Favorite Minds on Music Blog Posts from 2014

0_why_music_round_greenAt the beginning of January, we often reflect on the passing of another year. For parents, that might mean celebrating all of those “firsts” that happened last year like a baby’s first steps, a little one’s first time sleeping through the night, or maybe that first tooth (or first lost tooth!). In the life of a young child, so many firsts happen in one year! For early childhood teachers, it might mean celebrating how much your students have grown in confidence and abilities.

For us at Kindermusik, we also like to look back at all of the amazing new music research published in the last 12 months that helps answer the question, “Why Music?” After all, we recognize how music really does give children a good beginning that never ends. We invite you to travel with us down Abbey Road Memory Lane as we highlight 11 of our favorite blog posts from 2014, including new research about the power of music.

11 Blog Posts from 2014 about the Benefits of Music Education

Kindermusik Classes - Enroll Now - For a Child's Brain, Body, Heart & SoulWant to see these blog posts in action? Contact your local Kindermusik educator at www.Kindermusik.com and come visit a class.

Contributed by Lisa Camino Rowell. A freelance writer living in the Atlanta area.

Extraordinary benefit of music on the cognitive development of children

Music class drumTake a peek inside any Kindermusik classroom around the world and you will see much of the same thing. We sing. We dance. We play instruments. We listen to music. We move our bodies in response to music. We create music.
In all of our musical activities for kids, we engage children and families in learning both in the early childhood classroom and in the daily routines and rituals of family life. While this peek represents an ordinary (and fun!) day in a Kindermusik classroom, the benefits of music on the cognitive development of children is so much more than ordinary. For a young child’s brain development, the benefits of music are actually extra-ordinary.

A peek at the cognitive development of children who participate in music classes

While any parent can contact a local Kindermusik educator and take a free peek at a class, we need the help of scientists to look inside a child’s brain. Researchers from Boston’s Children’s Hospital recently took a closer look at what happens when children participate in music classes. The team studied 30 adults between the ages of 18 and 35 (15 working musicians and 15 non-musicians), and 27 children between the ages of 9 and 12 (over half of whom had at least two years of musical training).
As published in the online journal PLOSONE, they discovered that children with early musical training experience advanced executive function skills during cognitive testing. So, in other words, the benefits of music enables a child’s brain to more quickly process and retain information, regulate behaviors, make good choices, solve problems, plan, and adjust to changing mental demands. Sounds pretty extraordinary to us!
“Since executive functioning is a strong predictor of academic achievement, even more than IQ, we think our findings have strong educational implications,” explained study senior investigator Nadine Gaab, PhD, of the Laboratories of Cognitive Neuroscience at Boston Children’s in a press release. “While many schools are cutting music programs and spending more and more time on test preparation, our findings suggest that musical training may actually help to set up children for a better academic future.”

A child’s brain on Kindermusik

Brain on musicIncorporating music and movement into a child’s learning routine stimulates all areas of the brain and that is why music is the best vehicle of learning for early childhood education. Independent research studies show that Kindermusik—specifically—impacts the cognitive development of children. Children participating in our music classes show a 32 percent literacy gain and show marked improvement in inhibitory control.
So, whether you are looking to enroll your child in a Kindermusik class, bring Kindermusik to your childcare center or Head Start program, or even to your language school, the cognitive benefits of music will be evident.

For more information about bringing the benefits of music to your school or to find a local Kindermusik educator, visit the Class Locator.

Music and language share common brain pathways

(Source: http://www.womenshealthmag.com)
(Source: http://www.womenshealthmag.com)

Athletes employ the benefits of music to boost overall performance. Science shows that specific types of music can really get the blood pumping and focus the mind on the task at hand—like 1-minute planks or running those last few miles. However, a new study also shows that music can get the blood pumping for language development, too.
Music and language development on the same path to learning
In two related studies, researchers from the University of Liverpool found that brief musical training can increase the blood flow in the left hemisphere of the brain—the same area of the brain responsible for language learning.
The initial study examined the brain activity patterns in musicians and non-musicians as they participated in musical activities and word generation tasks at the same time. The results showed that the musicians’ brains showed similar paths during the activities, but the non-musicians did not.
In the follow-up study, the researchers measured the brain activity patterns of non-musicians who participated in both a word generation task and music perception task. Then, the participants received 30 minutes of musical training and then completed the tasks again. After the musical training, significant similarities were found in the brain.
Amy Spray, who conducted the research, explained in a press release:  “The areas of our brain that process music and language are thought to be shared. Previous research has suggested that musical training can lead to the increased use of the left hemisphere of the brain. This study looked into the modulatory effects that musical training could have on the use of different sides of the brain when performing music and language tasks. It was fascinating to see that the similarities in blood flow signatures can be brought about after just 30 minutes of simple musical training.”
Music and young ELL students
ABC English & Me - Teaching English to Children through MusicWhile the study above focused on adult participants, the results impact English language learners in the early childhood classroom, too.  ABC English & Me, our English Language Learners curriculum, uses ESL activities for kids, words with picture cards, puppets, and English songs for kids to teach young children English. From the first song at the start of each class to the last shake or tap of an instrument, children quickly become engaged in actively learning English through fun, games, and, of course, music!
Plus, we provide materials for families to use together at home. These monthly interactive materials support the classroom learning, while giving parents the tools they need to continue the English language learning at home through music.

Learn more about bringing ABC English & Me and the power of music to your school!

4 Cool Music Facts

4 Cool Music FactsWhen young children are consistently engaged by music in an age-appropriate, socially accepting environment, they benefit at so many levels. Learning through music literally lights up every area of a child’s brain and teaches little ones to love learning. So, in our music education classes for babies, big kids, toddlers, preschoolers, and families when we recite a nursery rhyme, participate in a circle dance or movement activity, play a vocal game, and explore instruments, children develop skills in early literacy and language, spatial-temporal and reasoning skills, physical development, and creativity.

4 Cool Music Facts

1. Making music together connects brains.

Researchers in Germany conducted a study with trained guitarists in which they attached electrodes to their heads while they played a duet. During the study, they found that the brain waves coordinated between the two guitarists while they played the duet together. This also applies to choral groups, orchestras, small ensembles, and yes, even music education classes for kids.

2. Singing (and dancing) the Hokey Pokey helps children learn to read, walk around the room, and understand geometry.

When young children explore the directions up and down during a fingerplay or put their left hands in and take their left hands out, they gain a greater understanding of spatial awareness. Spatial awareness is the ability to be mindful of where you are in space and to see two or more objects in relation to each other and to yourself. This eventually helps young children to safely navigate around a room, tell the difference between letters and group them together on a page to recognize words, and understand geometry.

3. Music and movement experiences in a group teach children how to be a good friend.

Actively participating in a music class class for babies, toddlers, big kids or families, impacts all seven areas of social-emotional development, including confidence, curiosity, intentionality, self-control, relatedness, capacity to communicate, cooperativeness. All key skills needed to be a good friend.

4. Steady beat gives children the ability to walk effortlessly, speak expressively, and even regulate repeated motions such as riding a bicycle, brushing teeth, or dribbling a ball.

Through music, children experience and respond to steady beat during lap bounces, instrument play, and by dancing. While children move to the beat with their bodies instinctively, learning to control those movements, and to follow—or create—is an essential component of a child’s early development.

Need more? Join a Kindermusik class near you! We’ve been making music together with families all around the world for 40 years, and we’d love to sing, dance, and refine those critical skills with you. 

Contributed by Lisa Camino Rowell, a freelance writer and former Kindermusik parent, who loves seeing the long-term impact of Kindermusik classes on her children.

Celebrate Inventors Month with the benefits of music

Benefits of Play for Children

Happy Inventors Month! In 1998, the United Inventors Association of the USA (UIA-USA), the Academy of Applied Science, and Inventors’ Digest magazine started Inventor’s Month as a way to celebrate the various contributions of inventors. Inventors make our lives easier from electricity to indoor plumbing to modern medicine to peanut better.
The list of top inventors probably includes Thomas Edison, Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein, George Washington Carver, Marie Curie, every childBenefits of Play for Children. Wait. “Every child?” Yes! Children make great inventors. Think about it. An inventor is someone who creates some new process, appliance, machine, or thing. To a child, everything is a new process—from learning how to eat, roll over, stand, walk, talk, roll a ball, and more. Children also discover new uses for everyday objects. A laundry basket becomes a turtle shell, a stack of pillows turns into a mountain worth exploring,  a baby spoon makes a great instrument, and blocks become, well, just about anything!

3 ways to encourage children as inventors

  1. Participate in the arts. Research indicates that STEM graduates (those majoring in Science, Technology, Engineering, or Mathematics fields) showed an increased involvement in visual arts, acting, dance, and creative writing. Even better, 93 percent of those graduates participated in music classes as a child.
  2. Combine music and learning. Music is more than, well, music. The benefits of music include supporting the social-emotional, physical, and the cognitive development of children. New research found that science-themed music videos boost scientific learning. We already learn our ABCs through song, so why not learn about gravity, phases of the moon, the life cycles of frogs, and all about magnets, too?
  3. Play together. Children learn through play. Provide the children in your life with hands-on playtime with caring, loving adults. Playing together helps children learn about their world and their place in it.  One of the greatest inventors of all time, Albert Einstein, understood the benefits of play. After all, he said, “Play is the highest form of research.”

4 musical activities to celebrate Inventor’s Month

Kindermusik@HomeFor Babies: (From Cuddle & Bounce, “Bluebird, Bluebird”—Crinkly, Furry, Bumpy, Strange)
Touch, squeeze, feel, pat. Babies explore their worlds with their hands (and sometimes mouths). With an adult there to exercise diligent supervision, of course, there are plenty of ways to introduce new and interesting textures and sensations to a baby.
For Young Toddlers: (From Sing & Play “Family All Around Me”—Fill & Empty)
Fill it up, dump it out. Fill it up, dump it out. Sound familiar? Fill and empty is an enduring ‘play scheme’ among toddlers, and there are so many variations on the theme! Here are a few fresh ideas that will engage toddlers.
For Older Toddlers: (From Wiggle & Grow “Beach Days”—Let’s Make…A Beach in a Bottle! 
Kindermusik@HomeYou know that feeling, when you’ve spent a great day at the beach and you just wish you could bottle it and bring it home with you…?
For Preschoolers: (From Laugh & Learn “Outside My Window”—Be a Sound Inventor: Weather Sounds)
You won’t believe how easy it is to make these weather sound effects! This friendly tutorial teaches you how to imitate the sounds of light rain, heavy rain, thunder, and wind.

Do you want to bring the power of music to your child and family? Find a local Kindermusik educator today! 

Contributed by Lisa Camino Rowell, whose oldest daughter learned about the phases of the moon through song.  


It’s Math Awareness Month!

More reasons to celebrate the benefits of music

Last month, we celebrated Music in Our Schools Month. Truth be told, though, we celebrate the benefits of music every month (every day actually). After all musical activities stimulate development in every area of the brain! April brings us Math Awareness Month and—you guessed it—one more reason to celebrate the benefits of music!
Music and Math quoteThe known connections between music and math go way back. The 17th century German mathematician, Gottfried Leibniz, explained it this way: “Music is the sensation of counting without being aware you were counting.” Centuries later we understand more about the benefits of music on learning, including on the cognitive development in children.

A quick experiment about the benefits of music

Try this experiment: One, two buckle my shoe. Three, four shut the door. Five, six pick up sticks. Seven, eight lay them straight. Nine, ten begin again. You did it, didn’t you? Before you finished reading that nursery rhyme, you found yourself singing it, instead. It’s okay. You probably do that with the ABCs, too. It’s how many of us learned those building blocks of reading and math—through nursery rhymes, songs, and maybe a few dance moves!
The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) recently published a report: The Patterns of Music: Young Children Learning Mathematics through Beat, Rhythm, and Melody. This report highlights some of the links between music and math and concludes by saying:

“With new understanding about the nature of everyday learning experiences, the key role of patterns in the development of literacy and mathematics, and the need for a stimulating environment in the very early years, the importance of music in the home and in the classroom is becoming clear. Music is children’s first patterning experience and helps engage them in mathematics even when they don’t recognize the activities as mathematics. Music is a highly social, natural, and developmentally appropriate way to engage even the youngest child in math learning.”

3 benefits of music on early math skills

1. Music helps young children learn to count by rote. Young children learn to count by rote—a memorizing process using routine and repetition. Learning to count by rote helps children develop number vocabulary, memory, patterning, and sequence—all foundational skills for math. Music gives children many opportunities to practice counting. For example, in our early childhood education curriculum, ABC Music & Me, when we “roll, roll, roll…1, 2, 3” an instrument, count to three and jump up during the circle dance, recite the numbers playing with balls, or count the beats in a nursery rhyme, children practice counting in a fun, engaging way, which reinforces the beginning stages of learning numbers.
Try this music and movement activity: 1, 2, 3, Count with Me! Tap into young children’s love of games by playing a game of “1, 2, 3, Count with Me!” Count together how many crayons to put away, how many steps it takes to get from the rug to a chair, or even how many people need a coat for outside.
2. Music and movement activities teach children about spatial awareness.
Kindermusik_EarlyChildhoodMusicClass_MiddleEastMusic supports young children’s spatial awareness development through movement, songs, poems, and props. So, for example, in our early childhood music education classes, when we explore the directions up and down during a fingerplay, dance forwards and backwards based on the cues heard in a song, or go on a swervy-curvy blanket ride, young children gain a greater understanding of spatial awareness. Exploring spatial awareness through whole body movement eventually helps children to safely navigate around a room, tell the difference between letters and group them together on a page to recognize words, and understand geometry! 
Try this music and movement activity: Do the Hokey-Pokey! Yes, that Hokey-Pokey from our own childhoods. Using the directional words throughout the day, makes personal connections and helps children gain a better understanding of the concept and boosts overall spatial awareness.
3. Music leads children to experience patterns through movement, listening, and playing instruments. Rhythm patterns are combinations of long and short sounds and silences. For example, in a Kindermusik preschool or toddler curriculum, educators may lead the class to “step, step, step, stop” or “ta, ta, ta, rest” with rhythm sticks. This helps children learn rhythm patterns (quarter note, quarter note, quarter note, rest), a basic musical concept. Plus, whole body involvement with patterning lays an early foundation for math.
Try this music and movement activity: Hold it steady. Repeating the steady beat heard in a musical piece helps children identify and repeat a simple pattern. While listening to music together, tap or clap a steady beat to the music.

The benefits of music set a child up for early math success and more

Benefits Of Music for ChildrenThe New York Post published an article, “The essay that got 1 student into all 8 Ivies,” about High School student, Kwasi Enin. Enin was accepted into all 8 Ivy League colleges, earned a 2250 on his SATs, and hopes to become a medical doctor. In the article, Enin said: “I directly developed my capacity to think creatively around problems due to the infinite possibilities of music.” His love of music sparked his “intellectual curiousity” and “helped him play a role in his community and learn leadership values.”
We know that those skills he learned playing the viola for nine years probably also contributed to his high SAT score and will continue to help him as he strives towards his goal of becoming a physician.
And the reasons to celebrate music continue…

Learn more about using music in the early childhood classroom to support the cognitive development in children, including early math, literacy, and language skills.

To experience the benefits of music with your child, find a local Kindermusik educator in your area. 

Music & Movement Benefits: "Scaffolding" Your Child's Learning

mom and child playing drums in KindermusikThe term scaffolding evokes the image of a temporary support structure in a construction site.  The process of scaffolding in an educational sense is much like the traditional definition of scaffolding as a temporary support system used until a task is complete and a building stands without support. That sounds a lot like our job as parents, doesn’t it?  We provide a temporary support system for our children until they can stand on their own in the world.
Scaffolding occurs all the time in our Kindermusik classes as parents and children play with instruments, props, your voices, and movement and discover ways to adapt activities to their own style and their child’s unique interests and abilities.  Kindermusik combines this educational strategy (scaffolding) with music and learning activities as just another way to enhance the child’s whole development – cognitive development, emotional development, language development, and more!
Helps for Parents:  Be on the lookout for scaffolding opportunities at home, at the park, the grocery store…anywhere at all. Three easy directives to remember (while you’re providing that “temporary platform” for life): Ask questions, make observations (eye-to-eye, imitate & label), and give challenges – and before you know it, that little “building” will be standing with no support.
Learn how to scaffold with us – try a free Kindermusik class today!
Compiled by Theresa Case, whose Kindermusik program at Piano Central Studios in Greenville, SC, is proudly among the top 1% of Kindermusik programs worldwide.

Music is a Super Power

calling all preschoolersEver wonder why there is not a superhero with the Power of Music? Seriously. Sure, super strength and the ability to fly come in handy, but the Power of Music can sooth and calm a fussy baby (well, really a person of any age—adults included!), convince a reluctant toddler to clean up toys, help a preschooler discriminate between letter sounds, and even teach a child self-control.
Let’s face it. The Power of Music is a super power, especially when it comes to the cognitive development in children. But, wait, there’s more! Studies even show that the benefits of music extend well beyond childhood. Who needs to leap tall buildings?

Two long-term cognitive benefits of music

Two recent studies on the benefits of music show that music lessons in childhood can protect an adult’s brain from dementia, positively impact memory recall, and help aging adults maintain sound discrimination that supports speech:

  1. As explained in the Journal of Neuroscience when adults age, many experience challenges in understanding and responding to speech, especially in certain environments, such as restaurants. However, older adults with music training as children do not exhibit neural timing delays. Adult participants with 4 to 14 years of musical training as children had faster response times to speech than those without musical training as children. Most surprisingly, they had not attended music classes in over 40 years! 
  2. Dr. Luis Fornazzari of St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto has also studied adult musicians’ memory in relation to dementia. He noticed that older adults who could play music as children did not experience the same level of decay in the discrimination of sounds when compared to non-musicians. “The brain becomes absolutely trained in the discrimination of the sounds, the human voice and the different instruments, the different notes and that lasts,” Fornazzari explained in Learning music early build’s up brain’s reserves. “If the disease [dementia] occurs and you have good brain reserve capacity, you can tolerate the effect of the disease for longer not showing the symptoms until later.” 

So, while we may not be able to give our children the Super Power of flight or strength—or even an invisibility cloak for that matter—we can give our children the super power of music! Do you want to bring the power of music to your child and family?

Find a local Kindermusik educator. 

Music & Movement Benefits: Why and How to Sing to Your Child

Most of us have some songs we can recall from our childhood.  Start singing and the tune and the words will probably come back to you.  And if you’re in a Kindermusik class, you are enjoying a growing repertoire of songs to pull out and sing for almost any occasion!
Why Sing
Singing to a child is a priceless gift.  It doesn’t matter if you feel like your voice is not star quality; to your child, the sound of your voice is the best sound in the whole world.  According to Scholastic Parent & Child Magazine (Dec/Jan 1999), singing with and to your child can:

  • calm when upset, soothe fears, and reduce irritability;
  • enhance a child’s grasp of language and sense of beauty;
  • remind a child that he/she is cherished and loved;
  • improve communication and intimate bonding between parent and child.

How to Sing

  • Bounce your child in your lap and sing a song together.
  • Pick out individual words or groups of words from the song and let your child echo you.  Change your voice, using lots of inflection.
  • Accompany yourselves by tapping wooden or plastic spoons together with a beat.
  • Dance while you sing.
  • Put your own words to a song – whatever fits the occasion or the task at hand.
  • Let a song inspire dress-up and pretend play.

Take the song, “The Muffin Man,” for example.  The words are:
Do you know the muffin man, the muffin man, the muffin man?
Do you know the muffin man who lives in Drury Lane?
Yes, I know the muffin man, the muffin man, the muffin man.
Yes, I know the muffin man who lives in Drury Lane.
You can have fun singing, adapting, and playing with this song in many ways.  Here are just a few ideas to get you started:

  • Try inserting another occupation, like “the bakery lady,” “the lawn mower man,” “the fireman,” or “our doctor friend.”
  • Substitute your own street name for Drury Lane.
  • Accompany yourself by tapping a spoon on a muffin pan.
  • Explore the many different kinds of sounds you can make as you tap, rub, or scrape the muffin tin.
  • Create a muffin game.
  • Put on an apron and/or a chef’s hat and then bake some muffins together – or just pretend to do so!
  • Play with the question and answer part of the song.
  • Come up with your own muffin song.

Shared by Theresa Case, who has an award-winning Kindermusik program at Piano Central Studios in Greenville, SC.

Kindermusik… It's What's Good for You!

Development of the BrainOne of the best things about Kindermusik is the way the music and movement activities are so carefully and creatively designed to enhance every area of a child’s development.  You might think it’s just about the music, but as we’re often fond of saying, “We’re so much MORE than just music.”  There are many benefits of music, but none more important than those that affect every area of a child’s development – like Kindermusik does.
Chants and Fingerplays help children explore fun sounds and practice new words, providing a rich language environment.
Rhymes and Stories give Kindermusik kids a rich head-start in literacy development.
Singing and Playing Instruments inspire a love for music and lay a foundation for musical learning.
Marching, Jumping, Bouncing, and Twirling allow a child to be more self-expressive and to explore the many different ways a body can move, contributing to his physical development.
Rocking and Quiet Time promote special bonding time between parent and child and make those emotional ties even stronger.
Multi-sensory Activities which engage more than one sense at a time are part of what sparks vital cognitive development.
Circle Dances foster a sense of belonging and community, contributing to a child’s healthy social development.
Come See KindermusikMusic and learning go hand-in-hand.  So come swing, sway, dance, LEARN, and play with us at Kindermusik.  Try a free class today!  You’ll love seeing firsthand all the many ways your child will flourish in Kindermusik – in every area of his development.