Category Archives: kindermusik

Music with mama: Structured home time

“Music is a more potent instrument than any other for education.” – Plato
B and I have always enjoyed making music together. Once he could sit up, we attended music and movement meetups and eventually, Kindermusik Village and Our Time classes till he started nursery this year. If like us, (1) your tot already gets some music exposure in preschool, (2) you think he has potential and interest to go further, but (3) you’re uncertain about the differences, cost and logistics of “extra” music classes, why not try some fun yet structured music making at home instead.  Given my thoughts on enrichment, I’m currently not sending B for additional music class until he’s ready for specific instrument, dance or vocal lessons. We recently completed a 10-day free trial of BrillKids’ Little Musician and plan to adapt it for the year as long as I’ve got a flexi WAHM schedule. B LOVED it. He asks for “Music at home? Solfège? Clap along?” and sings random chords throughout the day. Check out the video to see (or rather, hear) what I mean!
Wait a minute. Solfège? Music training? Sounds so hardcore! Also, isn’t music best learnt in a group? Well, B gets plenty of social music with his school and playmates. What I’m doing here is more structured music that’ll lead into formal lessons in the future. This was easy to try given my music background but after the trial and seeing all the resources available, I’m sure anyone can do it too. No need any “formal” experience or pitch perfection. The key is the right attitude, interest and time 🙂
Let me explain a bit more….
Why “music training” and why now?
– Music is a whole brain activity, using 90% of the brain, more than any other activity
-Music lessons in childhood do enlarge the brain, with studies showing better grades due to improved concentration, confidence and learning
– Music trains the higher cognitive functions, spatial-temporal reasoning, puzzle-solving, aesthetic literacy, overall perceptual, imaginative, visual and mathematical abilities
– Singing and pitch discrimination are increasingly accepted as tools to learn to read
– Rhythm and tempo control helps kids perform routine activities with more ease and efficiency
– Instrumental practice enhances coordination, concentration, memory, improves eyesight and hearing
What can you do at home? LOTS if you’re willing to be involved and do it regularly. Short periods frequently in a relaxed environment work best at the early ages. What I liked about Little Musician is each session lasts only 5 mins every day – with options for more. Build on what your kid knows or enjoys, use activities that develop a good ear like listening, singing and imitation, and have fun performing, composing and improvising together.
Singing and Listening begins while the wee one is in your belly. Once he starts to make vocal sounds, he’ll soon imitate you (and others) in singing, so sing often and enthusiastically, together or alone – no need for fancy instruments or to wait until their motor skills improve or you join a class. While background music has its time and place, active listening involves interaction. Engage your kid on what they hear and respond when the songs, tempo or dynamics change. Draw, dance, show pictures or videos of instruments and performers, attend live concerts as often as you can. Concert prices in Singapore are quite pricy but there ARE many free or community events that work just as well. Don’t just stick to nursery rhymes and lullabies, introduce classical, jazz, rock, pop, rock, folk, world music too. The younger the child, the wider their taste although they also love repetition 🙂

Rhythm and Pitch is B’s first indication (to me) that he liked music. As a baby, he loved rhythm – bouncing on my lap or knee, swaying, spinning, dancing, clapping, and was fascinated by my guitar, electronic keys, buttons and drum pads at home. We are now working more on pitch, i.e. the ability to distinguish how high or low a note is and whether something is out of tune or not. This is where solfège comes in, i.e. do-re-mi, the easiest and most common system of learning pitch and scales. It links listening, singing and playing (aural skills) as we learn to hear sounds in our head before singing. Do-re-mi is easy to vocalise with open vowel endings ideal for singing as opposed to ABC letters for key names. Somewhat inspired by the Eguchi Method, we listen to and match notes with letters and solfège names using hand signals and a colour coded keyboard (or other pitch instruments such as xylophone, handbells, chime, resonator bars if you have them).


Instruments
(toy, home-made or real) expose them to different types of sounds: everyday ones, pitched and unpitched. Start with percussion such as drums, shakers and castanets and expose them to “real” instruments like violins, guitars, pianos, other strings, woodwinds and brass, if possible. You don’t have to buy – DIY with household items, borrow or exchange with friends, “play” whenever you can on real instruments. Else, brands with good quality, child-sized instruments are Melissa & Doug, Music4Tots, Music Factory products though IMO, these are lower priced overseas 🙂

Violin seesaw
 
Composing and Improvisation comes naturally to kids. Has your lil one ever changed the lyrics or tune slightly with a cheeky grin? B does that all the time (even in Chinese)! We should encourage this. Talk about it when they’re doing it, what sounds, dynamics and words are used, introduce vocabulary as you accompany a favourite story or match different moods and situations. Be silly together and your kid will see music as something they can use to express themselves and play with on their own. How many times have I asked B “What shall we sing?” and he goes “Wheels On The Bus” with a funky new variation each time!

Of course, Little Musician isn’t the only home resource out there. I’ve listed a few more for music appreciation and some (paid and free) learning programs as well:
Plank Road Publishing Music Concept Videos – fun, animated, FREE videos
Trebellina, an animated treble clef that teaches babies, toddlers, and preschoolers how to read music, pitch, and instrument names and sounds
Beethoven’s Wig – classical music with lyrics and bits of knowledge added
– Golden Records child’s introduction series digitised vinyl records available for free
Classics For Kids for resources on classical music and composers
Tuneables music education cartoons for preschoolers
Moosicology songs, stories and colourful pictures for 0-7 years

Source: Little Musician, Moosicology, Wikipedia and other sites from Google!

Kindermusik: Feathers … and a busy B

Vocal play was the “call” of most of this term’s Kindermusik lessons. Nice timing as B is also acquiring language – a gradual development process that includes listening, facial interaction, symbolic play, means-to-an-end behaviour, object permanence, imitation and vocal chord development.  Vocal play engages the vocal muscles intensely and is great preparation for expressive speech.  Exploration with sound also increases spatial reasoning, which is the ability to understand how things relate in space and time, to visualise the world accurately, to form mental images of physical objects, and to recognise variations of objects.

We were encouraged to keep up vocal play by exaggerating the shape of the mouth, using animated facial expressions and eye contact via mirrors and/or positioning yourself within his view.  In addition, we should sing often and invite him to accompany on instruments.  Kids actually start singing early by babbling, repeated words and fragments, and finally adding rhythmic features and pitch components.  Singing is enjoyable AND beneficial in both cognitive development (abstract conceptual thinking, verbal abilities, originality) and motor development, esp. coordination. Besides sounds, we did some symbolic play too with feathers, toy birds and paper “leaves” to teach that one thing can represent another, starting with familiar items.  This correlates to language acquisition in that a word represents an object. The first stage of symbolic play usually manifests from 6-8 months and becomes more sophisticated as they grow with imaginary and role play.  This time there were new syncopated swing and jazz song-and-dances!  “Sing a Song of Sixpence” (dig that groovy intermission!), “Gee, But It’s Great to Meet a Friend” and “Once I Saw a Little Bird”, “Hop To It” and “Duck Dance” which explored the tribal calls of the muskogean people and combines vocal play with singing in a fun way.  😀

Home library:

  1. Feathers for lunch.  Lois Ehlert, Harcourt Brace and Jovanovich Co.
  2. Baby Steps. Claire Kopp, WH Freeman and CO.
  3. Singing Bee! A Collection of Favourite Children’s Songs.  Compiled by Jane Hart with pictures by Anita Lobel, Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books.
  4. Trees, a poem. Harry Behn, illustrated by James Endicott, Henry Holt & Co.
  5. CD. Brahms at Bedtime:  A Sleepy Serenade.

On a side note, I renewed B for one last term at Chengzhu Playnest and Kindermusik Village to supplement mama’s morning “right brain class” (plus books, numbers, phonics, music and outdoor activities where possible). He also had his MMRV booster shot yesterday. Thankfully there’s only 2 more jabs till the next series at 10 years old. Pheew!  He’s now 11.3 kg, 81 cm at 15.5 months, understands lots of words, vocalises some, learning to self feed (patience and mess are a challenge for me!), naps ~2 hours once a day, sleeps from 830p to 730a with occasional waking (argh), and works on his gross and fine motor skills every chance he gets.  What a busy boy!