The music in your head: How did it get there?

Music education is a vital part of a child’s life. Research shows that our abilities to sing in tune, move to a steady beat and yes, hear music in our heads, are all formed by the time we are 8- or 9-years old. That doesn’t mean you can’t learn to sing or dance or play the piano after the third grade, but the learning windows for musical aptitudes do begin to close.

Do you ever hear a song in your head over and over again? Can you imagine not being able to hear music this way? Audiation, the ability to hear music when no musical sound is present, is an acquired skill. Similar to thinking thoughts without talking aloud, when you audiate, you internalize and “think” music. To practice audiation with your child, leave off the last word of a favorite song. Stop completely. Observe and listen to your child. What is the reaction? When you play this game with familiar songs, you are engaging your child’s ability to think and “speak” with you musically.

Were you lucky enough to have wonderful parents who sang to you all the time? Did you sing endless rounds of “She’ll Be Comin’ Round The Mountain” when you went on vacation? Repetition is a critical part of your child’s growth and development between the ages of birth and seven. Repetition aids in strengthening the neural pathways in the brain. So when your child wants you to “Read it again, Mommy!” or “Play that song again, Daddy!”, do it!!!

Babies are innately musical. They respond to music and sound in utero. Carla Hannaford, author of Awakening the Child Heart, tells us that hearing and language begin in utero and become the first window to the material world as the embryo physically reacts to sound 23 days after conception. Sound becomes the organizer of our physical structure and later, via the mother’s coherent heart rhythm, gives us the patterns on which to form a coherent understanding of patterns within our world.

People often ask, “What do you do with an infant in a music class?” Babies can be soothed with music. Brain development is stimulated by music. A Kindermusik Village class, for example, provides a rich environment of music, movement, language and touch for babies newborn to 18 months. This combination of music and movement stimulates the Vestibular System, the fluid in the brain. According to Dr. Alfred Tomatis, without a fully developed Vestibular System that allows us verticality and balance, language and learning become difficult. Language development begins with movement and is supported with interactive communication and music. Hannaford points out that early music education, including the interplay of music, movement and sound, is key to developing language, math, relational and learning skills, as well as creativity.

Toddlers love to clap and pat to the steady beat of favorite tunes. Steady beat is the unchanging, underlying beat that pulses through every top-10 tune on the radio. Different from rhythm – a combination of various short and long sounds – steady beat is what we tap our toes, pencils and imaginary drums to. For many toddlers, steady beat is an innate ability nurtured with lots of opportunity to practice. For others, it is a skill that can be learned through practice. The ability to keep a steady beat is a gift that we all want our children to have. A study showed 100% of first string professional football players can move their bodies to a steady beat. Moving to a steady beat develops a sense of timing and the ability to organize and coordinate movements like walking, dribbling a basketball, driving and using scissors. Not true for 2nd string. Kindermusik classes provide many opportunities for toddlers to play instruments and move to a steady beat and parents are educated about ways to keep music alive at home.

Preschoolers are exploding with ideas and questions. Creative music and movement provide an outlet for the imaginary characters that live inside a child. 3- and 4-year olds flourish in an environment where there is music, movement and an opportunity for them to contribute ideas. In a Kindermusik Imagine That! class, a child can explore voice and ideas, add instruments to songs and rhymes, act out enticing characters and grow socially while interacting with peers.

For a kindergarten or first grade child, reading readiness is an important issue. I often imagine how it would have been to have the language of music and the English language concurrently integrated into my life: learning to read and write music while learning to read and write language.

Kindermusik provides a whole child approach to music education. Children move and sing, play musical games, learn about music in other cultures, talk about and listen to the instruments of the orchestra, develop their discriminative listening skills, build self-esteem through group interaction and music making, begin to read and write basic musical notation and much more.

I often get calls from eager parents, ready to spend gobs of money on private music lessons for their 3-, 4- and 5-year olds. I first ask them, how are the children’s fine motor skills? Are they reading? How big are their hands? Are they ready to practice at least 20-30 minutes each day? By the time children complete a 2-year Kindermusik class, they have played a pre-keyboard instrument, a simple string instrument and a wind instrument. They are eager to pursue private lessons and have more staying power!

When you choose a music program, make sure it is compatible with you and your child. Be prepared to be an active participant and supporter of your child’s music experience. It could be the best investment you ever make.

Music turns kids on. So turn it up!

Thanks to Stephanie Bartis, M.M., for sharing this great article, orginally written for the Art of Well Being. Stephanie is a member of Kindermusik’s Maestro Conductor Circle, which distinguishes her and her studio, Bartis Creative Studio, as among the top 1% Kindermusik programs worldwide.

Meet a Kindermusik educator: Aimee Carter

Aimee Carter

Brandon, Florida

Studio name and link:
Delightful Sounds

Number of years you’ve taught Kindermusik:

Describe yourself in five words or less:
Creative, fun, energetic, and silly

Favorite Kindermusik song:
The Morning Song, because I like coming up with crazy animal sounds for the unexpected, animal choices like manatees or hippos.

Favorite Kindermusik activity, and why:
Anything with bilibos. I love all the ways we can play with them!

A proud moment in a Kindermusik classroom:
I love getting to see all the first steps and first words along with the parents. I get pretty excited about seeing the children grow and learn.

Something your Kindermusik children or families have taught you (could be inspirational, humorous, practical, etc.):
The children have really helped me become even more creative. They can really get outside of the box sometimes, and I LOVE that!

Something funny a child has said or done in your classroom:
The preschoolers crack me up. I never know what they will say or do next. Last week, one of the children stopped me in the middle of a song to ask “if I ever had fire come out of my butt?” LOL I never could figure out what it had to do with the train song???

The reason you teach:
I am passionate about music and the development of children. Kindermusik allows me to combine both of these as I work side by side with such wonderful families each week!

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.

One group’s Kindermusik journey

Today was the final class for my first group of “graduating” kids, who are moving on from Kindermusik to other activities. When I first became licensed as a Kindermusik Educator, I had no idea what to expect.  My first year, I had less than a dozen students, and struggled to keep up with the demands of memorizing so many lesson plans in addition to my regular private lessons and my job as Korben and Sophie’s mom.

My first two classes were toddlers in Our Time (Sophie’s class) and kids in Young Child, which included Korben and my good friend Carrie’s twins.  The second year, I didn’t have enough interest to make a Young Child 3 group, so I called Lisa Arriaga at “Sing and Play Fine Arts” in Pearland to see if she was offering YC 3, and she said, “I’ll offer it if you’ll come teach it!”  I didn’t want Korben to miss out, so I jumped at the chance, and I really enjoyed teaching a fun group of girls… and Korben.  At the end of the fall, the girls all decided to switch to piano.  Korben’s been studying piano in addition to KM since he was 4, so I was disappointed that he wouldn’t get to learn the recorder in Kindermusik class.

Meanwhile, I began a new group of Young Child students on Semester 1 and 2, and that group stayed together through the first year, summer Adventures, and Semester 3.  When they re-enrolled in Semester 4, I was thrilled!  Korben is 7 now, so he was still young enough to join their class and finish the Young Child program.  Another of my private students who was struggling with private instruction also joined the class for this final semester, and we have all had SO much fun this spring.

In order from left to right, I’d like to take a moment to share my favorite experiences with each of these kids.  Sarah is the quietest in the class.  She often will come and whisper to me what her choice for movement in our hello song is.  She is also very sweet and has drawn me pictures and cards that I treasure, and is quite the artist.  She is the most musical of all the kids in the class, and practices with dedication that will serve her well as she begins to study piano.  Andy is the class clown.  He likes to be the center of attention, and I see a career in performance in his future.  He is highly intelligent and curious, and has kept me on my toes.  Bailey just joined us this spring, but she is very quick to learn all the new songs we sing.  She has a great ear and a big voice for someone so small, and she really enjoyed being in a group setting.  Korben is the oldest in the group, and he struggled at times with the job of being a good example for the other kids, as not only the oldest, but the teacher’s son.  He had the easiest time playing the recorder, since he had a whole year of development on most of the kids.  Jordan is my silly sweetheart.  She likes to joke around, but she also is the most physically affectionate of the class.  She would be happy just to sit in my lap, no matter what we were doing.

As a voice teacher, I am amazed at how much the children’s voices developed over the course of their Kindermusik experience.  Without exception, all of the children who graduated today are able to sing accurately on pitch. Jordan’s mom said, “I don’t know where she got it from!  It certainly wasn’t me.”  Well, I know where Jordan got it from… Kindermusik!  The best part about it is that the kids don’t even realize that they’re learning to sing accurately – they think we’re just playing games. They think it’s super fun, and sing all kinds of songs to our simple melodies from class, and that practices that skill of  singing on pitch.

I am so grateful to have been given the opportunity to know and love these children.  I will miss having them as students, and I know that they will be more successful in all their future educational endeavors for having taken Kindermusik, regardless of whether they’re studying music or math.  I look forward to having many more graduating classes in the coming years, but this first class will always hold a special place in my heart.
-Tabby Worthington

Thanks to Tabby and her class for allowing us to share this great story and photo collage. We’re proud of her and these kids, and know they are all on to great things! More info on Tabby’s Houston Bay area Kindermusik program can be found at