5 Ways Unstructured Play Boosts Learning (Plus Tips-By-Age Guide!)

Ways Unstructured Play Boosts Learning - Kindermusik

This is a brand new day.

Ev’rything is just fine.

Time to go outside and play

Ev’rything is just fine.

(from Kindermusik’s rhythmic chant, “Ev’rything Is Just Fine”) Listen below!

“Ev’rything Is Just Fine” is a Kindermusik track that gets stuck in your head. And if you have or care for young children, that’s a good thing!. “Time to go outside and play…” Exactly. We must never forget that young children NEED TO PLAY. For everything to be “just fine” for them, a key ingredient is regular, unstructured play. 

Continue reading “5 Ways Unstructured Play Boosts Learning (Plus Tips-By-Age Guide!)”

4 Lesser Known Childhood Milestones Worth Celebrating

Developmental milestones exist for good reason and can be a great help, but “pushing” for development will only cause stress for everyone. Here are some “milestones” that are just as important, but parents may not have thought to celebrate.

Milestone: Your child pretends to have a snack with their teddy bear.

What it means: Exhibiting pretend behaviors may seem like no big deal, but are actually early signs that your child has acquired symbolic reasoning (e.g., putting an empty spoon to your mouth is not eating, but represents eating.)

Milestone: Your child deliberately turns a bowl of cereal upside down.

What it means: Your child is developing wrist control, which is necessary for just about everything we do with our hands.

Milestone: Your child’s new favorite toy? A pop-up toy.

What it means: Your child has figured out, When I push that button, something will pop up! In other words, cause-and-effect, or I can make something happen.

Milestone: You say, Don’t touch! And your child doesn’t touch!

What it means: Your child is learning self-control! At long last, they understand that they are in charge of their own wants and actions, and can exercise (some) control over their impulses.

Milestone: Your child is obsessed with pushing, pulling, and throwing.

What it means: Your child is discovering the properties of weight, size, force, and mass. They are investigating questions of science, including which things do what and how.

Village baby with new logoLooking for more child development information? Every Kindermusik class comes complete with materials and information—just like this—that gives parents insight into their child’s development. Find a class near you!

4 Ways to Use Music to Stop the “Are We There Yet?” traveling dilemma

the musical family car Whatever happened to spur-of-the-moment weekend getaways where you grabbed your overnight bag, a couple of outfits, and a great beach read before hitting the highway? Well, kids happened that’s what. Now, spur-of-the-moment getaways are more like “plan-months-ahead-to-locate-clean-diaper-changing-rest-stops-and-book-a-UHaul-to-lug-around-all-that-baby-stuff getaways.” Anyone else feel exhausted just thinking about it? And, let’s not even talk about planning a trip to Disney World with kids. Parents write entire dissertations about that family vacation—and then Pin it on Pinterest for us all to identify where we fail as parents.

Traveling with kids can be an adventure—and I don’t just mean an adventure in patience. Of course, we all know that every good adventure deserves an even better soundtrack! It appears as if the majority of parents agree! In fact, a recent study by Alamo Rent A Car found that more parents (80 percent) use music to keep children happy than iPads (19 percent).

In our years of travel, we learned how to maximize the music in our car in order to minimize the “Are We There Yet?” traveling dilemma. Let’s be honest. Children communicate that question long before they can even speak: by crying, kicking seats, and general get-me-out-of-my-car-seat grumpiness.

Here are four ways to use music in the car that worked for our family and we think they will work for you, too!

1. Make a traveling playlist. Take requests from everyone and include songs your child loves and songs that you do, too. For our family of four, I am responsible for putting the song requests in order on the playlist. I make sure to equally rotate the order. I learned really quickly that our oldest daughter would count to make sure life the song rotation was fair. During the car ride, our kids love trying to guess which song is next and when their favorite ones will play.

Sing-along songs can create memories as your family bursts out in “Let it Go” (again!) or even the theme song from a favorite TV show, such as Jake and the Never Land Pirates! The car can be an ideal place to connect together as a family through music, just like this mom and daughter:

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aTpmzpKrsz8[/youtube]

2. Listen to books or nursery rhymes on CD. Under the age of 5, our girls loved listening to the rhymes of Dr. Seuss, especially. Now, listening to books on CDs is a traveling tradition. Favorites for 5 to 7 years old include the Ramona, Junie B. Jones, and The Magic Treehouse series. (Yes, technically this is not music, but music builds early literacy skills!)

3. Engage children’s imagination through the soundtrack from a favorite movie. We found—by accident—that our children enjoy listening to the musical arrangements from their favorite movies. They love envisioning what is happening based on what they hear. For example, they can identify the part in the composition when Lightening McQueen and Sally are racing on the back roads or when Cinderella meets the prince in the woods and tells him to stop chasing the deer. This was a fun way to listen to a movie and not watch the movie.

Brantley-AfterKindermusikClass-0326154. Create a “Quiet Time” playlist. For longer road trips, we select this music to encourage our reluctant car sleepers to rest. Occasionally, the music will lull one or both of our children to sleep, however it nearly always relaxes them enough to stop fidgeting. We most often play this list after lunch when many children naturally benefit from a little quiet time. Tip: Make sure you fill your car with gas BEFORE you tap into the power of music. After all, you DO NOT want to stop when your little one finally falls under the spell of music and falls asleep like this sweet little nugget!

Enjoy your next family road trip with this free gift of five free song downloads and more tips on using music in the family car!

Contributed by Lisa Camino Rowell, a freelance writer in the Atlanta area who loves using music to make traveling a whole lot easier!

5 ways music can stop your kids’ holiday meltdowns

Ah, the holidays—A time of rest, joyous family time, and the harmonious sound of everyone getting along. Hmmm. That sounds more like a fantasy (or brief moments in time!) than reality. The fact is the holidays often bring more stressors into a family’s life, especially to the youngest members of the clan.

Children thrive on routines and rituals, however, the holidays often bring a more flexible schedule affecting everything from naptimes to snack times, which can contribute to not-so-merry meltdowns.

The holidays can be full of stimulating and fun experiences, such as a special Kindermusik celebration like this one:

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cOZYS90kt-A[/youtube]

However, during this time, it’s important to teach children how to relax even amongst the multiple holiday parties, travel plans, overnight visitors, and family photo sittings. Teaching children how to relax after an activity gives them time to recoup and get ready for the next event. Plus, you know what children want most when they are stressed out? Their parents! So, we put together five ways for parents to help their children relax and enjoy the holidays!

5 Practical Parenting Tips for Easing Holiday Meltdowns

Relaxing is a learned behavior and music can be a relaxation tool for young children (and adults!). Here are some of our favorite tips:

  1. Rock gently together. When you start to notice your child teetering on the edge of a meltdown, invite your child to step away from the activity and go with you to a quiet place. Gently hold your child and rock together. (Added bonus if you can find a swing or rocking chair!) While rocking together, help your child to label the feelings you saw. For example: “When I saw you stick out your lower lip, it looked like you were feeling sad because your cousin didn’t want to play what you wanted to play. After we finish taking a break together, can you think of something that you both might want to play?”
  2. Listen to soothing music. On the way home from a holiday party or activity, listen to some relaxing music in the car. Research shows that music can help children and adults relax. In fact, our heartbeats mimic the beat of the music!
  3. Give your infant a massage while humming a lullaby. It’s never too early to teach children how to relax. During the holidays (well, most days actually!), everyone wants to hold the babies. While a child can never receive enough love and snuggles, it can be overwhelming for babies. At the end of the day, make some special one-on-one time for you and your baby. Give your child a gentle infant massage to relax your little one. Adding a special lullaby makes it even more memorable—and relaxing.
  4. Create a bedtime playlist. Traveling with young children to see friends and family often means disrupted bedtime routines, whether adjusting to a new time zone or a strange bed. Help to ease your child’s anxiety by creating a lullaby playlist to signal the start and the end of the bedtime routine wherever you may be. This gives your child both a musical and familiar cue.
  5. Create a baby soother you can take anywhere. Try these DIY baby soothers from Kindermusik@Home. 

Kindermusik_Baby_Soother

Looking for more ways to use music to help make parenting easier? Come visit a Kindermusik class! Find your local educator at www.Kindermusik.com.

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

Answer that Baby Babble to Speed Up Language Development

Hang around babies long enough and you start hearing things. From soft sweet coos to long monologues of “dadadadadada,” babies talk a lot—even though we have no idea what they are really saying! That’s okay. We don’t need to understand all the words (or non-words!) to join in the conversation.

How Parents Respond to All that Baby Babble Matters

VocalPlay_Boosts_Early_Language_Development_KindermusikNew early childhood research from the University of Iowa and Indiana University found that how parents respond to all that baby talk can speed up a baby’s vocalizing and language development. That’s great news for those of us no longer fluent in Baby talk.
“It’s not that we found responsiveness matters,” explained co-author Julie Gros-Louis in a press release, “It’s how a mother responds that matters.”
In this six-month-long study, the research team watched the interactions between a dozen mothers and their 8-month-old babies two times a month for 30 minutes. During this free playtime, the researchers monitored how mothers responded to their babies’ positive vocalizations when directed toward them.
Researchers learned that how the mothers respond makes a big difference in the language development of their babies:

  • Babies with mothers who responded to what they thought their babies were saying showed an increase in developmentally advanced, consonant-vowel vocalizations.
  • The babbling of these babies became sophisticated enough to sound more like words.
  • Over time these babies also began directing more of their babbling toward their mothers.
  • Babies whose mothers did not try as much to understand them and instead directed their infants’ attention to something else did not show the same rate of growth in their language and communication skills.

Bottom line: Respond to all that baby babble!

How to Answer that Baby Babble with Music

Babies love the sound of their parents’ voices. Parents can feed that love and grow their babies’ use of language at the same time by singing, listening, moving, and dancing to music. After all, music is a language parents and babies both understand.  Musical activities, such as those included in every Kindermusik class, help parents engage with their children and be responsive to them. Here are ways for parent-baby pairs and other caregivers and teachers to use music to support the early language development of babies.
1. Engage in vocal play—one of the earliest stages of language development. Vocal play is how babies’ learn to use the tongue, gums, and jaw muscles needed to produce vowels and consonants. When caregivers participate, too, they expose babies to the sounds that make up our language and encourage them to practice taking turns communicating. Vocal play works best when a parent and baby can see each other’s faces, making it easier for a child to mimic mouth movements. Plus, this eye contact also helps parents and babies bond.
Parenting Tip: Sing “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” with your little one. Pause after key parts of the song, such as “E-I-E-I-O” and wait for your baby to respond. You can also explore the different sounds the animals on the farm make like these families did in Kindermusik class:
[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lsLil1s_wbE[/youtube]
2. Let babies experience steady beat by bouncing to music. The brain processes music in a similar way to how it processes language. Research even shows that children who can repeat and create a steady beat show increased neural responses to speech sounds when compared to other children. Steady beat competency relates to a child’s ability to speak and read fluidly during the school year.
Parenting Tip: Put on some music and bounce to the beat with your baby on your lap or on your hip. This lets babies experience steady beat with their whole bodies. Try one of our favorite lap bounces: Pizza, Pickle, Pumpernickel.
3. Rocking the way to language development. Gently rocking babies throughout those quiet moments of each day gives parents the opportunity to combine vocal play and steady beat—and receive 2x the benefits!
Parenting tip: At the end of the day or after a feeding, hum “Hush Little Baby” (or another favorite lullaby) while you gently rock or sway your little one to the beat. As with “Old MacDonald,” pause during key phrases and wait for your baby to respond. Before too long, your baby will grow into your toddler and be able to “rock” in a new way, like this Kindermusik toddler does at home while listening to music from class!
[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dFP_DVDKezA[/youtube]
Throughout the Kindermusik experience, we use music to help parents engage with their children, be responsive to them, and gain developmental insights and practical tips along the way. After all, a parent is a child’s first and best teacher.

Learn more about using music to support early language development at www.kindermusik.com.

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

Music Gets Kids into the Rhythm of Back-to-School

Baby with instrumentThere is nothing routine about a routine. In fact, we think routines get a bad rap. After all, people often refer to routines as being “stuck in a rut” or “same old, same old” or even boring with a capital B. However, from a child’s perspective, routines are anything but boring and can be especially beneficial during the back-to-school season.
Routines help children predict the future and feel safe and secure. Pair a routine with a ritual and children receive the added benefits of continuity and connectedness. For example, giving a child the same instruments to play with while you get a snack together each day, let’s the child know that it’s almost time to eat something yummy.
During the back-to-school periods of childhood, routines help ease children through transition periods, whether it’s adjusting to a new teacher, a new school, or even navigating through a growth spurt, which somehow always coincide with a new school year. The best time to introduce children to routines and rituals is NOW.
Turn up the music during routines and rituals and you will never use the word boring again when referring to routines! Try these tips for adding music into the back-to-school routine.

6 Ways to Add Music into the Routine and Get Kids into the Rhythm of Back-to-School

1. Wake children up or welcome them to the classroom by singing a favorite song or by listening to a playlist with songs about the morning time. “Morning Sun Has Risen” is one of our favorites. Take a listen (and look):
Morning Sun Has Risen
2. The rhythm of the morning routine naturally lends itself to a little musical play. Sing songs or chants about getting dressed, brushing teeth, eating breakfast, or even getting in the car to go to school.
3. On the drive to school, listen to music and sing along! Children will begin to look forward to this special ritual in the morning. Download this free Kindermusik road trip playlist.
4. For teachers, add music throughout the day to let children know it is time to clean up for recess, to mark the beginning of circle time, or even to get the class ready to walk down the hallway. We love how this teacher uses music to remind children how to be quiet in the hallway.
[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tn-wGrhb5d4[/youtube]
5. Add music to the nightly routine to help children recognize that the day is over and it is time to settle down for bed. Make a “quiet music” playlist and start playing it right after dinner or just before bathtime. Helping children settle and fall asleep carries over into the morning routine. A well-rested child is easier to get moving than a sleepy one.
6. Reading to children 20 minutes a day makes a significant impact on their early language and literacy development. When added to the night time routine, the right book can help a child get the wiggles out or calmly relax a child. Need some reading suggestions? Add a few musical books from the Kindermusik Pinterest Board ~ Books for Kids We Love to the nightly reading routine.

7. Sing a lullaby while tucking a child into bed to signal the end of the routine. You can even rock and sway back and forth together for a little extra cuddle!

Find out more about Kindermusik at www.Kindermusik.com.

4 ways to use early childhood music to help children sleep

sleeping toddler finalSleep. It’s such a simple word. And, yet, for parents with young children—or early childhood educators with a classroom full of wiggling and giggling little ones at naptime—sleep can seem like a mirage that teases and tricks and lingers just out of reach. Or, it can leave us driving around willing all the lights to stay green so our little ones will stay asleep just a little bit longer.
While this lack of sleep bonds us together, it also isolates us in our individual struggles to lull our little ones to sleep. No need to call a Sleep Nanny just yet. Try these musical solutions to help solve childhood sleep woes.

4 musical ideas that puts children to sleep (literally)

  1. Listen to lullabies. Lullabies can lower the heart rate of children and help grown-ups to relax as well.
  2. Use soft, quiet music the same time each evening to signal that sleep time is near. Routines and rituals help young children make sense of their world and predict what comes next. Listening to the same music at the end of the day tells children that it is time to get ready for bed. This can mean bath time, cozy pajamas, a story, and then a final snuggle before lights out.
  3. Be consistent with musical selections. Familiar tunes work best to signal to a child that bedtime is near.
  4. Teach children their own soothing lullaby. Children learn through repetition. So, by singing a favorite song night after night, children will not only learn the song by heart, but they will learn a musical self-soothing technique. Bonus: That same tune can help calm children under stressful situations, like a skinned knee or a visit to the doctor’s office.

We know there is power in early childhood music. Whether used as part of a toddler curriculum to teach early literacy and language skills, played in the background at toddler play groups, or even used in the middle of the night to lull an infant to sleep, music puts a soundtrack to childhood. And, music and learning go hand in hand!

Looking for musical solutions to other parenting challenges? Visit a Kindermusik class to connect with other families where you can discover more about the benefits of early childhood music. Find a local Kindermusik educator today!


14 ways to celebrate 2014 with early childhood music and early literacy

(Source: She Knows Canada)

At Kindermusik, we celebrate new beginnings throughout the year—from new babies being born to new families discovering our early childhood music classes to even launching new curriculum for babies and toddlers. However, whenever a new calendar year rolls around, we look for even more ways to celebrate! We invite all of our Kindermusik families to help ring in—or shake or sing or dance in—the new year with one of these ideas.

Welcome the New Year through early childhood music and early literacy

  1. Make a musical time capsule of your family’s current favorite music with a 2014 playlist. Include your child’s favorite lullabies, get-up-and-go songs, or theme songs from beloved television shows or movies. Expand the playlist beyond early childhood music, too. Be sure to include your own favorite songs that you share together.
  2. Read musical storybooks together. Try some of these Kindermusik favorites to support early childhood music and early literacy development.
  3. Go on a letter sound treasure hunt. Show your child a letter. Make the sound of the letter together and then go on a treasure hunt around your house to find an object that starts with that same sound.
  4. Make a personalized alphabet eBook. During your letter sound treasure hunt, take a photo of each object: M for Mommy; S for stuffed animal; K for Kindermusik. Then support your child’s early literacy development by creating a personalized alphabet eBook with the photos.
  5. Try one of these websites or mobile apps for kids that support early literacy development. The Reading Rainbow app will soon include a music-themed “Kindermusik” island. Stay tuned to hear more!
  6. Read (and memorize!) a favorite nursery rhyme. Nursery rhymes build phonemic awareness as your child begins to hear the differences between rhyming words like “Humpty” and “Dumpty” or “wall” and “fall.”
  7. Play alphabet musical chairs. Here’s one way to combine early childhood music and early literacy skills with a familiar childhood game.
  8. Sing together. One study says talking (or singing) to your young child is the most critical aspect of parenting a baby or toddler. Learn more about the child development benefits, including vocabulary development and early literacy development.
  9. Dance together. The ability to move to a steady beat is linked to language skills. Plus, it’s fun and great exercise for the whole family and gives your child the opportunity to practice all those growing gross motor skills!
  10. Make music and reading part of your daily routine. Routines and rituals help young children make sense of their world and predict what comes next. Each day signal to your child the end of the day by listening to (or singing!) lullabies and reading books together after bath.
  11. Hold a Freeze Dance party. Children love freeze dance. However, as creators of early childhood music classes and early literacy curriculum, we know there is more behind a game of Freeze Dance than giggles and silly moves. Children practice inhibitory control by learning how to tell their bodies when to dance and when to stop. Inhibitory control prepares a child to sit still and pay attention during the school years.
  12. Get out some instruments (or pots and pans) and hold a family jam session. Your child will practice steady beat and rhythmic abilities. Rhythmical abilities show a strong positive correlation with decoding skills, both in reading accuracy and reading prosody. Plus, being able to keep a steady beat helps a child feel the cadence (rhythm) of language.
  13. Play “Name that Sound.” Gather different instruments or objects that make sounds. Take turns closing your eyes and naming the instrument or object. That same sound discrimination helps your child hear the minute differences between letter sounds or phonemes, which supports early literacy and language development.
  14. Enroll in Kindermusik classes! Our classes for babies, toddlers, big kids, and families are loved by more than 2 million families in over 70 countries.

    Contact a local Kindermusik educator today! Ask to visit a class and see for yourself why parents and children around the world love our early childhood music classes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4 musical learning tips that make parenting a little bit easier

It doesn’t take a parent long to figure it out. No baby or toddler or preschooler—or teenager for that matter!—comes with an owner’s manual. Sure, parents can Google, look to books and blogs, talk with other parents, and even ask Siri but there is no one-size-fits-all answer to parenting.
At Kindermusik, we don’t have all the parenting answers either. We do, however, have one thing that makes parenting just a little bit easier and unlocks a child’s potential: Musical learning! Here are just a few ways to use musical learning throughout the week in your everyday routines and rituals.

4 musical learning tips that make parenting a little bit easier

  1. Music helps children, even babies, learn how to relax. Relaxing is a learned sleeping babybehavior. A child’s world can be full of stimulating experiences, from practicing new skills like standing or walking to all the sights, sounds, and smells of a trip to the grocery store. Teaching children how to relax after a period of activity gives them time to recoup and get ready for what’s next. Listening to some quiet music, snuggling together, or gentle rocking can show children how to relax. By the way, children who know how to relax and self-soothe can be better sleepers!
  2. Singing or humming a comforting song can soothe a child or ease anxiety and fears. From 2am feedings to boo-boos to thunderstorms to visits to the doctor, singing a soothing song can calm fears and comfort little ones in many different situations. The world’s most famous and revered nanny, Mary Poppins agrees. After all, she sang, “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.”
  3. Music can signal to your child it’s time to transition to something else. In our music classes for babies, toddlers, big kids, and families, we sing “instruments away, instruments away. It’s time to put our instruments away.” That tells every child that the instrument playing time is over and we are moving on to another activity. After a few times, children begin to understand and will put the instruments away (most of the time!).  Try using that little song throughout the week to signal the end of bathtime, playtime, or even time to leave the park.
  4. Make a playlist of your child’s favorite music for your next road trip. Few children enjoy being strapped in their car seats for long periods of time. Music makes it easier. Create a playlist of your child’s favorite Kindermusik songs for the trip. Here are some of our favorites. Mix in your own favorites, too, for a family musical playlist.

New benefits of music on the cognitive development of children continue to be discovered by researchers. However, throughout the years generations upon generations of parents have used musical learning to help make parenting just a little bit easier. We invite you to come visit a Kindermusik class and discover for yourself a loving, welcoming community of families who are discovering the power of musical learning!

Find a local Kindermusik educator in your area today.