"Kristen does a great job of engaging the kids balanced with a command of the group. She incorporates educational aspects of music that are particularly appropriate for PreK kids - it's very exciting to watch! She uses active and quality songs that kids continued to sing, even after the class is over. The children are SO excited when they realize it is Ms. Kristen (music) day! I think she provides a balanced and exciting musical experience for the kids and is an asset to The Chapel's preschool program."
Are you helping your infant reach their developmental milestones? That question often pops up across social media sites and it's one that can send
parents brains into overdrive, pouring over Pinterest to find the best activities that fit their wallet, their family schedule and even their own abilities.
The internet hosts thousands of engaging ideas - and it can be difficult filtering the best ones that work for your family. The question is - How can you be intentional while keeping it simple and worry-free?
Here are 7 musical ways that dramatically improve your child's cognitive and social development, while staying true to parents' intuition, lifestyle and joy.
Songs and rhymes that involve using their hands greatly help your child develop fine motor skills. At the same time, aural skills are being improved upon (meaning, your teaching them how to be a good listener) through pitch exploration - high/low voices, singing/speaking/whispering voices, fast/slow tempo and the like. Babies learn well through sequential rhymes like This Little Piggie or Pat-a-Cake.
2. Bouncing, Tickles and Wiggles Play (Cause and Effect Activities)
Songs, chants and active listening to classical music are fantastic ways through which to teach cause and effect! Invite your child to tap your palm while you sing a short song. Follow the child's tapping - if they stop tapping, you stop singing; if they speed up, sing faster to stay with their steady beat. In this way you're showing them that they control the motion of the song (bonus points for developing self confidence!) Throw on some beatful marches! John Philips Sousa composed some fine toe-tappin' tunes that are perfect for bouncing your baby on your knee, tapping their toes together, helping them clap their hands and more!
3. Patterns and Sounds Exploration
Music is made up of patterns through sound. A great way to be intentional for developing organized thinking is by singing simple patterns on a neutral syllable (think: "la-la," "loo-loo," "bah-bah-" etc.). Play a game by singing any short musical pattern - for example, the first two words of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star - and happily engage them when they try to imitate. When your child initiates the game, try echoing them and watch their eyes light up with joy!
4. Empathy Through Music
In its earliest stage empathy is taught by example. Soothing your newborn, responding to a panicked cry of an adventurous baby, hugging the pain away from a woebegone toddler are all ways we demonstrate empathetic actions to our children. Singing lullabies aides this development in a very natural way. Soft voices, slow melodies, and repetitive rhythms and movement allow your child to feel love in it's innate form. As your child grows, show them how to transfer this love onto other family members and even their favorite doll or stuffed animal.
5. Pumping Up Your Playlists (Language and Communication Skills)
At birth, your baby's brain contains 100 billion neurons! During his first years, he will grow trillions of brain-cell connections, called neural synapses. These are thread-like wires and the rule for brain wiring is "use it or lose it." Synapses that are not "wired together" through stimulation are pruned and lost during a child's school years. Because music is another language, singing songs of value and integrity helps to build a phenomenal vocabulary from an early age! Sweep those "cupcake" songs out the door and stay true to raising the bar for your child. Low budget music that is only written to teach a concept, that has loud and synthesized accompaniment are really like Cupcakes - sugary, fluffy and full of empty calories. While they are fine to use sparingly they shouldn't make up the entirety of your family's music collection.
How do I build a better music collection that the whole family will enjoy? Start with your own country's folk songs. Music that has lasted a century or more means that there is more to it than meets the eye. Moms, dads, grandparents and composers have known how to musically engage their family for hundreds of years - the simple fact that most of this music is still around means that it's top notch! Try singing "There's a Hold in the Bucket" - a song that is over 500 years old and still a favorite today! Once you're enjoying your familial music, branch out into different countries - England alone has hundreds of songs, rhymes and chants that delight children!
6. Echo Me - Follow Me (Listening Skills)
Raise your hand if you have a toddler who doesn't listen. Since every hand in the audience went up, here's a look at how to develop that skill. Since birth babies have the ability to absorb their environment through sound. Give them sounds that engage and thrill and you'll keep their attention for years! Classical music is a fantastic genre for developing listening skills as well as the desire. Camille Saint-Saens composed fantastic music such as the Carnival of the Animals - a collection of short musical sections that each represent an animal. My favorite is the movement entitled "Aquarium" - invite your child to move around the room with a colorful scarf or napkin and swim like a fish does (slowly and gracefully). Your child can also choose from the Donkey, Fossils, Lions, Chickens and Roosters, Kangaroos and more! These are perfect for enticing your child to follow directions - "Can you bounce like a Kangaroo to your bedroom?" "Let's march like a lion (or lioness) to the kitchen table and pounce on our snack!"
7. Creative and Logical Thinking
Children are gifted with all nine intelligences (see Dr. Gardener's Music Learning Theory). Depending on the environment and attention paid to each intelligence will determine how a child's musical processing will turn out. Improvisation plays a big part of the child's younger years - they instinctively know how to make up a game, create their own works of art, dance in a way that's unique to them and more. Have fun with your spoken language and make up your own songs! It is as easy as singing a familiar melody (let's say Frere Jacque - Are You Sleeping?) and changing the words to ones that describe your current activity:
"Look at Abby, look at Abby, see how she skips! See how she skips! Bouncing lightly on her toes. Bouncing lightly on her toes. Bravo, Abby! Bravo, Abby!"
When your older toddler is helping you cook breakfast incorporate what you're doing through a song - be adventurous and make up your own melody!
Some children absolutely love to use their hands while listening. Cash in on that physical outlet and give them some blank paper and coloring utensils to create a picture that describes the music they are hearing. Other children may enjoy acting out the song. Jenny Jenkins is a fabulous song for teaching colors:
"Will you wear White, oh my dear, oh my dear? Will you wear White, Jenny Jenkins?" No, I won't wear white for the color's too bright..." Change the colors as your child looks through their closet.