absorbing, but I am too! The perfectionist still wants to fight it but I remember all these things to keep her at bay, and until the children can hang outside Christmas lights on their own, I can still light up the neighborhood in my own Martha Stewart-ness.  So the next time you see us dancing to the beat of our own drum, you can stare, it’s okay. We are just processing and making memories while doing it.

Shared with permission from Studio 3 Music, the world’s largest Kindermusik program, from a Studio 3 Music blog post written by Kindermusik mommy Heidi Forrester… who still hopes her gingerbread house will one day look like the picture on the package.

New mommies’ brains grow bigger

The following post was shared by Kindermusik educator Analiisa Reichlin.

I always said that I lost brain cells with each child I delivered. It’s been my excuse over the last 12 years for all the information and appointments and tasks that seem to fall out of my head. However, some recent research I read seems to contradict that idea.

A recent Science Daily article says this, “Motherhood may actually cause the brain to grow, not turn it into mush, as some have claimed. Exploratory research published by the American Psychological Association found that the brains of new mothers bulked up in areas linked to motivation and behavior, and that mothers who gushed the most about their babies showed the greatest growth in key parts of the mid-brain.”

The authors of the study proposed the idea that all the hormonal changes after birth allow mother’s brains to reshape in response to their baby, and the instinct and drive mothers have to take care of their infant is the result of brain growth.

The researchers performed brain scans on women several weeks after birth, and again at 3 to 4 months post partum. They found that the mothers who most enthusiastically described their infants as wonderful, perfect, precious, beautiful, etc., were significantly more likely to have growth in the gray matter of their brains linked to maternal motivation, rewards and the regulation of emotions.

What made the authors believe that this brain growth was linked to motherhood was the fact that in adults, gray matter volume doesn’t normally transform over a few months without significant learning, brain injury or illness, or major environmental change.

So the questions arose. Does the constant touching, holding, cuddling, between a mother and baby cause her brain to “orchestrate a new and increased repertoire of complex interactive behaviors” with her baby?

Does growth in the brain’s “motivation” area lead to more nurturing by the new mommy, which in turn helps her baby thrive? Does behavior change the brain, or brain change behavior?

Finally, is it possible that post-partum depression reduce the same areas in the brain that grew in the non-depressed moms? Is there something in these findings that could help them?

More research is definitely needed. But these results are interesting, to say the least. So in the meantime, go ahead enthusiastically gush about your baby to everyone!

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.

Ready? Set. Read!

Every parent knows how much children enjoy being read to: the excitement of new books and the comfort of those read over and over. Then there’s also all the great benefits they’re getting.

Reading to a child aids in language development. As a child hears language spoken to him, he internalizes the sounds, later using them in his own speech. Reading can open up new worlds and expand the mind. It can extend vocabulary and the understanding of things beyond everyday experience. Giving your child the opportunity to become familiar and comfortable with books is an important part of fostering a love of reading.

Reading together:

  • -Fosters reading enjoyment.
  • -Provides predictability through repetition.
  • -Introduces new vocabulary.
  • -Expands understanding of story structures.
  • -Promotes critical thinking.
  • -Encourages language play and creative expression.
  • -Provides cognitive stimulation.
  • -Builds early interest in literacy.

“Literacy is listening, learning, and quality of life. It is reading, writing, thinking, scribbling, drawing, and being motivated to find meaning. It is interpreting, inventing, associating, communicating, responding, sharing, and being able to set visions into action.” —The Storybook Journey, by S. McCord, p. 125.

There is a strong relationship between reading and music. Reading to children closely approximates the experience of singing or conversation. It provides another way to communicate through rhythm, reciprocity, tone, and language that is, after all, very much like music. That’s why pre-literacy development and exposure to books is an integral piece of each Kindermusik class.  Books stir the same responses in young children that music does.  Some books are exciting and encourage movement. Some inspire children to be thoughtful.  And some books soothe a child to sleep just like a lullaby.

Reading can help toddlers understand and process emotions and can teach healthy social behaviors. For children whose emotions are powerful but whose expressive language is still limited, books provide avenues for understanding the emotions they experience. Through hearing stories, toddlers and preschoolers can make sense of their own feelings.

Story Time:

  • -Exposes children to new words and new ways to communicate.
  • -Motivates children to think about things in different ways and even see things from another’s perspective.
  • -Provides opportunity for children to interact with each other.
  • -Can present positive social models and examples.
  • -When shared in the lap of a loving grownup can provide calm, relaxation, and promote bonding.

Reading together at home is so important. Kindermusik includes literature as another medium for communication between parents and children. During Story Time in our toddler and preschool classes (and even sometimes in the baby classes), watch as your teacher engages the children. Gather ideas to use to bring books alive for your child at home. Support and nurture literacy development during read-aloud experiences by building on your child’s comments about the text, posing challenging questions, suggesting alternative interpretations, encouraging personal reactions, drawing attention to letters, words, and illustrations, and engaging in discussions about the text.

At Home:

  • -Set aside a specific time to read with your child each day. This ritual will not only be soothing to your child but also to you.
  • -Visit your public library. Ask the children’s librarian what books she recommends for your child’s age, or look at some of the suggestions on our blog or in your Home Activity Guide.
  • -Look at your Kindermusik books with your child while listening to the read-aloud that is often included on the Home CD.
  • -Make reading interactive. Ask your child questions about the story and the pictures.

“The most important thing you can do to make your child a reader is to read aloud stories and poems—the more the better!” Read to Me: Raising Kids Who Love to Read, by Bernice E. Cullinan.

Special thanks to Kindermusik educator Joy Granade for sharing this post from her blog, Kindermusik with Joy. Information about Joy’s Kindermusik program in Kansas City, MO, can be found at her blog.

Good taste in books

Literacy begins early, with nothing more than simply spending time with a book. Even if your baby puts the book in her mouth while you read, she absorbs the sounds of your words, the action of you turning the page, and the pleasure you derive from reading.

The first time your little one points to a picture in a book, she’s understanding the concept of symbols – the idea that the words and pictures represent objects and ideas. A child’s motivation to learn about and use symbols grows as she realizes that this is how she can make her needs and thoughts known to others.

When it comes to choosing books, recent research shows that children who have been exposed to nursery rhymes and lyrical stories in their younger years become better readers and are more successful in school.

Here are some of our favorite tips for developing good taste in books.

Your baby: Spend time with your baby and an open book. Point to the pictures and talk about what you see. Even if your child doesn’t understand a single word, she’ll absorb your love of books and reading.

Your toddler: Now your child can start adding sound effects when you read together. Choose stories with animals so your toddler can imitate their sounds and movements.

Your preschooler: Your little one is now ready to make up his own stories. He can also use a favorite story as the basis for his own pretend play. Help your preschooler make his own book using a favorite song or family photos. Share this “published” work with the whole family!

Again, again!!

Again, again!!  There’s a reason why those are two of your child’s favorite words – repetition is the way your child learns best.  Repetition also provides children with a sense of security and predictability, setting the stage for optimal learning.  Kindermusik takes full advantage of a learning environment that capitalizes on the comfort of repetition, both in class and at home – especially through the Home Materials.

Childhood is all about learning.  And while it’s tempting to indulge in all the latest learning trends, videos, or technology, for a child, the single best learning tool is repetition.  Each time a child is exposed to a new object or experience, new neural connections are made in his brain. Through repetition, these connections are strengthened. Add a little twist to the repetition, like when we add a new verse to a song or a new prop in class, and these neural pathways strengthen and become super-highways of learning.

Repetition is not only good for your child’s brain; it’s highly beneficial for your child’s overall development.  Repetition helps your child learn and remember new information, thus giving her a boost of joyful self-confidence because she can predict what comes next.  Then there’s also the immense satisfaction of mastering something.  Repetition is the way that your child reminds himself of a newfound skill, and the way he experiences a great deal of pleasure through a sense of completion and mastery.  Parents can use this love of repetition to their advantage by establishing predictable routines and rituals in the morning or evening, thus helping their child feel secure and in control – something that’s very important to a small child!

Each Kindermusik curriculum from Village to Young Child is deliberately designed to repeat certain activities, in part because of this important connection between repetition and learning, but also because repetition of activities promotes bonding and nurtures a sense of community and belonging. With the Kindermusik experience, ritual and repetition are key components of a predictable and nurturing environment in which learning, bonding, and a love for music naturally and beautifully unfold.

Benefits of repetition in a nutshell:

  • >Repetition fuels your child’s memory, confidence, and motor skills.
  • >Repetition expands your child’s understanding of the world around him.
  • >Repetition contributes to your child’s intellectual development by reinforcing her understanding of the way the world works.
  • >Repetition spurs motor development.
  • >Repetition helps your child feel good about himself because it reminds him of what he can do.
  • >Repetition builds a sense of trust, helping a child develop healthy relationships with others.
  • >Repetition is one way your child can exert some control over his environment, which is extremely gratifying for someone with such limited control over her world.

Posted by Theresa Case, whose Kindermusik program at Piano Central Studios is proudly among the top 1% of programs worldwide.

11 Ways to REALLY Listen to Your Child

The follow post was shared with Minds on Music from Kindermusik educator Vanessa Cabrera’s Language, Music & More blog.

A few days ago I read this: “We were given two ears but only one mouth, because listening is twice as hard and important as talking.”

Well, it’s true! It made me think about how much children have lot to say… a lot! Sometimes adults don’t think that children have anything important to say or that they can’t learn from children. So often times the adult does all the talking. They lecture, preach, or, worst of all, ignore the child. Listening to your children will help them grow up to be adults with increased self-esteem because you made them feel that what they have to say is important.

That said, children are not always sure how to communicate their feelings, so they might say something or act completely different from how they actually feel. Active listening can help you to help them figure it out! Here are some tips to REALLY listen to your child:

1.    Stop what you are doing. Don’t be distracted doing something else.

2.    Look at your child. Sit at his/her level.

3.    Pay attention to your child’s nonverbal language. Does the child look happy, sad, afraid?

4.    Be silent. It might be hard, but it is important that they have time to express themselves. It will also give you time to understand the situation before reacting.

5.    Use simple acknowledgement responses that show you are listening. “I see.” “Oh.” “Uh-Huh.” or “Hmmm.”

6.    Use “door-openers”: phrases that encourage further talking. “Tell me more.” “What else?” “Go on.” “How do you feel about that?” “Then what?”

7.    Listen for and name the feelings you think you hear from what your child is telling you. “That made you pretty mad, didn’t it?” “You seem really happy about that!”

8.    Use problem-solving phrases when needed. “What do you wish you could do?” “What do you want to happen?” “What do you think will happen if you do that?”

9. Don’t feel that you must advise or help your child come up with a solution all the time. The value of listening is in the listening itself.

10.    Let them know you are available.

11.  Don’t try to deny, discount, or distract the child from the feelings they are expressing.

Listening helps parents and children avoid the power struggle cycle. Instead of arguing or disagreeing, listen. Show your understanding while maintaining your position. Listening builds stronger relationships,  shows respect, and helps the child explore his/her own feelings and thoughts on a deeper level. It builds their sense of empathy.

So, are you ready to listen to your child?

Special thanks to Kindermusik educator Vanessa Cabrera for sharing this post from her Language, Music & More blog. Information about Vanessa’s Maryland Kindermusik program can be found at her blog.