Babies Benefit from Learning Two Languages at the Same Time

Baby learning two languagesWe get fired up about the importance of early childhood education. The reason is simple. In the first seven years of a child’s life, their brains are firing up with learning—literally! Every new experience lights up the synapses in the brain and repetition makes those pathways stronger.

At the age of two, a child’s brain includes over a 100 trillion synapses. That’s 50 percent more than we have as adults. While these new connections form rapidly and are strengthened through repetition, the brain also prunes connections not used frequently. This strengthening and deleting that happens in young children’s brains ultimately helps them process thoughts and actions more quickly.

Babies’ brains ripe for learning more than one language

All that action in the brain makes children under the age of 7 the ideal age for engaging in new experiences, including learning more than one language. In fact, new research conducted with six-month-old infants in Singapore indicates a generalized cognitive advantage that emerges early in infants raised in a bilingual home and is not specific to a particular language.

“As adults, learning a second language can be painstaking and laborious,” explained co-author and Associate Professor Leher Singh in a press release. “We sometimes project that difficulty onto our young babies, imagining a state of enormous confusion as two languages jostle for space in their little heads. However, a large number of studies have shown us that babies are uniquely well positioned to take on the challenges of bilingual acquisition and in fact, may benefit from this journey.”

The study found that:

  • The infants raised in a bilingual home become bored with familiar images faster than children brought up in a monolingual home.
  • Those same infants paid more attention to new images when compared to babies living in a monolingual home.

So what does that all mean? According to the press release, previous studies show that a quicker response to familiar objects and interest in new objects can predict preschool developmental outcomes, including non-verbal cognition and expressive and receptive language. Think about it. Children learning two languages at the same time are exposed to the sounds of more than one language and must learn to distinguish between the two. This makes for more—and stronger—neural connections! See why we get fired up for early childhood education?

Rocking the bilingual brain

At Kindermusik, our ELL curriculum, ABC English & Me,  uses songs, story time, puppets, and Total Physical Response for English Language Learning. Research shows that music ABC English & Me - Teaching English to Children through Musichas a positive impact on learning a second language. For example, in class ELL students may hear and repeat the rhythmic language of a nursery rhyme or song multiple times. The repetition creates stronger connections in the brain and helps children learn to speak and later read in English as their English language phonological awareness increases.

Learn more about using music to learn English as a second language at www.Kindermusik.com.

Answer that Baby Babble to Speed Up Language Development

Hang around babies long enough and you start hearing things. From soft sweet coos to long monologues of “dadadadadada,” babies talk a lot—even though we have no idea what they are really saying! That’s okay. We don’t need to understand all the words (or non-words!) to join in the conversation.

How Parents Respond to All that Baby Babble Matters

VocalPlay_Boosts_Early_Language_Development_KindermusikNew early childhood research from the University of Iowa and Indiana University found that how parents respond to all that baby talk can speed up a baby’s vocalizing and language development. That’s great news for those of us no longer fluent in Baby talk.

“It’s not that we found responsiveness matters,” explained co-author Julie Gros-Louis in a press release, “It’s how a mother responds that matters.”

In this six-month-long study, the research team watched the interactions between a dozen mothers and their 8-month-old babies two times a month for 30 minutes. During this free playtime, the researchers monitored how mothers responded to their babies’ positive vocalizations when directed toward them.

Researchers learned that how the mothers respond makes a big difference in the language development of their babies:

  • Babies with mothers who responded to what they thought their babies were saying showed an increase in developmentally advanced, consonant-vowel vocalizations.
  • The babbling of these babies became sophisticated enough to sound more like words.
  • Over time these babies also began directing more of their babbling toward their mothers.
  • Babies whose mothers did not try as much to understand them and instead directed their infants’ attention to something else did not show the same rate of growth in their language and communication skills.

Bottom line: Respond to all that baby babble!

How to Answer that Baby Babble with Music

Babies love the sound of their parents’ voices. Parents can feed that love and grow their babies’ use of language at the same time by singing, listening, moving, and dancing to music. After all, music is a language parents and babies both understand.  Musical activities, such as those included in every Kindermusik class, help parents engage with their children and be responsive to them. Here are ways for parent-baby pairs and other caregivers and teachers to use music to support the early language development of babies.

1. Engage in vocal play—one of the earliest stages of language development. Vocal play is how babies’ learn to use the tongue, gums, and jaw muscles needed to produce vowels and consonants. When caregivers participate, too, they expose babies to the sounds that make up our language and encourage them to practice taking turns communicating. Vocal play works best when a parent and baby can see each other’s faces, making it easier for a child to mimic mouth movements. Plus, this eye contact also helps parents and babies bond.

Parenting Tip: Sing “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” with your little one. Pause after key parts of the song, such as “E-I-E-I-O” and wait for your baby to respond. You can also explore the different sounds the animals on the farm make like these families did in Kindermusik class:

2. Let babies experience steady beat by bouncing to music. The brain processes music in a similar way to how it processes language. Research even shows that children who can repeat and create a steady beat show increased neural responses to speech sounds when compared to other children. Steady beat competency relates to a child’s ability to speak and read fluidly during the school year.

Parenting Tip: Put on some music and bounce to the beat with your baby on your lap or on your hip. This lets babies experience steady beat with their whole bodies. Try one of our favorite lap bounces: Pizza, Pickle, Pumpernickel.

3. Rocking the way to language development. Gently rocking babies throughout those quiet moments of each day gives parents the opportunity to combine vocal play and steady beat—and receive 2x the benefits!

Parenting tip: At the end of the day or after a feeding, hum “Hush Little Baby” (or another favorite lullaby) while you gently rock or sway your little one to the beat. As with “Old MacDonald,” pause during key phrases and wait for your baby to respond. Before too long, your baby will grow into your toddler and be able to “rock” in a new way, like this Kindermusik toddler does at home while listening to music from class!

Throughout the Kindermusik experience, we use music to help parents engage with their children, be responsive to them, and gain developmental insights and practical tips along the way. After all, a parent is a child’s first and best teacher.

Learn more about using music to support early language development at www.kindermusik.com.

Contributed by Lisa Camino Rowell, a freelance writer living in the Atlanta area.

Put More Jingle in Universal Music Day with Homemade DIY Instrument Crafts for Kids

make a homemade drumWhat better way to celebrate Universal Music Day than with some homemade DIY instrument crafts that don’t cost a lot of money, but will mean lots of together time, happy smiles, special memories, and joyful music-making! Instrument crafts are the perfect way to get young children engaged in hands-on learning, exploring their creative side, and even practicing some early science skills as together you investigate and experiment using different materials to create different sounds.

 

Homemade Instruments for Kids

Making your own homemade instruments doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. To get you started, here are two simple ideas from Kindermusik@Home:

Homemade Ankle Bells and a Homemade Guiro.

homemade ankle bells - Kindermusik@Home  making a guiro - homemade instruments from Kindermusik@Home

And if you want to add to your collection of homemade musical instruments or you want to play some musical games with the instruments you have made, check out these 20 Fabulous DIY Musical Games and Instruments. Though these ideas are geared for toddlers, they’re actually fun musical games and great homemade music instrument ideas for preschoolers and big kids too!

Kindermusik Giveaway

Families can enter for their chance to win a Kindermusik Gift Package ($50 value).

Facebook.com/KindermusikAll families who submit a photo or video of their child making or playing a homemade instrument to the Kindermusik Facebook page from October 5, 2014 (12:00PM EST)  – October 12, 2014 (12:00PM EST) are automatically entered for a chance to win a Kindermusik gift package ($50 retail value), filled with Kindermusik instruments, music, and books.

We encourage everyone to participate in our celebration of Universal Music Day! Check out the Kindermusik Pinterest page for more ideas!

Get the wiggles out and keep the learning in

thinking and learning are anchored by movementA recent article in the Washington Post highlighted a growing concern for parents and educators:  more and more kids are having trouble sitting still in school. The root of the problem is that kids are being expected to sit still for longer periods of time. Recesses are shorter, and often kids aren’t running, jumping, and playing outside even once they get home.

Our bodies are wired to move. In fact, it is through movement that the brain becomes activated for learning. This is often why kids get wiggly and fidgety – their bodies are trying to wake up their brains! It is also through movement that kids develop core strength, increase their coordination and balance, stimulate their vestibular systems, and improve gross motor skills – among other things.

In this Kindermusik video, expressive movement is helping these young children gain a greater understanding of a poem about a train as they visualize and act out the words through movement. Notice how the children hear the words (aural), see the words represented in the movement (visual), and act them out (kinesthetic). Even though the children are doing the movements while seated, they are working out some of their wiggles and sealing in the learning – all at the same time!

Learn more about how children benefit from the powerful combination of music and movement at www.Kindermusik.com.

 

10 Reasons to Give Babies a Daily Dose of Music

bigstockphoto_Happy_Mom_1646790We like to tell parents that they are their child’s first and best teacher because it’s true! Sure, parents may not always know all the answers—like that initial night home from the hospital (now what?!) or when a baby experiences a growth spurt and wakes up every two hours (why?!).

But, thankfully parenting is not about personally knowing all of the answers all of the time. It doesn’t change the fact that parents ARE the early childhood experts when it comes to their own children.

Of course, everyone needs a little help and affirmation now and again…even the experts. Music can be the go-to resource to help make parenting just a little bit easier and support a parents’ unique role in a young child’s life. In fact, we think music gives parents super powers! Music can provide moments throughout the day (or night) to pause and celebrate the parent-child bond and reinforce a young baby’s development. Here are a few ways babies benefit when parents add music to their parenting toolkit.

10 Reasons for Parents to Give Babies a Daily Dose of Music

1. Rocking, swaying, bouncing, and dancing to music develop babies’ vestibular system. This system is responsible for helping the brain understand gravity, gain balance, and develop spatial awareness.

Parenting tip: Put on some music. Pick up your baby and dance. Dancing together will also release endorphins for a mood boost! Who doesn’t need that?

Mom and baby bonding through music2. Steady beat gives children the ability to walk effortlessly, speak expressively, read fluidly, and even ultimately regulate repeated motions such as riding a bicycle or brushing teeth. While young infants are learning how to control their movements, lap bounces allow them to feel a steady beat with their whole bodies. Older babies benefit from lap bounces as they work to keep their bodies upright while in motion, strengthening the core muscles.

Parenting tip: Try this lap bounce from Kindermusik@Home or make up one of your own. Bounce together when waiting at the doctor’s office or at a restaurant to help pass the time.

3. Playing instruments develops fine motor skills. Grasping instruments between the thumb
 and index finger or with a fisted grasp pattern encourages the development of fine motor skills, which babies will later use to hold a pencil or spoon, use scissors, or maybe even play the piano!

Parenting tip: Provide baby-safe instruments for your child to play with in the car. Put on some favorite music and sing along!

Vocal Play - Teaching Babies with Kindermusik@Home4. Vocal play exposes babies to the sounds of language and teaches them the structure of communication as a parent-child pair take turns “talking.” The ideal time to engage in vocal play is when faces are close together so a baby can mimic facial expressions and watch an adult’s mouth move.

Parenting tip: Try this vocal play activity from Kindermusik@Home during diaper changes or when sitting quietly together.

5. Music develops babies’ growing discriminatory listening skills by hearing the various sounds of instruments and the voices of adults singing and humming. This ability to detect and attend to sounds—and to distinguish between them—sets babies on the path to fine-tuned listening and receptive language.

Parenting tip: Go on a listening walk to hear the musical sounds found in nature. Point out the different sounds you hear together: birds, leaves moving in the breeze, dogs barking, etc.

ways to hold baby poster6. Dancing and moving to music supports cross-lateral movement, spatial awareness, eye-hand coordination, and eye tracking—foundational skills for reading.

Parenting tip: Try holding your baby in different ways while you dance together. Our “Ways to Hold Baby” graphic will get you started!

7. Participating in music activities in a group supports social and emotional development. When we sing, clap, bounce, or dance to a steady beat in a group with babies, these shared experiences of synchronous movement help form social bonds.

Parenting tip: Invite friends and their children over for a musical play date. Not sure where to begin?
Visit a Kindermusik class for free or ask about our new solutions for Parents as Teachers (PAT), home-based programs and socialization groups.

8. Listening to soothing music can help teach young children how to relax. In fact, our heartbeats actually synchronize with the music we hear. Added bonus: Children who know how to relax and self-soothe can be better sleepers.

Parenting tip: Make a playlist of lullabies and add to the nightly routine to signal bedtime. 

Kindermusik@Home Songs and Activities for Babies9. Pairing a word with a movement increases children’s understanding of the concept even before they can speak.

Parenting tip: Try this activity from Kindermusik@Home. Make up your own verses to mirror what you and your baby are doing.

10. The benefits of music enables a child’s brain to more quickly process and retain information, regulate behaviors, make good choices, solve problems, plan, and adjust to changing mental demands.

Parenting tip: Sing, dance, and make music with your child throughout the day!

Learn more about the importance of music in a young child’s life at www.kindermusik.com.

Contributed by Lisa Camino Rowell, a freelance writer living in the Atlanta area.