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!

For updates, reviews and more, like Finally Mama on Facebook and follow me on Instagram.  For music ideas, come visit by Pinterest tot music ideas board.  Have a music program for under 3s? I’m always open to trial and discuss 🙂

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The only constant in life is change

We made plans to drop B off at half-day childcare sometime this year, thus freeing my mornings for personal and work time while pregnant. Since the start of the year though, too much has changed and the original Plan C didn’t make sense as I’m now working flexi time but no longer pregnant 😦

Also, the childcare center we had registered B in – when I was still working full time – was going through a lot of change too. After visiting again to refresh my memory of the place and meet the new staff, I had more doubts and was feeling so uneasy 😦 I knew it wasn’t just a normal mom-thing about to leave your kid for the first time, so I read Elizabeth Pantley’s No-Cry Solution for Separation Anxiety, spoke to others in similar situations, even checked out and trialed a few other options.

I soon realised two things after the miscarriage: I desire to treasure B’s remaining toddler-hood (18 months now) and I want to be more intentional with our days together. So I’m tweaking Plan C to do “more with less” i.e. to better integrate what he learns externally in (Chinese, music and gym) with our own homeschool plan, weekly playdates and outings.  All this should keep us engaged through year end!

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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!

Kindermusik: Dream Pillow

I’ve noticed how much B seems to love music and rhythm, and signed him up for Kindermusik Village classes at around 10 months. Over the weeks, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how wholistic (comprehensive?) his classes are.  One would think that baby music class mainly involves moms singing a bunch of nursery and action songs, hoping that at least half of the little bubs pay attention while the other half don’t get too cranky!  But in reality, there’s so much more that goes on.  Here’s what we learned from his first “Dream Pillow” term:

Babies are great listeners but they get distracted as they grow through improved visual acuity and mobility. Activities (“opposites” and body action songs) and instruments that introduce rhythm create opportunities for anticipation and sequencing.  It also ensures that the vestibular system which contribues to movement and balance gets adequate stimulation early on.  In addition, the longer babies are exposed to appropriate music and experiences, the better their audiation, i.e. the ability to sing silently/hear music inside our heads which is critical for musical memory and performance.

Babies learn best when emotionally involved in an activity because the incoming sensory stimulation is first processed through the non-rational non-conscious limbic system (the seat of emotion) — and only THEN, goes to the neocortex, the rational brain. Simply put: The less emotional the content/experience, the less memorable!  That explains why to this day, he recognises and responds to the “I Love You” from Skinnamarink, rhythm and audiation from Sarasponda, various instrumental action cues from Tants, Tants, Yidelekh, random joyful dancing to Dance, Little Baby, slowing down to All Through The Night and pausing to rest with Softly, Softly.

Music is as much silence as it is sound and elements of both help develop a life skill of focused attention.  On the flip side, babies need plenty of rest too (and not just sleep!). Balance structured stimulation and engagement in age-appropriate activities with wakeful leisure time, unstructured moments where you just don’t DO anything but rather, BE restored together.  This down time helps your child’s brain process the learning that occurs. If quiet time is elusive, try to engage your baby with soft conversation, a gentle touch, light movements (standing/rocking/walking slowly). Relaxation is actually a learned behaviour!  Watch your baby for cues and pace yourselves during the day, alternate between boisterous and quieter activities, hold baby close and breathe deep, massage!

Some term book recommendations from Ms. Shauna at Kindermusik with Love:

  1. Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting. Myla and Jon Kabat-Zinn
  2. Smart Moves: Why Learning is Not All In Your Head. Carla Hannaford
  3. Goodnight Moon. Margaret Wise Brown

Month 9 Week 1: Going going going

B is 9 months old!  At 39 weeks, he’s officially “outside” mommy longer than he was inside (he arrived early).  We just had a regular check up where B got his final pneumoccocal jab, which leaves one more jab for the year i.e. MMRV sometime in November, after his 1st birthday. Reminder to self: feed him eggs (yolk, then white) beforehand to test for allergies

What’s new:

1) Weighs 9.7 kg, 73.5 cm long, 47 cm head circumference, tracking at 90+ percentile among his peers. Still our big headed tall boy 🙂
2) Crawls faster, pulls up to stand, cruises and climbs.  Unfortunately, all this newfound mobility doesn’t quite make him sleep more soundly but rather he’s up practicing day AND night!  We’ve caught him standing up in his bed and calling for us many times =0 Meanwhile, we continue to find new areas to babyproof as he’s on the go
3) Celebrated our first national day as a fully Singaporean family.  B got his first passport and mugshot, and I officially renounced my Malaysian citizenship for Singapore
4) Eating finger foods and mashed (not finely pureed) meals

In addition to tagging along with mommy for errands and weekly home playdates, we’ve also started going to Blue House parent-and-baby discovery programs. Their Reggio Emilia inspired early childhood approach and infant and toddler atelier is quite remarkable, quite a contrast to the dime-a-dozen care centers / indoor playgrounds in Singapore.  We may also check out baby signing, Kindermusik or right brain classes like Gymnademics – Glenn Doman, Shichida, Heguru, et al.

Lastly, we kinda had to register B for the June 2013 toddler group intake at a nearby childcare center as he’d already been waitlisted since I left work full-time (unintended!) and this was the latest we could defer till.  The other preschools on my shortlist had a 2-3 year waitlist, so for now, if you can’t beat em ….

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