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.

Sometimes ACTIONS are louder than WORDS

Have you ever sat in a movie theater, and several people in the row behind you are all talking? I bet you found it difficult to concentrate on the movie.

What does this have to do with your child in a Kindermusik class? Just imagine this scenario: your Kindermusik teacher brings out a basket of rhythm sticks and sings “two for you and two for your grownup”. Most of the grownups in the room start encouraging their child to go get the sticks. They encourage them with their voices and now we hear 10 adults telling their child to go get sticks. At this point, some of the children will start to “tune you out”. I like to call this “selective hearing loss”. (I have teens at home and I am very familiar with this temporary, albeit sometimes annoying ailment.)

Although we highly encourage you to talk to your child throughout the day and label movements, sounds, and objects to help with language acquisition, there are times when we have to allow them to figure out what to do without being told. Allow them to problem solve.

I want to share with you an experiment we did in a few of my classes. I asked the adults not to give directions to their child during this class – just sing when it was appropriate in the lesson. The toughest part was the “no talking”. But they all agreed and were curious to witness their child in this somewhat altered environment. I encouraged them to guide their little one by being a model and using non-verbal cues.

Here is what some of the adults said at the end of class:
* They showed more patience
* They were more “in the moment” with their children
* Their children were more attentive and focused
* Their children felt freer to create, explore, and express themselves

Try a version of this experiment at home. Take time to explore with your child without giving them opinions or directions. Be a model for them through your actions and not your words. It’s not easy, but it may allow you to be “in the moment” with your child in a way you have not been before.

Special thanks to Kindermusik educator Cathy Huser for sharing this insightful post from her blog.  Cathy’s program, Kindermusik of Cleveland, has been a top ten Kindermusik Maestro program for 10 years running.

What do you hear?

Pitter, patter, pitter, patter… I can HEAR the rain.

Musically speaking, rain sounds are short sounds.  The musical term “staccato” refers to sounds that are separated and often short.  It’s the perfect word to use when playing with – and describing – rain sounds.  But did you know that being able to identify a sound as “short” (staccato) or “long” (legato) actually involves some pretty high-level thinking and listening skills?

Active listening differs from simple hearing in that we must choose it as an intentional act. Analytical listening, like the kind we will do in Kindermusik class when we explore different shaker sounds and mimic and identify a variety of rain sounds, takes the development of our music listening skills to a whole new level.

Analytical listening is an absolutely vital skill, for music class and for life because it requires children to:
– Evaluate what is heard and comprehended
– Contemplate and reflect
– Weigh new information against what is already known
– Discuss by sharing thoughts, opinions, and viewpoints

As Kindermusik teachers, it is an awesome privilege for us to be able to help shape a child’s disposition and aptitude for learning music – practicing the skills that lead to competency and enjoyment and encouraging the attitude that music is fun.  Music truly is a powerful tool for representing ideas and expressing individuality, especially when a child develops the ability to listen analytically.

In the Kindermusik classroom where so many of the senses are often engaged simultaneously and where imagination can soar, musical learning truly has the potential to be the strongest and most powerful.

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

Let’s jump for joy!

This article was originally written by Kindermusik educator Helen Peterson. Helen’s Kindermusik of the Valley program, located in and around the twin cities, MN, is one of the top programs in the world.

In a relatively recent study, 4 to 6 year old children in music and movement programs were tested to see how they compared to children enrolled in a traditional physical education program. The results were interesting, to say the least. The children getting music and movement instruction showed more growth in motor skills than those in a standard physical education program. Here’s a quote from Early Childhood Research Quarterly (Vol. 19, Issue #4, 2004):

“In a study 50 children were enrolled in a music and movement program, and 42 children were enrolled  in a traditional physical education program. After 8 weeks, the children in the music AND movement group had improved significantly in both jumping and dynamic balance skills when compared to their peers in the traditional program.”

As a Kindermusik educator, I have had many parents ask me how Kindermusik compares to Gymboree or Little Gym, now I can honestly say (as I suspected): movement + music (Kindermusik) really is the best choice.

Your child rocks!

When your baby cries, you instinctively scoop him up and rock him.  His need to move and his ability to be soothed by movement are vital in the first 15 months of life when the vestibular system – the area that gives him a sense of balance and distance – is developing.

Aside from the physical benefits of movement, your child also recieves an emotional benefit from rocking and bonding with you.  This quiet, rocking ritual can provide him with a sense of security, allowing him to grow into an assured, confident learner with a healthy self-esteem.

Rocking is still important as your young child grows and will often become a favorite – and memorable – activity for both child and parent.  Even older children benefit from the stimulation of the vestibular system.  Urges to run and tear around the house can be mellowed by taking a few minutes for quiet or even more active rocking.

Kindermusik Tips for your Baby, Toddler, and Preschooler

  • > Rocking your baby: Place a blanket on the floor and lay your baby in the middle.  With an adult caregiver on either side, pick up a corner of the blanket and gently “hammock” your child.  If your baby doesn’t like rocking this way, simple lay him on his back and gently rock him side-to-side to the rhythm of the music.
  • > Rocking with your toddler:  Toddlers can rock a favorite stuffed animal, or while you sit on the floor, your toddler can hug you from behind as you rock back and forth to the music.
  • > Rocking with your preschooler: Preschoolers will love to curl their bodies into little balls, and rock and roll around the room. Want to let your inhibitions go? Do this with them! Fits of giggles are sure to follow.

What can your child learn from a puddle?

What would it be like to walk through a puddle for the first time? To not notice it coming up and then just hear the rhythm of your walk change from a tap tap tap to splish splish splash? . . . You look down and notice you are standing in water. You see it, consider it, feel it. What an adventure of the senses!

Parents know how lucky they are to see this happen right before their eyes: their child discovering something new – something that has a sound, or a feeling, or shines, or moves. Discovery can be an incredible gift.

By letting your child walk through that puddle, millions (maybe billions) of sensory connections are made. Thought patterns, optical pathways, auditory stimulation, and your child’s perception of the world are altered and strengthened.

Embrace what a difference you make for your child by taking those walks that last a long long time but cover very little ground. Remember, every stone, pine cone, ant, bird, leaf, and puddle holds a world of discovery. Don’t miss it! Don’t worry about the puddle – the shoes will dry and the pants can be cleaned. The work of the child is to experience something new every day, and that’s one of the best ways you can help your kids learn and grow.

-This post was contributed by Kindermusik educator Helen Peterson. Helen’s Southern Twin Cities program, Kindermusik of the Valley, is in the top 1% of Kindermusik programs around the world.

Music and movement: magical ingredients to learning

Music and movement are magical ingredients to learning for both the child and parent. A baby’s first communication is through movement. A toddler immediately responds to lively music with silly gyrations and flailing limbs – and while these movements usually make us giggle, to him they are serious attempts to coordinate movement with rhythmic patterns. The preschooler seems to be constantly moving – leaping off couches, rolling down hills, and spinning around and around until she falls down in a giggling flop on the floor.

Movement is fundamental for the development of the central nervous system, and science proves it. But what’s more, movement and rhythm are also essential for the development of the soul. These are things that can’t be measured with research and studies.

When a parent moves with her infant, a special bonding takes place that is key to social and emotional growth. When a parent sings to her child, not only are language skills being developed, but also a sense of love, comfort and harmony. The special touching, laughing, and rhythmic moving that takes place in a music and movement class lays a very strong and much needed foundation for a happy, healthy and joyful life!

Here are just a few of the ways that Kindermusik children learn through the interactive music and movement activities of the Kindermusik classroom:

  • Intentional touch is designed to provide stimulation of the nervous system, relaxation and bonding.
  • Activities involve unilateral, bi-lateral and cross-lateral movements that help develop the brain and muscles.
  • Movement and dance steps allow the caregiver and child to experience different rhythms and locomotor movements.
  • Synchronized dances develop sequencing, provide reassuring repetition and social interaction.
  • Expressive movement provides variety, creativity, and opposing feelings such as fast and slow, high and low.
  • Rocking and swinging stimulate the vestibular system, which is so important to balance and even eye movement.
  • Props, such as the “humongous” scarves and parachutes, provide tactile and visual stimulation.

So put on your Kindermusik CD at home and don’t worry about performing the dances “just right.” Don’t even worry about right and left! Simply move to the music and have fun! It all makes a difference.

-This post was adapted from a past issue of Kindermusik Notes and was originally written by Anne Green Gilbert, Director of the Creative Dance Center and Kaleidoscope Dance Company in Seattle, Washington, and a consultant for Kindermusik International.