10 DecArticle: Kindermusik at the KinderCenter

One or two years ago, I was contacted by the Tribune Star to write an article for a women’s magazine that never came to fruition. So, maybe the fact that you are reading it here will make me feel better! It is a little lengthy, but pretty easy to read. It gives an overview of the Kindermusik program at KinderCenter.

Generally Speaking

Children are born with a certain potential for learning music. This potential can be cultivated most fully when children are exposed to music making at a very early age. Children are most receptive to learning music from birth to seven years of age with the most critical learning period from birth to age four. Music is learned in much the same manner as language: first it is heard, second it is spoken/sung, third it is read and last it is written.

The three most important elements of the Kindermusik® program are music development, overall child development and parental involvement. Music and movement activities actually prime the brain for learning. Research shows that early music experiences can pave neural pathways for language acquisition, problem solving, planning and recall and spatial reasoning. Music combined with parental involvement makes for an emotionally charged activity. The group situation heightens the emotional content actually fueling brain development and learning. Concepts and skills presented in a playful, joyful setting allow children to absorb the learning more thoroughly. Essentially, when children are having fun, they learn more and retain more of what they learn.

An Expert’s View

It is vital that the activities presented to children for learning are age and developmentally appropriate. In her book, Different Learners, Dr. Jane Healy, a teacher and educational psychologist, is concerned that childhood in the 21st century is becoming a “hazardous territory for growing brains.” A strong sensory-motor foundation enhances the acquisition of higher-level skills. Dr. Healy notes that, often, sensory motor skills are being forfeited in lieu of the “glitter and shine of higher-level skills.” In other words, we are trying to teach children to run before they can walk.

Healy goes on to say that research shows that appropriate activities enhance brain development in children. “This evidence suggests that carefully crafted music and movement activities have the potential, not only to enhance cognitive and emotional development, but also to remediate or even avoid potential learning problems.” Wow!

In order to learn, children’s play must be real and hands on. Passive activities such as TV and computer games leave no space for the child’s creativity and do not provide any food for brain growth and most likely will lessen creativity. Children involved in these activities are simply striving to get an already programmed answer. There is no thinking out of the box – no creativity or originality.

The Babies’ Class (Birth to 18 months)

In a babies’ class (infants to 18 months), singing and dancing help to develop a love for music early on. Babies learn intuitively about phrasing and form through organized dancing to music. A little one learns about the emotional content of music through moving with the parent. If the music is fast and joyful or slow and melancholy, the child is cued into those emotions by the way the parent moves hers and the baby’s body.

Babies learn intuitively about phrasing and form through organized dancing to music. A little one learns about the emotional content of music through moving with the parent. If the music is fast and joyful or slow and melancholy, the child is cued into those emotions by the way the parent moves hers’ and the baby’s bodies.

Multi directional movement during this period of brain development is extremely important in developing critical thinking skills. In previous generations, infants were placed in a wrap, (a popular brand now is the Moby wrap) close to the mother’s body almost immediately after birth. Any time the mother moved, the baby benefited from that movement – if Mom bent over or turned in a circle then the baby experienced the same movement.

So often today, babies spend a large majority of their time in carriers and experience little or no multi-directional movement. Movement is the key to brain development. If the brain is allowed to see the world from a multitude of perspectives, then the brain develops an abundance of perspectives. This translates to an abundance of solutions for solving problems. In a carrier, the view, as well as the movement, is very limited. If the brain is only allowed to see the narrow perspective that is limited to the view of a carrier, then the brain perceives these as the only choices. On the other hand, if the brain is given 360 degrees of perspective, it learns to see there are unlimited choices, that is, limited solutions. Movement provides babies’ the opportunity to see the world in a variety of perspectives.

Our Time Age Group (18 months to 3 years)

The 18 month to 3-year-old age group is the heart of the program. It is a joyful, fun-filled class that promotes interaction between parent and child. In this age group everyone is walking and learning to talk. So much is going on developmentally and no area of development is overlooked! In this age group, language development and emerging literacy skills are greatly enhanced by music and movement activities. Singing about the movements while doing the movements, such as shaking bells high, low, to the side, behind your back, walking around the hoop, jumping in the hoop, and a thousand others, empower the child with a much deeper meaning of the words because there is a physical connection as well as cognitive. Physical development is addressed by learning to coordinate fine and gross motor movements to the steady beat, timing and inhibitory control (the ability to physically respond to a stimulus, that is , I can stop my body when the drum stops). Emotional development is enhanced when the child is successful, thus building self-confidence. Learning to take turns, staying on task with a group and for many young children who have had limited exposure to other children, just being with other children, nourishes social development.

Steady beat is essential to becoming a successful musician. It is also a foundational skill for movement, dance, sports, language development and reading. In her book, Different Learners, Dr. Jane Healy states that in many contemporary homes, musical games, beat activities and nursery rhymes of early childhood have been lost “leaving children without the movement and music experiences so necessary for timing and language development.” Because it is such an essential skill, steady beat is practiced over and over, continually reinforcing the skill.

Music activities assist children in learning transitioning skills. Transitioning is the ability to move from one activity to the next without interruption, a vital skill for success in a public school classroom and life in general. In a Kindermusik classroom, the child may be asked to move from: playing bells, putting the bells away, dancing with a scarf, putting the scarf away, sitting and listening during story time, rocking with the parent and then moving in a circle with other classmates in the span of 40 minutes. Music aids the child in transitioning from one activity to the next by inviting the child to do so rather than demanding.

Imagine That Age Group (3-5 years)

Children in the 3 to 5 year old age group are faced with a new challenge. In younger age groups, the parent attends the entire class with the child, however, in this age group, children attend most of the class with the instructor and their peers. Parents are invited in for sharing time at the end of the class. Imagination is the name of the game in this age group. Pretend play activities are integrated with music, vocal development, storytelling, movement and literature to encourage cognitive and literacy skills, creativity and individuality. Classes provide the opportunity for children to gain confidence in making choices, expressing opinions, engaging problem solving activities and abstract thinking skills which prepare for the transition to kindergarten. Skills that were introduced in the 18 month to 3-year-old age group are refined in this age group. Music skills are further developed to get the child ready for the final two years of the Kindermusik program.

Young Child Age Group (5-7 years)

The last two years of the program, are devoted to music development. At five years of age, children begin the last two years of Kindermusik. These final two years introduce children to the written language of music while cultivating music creativity. Singing and vocal development, movement and performing in instrumental ensembles are all a part of this age group. Building blocks such as rhythm notation, musical symbols expressive movement and focused listening, prepare children for more formal music instruction such as piano lessons. During the fall and spring semester of the first year, children learn songs on the glockenspiel – a barred instrument. Learning is continued in the second year using the dulcimer (a folk stringed instrument) and finally, the recorder (a wind instrument) in the last semester.

Children respond naturally to music and learn best through movement; the combination of music and movement is natural. Music and movement activities allow for freedom of expression and creative input on the child’s part. They encourage the building of self-confidence, curiosity, self-expression, social skills and cooperation – all essential characteristics of successful learning.

I hope you enjoyed the article and thanks for reading it!

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