The beauty around us

Aesthetic awareness has been described as one of the defining qualities of being human. Becoming aware of the beauty of sound – a part of aesthetic awareness – requires key listening skills.

Sometimes the most unusual sounds and beautiful sights can strike a chord within us, and even within a precocious young child!  Learning to search for beauty, listen for beauty, and discuss beautiful sounds – these are the building blocks to developing an aesthetic awareness that lasts a lifetime.

As adults, it’s up to us to model an appreciation for loveliness  around us and also create environments to help awaken a child’s aesthetic senses. In order for a child to become a truly creative, authentic learner and creator herself, this awareness must first be developed and fostered.

Even simple Kindermusik activities like taking a pretend windy walk, reading about Michael Finnigan’s antics with the wind, or making wind chimes, are part of helping a child seek out and understand the aesthetic beauty around us. A nature walk, singing, painting, drawing, playing an instrument – all these activities are effective.

Here are a few tips to help your child continue to build aesthetic awareness:

1.  Expose your child to experiences that heighten his sense of the aesthetically pleasing – museums, concerts, nature walks, etc.

2.  Point out the beauty already around your child – in nature, fine art, and music.  Talk about what he likes, or doesn’t like, and why.

3.  Play good quality music in the home and/or in the car, surrounding your child with a variety of musical genres and styles.  Discuss what she is hearing and how it makes her feel.

4.  Encourage your child to express himself musically and artistically.  Let your child pick the music he listens to while doing a little project.  Keep kid-friendly art supplies within reach for those moments when inspiration strikes.

5.  Keep your child enrolled in Kindermusik!  From newborn up, Kindermusik is seven musical and magical years of preparation for a lifetime of aesthetic awareness.

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

Music and art are peas in a pod

A little child gripping a paintbrush in her hand can quickly discover her “inner conductor.” Smocked in your old shirt and hovering over the kitchen table, arms raised, she conducts the swirl of colors on—and sometimes off—the page.

That’s just one small example of how music and art can go hand in hand. Plus, the same activities that develop musical skills in a young child also develop skills that a young artist needs: hand-eye coordination, creative expression, and visual literacy.

Want some ideas for bringing music and art together with your child? We’ve got some!

For Babies…

Your face is the artwork. You instinctively tend to hold your baby about eight to nine inches from your face—just close enough to provide her with needed visual stimulation. In the first two months of her life, that’s also her best field of vision. According to Carla Hannaford, author of Smart Moves, Why Learning is Not All in Your Head, sight is the least developed sense in a young baby. Most learning—almost 90 percent—occurs through touch and taste. Visual literacy (the ability to see texture and perspective in two-dimensional pictures) is learned later. You can help your baby develop visual literacy by showing her things that encourage her eyes to move. And in the first year of life, her favorite thing to look at is your face.

Your baby loves the contrast between your bright eyes and dark mouth, the many lines of your face, your facial expressions, and so on. The distance between your facial features begins to give your baby the information she needs to build her visual literacy.

Visual and auditory experiences actually shape the wiring of the brain. While seeing moving objects is not necessarily easy for infants, your newborn’s attention will also be attracted to bold, sharp patterns and objects. Showing your infant high contrast items such as black-and-white designs, brightly colored toys, and smiling faces is a great way to support his or her development.

Here are a few more activities to develop eye strength:

  • > When you read together, trace your finger across the words as you read. This encourages your baby to follow your finger.
  • > Hold and shake a rattle or instrument. Move it slowly allowing your baby to track the instrument with her eyes.
  • > Sing. Research has shown that babies will turn their heads to look in the direction of the sound of their parent’s voice.

For Toddlers…

The development of your toddler’s drawing ability begins when the scribbling stage is over. Sometime between the ages of 12 and 18 months, your toddler will probably attempt to “write” by making marks on paper, and at about 18 to 24 months she may surprise you by drawing vertical and horizontal lines or a circle, according to Art and Creative Development for Young Children by Robert Schirrmacher.

The toddler years also mark a phase of drawing sometimes referred to as “Potato People.” These are drawings that feature wide bodies with stick figure legs and arms. Since your toddler spent so much time looking at your face as a baby, much of what he draws in the first year will be faces like these with appendages as an afterthought. Give him plenty of time with paper and crayons to help him develop his drawing skills and move beyond the “Potato People” phase (despite how cute those drawings end up being).

For a colorful activity, “paint” with tissue paper:

  • > Cut the tissue paper into strips, or squares and put a very small amount of water into shallow bowls.
  • > Show your toddler how to scrunch up the tissue and dip into the water to create a watercolor effect.
  • > Encourage your toddler to tell you all about his creations. Talk about the colors, ask him about the shapes. To incorporate music, can you two make up a little song about the creation? Point and label—as you do with everything else in your toddler’s world.

For Preschoolers…

With preschoolers, you can dive in and draw to the music! With her increasingly abstract reasoning skills, her imagination is soaring. She’s also more physically coordinated and able to hold a pencil, crayons, and scissors with greater control. And while she enjoys being to able to draw more geometric shapes, much of the preschooler’s choice of color, is emotional, according to Art and Creative Development for Young Children.

What does the music look like? The emotional aspect of music, combined with tempo and rhythm, make drawing to music a perfect activity for this age.

  • > To really get the imagination going, pick out some music and ask your preschooler to “draw out the music.” Ask him if this is blue music or red music. What would purple sound like?
  • > Use the paper for wall art or wrapping paper. Glue it to bookmarks and give them to Grandma and Grandpa.

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.