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Planning for 2020: Setting SMART Goals for your Children’s Music Studio

As 2019 begins to wind down and the new year approaches it’s important for business owners, especially small business owners such as children’s music studio teachers, to look forward and plan for the coming year. There has been so much research on the subject of setting business goals that it would take the entire year just to cover it. From these studies one thing is clear, goal-setting leads to better success for small business owners. However, more than 80% of small business owners on average confess that they do not track their company goals, even though they think it is integral to business success. This may be due in part to not understanding how to effectively create and set business goals.

Many of us may have heard of the acronym SMART when setting goals, but do we really understand how to apply those words into successful practice? While the words beginning with each letter sometimes vary slightly, their meaning is typically the same: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely. Here is a short example for setting SMART marketing goals for your children’s music studio.

Before you even start with SMART, there are two important ways to prepare. First, be reflective and analytical about your business over the last year. It is important to understand where you are before deciding where you want to be. Second, get out a pencil! Goals that are written down are much more vivid, helping us to better encode them into long term memory.

  • SPECIFIC – In order to remember, act on, and track goal success, they should be specific. “Do better in sales” is not specific enough, whereas the following is a much better start:

Increase overall sales by 40%

It’s important to note here that this is not an effective goal all by itself, because goals should be ALL of the SMART descriptors, not just one alone.

  • MEASURABLE – While it seems intuitive that by being specific about the amount of increase in sales (40%), should be enough, there should be an exact, tangible way to measure your success over the year:

Increase overall sales, measured in new revenue, by 40% ($ value based on last year’s total revenue)

  • ATTAINABLE – In larger organizations, business leaders tend to set unrealistically high goals in order to motivate their workforce. This approach does not work as well for small business owners. If your children’s music studio has never experienced greater than 20% growth in any previous year, you may want to adjust your goal to a more realistic level (this is why your pencil has an eraser!). It is, however, still ok to be a bit aggressive so as to do better than previous years:

Increase overall sales, measured in new revenue, by 30% ($) 

  • RELEVANT – Making goals relevant means “keeping them within your wheelhouse.” Don’t look for results in an area in which you are unfamiliar or does not apply to your music studio. For example, don’t include something unrelated like “paid performances” to your revenue measurement if you have not done so in the past. Again, we can be more specific:

Increase overall sales, measured in new revenue from tuition and materials, by 30% ($) 

  • TIMELY – It’s not a goal if there is no goal line! Set a specific time by which you would like to achieve your goal. Whether it’s a month, one year, or five years, make it date specific:

Increase overall sales by 30%, ($), measured in new revenue from tuition and materials, from December 31, 2019 through December 31, 2020.

Now that you have written a “macro” goal, it’s time to break it down into smaller goals using the same method. For example, Increase new revenue in material sales by 10% ($) through promoting a Materials Specials Day on the 15th of each month until January 2021, and so forth. Many successful entrepreneurs actually break goals down to action plans with daily tasks to help them keep on target.

Through practice, goal setting becomes easier and easier over time. When you have past successes and failures against which to measure new expectations, goals become SMARTER.

In addition to an award-winning early childhood music curriculum, Musikgarten offers its teachers Live Coaching in how to be successful business owners as well as music teachers.

How to Market Your Children’s Music Studio Over the Holidays

As the holidays approach and parents and students time is pulled by so many other activities such as holiday parties, family gatherings, special events, and shopping, many children’s music studio owners view the time between Halloween and New Years as a lull in their business. While it may feel like the perfect time to take a break and plan for next year, savvy studio operators know that the Thanksgiving and Christmas season are the perfect time to grow your studio.

The holidays are a critical time for retailers, accounting for up to thirty percent of their annual sales. Most of this spending around the winter holidays will be in tangible goods such as toys, clothes, and electronics, but there are ways to take advantage of this surge in spending that will benefit your studio over the holidays and the coming new year:

  • Think Like a Retailer – A mistake that owners of music studios often make is thinking of themselves as something other than a retailer. Many don’t consider their studios as a “brick and mortar” retail store because they often do not have tangible products on their shelves, or that they are part of the education sector instead of retail. While some of this is true, music studio owners should look at their services as something that a large part of the public would benefit from buying. Imagine that your music lessons are products on a shelf, and “present” them as any good retailer would. 
  • Window Dressing – It’s extremely hard to compete with all of the big retailers out there who “deck the halls” with lights, garland, wreaths, and sparkles. Keep in mind that they know a thing or two about presentation. A recent study shows that up to 90% of shoppers plan to do at least a portion of their holiday shopping in traditional brick and mortar stores this year. While retailers understand that making the in-store experience festive helps to both draw customers in as well as persuades them to purchase more product, successful music studio owners know that the holidays is a magical time for children, and their parents melt seeing the wonder in their child’s eyes. Decorations around the holidays not only evoke a joy in people’s hearts, but also have a psychological effect on purchase habits.
  • Music for the Season – It should go without saying, but don’t neglect to make great use of the large repertoire of holiday music in your lessons, whether sacred and/or secular. Most children have been hearing traditional holiday music since they were infants, whether it is sung by their parents, friends, at events, in stores, or on the radio. The familiarity of popular holiday songs that are also public domain such as Up on the Housetop, Jingle Bells, and Deck the Halls are fun for children and parents to sing together. A holiday themed party help children remember singing as a happy experience, and just think of all the wonderful songs that can be accompanied by sleigh bells! A field trip caroling activity with children and parents can be great fun for everyone while marketing your studio in surrounding neighborhoods.
  • Gift Wrap Your “Products” – Make it easy to give the gift of music! The winter holiday season offers music studio owners a great chance to provide their lessons and/or materials in a gift format. Consumers are always looking for a unique gift that will stand out, and music lessons are perfect for parents who want to participate in fun activities with their child. Create a holiday themed gift certificate or card that parents can purchase as gifts. Make your gift cards or certificates a dollar amount, so that they can be given to parents of various age children. While these are good ways to grow new customers, don’t forget to offer some value to your current clients as well. Holiday specials on musical instruments such as jingle bells and drums can increase your bottom line while serving as great stocking stuffers.    
  • Don’t forget Cyber Monday – Don’t underestimate the power of Internet shopping. Digital spending over the holidays is expected to grow over 14 percent over last year, and a great deal of that online shopping will be from young parent aged Millennials and GenXers. If you have the means to provide an online option for purchasing a studio gift certificate, provide that as an easy way for parents to get some easy shopping done from home. Grandparents may also want to provide more music lessons as a gift to parents and grandchildren alike. If you have an email database of current and past parents, send an eBlast with a “holiday sale” on lessons for 2020, while making it easy to share or gift it to others. It’s important to try and get this eBlast done well before Cyber Monday, so that it does not get lost in their inbox along with all the other online retailers.

While the noise of retail shopping and activities over the winter holiday season might seem to drown out your childhood music studio marketing efforts, just jump into the stream and go with the flow! Successful retailers know that while it’s a virtual jungle out there, the holiday season offers many great opportunities to grow your studio and future business for 2020.

Leveraging Unpaid Advertising to Grow your Early Childhood Music Program

Establishing a successful business can be costly, especially when you have a “brick and mortar” children’s music studio. With gross sales to rent ratio being as high as 20% in some markets, not to mention utilities and other necessary overhead, savvy studio owners take advantage of ways to market their business without spending. A good deal of marketing can be done at little expense other than good old fashioned “elbow grease.” It’s important to note that while your labor may seem free, there is an opportunity cost to any effort you personally put towards marketing your business. For example, time spent going out and visiting local pre-schools is time not spent teaching at the studio. However, if you can use some of your “downtime” to spend on the following unpaid marketing efforts, you can quickly gain return on your investment.

  • Social Media – Love it or hate it, social media has become a huge part of our lives. Young parents, and especially mothers, use social media for advice and support from their peers. With young mothers being a primary target audience of children’s music studios, this opportunity is hard to ignore. While an entire series of articles can be spent on social media alone, keep in mind that these various platforms can occupy a great deal of your time. Think about participating in just a few, and do them well.
  • Network and Post – Considering that the vast majority of your music students are going to come from your surrounding community, personally reach out and network with organizations that have common ground with your program such as Daycare Centers, Children’s Museums, Preschools, Libraries, Community Arts Programs, Mothers Groups, Churches, etc. Consider offering to teach a free class, where you can provide information on your business once parents have realized the value you provide to their children. If these organizations are not interested in a free class, ask if you can post a tear sheet or brochure on their premise that includes the special offer. 
  • Press Releases – While at first glance children’s music classes may not seem “newsworthy,” a well written press release can get attention with many media outlets. When preparing a press release, it’s important to write it from an “angle” that does not come across advertorial. For example, instead of Local Music Studio Offers Free Introductory Class, try something like How Early Childhood Music Programs Better Prepare Children for School.  Just by being the author of the press release, you can develop yourself as an expert on the subject, which in turn creates opportunities for your studio. In addition to the “angle,” there are other important elements of any good press release, such as subject line, brevity, contact information, boilerplate, etc.
  • One-on-one Marketing – Whenever and wherever you are, you should be prepared to explain and promote your business. While bringing up your children’s music program at a funeral would not be the best choice, you never know what kind of conversation may come up in almost any situation. Keep in mind that small talk almost always ends up with the question “so, what do you do?.” This is your opportunity to have your 30-second pitch ready, in a nonchalant way, to explain how your business delivers value to parents and children. You’d be surprised how many people will follow up with another question that allows you to expound and ask your own questions. Your sales pitch becomes more of a conversation than an advertisement for your studio. Always have a business card on hand if it seems like they are interested, and consider offering/mentioning a free introductory class on the back of the card as incentive.

Many of the most successful business entrepreneurs are very good at self-promotion. Not only is it a good way to establish you as an expert in your field, but also help develop rapport and trust with your audience while simultaneously building your brand. By always thinking about opportunities to mention or promote your early childhood music program, you will be making the most of your “elbow grease” during business downtime.

Five Ways to Gain New Music Studio Students with the New School Year

Summer is coming to a close, and with it comes the new school year. Parents are beginning to plan class schedules and lists of needed school supplies and clothes. This is a time where the mind changes focus from the more laid-back summer activities to a more structured schedule that includes school and other activities. While parents’ minds are focused on setting up the school year calendar and children’s schedules, it’s a great time to gain new students for your children’s music studio. Here are a few tips and methods to beef up your rolls for the new school year:   

  1. Make sure your online listings are up to date – While we may not all be part of the online generation or comfortable with technology, you can bet that your target audience is! First and foremost, make sure your Google Listing is up to date. Parents use Google for even the simplest information, such as phone number or driving directions. Make it easy for them to find your children’s music studio! It’s also a good idea to perform a Google Search on your own business to see if any other listings need updating. Many online directories create listings without notifying you, so it’s important that their information is also correct.
  • Social media is where parents find recommendations and support – Older generations of parents relied heavily on books and advice from their own parents or grandparents. Today’s generation tends to rely heavily on social media. While you don’t have to be a social media guru to be effective, having a presence is imperative for reaching today’s young parents. Instead of spending too much time trying to be on all social media, pick a few popular ones and spend more time on them to promote your children’s music classes.

  • Make good use of your current parent network – As school preparation begins to crank up, parents are spending more time online. Now is a great chance to speak with and/or email your current parent client list to ask them for reviews and referrals. Google reviews are highly regarded by your target audience, so ask your current parents to provide a simple review. To get referrals from parents, consider offering a discount or free class to encourage them to provide names of their peers that might also be interested in music classes for their children.
  •  Network with your local schools and parent organizations – With the school year beginning, there are numerous opportunities to network with parents, such as open houses, PTA meetings, booster clubs, etc. Consider creating a business card with a special offer on the back to provide incentive for parents to try out your music studio. For Kindergarten and Pre-K, approach some of the day care providers and schools and offer to do a free music lesson for the children. This is a great way to gain new students by getting parents and school administrators excited about your children’s music program!
  • Consider a mailing to prospective parents – While direct mail seems very “old school,” if done correctly, it still remains an effective way to get your name out there and gain new prospects. List brokers can provide affordable lists of local prospects in your area based on all kinds of demographic information such as geographic area, number of children in household (and approximate ages), home value, etc. To make your mail campaign more effective, provide a theme and incentive (coupon or voucher), such as Back to School Music Class Special! Keep in mind that consumers typically respond better to dollar amounts vs. percentage when pricing is not known. To save even more on your mailing, explore the different options provided by the USPO to get the best Return on Investment. Finally, keep in mind that sometimes direct mail programs require several mailings to the same recipients to be effective. Be patient and budget accordingly. 

Using all or any of these methods will help you prepare your children’s music studio for new students in the new school year. Take advantage of the change in focus that affects parents this time of year to become a part of their regular new school year schedule.

The Science of Music: Creativity Wish List – How Music Inspires Children Love Nature

The Neuroscience of Music series has explored way in which early childhood music education can help to develop skills from a Wish List that parents have shared regarding Behavior, School Skills, and Creativity. This fourth and final installment of the Creativity Wish List explores ways that music influences children to love nature.

As our environment changes in dramatic and unprecedented ways, many parents wish to instill in their children an appreciation for the delicate balance between our activity and its impact on nature. They wish to encourage a respect for nature that can be carried on to the next generation.  Nationally recognized Neuroscience educator Dee Joy Coulter points out that a nature-based early childhood music curriculum is an ideal way to provide inspiration for the wonders of nature through music, and “it offers a wonderful foundation for helping children take their place at the forefront of tomorrow’s environmental problem solvers.”

Musikgarten Founder, Dr. Lorna Heyge explains that through simply interacting with nature in simple ways such as feeling the warmth of the sun or the cool wind, children are turning sensory experiences into cognition. Complex concepts made simple through nature, such as the life cycle of a dandelion, are providing children access to vital pathways to learning. Here are some ways that parents and early childhood music educators can inspire their children to love nature:

How music can inspire infants and toddlers to love nature

  • Start by building trust in infants so that they become open to fresh experiences when their interest is high. Singing to them is a great way to do this. With parents, it is a trial and error process where they learn how their child best receives new stimuli, whether it is delight through surprises, bouncing and repeated movement songs, or soothing lullabies with gentle motions. Because children have different unique temperament, there is no one correct approach.
  • Taking cues about their comfort level gradually expose your infant or toddler to simple sounds in nature such as birds singing, the rustling of leaves in the wind, or the feel of sand on their hands at the beach. If the stimulus becomes overwhelming for them, a soothing song will often calm them down and help to ensure that it was not remembered as a traumatic experience.

Using music to inspire a love of nature in preschoolers and beginning school age children

  • With 3 and 4 year old children you can begin to place an element of time to their awareness of nature. For example, families can and often sing about the seasons, reflecting how nature changes along with those seasons and giving them a feel for how the way nature is organized. In addition to the songs you are singing about nature, think about visual and tactile elements to introduce, such as leaves, rocks, and even snowflakes.

Take opportunities to expose them to nature such as trail walks, going to the beach, or simply having a picnic at the park. This not only gives them the opportunity to enjoy nature at their own pace, but also has a great calming effect on parents. Learning to be mindful in nature is a gift that will last children a lifetime while making them better stewards of the environment when they grow older.

This final installment of the Neuroscience of Music series is fitting because of the profound inspiration that nature has had on Musikgarten and its curriculum. As summed up by Audrey Sillick, co-author of Musikgarten and whose vision of the role of nature in the lives of children that inspired Musikgarten , “There is no more meaningful time than early childhood to develop relationships with the living world of plants and animals – as well as to inspire the young human’s spontaneous response to music, dance, and the arts. This is true for the best of all reasons – it is who we are.” Dr. Heyge confirms the sentiment with the declaration that “Musikgarten has made an unparalleled commitment to instilling a love of nature in children.”

*Musikgarten Delivers: The Neuroscience of Music collection by Dr. Dee Coulter is available for $10 in the Product Catalog section of our Teacher Portal. Username and password are required. You may also contact Musikgarten at 800-216-6864 to purchase.

The Science of Music: How to Prepare Children to Enjoy Practicing

The series The Neuroscience of Music*  shows parents and music teachers ways in which early childhood music education can help impact the development of children. This second set of the Wish List series focuses more specifically on a parent’s School Skills Wish List. The topic of the third installment of this set is how to get children to enjoy practicing.

From infancy to about the age of 6, children have a unique window of opportunity to learn how to, and enjoy practicing things. Dee Joy Coulter, a nationally recognized Neuroscience educator, explains that during these few years, a child’s enjoyment of repetition is strong. Parents can help them to practice naturally by providing fun activities that they can eventually master. However, this satisfaction must come from within in order to develop a lifelong habit, warns Coulter, so parents must resist praise, blame or pressure during these activities.

Below are ways that parents and early childhood music educators can use music to help children learn to develop self-discipline to succeed at school, work, athletics, and the arts.

How to introduce the idea of practicing to infants and toddlers

  • In learning basic coordination and language, infants must practice and learn the nuances of their senses in a pleasing way. They are wired to mirror everything they see, and this is highly rewarding to them. Parents and early childhood music teachers can help with imitation games with clapping and pointing to things with exaggerated facial expressions, and they will naturally follow and copy.
  • In the earliest stages of infancy to toddlerhood, parents can perform simple songs and movement games to teach motor skills and instill a familiarity. After a few weeks of repetition, leave a particular game for a few weeks and come back to it. This allows the infant or toddler time to anchor the movements and memory in their system. When the game is brought back, the predictability that goes with recognition and the control that goes with increased physical mastery are very powerful incentives for practicing.

How to teach preschoolers to begin focusing on how to practice

  • Research suggests that poor learners don’t know how to handle the failures of new learning, and so tend to abandon challenges right away for fear of failure. On the other hand, those that excel in tasks and challenges tend to have a passion for practice and truly enjoy the experience – much like the capacity of children’s minds in the first stages of life.
  • Share enjoyable music activities with your preschooler before introducing an instrument. By first instilling a love of music in children before asking them to focus on an instrument helps to ensure that they will enjoy practicing due to its relationship to something they already love.
  • The teaching practice of spiraling, or a pattern of dropping an activity for a period and then spiraling back to it, allows new skills to seat more deeply than constant practice. Childhood music programs  will use this practice along with the process of scaffolding to allow children to learn on their own and provide help at the appropriate times. This approach to creating the basis for more advanced learning is important for advancement in musical skills, mathematics, science and foreign language learning.

Music can be an important tool for preparing infants and toddlers for a lifetime of learning enjoyment. Games that encourage mimicking help to develop a love for practicing from the earliest stages of infancy. By leaving and returning back to activities, children will learn to think and accept new concepts on their own while having pleasure in practicing. This will not only serve them well in music, but also in academics.

*Musikgarten Delivers: The Neuroscience of Music collection by Dr. Dee Coulter is available for $10 in the Product Catalog section of our Teacher Portal. Username and password are required. You may also contact Musikgarten at 800-216-6864 to purchase.

The Science of Music: How Music Teaches Children to Sit Still and Listen

Continuing with the series The Neuroscience of Music*  we are sharing ways in which early childhood music education can help impact the development of children. This second set of the Wish List series focuses more specifically on School Skills Wish List and the second topic in this set explores how to encourage children to sit still and listen

In a world increasingly swamped with visual and noise stimulation, how many times do parents find themselves frustrated and saying to children “Can you just sit down and listen?” The physiological makeup of our ears might provide some insight, explains Dee Joy Coulter, a nationally recognized Neuroscience educator. The ears actually contain two channels – with one devoted to listening and the other for balance and movement. Young ears must learn to combine these two channels, first by establishing good movement skills and second by developing language skills. As the child grows older, they begin to develop speech and by the time they are four to five years, they can carry on a conversation, tell a short story, and begin to follow directions.

Parents and teachers can help develop a child’s listening skills through music and other exercises and games.  Below are a few ways.

Training the two channels of the ears separately in infants and toddlers

  • Use music games and dancing to create an even more pleasurable experience for the infant, combining familiar music or songs and movement together.
  • To help develop the listening channel of the ears, develop games with tones and simple sounds that the infant or toddler will grow to anticipate. For example, tap a series of three beats on a table top or a small drum head. Then, tap only twice to see their reaction and laughter when the third beat is skipped!

Shift focus when working with preschoolers and beginning school age children

  • When speaking with children at the preschool age, slow down your speech so that the child can process what you are saying at a slower rate. Use descriptions of things and words that they can picture in their minds. This will help them to be able to sit still and listen more easily, which will be advantageous when they begin school.

Training the preschool child to be still and listen involves understanding the difference between the two auditory channels in the ears. By first approaching the movement/balance channel and the listening channel separately, and then combining the two in musical games, the child learns to separate movement from sound at the appropriate times. This valuable understanding will help them learn to sit still and listen at home and in school.

*Musikgarten Delivers: The Neuroscience of Music collection by Dr. Dee Coulter is available for $10 in the Product Catalog section of our Teacher Portal. Username and password are required. You may also contact Musikgarten at 800-216-6864 to purchase.

How to Retain and Gain New Music Students During the Summer

As the school year winds down and families begin to make their summer plans, regular weekly schedules from the school year are sometimes overlooked or forgotten. This experience can be especially true for music teachers, as lessons are often considered part of school curriculum. Brain drain or “the summer slide” is often credited with a fall in cognitive activities for students over the summer.

With the potential for the attendance of regular weekly lessons or classes to fall in the Summer, studio owners should be proactive to not only maintain a steady income over those months, but also look at it as an opportunity to increase income. So, how do teachers retain music students, and even add to their class rolls during the summer?

Here are a few ideas that can help throughout the Summer Vacation:

  • Try Billing by the Semester or Year – Billing parents monthly, or by the class, is typical for music teachers and programs. But the approach often creates mental gaps in between those programs, providing parents and students an opportunity to “take a break” and miss some time, especially over the Summer. While it takes a bit more planning, semester or even full year billing can not only create a more stable cash flow for music teachers and studios, it can also provide a structured “pathway” for parents and students to continue lessons.
  • Gain New Students with Summer Advertising and Promotions – While Summer vacations and competing camps may cause a dip in current student music studio attendance, it is actually a time when many parents are looking to sign their students up. Consider an investment in advertising during the Spring and Summer using Summer themed programs. This does not have to be expensive, either! An ad in a newsletter at your local pool, Word of Mouth (WOM) using referral cards with current students, or offering a Summer Enrollment Special to get parents over the finish line. Summer themes stand out in advertising!
  • Offer an Alternative to Screen Usage – According to the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, children between the ages of two and five spend an average of 2.2 hours on screens every day. That number is undoubtedly higher during summer months, as parents again struggle with how to keep their children engaged in other activities while they are at work. Work out messaging to address this hot topic for parents. Emphasize that music lessons provide an extremely beneficial alternative to screens in all of your marketing and dialogue with parents, especially during the Summer.
  • Consider Free Group Classes with Organizations to Gain More Students – In addition to camps and music studios, many other organizations offer children’s programs during the summer. Public Libraries offer Summer programs and many churches offer Vacation Bible School or similar programs. While many teachers resist giving away any instruction for free, these programs are looking for daily activities to fill their days, and music instruction is a very popular subject. Partnering with these organizations offers exposure to a large group of potential new students once the free program is over. Approach them with a structured plan that takes some of the planning burden off of them. Keep in mind that having a good option for both secular and sacred music programs allows more flexibility with these partnerships.

While the Summer months may be a time when current music student enrollment tends to fall due to family vacations and camps, music studio teachers should also consider it an opportunity to gain new students and income through offering specialized curricula, themed programs, and alternatives to screen usage.

The Science of Music: Teaching Children to Move with Rhythm and Grace

Musikgarten is proud to partner with parents by delivering a highly informative series of publications, The Neuroscience of Music.* This installment is the last in a four-part set that touches on a Behavioral Wish List that matters to parents – Teaching children to move with rhythm and grace.

Rhythm may be the most important gift you can give your child, according to Dr. Dee Coulter, a renowned brain science educator. The reason is that the frontal lobe of the brain has its major growth spurt from birth to age six, when voluntary movement is developed.  The developing brain must have rhythm to stimulate this important function and growth stage. This “sensory-motor integration” helps cultivate grace, or motor flow, by building the connections between rhythm and movement.

So, teaching children to move with rhythm and grace is very important to both early childhood music teachers and parents alike:

How parents Teach Their Babies Rhythm and Grace

The good news is, they’re most likely doing it already! Mothers instinctively instill rhythm in their babies, establishing a “comfort tempo” used often to help them calm.

  • Simply nodding to a baby shows rhythmic approval and delight
  • Gentle rocking, bouncing, or patting help to comfort babies with a familiar rhythm
  • Humming, finger tapping, or even tongue-clicking are used by mothers get their babies attention
  • Traditional nursery rhymes and songs have been used by generations of mothers to teach their children the love of music and rhythmic patterns.  

How parents continue to teach rhythm and grace to their pre-school children through music:

As a baby’s frontal lobe continues to develop, there are many opportunities for parents, as well as early childhood music educators, to teach rhythm and grace with movement and music:

  • Many infant and toddler games combine music with rhythmic movement. A few familiar traditional childhood songs that teach sensory motor integration are Patty Cakes, and Hop, Old Squirrel.
  • Dancing with toddlers is a great way to teach them a multitude of developmental and social skills in addition to rhythm and grace, including self-esteem, discipline, and improved physical health.
  • Families who have daily activities and routines such as making a bed in the morning, dinner together, teeth brushing before bed, and story time offers a slower rhythmic pattern which helps to reduce childhood stress and supports reading.  

Parents don’t have to do this alone! There are many early childhood learning centers and programs that help parents teach their children from infancy to childhood how to use music to support healthy happy development in the earliest stages of life. Whether it is teaching children to relax and be calm, be patient, control  their impulses, or move with rhythm and grace, The Neuroscience of Music supports the skills and techniques that cultures from around the world have been instilling in their children for generations. 

*Musikgarten Delivers: The Neuroscience of Music collection by Dr. Dee Coulter is available for $10 in the Product Catalog section of our Teacher Portal. Username and password are required. You may also contact Musikgarten at 800-216-6864 to purchase.

The Science of Music: Controlling Children’s Impulses Through Music

Our series of blog articles for parents on The Neuroscience of Music* continues with how music can help parents control impulses in their children, or more importantly, help children to control their own impulses through “inner speech.”

According to Dr. Dee Coulter, a renowned brain science educator, children need to develop impulse control to be successful in learning, social interactions, and performing complex movement tasks. Dr. Coulter identifies three elements of impulse control – the ability to calm, the ability to wait, and one last skill that develops more slowly – inner speech. Our last two blog articles touched on the impact of music on children’s ability to be patient and be calm. This installment focuses on the use of music to develop a child’s inner speech.

Inner speech is a kind of “self-talk” children use to guide their actions. Here are some insights and suggestions for parents to help their child discover their inner speech:

Inner Speech is Out Loud Until Age 8 or 9 – We can hear children speak out loud to direct their actions or narrate what they are doing. In motor tasks, they may use this “outer-speech” as they tie their shoes, make the shapes of letters, or play Simon Says. In music, this self-talk is developed when words are linked to movements like “head, shoulders, knees and toes” or stories in song that are acted out while singing. As the words are repeated over time they become automated. By age 4 or 5, this self-talk becomes strong enough to override temptations and children can use it to control their impulses. Later, children will need this inner speech skill to guide them while silent reading.

How to Teach Inner Speech in Babies and Toddlers:

  • Sing and talk to your baby or toddler often. Research continually shows that the more children are spoken to as infants, the better their language skills will be later in life. Strong language skills, in turn, lead to improved social skills and better listening and learning skills for school.
  • You will probably notice that your baby or toddler reacts even more favorably to your singing voice as they do when you are simply speaking to them. Singing is calming and soothing to them, so they will instinctively pay closer attention. Make up songs to explain what chores you are doing or what is happening in the world around them. Put their familiar nursery rhymes to music and sing them.

Teaching the Preschooler and Beginning School Age Child:

  • To be a great self-talk coach, show them how by talking to yourself out loud. Just talk as if no one else is there and you are just thinking out loud about how to do these things. Narrate for your child as you do household chores, go to the post office, shop for groceries, or watch the activity at a sibling’s sports event.
  • Recalling song lyrics and stories also builds inner speech. Enjoy singing with your preschooler and beginning school age child, too. Help them master the lyrics to traditional as well as contemporary children’s songs. Many of these songs tell stories, or narrate actions. You will be helping your child build impulse control and perform better in school.

Teaching your child to perform self-talk or inner speech, through music has many lasting benefits, including problem-solving, patience, confidence, and impulse-control. Hearing music and songs from caregivers from the earliest ages help to teach children to sing or talk through everyday tasks. Children’s song lyrics are often a manifestation of describing actions or stories, which help them begin to develop their own inner voice.  

*Musikgarten Delivers: The Neuroscience of Music collection by Dr. Dee Coulter is available for $10 in the Product Catalog section of our Teacher Portal. Username and password are required. You may also contact Musikgarten at 800-216-6864 to purchase.