Kids Tap Their Way to Better Grammar

“Conjunction Junction wants your function? Hooking up words and phrases and clauses.” Do you know the rest of the lyrics to that old School House Rock favorite? Take a listen and sing along!


You might be surprised to learn that the song provided more than a Saturday morning distraction. It also actually taught children about grammar. In fact, a first-of-its-kind research study from Vanderbilt University shows an association between musical rhythm and grammar.

Exploring the links between grammar and musical rhythm

In the study, Reyna Gordon, Ph.D. measured the grammar skills and music skills of 25 typically developing 6 year olds. While the two tests were different, Gordon found that children who performed well on one of the tests also did well on the second test. Musical experience, socio-economic backgrounds, or IQ did not matter. Gordon suggests that the similarities between the rhythms in music and the rhythms of language explain how children who did well on one test also did well on the other.

According to the study, in grammar children’s minds sort the sounds they hear into words, phrases, and sentences. The rhythm of language helps them to properly sort those sounds.  In music, rhythmic sequences give structure to musical phrases and help listeners move to a steady beat.

“I’ve been thinking a lot about this idea… is music necessary?” confesses Gordon in a press release. “Those of us in the field of music cognition, we know—it does have a unique role in brain development.”

Yes! Yes, it does!

Don’t Do Try this at Home or in Class

Parents and early childhood educators can support young children’s grammar skills by actively engaging in musical activities together. Try putting on some music or singing a song and inviting children to tap along to the steady beat. Children can clap hands or knees, gently bang a wooden spoon on a plastic bowl, or shake a homemade instrument. This Kindermusik class in the Ukraine tapped to the beat using rhythm sticks:


Find out more about Kindermusik at

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

Early Language Development Flourishes through Music

Pediatricians will often recommend music classes for children with language delays.  Speech therapists regularly incorporate music and rhymes in their therapy sessions with young children.  Researchers have identified talking and singing with a small child as one of the most effective tools for closing the word gap with under-served populations.

nothing more powerful than musicHere are six music activities that support early language development – all six are favorites of our Kindermusik parents in class and at home:

Vocal Play – “Bah-bah-bah.” (pause) 

Conversational back-and-forth play with parts of words, whole words, parts of songs, and short rhythms gives mouth muscles practice forming syllables and words.

Nursery Rhymes – “Hey diddle-diddle, the cat and the fiddle.

Nursery Rhymes are not only rich with the sounds that vowels and consonants make, they are also catchy and repeatable.

Timbre – Scritch-scratch, tap-tap, jingle!

Hearing and labeling the very different and distinct sounds of instruments expands listening skills and enriches vocabulary.

Movement labels – Gallop, skip, twist, twirl!

Simultaneously moving and labeling the movements engages the brain with the body and grows a bigger vocabulary.

Steady beat – “ta – ta – ta – ta and stomp-stomp-stomp-stomp!”

Recent studies have found a close link between rhythmic skills and language skills.  So the more you dance, march, and play-along with music, the stronger your music and language skills will be.

Instrument Exploration – “Can you say guiro? It goes ritch-ratch, ritch-ratch.”

Exploring and labeling instruments and their sounds in a relaxed, non-structured time of instrument exploration provides another perfect opportunity to practice and repeat sounds and words that we don’t always use every day.
So go ahead.  Sing, chant, listen, label, move, and explore your way through your day with your child.  You’ll be amazed at how a little bit of music and some musical activities here and there each day will enhance his or her language development!
Kindermusik is where music and learning playLearn more about how Kindermusik can give you the inspiration you need for improving your child’s language development at or by clicking on the buttons to the right.

Music and language share common brain pathways


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!

Let’s call the whole thing early language development!

Are you familiar with the old George and Ira Gershwin song, “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off”? They wrote it for the 1937 film Shall We Dance, starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Sing with us:

You like potato and I like potahto

You like tomato and I like tomahto

Potato, potahto, Tomato, tomahto.

Let’s call the whole thing off.”

In the song, the two characters sing about their differences, primarily around the way they pronounce certain words. We love that song (and movie clip) even more after reading a new early language development study from the University of Toronto.

Toddlers and early language development

In the early language development study, researchers set out to investigate if and how children in the early stages of learning their first language come to understand words spoken in different regional variants of their native language. (You like potato and I like potahto!”) For example, English spoken in England sounds different from English spoken in Australia or the United States, not to mention the multiple dialects found within regions of countries.
The team found that toddlers are remarkably good at comprehending speakers who talk with regional accents, even if the accent is new to the children. Although initially in the study, children as young as 15 months old could not comprehend unfamiliar accents, they quickly learned to understand after hearing the speaker for a short time.
“Fifteen-month-olds typically say relatively few words, yet they can learn to understand someone with a completely unfamiliar accent,” explained Elizabeth K. Johnson, associate professor with the University of Toronto’s Psychology department in a press release.  “This shows that infants’ language comprehension abilities are surprisingly sophisticated.”

ELL students and early language development

While the University of Toronto study focused on a toddler’s first language, it highlighted the incredible language-learning abilities of very young children. Children under the age of 8 who learn a second language are more likely to speak like a native speaker and also show marked improvements in their first language. Our ESL curriculum, ABC English & Me, uses English songs for kids in an immersion environment filled with music and movement.  In addition to the ESL curriculum in the classroom, ABC English & Me includes materials for families to use together at home to support a parent’s role as a child’s first teacher and further develop English language skills. Try this ESL activity for kids:

Find & Count: Where’s the Frog? 

Kindermusik@HomeYoung children love to search for hidden or missing items. Following the English language directions in the video, and then finding (and saying hello to!) the frogs, fish, and ducks, provides young ELL students much-needed feelings of mastery and success in English.

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


Contributed by Lisa Camino Rowell who prefers tomatoes but will eat a tomahto or two on occasion. 

Kindermusik joins the Fred Rogers Center’s neighborhood!

It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood,
A beautiful day for a neighbor.
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?…

How many of us as children sang this song with the beloved Mr. Rogers? And, of course, we always answered, “Yes!” to being his neighbor. After all, who wouldn’t want to go over for a visit with Mr. Rogers—and maybe even a quick to trip to see King Friday and Queen Sara!

Will you be my neighbor?

Kindermusik also said “Yes!” when asked to partner with the Fred Rogers Center and be featured on their website, Ele, which stands for Early Learning Environment.  Partnering with the brand that drafted today’s standards, along with NAEYC, for children and technology in early childhood is a great way to showcase our quality curricula & materials!
This position statement on using technology and interactive media as early education tools is a great resource for Kindermusik families who are concerned about screen time. In fact, Kindermusik drafted our official screen time position, using the guidelines crafted by NAEYC and the Fred Rogers Center.

Kindermusik’s Official Position on Screen Time
Kindermusik International knows and respects that each family gets to decide what’s best for them when it comes to the issue of screen time or the use of technology and young children.  In creating our new digital tools and parenting resources, Kindermusik has read about and researched this topic thoroughly.  We have aligned our stance with that of the highly respected NAEYC and the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning, recognizing that children can benefit from a responsible and age-appropriate use of technology in combination with hands-on experiences and in partnership with an actively involved caregiver.  We are proud to bring these high-quality educational materials to your family in hopes we can truly embody the very best of both worlds- a responsible introduction to technology AND lots of hands-on, movement-rich, in-your-lap, down-on-the-floor learning.

Spread the News Through Your Neighborhood

Ele is like a library and a playroom where parents and early childhood educators can find online and mobile educational activities for young children. Ele focuses on using technology in age-appropriate ways to improve the language and early literacy skills of young children. A perfect partnership for Kindermusik!
Access to the resources is free and there is no cost to join the Ele community. Parents and educators will get great content, they’re able to make playlists and add favorites, and can join in discussions about early childhood education and digital learning.
Kindermusik plans to add four Kindermusik@Home units to Ele.
Right now, two are available:
Fred Rogers Center Ele!

On Ele, all of the activities are searchable for use at home or in the classroom, by age, media type, and even activity type (listening and talking, reading, writing, playing, arts, and science and math.)

Engage in more Kindermusik activities and support your children’s early language and literacy development on the Fred Roger’s Center website, Ele!
Visit Kindermusik in the “neighborhood” today!


Musical learning on the brain


We have music on the brain—all sorts of music. All. The. Time. We love to share music and musical learning with children and families in studios, schools, childcare centers, and more. Introducing children to a wide variety of musical genres gives them a greater understanding of what is possible through music. Today, thanks to a new study from Johns Hopkins University, we have jazz music on the brain. Here’s why.

What jazz teaches us about language development

Led by Charles Limb, M.D., the study tracked the brain activity of jazz musicians in the process of “trading fours.” Trading fours is a musical term that refers to jazz improvisation when solo instrumentalists take turns playing four measures each. The musicians respond to each other by repeating, elaborating, and altering what another musician plays.

During the study, 11 skilled jazz musicians participated. Limb and his team found that improvisation activated areas of the brain linked to syntactic processing. However, the musical exchange deactivated brain structures involved in semantic processing. In language development, semantic processing happens when the brain encodes the meaning of a word and relates it to similar words with similar meaning. Syntactic processing happens when the brain computes certain aspects of meaning from the underlying structure and not simply from the linear string of words.

“Until now, studies of how the brain processes auditory communication between two individuals have been done only in the context of spoken

language,” explained Limb in a press release. “When two jazz musicians seem lost in thought while trading fours, they aren’t simply waiting for their turn to play," Limb said. "Instead, they are using the syntactic areas of their brain to process what they are hearing so they can respond by playing a new series of notes that hasn’t previously been composed or practiced."

“We’ve shown in this study that there is a fundamental difference between how meaning is processed by the brain for music and language. Specifically, it’s syntactic and not semantic processing that is key to this type of musical communication. Meanwhile, conventional notions of semantics may not apply to musical processing by the brain,” he concluded.

5 ideas for using jazz improvisation with children at home and in the classroom

Idea #1: Go on a virtual field trip by attending a jazz concert. Try listening to one of the world’s best jazz pianists, Keith Jarrett. He improvised this entire performance.

Idea #2: Get out your own instruments or use your voices to improvise a family or classroom concert. Try your own version of “trading fours” by taking turns.

Idea #3: Learn more about the origins of jazz and play some jazz music online at PBSKids.

Idea #4: Explore various types of jazz music on Pandora, Spotify, or iTunes radio. Try jazz musicians such as Esperanza Spalding, Miles Davis, Preservation Hall Jazz Band or even one of the jazz genre stations.

Idea #5: While listening to jazz, move expressively around the room together. Movement is another way to experience the value of improvisation and emotional expression, while also gaining an appreciation of jazz music.

Interested in learning how other genres of music unlock a child’s potential, including early language development? Come visit a Kindermusik Class today.


Baby Talk Helps Your Baby Talk

Even before your baby is born, she responds to the sound of your voice. It’s one of the really precious things that bonds parents with their unborn child. In fact, researchers have

observed that a baby in the womb can respond to the sound of a mother’s voice as early as 5 months along in the pregnancy.

Later, when your little one is born, you’ll naturally talk to her in a sing-song language called “motherese” or “parentese” – also known as "baby talk." Research shows that these are the first sounds that your baby will try to imitate with cooing and babbling – babbling being the first vital step towards saying words.

A recent study funded by The National Science Foundation Science of Learning Program further emphasizes "…that what spurs early language development isn’t so much the quantity of words as the style of speech and social context in which speech occurs." Here are some tips from that study to help get your little one happily babbling back and forth with you:

  • Talk in an animated "baby talk" style. Elongated vowels and a higher pitched voice really stimulate the babbling.
  • Keep the conversation private. Your baby will be more inclined to babble without others around, and you’ll probably be less reserved about your baby talk too!
  • Let it happen naturally. Talk through everyday activities like changing diapers or getting dressed.
  • Emphasize the important words. Speak slowly and with a happy tone of voice.
  • Focus on the interaction. It’s the back-and-forth verbal engagement that’s most important, more so than one-sided conversation.

Dad and baby babbling and bonding in KindermusikIn Kindermusik, we give you lots of opportunities to babble, bond, and build connections that prompt early communication and enhance language development through songs, rhymes, vocal play, bounces, and more. We help you mix up your language-building parentese with singing, talking, and rhyming, to expose your baby to a variety of sounds that will aid her singing and language development. Language AND music AND learning – just one of the many benefits of early music learning you’ll enjoy in Kindermusik.

Find inspiration for your baby talk in a free Kindermusik preview class. Go online to schedule your free visit today!


Support early language development with a healthy screen time “diet”

(Source: Grow & Sing Studios)
(Source: Grow & Sing Studios)

Although we just celebrated a holiday devoted to giving candy to children, we all understand that fruits and vegetables are essential to a healthy diet. A child filled with strawberries, carrots, and yogurt behaves radically different than a child filled with candy corn, chocolate, and a juice box. You don’t need to be a teacher of an early childhood curriculum to understand that!
In addition to a healthy nutritional diet, children also need a healthy “screen time diet.” Today’s children are considered digital natives, but too much of a good thing can be, well, too much. And, of course, not all television shows, movies, and mobile apps for kids are created equal—some are more candy than carrots for the brain. However, in a world filled with smart phones and tablets, and with televisions found everywhere from the home to the car to the local family-friendly restaurant, it can be challenging.

A healthy “media diet” matters

A group of pediatricians recently published the results of their study, Modifying Media Content for Preschool Children,” that showed that increasing a child’s exposure to screen time that teaches positive social behavior can strengthen a child’s social skills. In the study, the pediatricians recruited 565 parents of preschool-aged children ages 3 to 5 years. Without decreasing or increasing the amount of screen time, the participants simply changed what their children watched. After six months and again after 12 months, the parents reported increased social competence and behavior in their children. In addition, the preschoolers showed significantly less aggression and better social skills when compared to the control group.

Try “feeding” your children these mobile apps for kids

Finding the best mobile apps for kids can be tough. Unlike the grocery store where healthy foods come with labels like “organic,” “100% whole grains,” or “120% of vitamin C,” apps that support a healthy “media diet” such as early language development, phonemic awareness, or even musical learning aren’t as clearly identified. As creators of early childhood curriculum and with thousands of educators around the world, the Kindermusik community can help.
RreadingRainbowKindermusik_MusicIslandPromo_Exp111513An earlier blog post identified 6 websites and mobile apps for kids that support early literacy development, including the Reading Rainbow app. This trusted app for kids includes eBooks for families to read together and video field trips to expand a child’s world from the comfort of a parent’s lap! Plus, Kindermusik will be partnering with Reading Rainbow to bring a “Musical Island” to the app and we’d love your help naming the island! The new Kindermusik Island will contain a limited selection of eBooks from the Kindermusik library and some additional videos that Reading Rainbow and Kindermusik will produce together around musical topics.
Help us name the new Kindermusik/Reading Rainbow Music Island!
Enter your suggestion by clicking this link. If your name is chosen you will win a $100 Amazon Gift Card, a free 6-month subscription to the Reading Rainbow app AND a Kindermusik prize package! Enter to Win now – Friday, November 15, 2013.
Kindermusik@Home - Online Learning Games for KidsOf course, we want to mention Kindermusik@Home as part of a healthy media diet. Available through enrollment in Kindermusik, Kindermusik@Home provides parenting resources, musical learning games for kids, eBooks, and developmental insights behind the activities. Kindermusik@Home helps children learn both online and encourages families to take the learning offline through engaging activities. Try one of these Kindermusik@Home activities today!

To learn more about enrolling in a Kindermusik class and receiving access to Kindermusik@Home, contact a local educator via our Class Locator.


Early language development: It’s all in the rhythm and beat!

baby playing drum

baby playing drumMusical learning and early language development go together like a newborn and a swaddle or a toddler and the words, “I do.” Young children rely almost exclusively on what they hear in order to acquire language. Scientists now know that our brain processes music similarly to how we process language.
In early language and literacy development, young children need to understand that words—like music—are made up of discrete sounds. In early language development, this is called phonemic awareness. Later children use that knowledge of sounds to build words and read. Research shows that children with strong phonemic awareness are more successful learning to read than others.

Ability to move to a steady beat linked to language skills

Under the leadership of Dr. Nina Kraus, a new research study published in The Journal of Neuroscience found that teenagers with more musical training experienced enhanced neural responses to speech sounds when compared to others.
“We know that moving to a steady beat is a fundamental skill not only for music performance but one that has been linked to language skills,” said Nina Kraus, of the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at Northwestern University in Illinois in an article for the BBC, “Moving to the rhythm can help language skills.”
In the study, participants were asked to tap their fingers along to a beat while their accuracy was measured. Their brainwaves were also measured to observe how the brain responded to the sound.
“It turns out that kids who are poor readers have a lot of difficulty doing this motor task and following the beat. In both speech and music, rhythm provides a temporal map with signposts to the most likely locations of meaningful input,” Dr. Kraus told BBC News.

Musical learning and language development in Kindermusik

Kindermusik provides many opportunities for children to discriminate similarities and differences in sound. So, while children gain musical skills participating in our early childhood curriculum, they also make gains in phonological awareness and early language and literacy development. For example, when parents lift their children high “up, up in the sky” or “twirl around like a leaf” while singing the songs in class, children learn the word and understand the concept. Or when we recite nursery rhymes together or tap out the beat to a song, children hear the music of language. Children’s brains make a connection based on what they experience (being lifted high or twirling around) and hear (“up” or “twirl”). Later, children will discover those words correspond to marks on a page which eventually leads to letter recognition and reading.

Kindermusik is the world’s leader in early childhood curriculum development and musical learning. Find a class near you and experience the many benefits of music on a young child’s development.


FOL Fridays: Pairing Language with Movement

Pairing language with movement sets the stage for cognitive and kinesthetic learning.  The right hemisphere of the brain is our emotional side where much of our creativity is channeled.  The left hemisphere organizes logical skills, such as language.  When children are engaged in movements determined by the lyrics, the brain automatically cross-references both hemispheres, mapping creativity and logic (Fishbourne, G. 1998)
Tips for parents:  Family involvement in education can be as simple as turning on a favorite recording with lyrics or singing a favorite tune. Listen for a bit and then discuss the different ways you could move based on the words of the song.  As you dance together with your child, you can also label some of those movements, further strengthening the impact of the “moving to learn” experience. Plus, parent involvement in early childhood education through singing and dancing strengthens your role as your child’s first and best teacher.

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