On Mother's Day 10 years ago, I was pregnant with my daughter. I had no idea what was coming next...would I have an easy birth? Will my baby be OK? Will I be a good mother? It was an exciting (and a little bit scary!) time. I knew there would be lots of learning along the way, and I hoped that I would make more good decisions than bad ones. I figured I had a good base of knowledge already, since I had been teaching Kindermusik infant music classes for 2-3 years at that time. Recently, I was asked by a colleague what would be the top advice that I would give to new parents and it got me thinking...here are the top 3 things that I did with my daughter that I think had the biggest impact on bonding and my parenting journey, and her learning and development.
The Hello Song is such an important part of our Kindermusik classes. We are often told by parents and caregivers that it is a child’s favorite song, and here’s why: it signals to your child that you are about to spend time together, 100% focused on each other. Quality one-on-one time of learning and exploring, singing, dancing, playing instruments and making connections together. We see this same excitement in virtual classes and in-person classes, because the adult-child connection is still present and the most important part of class. Recently I’ve been observing how the hello song can help build social emotional skills such as empathy, respect, and self-confidence.
According to Zero to Three:
"Starting from birth, babies are learning who they are by how they are treated. Through everyday interactions, parents, relatives and caregivers send babies messages like: You’re clever. You’re good at figuring things out. You’re loved. You make me laugh. I enjoy being with you. These messages shape a baby’s self-esteem.
Toddlers are starting to develop a sense of self-awareness—that they are separate and independent from others. This new knowledge helps them understand that other people have thoughts and feelings that may be different from their own."
What does this mean for your child
What’s in a name? In the baby and toddler classes, including the child’s name is an important part of the hello song. As Dale Carnegie once said: “Remember that a person's name is to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” Babies learn to recognize their own names during the hello song, and we see their face light up when they hear their name inserted into the song. It’s magical! Toddlers look forward to their turn each week, both to hear their name and to share their greeting idea. Older preschool-aged children are trying to blend in and be part of the group, so in that class, each child chooses a motion for the hello song, but their name is not sung. Everything in a Kindermusik class is intentionally done to support your child at each stage of their development.
Set your child up for success: With a baby, observe what he or she is doing, even if it is unintentional. Does he look like he’s trying to wave? Is she trying to clap? Does he always laugh when we lift arms and say “so big!”? Choose one of those as their hello motion. Give toddlers TWO choices, instead of “what do you want to do?” Open-ended questions are difficult for a toddler and you may get an answer of “go to the park.” Instead, try “would you like to clap, or jump for your hello motion?” It often helps to talk about it and choose one before class, so your child is ready and confident when their turn comes. Preschoolers will often choose a complicated motion, such as a compound movement (spin-jump) or something related to pretend play (fly and swoop like glittery dinosaurs)...just go with it! Remember that the idea is to try something new and respect all ideas. Also, if you’ve never flown and swooped like a glittery dinosaur, you are in for a treat ;)
If you’d like to learn more about how you can support your child’s social-emotional learning, check out this article.
Kindermusik classes, whether virtual or in-person, are a great way to start building your child’s emotional intelligence, self-esteem, and empathy.
Resilience, or our ability to cope and move through difficult times, is incredibly important to focus on as we continue getting through 2020. Building resilience is like building a muscle: it takes time and intention. I began to ponder the relationship between music and resilience. More specifically, I began thinking about how the Bucktown Music Kindermusik classes that I have been teaching and engaging in with my daughter are helping families build resilience during this year filled with loss, anger, and anxiety.
TRY THIS: Here is a grounding exercise that you can do at home for yourself or with your family that focuses on the music of our bodies: Find a comfortable place to sit. Once you are settled, take three deep breaths, allowing the sensation and sound of your breath to help you relax. Once you are in this quiet space, put your hand on your heart and pay attention to your heartbeat. Spend some time feeling your heartbeat. Allow the rhythm of your heartbeat to ground you into the present moment. Spend as much time here as you need, and when you are ready, play this steady beat on a drum or instrument of choice.
Learn more about mindfulness & music
Join us for some joyful virtual music-making!
You're probably asking yourself: What on earth does playing with a ball have to do with music???? Everything, for little ones! All kids love playing with balls, and it's a great activity to do with baby to boost early learning.
Kindermusik chime balls are brightly colored and have a little bell inside, so they make a fun jingly sound when tapped or shaken. With babies, you can tap the ball on their body so they can feel the steady beat, or you can move the ball across their field of vision so that they can track it with their eyes (an important pre-reading skill, whether they are reading words or music notes!)
"Moving the ball along to the music gives children a visual representation of a steady beat, which helps them learn with multiple senses: hear it, feel it, see it. The more senses that are involved in learning an activity, the more likely it is to "stick" in a child's brain."
Using a ball with toddlers teaches turn-taking and hand-eye coordination, an important skill for playing in an ensemble later in life. Preschoolers learn to pass the ball around the circle to the steady beat, and we may even make it more difficult by adding extra balls or changing the tempo (speed) of the song so that they have to coordinate their movements and ball-passing to the beat of the music!
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Not in Chicago? We've got Kindermusik friends all over the world, find a class near you!
Birth to Age 3
This is the optimal time to start those neural connections firing, not only in music, but with early childhood development as well. Your child will need many skills to be successful at playing an instrument. A quality early childhood music program, such as Kindermusik, will actively educate parents and help young children to:
Many parents want to rush their child into lessons, but we've found that it is much better to wait until they are physically ready to play an instrument, so that they get the joy of mastering it, and want to continue. We want to give them the tools and skills to master it!
School Age Children (Kindergarten & up)
If you aren’t sure what instrument to start your child on, I would start with the piano. It is a visual instrument, so children can see where their fingers go, and it uses both treble and bass clefs (for non-musicians, treble clef is used for high sounds and instruments such as the flute or violin, and bass clef for low sounds and instruments, such as cello.) Children who start on piano learn to read both clefs, so later on if they want to pick up something else, they already have that advantage.
Here are some things to keep in mind:
Preschoolers (3 - 5 years old)
Preschool music classes should expose children to music from around the world, in different languages, and teach them about instrument families. The best preschool music programs include:
- You'll need to decide between traditional or Suzuki method (will discuss in a future post!)
- Find the right music teacher: choose a teacher who is able to motivate your child, and explains lessons to you as well so that you can help at home.
- You will need a quality instrument for home practice. No matter how talented your child is, or how much practicing they do, they'll need a good instrument to sound fantastic! They are also easier to play. Your teacher or music studio should be able to give you a recommendation on what type of instrument to get and where to get it from, and whether it makes more sense to purchase or rent an instrument. Some instruments, such as violins and guitars, come in smaller sizes for children, so your child will need to be measured before you choose an instrument.
- Practice schedule: you will need to set aside 10-15 minutes a day for practice, otherwise your child won’t make progress and will be frustrated. Young children will need your help to read the lessons and know what to practice, and how to do it (See Above #2 about a teacher with great communication skills!). Another great practice tip is to have your child play a song XX times, rather than for XX minutes, I like to use how old they are (7 year olds play their songs 7 times per day, and so on).
Adult Students: The first step is to have a heart-to-heart with your teacher about your goals, expectations, and time. Do you want to learn to read music and play Beethoven? Or are you looking to learn some easy chords so you can play a few songs for your friends at your next party? Would you like to join a community orchestra or form a band, or are you looking for a creative outlet to relax after work?
Make sure you and your teacher are on the same page, and that your teacher is comfortable teaching the kind of music that you want to learn. You'll probably need a beginner book so that you can learn the notes and some basic theory behind what you are playing. After a few weeks of learning the fundamentals, you will probably be able to play a few simple songs.
A child's progress is greatly influenced by certain skills, such as finger dexterity (can your child make "O"s with each of their fingers touching their thumb?), the ability to move each finger independently of the others, their natural ability to keep a steady beat, and their communication skills with their teacher. Everyone learns at a different pace, but most children will get through their Level 1 book in 6-12 months. Older children will make MUCH quicker progress.
Keep in mind that a child who takes lessons for three years from 9-12 years old will make SO much more progress than a child who plays from 5-8 years old...
If your child seems frustrated or bored, talk to their teacher about adding some fun repertoire (maybe music from their favorite movie or video game), or finding an ensemble or performance opportunity to keep them motivated!
It's very common to hit a plateau with your playing. KEEP IT UP! That means you are making progress and just need to "get over the hump" to make it to the next level! If there is a piece that you are struggling with, ask your teacher for hints, break it up into sections, practice it a million times and move on!
How long did it take YOU (or your child) to master an instrument?
Please comment below!
Yes, it's true! Music makes you smarter and it's good for reading and math...BUT...
Many parents feel that getting their child started in private lessons as early as possible is the best choice. One of the most common questions we hear at our studio is “when should my child start playing an instrument?” I’ve had many (yes, MANY) people who insist that their 1, 2, or 3 year old child be enrolled in private music lessons.
What we’ve found is that young children thrive in a research-based group class (such as our Kindermusik program), and the LATER the child starts private lessons, the more likely they are to enjoy lessons and want to continue.
Many people shared that they started lessons at a young age and then got frustrated and quit, which is what we often see with very young children (under 6). The majority of students who began in the 10-13 range started in their middle school orchestra/band/choir, and most children in the 4-9 year old range began on piano or violin. The very young students (4-5 years old) who continued playing were from musical families whose parents were able to help with their practice. Many of them quit for awhile and then re-start when they were 8-9 years old.
THIS is what we do at Bucktown Music, create a solid foundation so that all students will be successful in creating any kind of music they enjoy for many years to come. The message I want you to get is that YOU HAVE TIME!
Meet Patty LeClair Kennedy, one of our voice/piano and Kindermusik teachers, shares her musical journey:
I began piano lessons at age 4. My very well intentioned parents noticed that I gravitated toward music and they enrolled me in piano lessons before my 5th birthday. I could not yet read and I was overwhelmed immediately. Both my teacher and parents were very supportive, but didn’t catch that for the first few years of my lessons I did not read music (or any written notation), and was playing only by ear. Eventually my pieces became too difficult to learn only by ear, and when all of a sudden I couldn’t play my music, everyone thought I must be acting out or wasn’t trying. By that point I was extremely anxious and was so afraid of letting my “grown ups” down. I felt stuck for many years, making very little progress. I remember the day reading music suddenly clicked for me, and it was in 4th grade while I was having the time of my life at choir camp (no surprise that it came through singing for me.) I began studying saxophone privately shortly after that and began studying formal classical voice by 10th grade, and never stopped. I wasn’t ready to read music or study privately until I was 9 years old, and I still went on to become a professional musician! Even more importantly, I went on to a life of finding utter joy in music every single day!
In addition to teaching Kindermusik, voice and piano lessons at Bucktown Music, Patty leads the female vocal ensemble La Caccina.
Jessica Solares is one of the founders of Bucktown Music, along with her husband Luis. She holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Elmhurst College, and is a licensed Kindermusik educator with Top Program distinction.
Jessica was hired as Manager of Business Development, Studio Division for Kindermusik International. She is thrilled to have this new role to train educators around the world to open stellar music studios!