The secret language of babies

Priscilla Dunstan has two amazing talents — an understanding of sound and an understanding of babies. As a musical prodigy who preformed Mozart piano concerti at the age of 4 (!), Dunstan has used her self-described "photographic memory for sound" in many different ways. One of the most notable is in developing a system for understanding the cries of a baby.

This may sound a bit "out there" to some, but many think Dunstan is really on to something. In fact, she was even featured on Orpah to share her theories and findings.

Want to test her findings for yourself? After working with more than 1,000 infants around the world, Dunstan says there are five words that all babies 0–3 months old say, regardless of race and culture:

Neh = ”I’m hungry”
Owh = ”I’m sleepy”
Heh = ”I need to be changed”
Eair = ”I'm gassy”
Eh = ”I need to burp”

You can learn more about Patricia Dunstan and her findings at Who knows, this might come in really handy the next time baby is crying!

Looking for a change in 2010? Check out this story.

It really doesn't seem like that long ago that Rachel Roberts was a little girl in my Kindermusik class. Before I was an employee owner at Kindermusik, I taught Kindermusik classes at the Cultural Arts Center in Greensboro, NC. She's pictured in the white sweater, and that's me in the pink jacket. You can imagine my surprise and delight when I found out Rachel is currently in a Fundamentals Learning Group! Kindermusik Fundamentals is the training course all Kindermusik eduators take. Rachel grew up (pictured in the blue dress), and things have come around full circle!

Here’s how Rachel introduced herself to her Kindermusik Fundamentals training group:

My name is Rachel Roberts and I am currently in my last semester of college at Mars Hill College in the mountains of North Carolina, finishing a B.A. of Music degree. I hope to graduate in December and find a Kindermusik office to work with soon after that.

I have always loved working with children. I babysat regularly throughout middle and high school and for the past 2 summers, I worked as a director for KidShine Inc., a company that sends teams around the U.S. teaching children’s musicals through the day camp venue. There I was able to take on a teaching role, as well as learn business skills. I was drawn to the idea of Kindermusik because I participated in the classes as a child, and was reminded of it when I was looking for potential career opportunities. It is a perfect blend of things I'm passionate about: children & music!

I hope to be the kind of teacher who can connect with both children and parents, and pass my love for music along to others.

It really feels good to be able to pass on the torch. This is what it's really all about.

-by Cindy Bousman, Kindermusik employee-owner and educator.

Ever considered a career teaching Kindermusik? Click here for more information.

Play — a child’s job

We call it play, the work children do all the day long. From rolling a ball to mouthing it, from building with blocks to knocking them down, a child’s job is to play.

Children learn and grow through play. Toys that mimic every day objects such as kitchen appliances, dress-up clothes, or gardening tools help a child to act out what he sees the grown-ups doing. Toys that specifically encourage creativity, like blocks, scarves, and Legos equip children as they use their ever-amazing minds to construct and pretend.

“Given its all-consuming and pervasive nature, it is not surprising that play makes major contributions to growth and development during the preschool years.” (p. 61) The Preschool Years: Family Strategies That Work – From Experts and Parents by Ellen Galinsky and Judy David. According to the authors, here are seven benefits of play:

1. Play fosters a positive self-concept.
2. Play promotes language development.
3. Play stimulates thinking and problem-solving.
4. Play enables children to understand the world.
5. Play is a forum for children to express and resolve their feelings.
6. Play enhances creativity.
7. Play develops social skills and social thinking.

As parents, we want our children to have the best toys to help with their development. After all, creating a stimulating home environment is the least we can do. But the most important play-thing that your child can have does not come in a box or from a store. Children need the significant adults in their lives to stop, sit, and become co-workers at play. It’s easy to delight a child with a new toy and walk away. But what a child needs most is intentional and personal interaction with the adults in her life as she learns and grows.

It’s hard to take a break from what we view as important: work-related issues, financial problems, or the upkeep of a home. But investing daily in the lives of our children by sitting down with them, allowing them the freedom to choose what to play, following them and labeling their actions, and resisting the urge to organize and perfect their play is the most important work that you can do as a parent.

The simple act of investing time, do it today. A few minutes will make a lifetime of difference.

-by Kindermusik educator Theresa Case. Theresa's Kindermusik program, Kindermusik at Piano Central Studios, is in the top 1% of all programs in the world. Additional contributions by Mollie Greene.

The Rain Stick

I love poetry. While I don’t understand much of it, I love the rhythm of the words and verbal energy they evoke. One of my favorites is Seamus Heaney, winner of the 1995 Nobel Prize in Literature. I am Irish by heritage, so perhaps Heaney’s Irish lyrical themes reach me from a distant past. Here’s one, from his collection of poems entitled The Spirit Level, which brought Heaney, me, and Kindermusik all together at once…if only for a few lines.

"The Rain Stick"

Upend the rain stick and what happens next
Is a music that you never would have known
To listen for. In a cactus stalk

Downpour, sluice-rush, spillage and backwash
Come flowing through. You stand there like a pipe
Being played by water, you shake it again lightly

And diminuendo runs through all its scales
Like a gutter stopping trickling. And now here comes
A sprinkle of drops out of the freshened leaves,

Then subtle little wets off grass and daisies;
Then glitter-drizzle, almost-breaths of air.
Upend the stick again. What happens next

Is undiminished for having happened once,
Twice, ten, a thousand times before.
Who care if all the music that transpires

Is the fall of grit or dry seeds through a cactus?
You are like a rich man entering heaven
Through the ear of a raindrop. Listen now again.

-Seamus Heaney
The Spirit Level, 1996

-this post was submitted by Michael Dougherty, CEO of Kindermusik International.

Are you ready to PLAY?

Posted December 29, 2009

Kindermusik International is super excited to announce our new e-music site:!

At, you can preview, purchase, and download your favorite Kindermusik songs and albums. You’ll also find activity ideas to do at home, written by individuals from our network of over 6000 Kindermusik educators from around the world. Check out musical e-cards you can send to your friends and family – some with great animations.

There’s lots to do at! We think you’re going to like it.

And here’s the best part – register now and receive 3 free download credits, just for signing up! So get ready to PLAY!

A sight for young eyes

Post December 17, 2009

It is never too early to provide exposure to a rich musical palette—the sounds of Bach, Brahms, Dixieland, music from all corners of the world and naturally, time-tested nursery rhymes and songs. Enjoy listening to music that spans historical periods and styles and features a host of instruments and voices.

Similarly, exposure to a rich visual palette ought to happen from an early age. Illustrations in books for babies typically are bright and bold, and the subjects are easy to distinguish. While such art is in every way appropriate, babyhood is also a fine time for exposure to a widely varied visual landscape including mobiles, picture books, patterned rugs and fabrics, photographs, paintings, and more.

Most likely, your daily life with your little one naturally provides this type of stimulation. If you’d like to do a little more to enrich your baby’s visual environs, consider these ideas:

  • Laminate and bind together safely and sturdily a collection of postcards. Images could include landscapes, city skylines, people, architectural landmarks, and/or works of art.
  • Change the scenery. Post works of art on the walls at a level and proximity easily viewed by your baby. Use the Village art banners (if you’re enrolled in a Kindermusik Village class), prints, posters, photos, etc. Periodically take prints down and post new ones.

On reclaiming the joyful spirit in life

Posted December 9, 2009

I have always loved music, and have been a musician since I was a young girl. I began playing the piano at age 7, and later added voice, clarinet, and handbells to my repertoire. Music has always brought me joy when I was feeling sad, or calmed me down when I was upset. (My family can attest that I have been known to literally “pound out my frustrations” on the piano.)

After completing 7th grade, I attended a music camp at a small college a few hours from where I grew up. There I had the opportunity to take a private piano lesson from the dean of the music college. I played for him a piece that I felt I had mastered, and he proceeded to point out all of my shortcomings in a way that put my fragile 13-year-old ego through the shredder. Then he told me that if I really wanted to “do” the piece, I would have to give up the other music activities that I enjoyed (accompanying the junior high chorus, playing at church, etc.) and focus completely on practicing that piece. After the lesson, I felt incompetent and utterly dejected.

As high school graduation approached, I began considering a career in music. While I knew that my musical ability had improved, that horrible music camp experience was still in my mind, and I still felt that my best efforts it would always be inadequate. There would always be someone like that music professor jumping on my every mistake, and music would become a source of stress rather than an outlet. In addition, the Midwestern work ethic with which I was raised conveyed the message that your job was just a job, and you weren’t meant to enjoy it.

So, I pursued my other talents, mathematics and business, and became an actuary, working for 2 different insurance companies for a total of 16 years. I endured the stress of studying for and passing a series of extremely difficult exams, working 50+ hour weeks with no end in sight, juggling career and family, and always feeling like I wasn’t doing enough. There was very little about my career that I could call fun, and I know I wasn’t much fun to be around. What was fun was making music, as I became a church and community musician and began teaching music to children.

In late 2005, I left my executive-level job to take some time off and figure out “what I want to be when I grow up.” What I figured out is that life is too short to not enjoy what you do, and what I enjoy is music. In the fall of 2006, I began teaching music at local preschools and became licensed to teach Kindermusik. Shortly after that, I formed my business and chose the word brioso, which means “with vigor and spirit.” In 2007, I began teaching Kindermusik classes and private piano lessons. And I have discovered that singing and laughing with children nearly every day is a wonderful boost to the spirit. It is my hope that all of you reading this are fortunate enough to spend your lives doing work that feeds your spirit as well.

-by Kindermusik educator Julie Bosworth. Julie owns and runs Julie's Music Brioso, a Kindermusik program in Olathe, KS.

Considering a career change like Julie? Learn more about teaching Kindermusik by clicking here.