Why Halloween Should Last 365 Days a Year

child playing dress upIt’s Halloween! In many parts of the world, this means dressing up in costumes and pretending to be a cowboy, ninja, ballet dancer, or even a cowboy ninja ballet dancer. (Hey, it could happen!) While the stores—and Pinterest—overflow with costume options for children this time of year, truth be told, children love dressing up and pretending all year long. And they should! It’s good for them.

Pretend play develops imagination, creativity, social skills, and language

Imitation is the first stage of pretend play and begins as an infant when a baby mimics an adult’s facial expressions. As children grow and imitation evolves, pretend play becomes more imaginative. Children use pretend play to re-examine life experiences by adding or changing what actually happened. Pretend play lets children try out their ideas and solve problems as they create characters and “rules” in their imaginary world.

During pretend play activities, social interaction between children—and participating adults—is usually characterized by a heightened use of action and language, helping to develop children’s language and social skills. In addition, pretend play helps children learn the difference between reality and fantasy, and even experience emotional support from parents as they pretend along with kids.

So, don’t put up those Halloween costumes on November 1. Keep them out all year round. After all, you never know when you might need a cowboy ninja ballet dancer to come save the day.

Learn more about Kindermusik at www.Kindermusik.com.

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

 

Want to increase kids’ reading and math grades? Fine-tune those fine-motor skills!

Who knew that there could be a correlation between good penmanship and better grades in school?  But that’s exactly what new research has revealed.

The foundation for a child’s fine-motor skills is laid in the first six years or so of life.

Good penmanship starts with enhanced fine-motor skills – learning how to use and coordinate finger, hand, and wrist muscles.  Even very young children can engage in developmentally appropriate activities like instrument play and fingerplays that develop those ever-so-crucial fine motor skills.

Because of its process-oriented approach, Kindermusik provides the perfect pressure-free environment and the support of easy-to-use ideas for fine motor skill practice and development.  From the early stages of grabbing at an instrument to the more advanced stages of confidently manipulating a small glockenspiel mallet, Kindermusik uses the power of music to enhance yet another area of your child’s development, that of fine motor skills.

You’ll love this delightful video of two toddlers doing the Kindermusik fingerplay, “Tommy Thumbs Up,” at the lunch table.  Can’t wait to see what good penmanship and great grades these two cuties will have later in school!

Tommy Thumbs Up fingerplay - good grades in school “Tommy Thumbs up, and Tommy Thumbs down.
Tommy Thumbs dancing all around the town.
Dancing on my shoulders, dancing on my head,
Dancing on my knees, now tuck them into bed!”

Learn more about how Kindermusik can help your child fine-tune his or her fine-motor skills at www.Kindermusik.com.

Got Rhythm? Rhythm Skills Could Predict Reading Disabilities

Do you know the old jazz standard by George and Ira Gerswin: “I’ve Got Music. I’ve Got Rhythm…Who could ask for anything more?” Well, apparently all that music and rhythm brings even more than a really good dance number by Gene Kelly. New research implies that young children’s rhythm abilities before they can read may eventually help doctors predict future reading disorders.

KindermusikClass_RhythmSticks_TeachChildrenImportantSkillsAn ongoing study  by Nina Kraus indicates that a preschooler’s ability to follow a rhythm and keep a steady beat can accurately predict early language skills and reading skills. While this is only the beginning of a five-year study, the team plans to track the participants to determine whether these rhythmic and steady beat abilities (or lack thereof) can predict later reading disorders, even with children as young as newborns.

“Detection this early could lead to intervention strategies such as music games to improve at-risk children’s rhythmic perception when their brains are most malleable,” says neurologist Gottfried Schlaug of Harvard Medical School in Boston in a press release.

We already know that early childhood music instruction:

  • Improves phonological awareness
  • Refines auditory discrimination
  • Increases auditory sequencing ability
  • Strengthens listening and attention skills
  • Enhances speaking skills
  • Heightens oral language development
  • Enriches vocabulary

Take a peek inside a Kindermusik classroom to see young students reading and playing rhythm patterns:

 

Learn more about the connections between music and reading at www.Kindermusik.com.

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

 

Early Language Development Flourishes through Music

Pediatricians will often recommend music classes for children with language delays.  Speech therapists regularly incorporate music and rhymes in their therapy sessions with young children.  Researchers have identified talking and singing with a small child as one of the most effective tools for closing the word gap with under-served populations.

nothing more powerful than musicHere are six music activities that support early language development – all six are favorites of our Kindermusik parents in class and at home:

Vocal Play – “Bah-bah-bah.” (pause) 

Conversational back-and-forth play with parts of words, whole words, parts of songs, and short rhythms gives mouth muscles practice forming syllables and words.

Nursery Rhymes – “Hey diddle-diddle, the cat and the fiddle.

Nursery Rhymes are not only rich with the sounds that vowels and consonants make, they are also catchy and repeatable.

Timbre – Scritch-scratch, tap-tap, jingle!

Hearing and labeling the very different and distinct sounds of instruments expands listening skills and enriches vocabulary.

Movement labels – Gallop, skip, twist, twirl!

Simultaneously moving and labeling the movements engages the brain with the body and grows a bigger vocabulary.

Steady beat – “ta – ta – ta – ta and stomp-stomp-stomp-stomp!”

Recent studies have found a close link between rhythmic skills and language skills.  So the more you dance, march, and play-along with music, the stronger your music and language skills will be.

Instrument Exploration – “Can you say guiro? It goes ritch-ratch, ritch-ratch.”

Exploring and labeling instruments and their sounds in a relaxed, non-structured time of instrument exploration provides another perfect opportunity to practice and repeat sounds and words that we don’t always use every day.

So go ahead.  Sing, chant, listen, label, move, and explore your way through your day with your child.  You’ll be amazed at how a little bit of music and some musical activities here and there each day will enhance his or her language development!

Kindermusik is where music and learning playLearn more about how Kindermusik can give you the inspiration you need for improving your child’s language development at www.Kindermusik.com or by clicking on the buttons to the right.

 

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.