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.

The Science of Music: How Music Teaches Children to Share, Take Turns, and Speak Up

Musikgarten is proud to partner with parents by delivering a highly informative series of publications, The Neuroscience of Music.* If you missed the first series of posts on The Neuroscience of Music, explaining ways in which childhood music education can help encourage a Behavior Wish List from parents, you can find them here.

This is the first of a second set in the same series that focuses on parent’s School Skills Wish List, exploring how music can help parents and childhood music educators prepare children to share, take turns, and speak up.

Dee Joy Coulter, a nationally recognized Neuroscience educator, points to what anthropologists have discovered. With the nuclear family becoming smaller with fewer siblings, and early childhood friendships limited more to “play dates” than larger neighborhood play groups, the natural societal process has changed in how children learn to work in a social environment such as school. For generations, however, other cultures around the world have been teaching these societal skills through songs, dances, and movement games in which the entire village participated. Coulter contends that these same time-tested methods can be applied through childhood music programs with parental involvement.

The following are facts and information about how to use music, along with movement, to teach these important skills for school:

How Music and Movement Prepares Infants and Toddlers to Become Social Beings

  • Babies and parents practice a “social rhythm,” where within a fraction of a second of interaction, they are imitating the movements and expressions of the other. This “mimicking game” between parent and baby continues and evolves into taking turns at smiling, gestures, mouth movements, etc., building a bond between parent and child.
  • By the Age of 2, children start to show signs of compassion, and parents should support their show of concern for others by modeling compassion at home to help build strong social bonds early in life.
  • Building strong bonds and modeling compassion are the two key practices for building social skills.
  • Many early childhood music programs imitate this “social rhythm,” asking parents to participate by taking turns with small vocal and gestural queues. This eventually gives the child a sense of social awareness of how these actions make an impact in the class.

How Music and Movement Prepares the Preschooler and Beginning School Age Child to Become Social

  • Although it is extremely difficult for parents to do, instilling small wait times before responding to their child’s desires or requests instills the patience it requires to take turns with others. Using call and response songs with children also teaches them patience and how to share and take turns. Early childhood music programs also incorporate movement to these exercises, and parents can do this at home as well.
  • Talk and sing to your child a lot. You are preparing your child to communicate with others and building key reading readiness skills.

Music, along with movement, are important methods of teaching children societal skills such as sharing, learning to speak for themselves, and taking turns. This learning process starts with parents at home through imitation games, which can also be reinforced on a larger scale in early childhood music classrooms.

*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.

Summer Music Programs Benefit Kids and Parents Alike

Wednesday, March 20th marks the first day of Spring. As the temperature warms and things begin to grow, parents and teachers are reminded that summer is approaching quickly. And for most parents, that means planning activities and camps to keep their children active in both body and mind. Music instruction has proven to be extremely beneficial for young minds during the off school months.

Here are just a few reasons why being involved with music in the Summer is a great idea for both kids and parents alike:

Every Summer, many parents are challenged with keeping their children active, both mentally and physically. Music learning presents an option that addresses both of these at the very same time. Whether it’s a Summer Music Camp, taking advantage of Summer programs at a local children’s music studio, or continuing personal instrument or voice instruction, music makes a child’s Summer more fun, creative, educational, and healthy.

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.

The Science of Music: How Children Learn Patience Through Music

This second installment in our series of blog posts on The Neuroscience of Music* explores how music can help parents teach their children to wait and be patient. Boy, have parents been waiting for this one!

Researchers often call it the ability to delay gratification and say that it is the single most important requirement for developing impulse control, for resisting addictive behavior, for handling the confusion of new learning, and for setting goals and working toward meeting them. While this desired behavior can be taught to children, here are some thoughts to keep in mind:

Using Negative Strategies are Ineffective – If we get overly firm and insist on making a child wait, they will see no point in waiting when we aren’t around to discipline them. We want them to be able to practice patience on their own:

  • Make sure there is enough for children to share once their turn comes. Whenever there is too much scarcity, children will learn to take what they need as soon as they get the chance.

Teaching Babies and Toddlers to Wait – There are some simple exercises and “games” that stretch the moments of anticipation of delight.

  • Songs and movement games are helpful in creating anticipation and embedding small wait times. Who can forget waiting for the POP in “Pop, Goes the Weasel,” or the anticipation of the fall in “Humpty, Dumpty?”
  • With infants also play little movement and touch games, such as circling your finger around and then gently landing it on their nose.
  • Use reward to encourage patience. Toddlers may learn the patience it takes to put on a coat or shoes if they know they are going outside to play. Baking cookies teaches them that waiting patiently has it rewards as the warm goodies come out of the oven! Of course, it is also tough for adults to wait for the cookies to cool!

Teaching the Pre-schooler and Beginning School Child

  • Sing songs with your child that involves claps, pauses, and exact timing. This not only teaches patience and anticipation, but will also help develop a strong sense of rhythm.
  • Create some family times that involve some kind of ceremony, such as setting the table before dinner or saying the blessing before digging in. This teaches pre and school age children that there is a waiting period before the gratification of eating, etc.
  • In anticipation of a coming event, such as a birthday or another special occasion, mark a calendar and observe each day with anticipation to the BIG day. Think the 8 days of Hanukkah, or (sing) the 12 Days of Christmas. Saving up or preparing for an event can also teach patience, such as saving money for a vacation, or buying presents for a future event.

As you may have noticed, the exercises above not only teach children to wait, but also can have the same effect on parents! Those of us who already have children know the importance of patience, and that we should always teach by example.

*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 Relax and Be Calm

Music and movement can benefit children and their adults in a multitude of ways. Over the next several months, we will be featuring a series of blog posts on The Neuroscience of Music*, explaining how music benefits children in many ways that parents and music teachers may not realize.

The first subject for this Benefits of Early Childhood Music Series explores how music can help parents teach their children to relax and be calm. Brain science educator, Dr. Dee Coulter, calls this skill the art of self calming. She explains, “It helps us build an ability to self-regulate that we will use our whole lives. But we aren’t born with a calming switch! Babies learn to calm by being calmed. One of the most powerful tools is music.”

 The following are facts and information about how to use music to calm children from the earliest age:

  • Sing to your baby and toddler, even in the womb – Research shows that even in utero, a baby hears and learns its mothers voice. By monitoring heartbeat in utero, the mother’s voice is shown to have a calming effect.
  • Throughout history, songs and music have been a big part of child rearing, as beloved lullabies, rhymes, and dances are passed down from one generation to another. Pick a few lullabies and sing them often.
  • Singing to infants communicates love and security, helps to strengthen the bond between mother and child, and aid digestion while counteracting stresses.
  • Even if you believe that you are not a singer, repeatedly singing simple songs creates another level of familiarity and sense of safety for a child.
  • Remember to stay relaxed, to use a soft voice and keep a warm heart. Even if your baby only thanks you with tears and distress for a while, be patient. The lullabies will work their magic in time.
  • Sing during transition times such as naptime or feeding time to communicate that a change is happening.
  • Move, sway and dance while you sing. Encourage toddlers to move with you while singing.
  • As the developing child becomes more and more aware of their bodies, movement with music becomes even more important. Children need to move so that they become well acquainted with their bodies in order to learn how to hold still.
  • Transitioning from music with movement to just soothing music or even quiet time helps your child recognize when s/he is too stimulated and needs to take a break.

Don’t worry if your singing is not pitch perfect, just fake it until you get it! The surprise bonus you receive from singing and moving with your child will be the relaxation and calm you will feel from developing a deeper relationship with your child!

*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.

Five New Year Resolutions for Promoting Your Early Childhood Music Studio

As the calendar resets once again, it is a good opportunity to reflect on the past year’s successes while looking forward to the new year with the wisdom it provided. This is no different for any size business, whether it is a large corporation or a local children’s music studio. While keeping in mind the best approach for keeping New Year resolutions, here are five ways to go about planning for your music studio in the New Year:

  1. Don’t Call them Resolutions, but GoalsAccording to US News and World Report, 80 Percent of new year resolutions fail. To help prevent from feeling frustrated over resolutions not achieved, think of them more as goals to build on and strive for instead of simply “pass / fail.”
  • Reflect on the Last YearWe learn from both success and failure, so it is important to reflect on both over the last year. Think about your studio’s major achievements and milestones, and how you can best continue or capitalize on them. While reliving failures is often painful, it is just as important to evaluate last year’s stumbling blocks and understand how to prevent them from reoccurring. For example, make your marketing dollars work smarter by evaluating what promotions and advertising spends worked best for your children’s music studio.

  • Set SMART Goals for the Coming Year – Write down three to five major goals for the coming year, while making sure they are SPECIFIC, MEASURABLE, ACHIEVABLE, RELEVANT, and TIME-BOUND. Many failed goals can be attributed to unrealistic and non-specific expectations.
  •  Develop a Plan for Reaching More Customers – Whether its meeting (2) new parents a week, handing out (20) complimentary baby or toddler lesson cards a month, or posting something new to social media about your childhood music program at least (2) times a week, write down a goal for reaching new prospects within a specific time frame (see SMART Goal setting above). Also, don’t forget that it costs much less to keep a current customer than to find a new one, so also set goals for nurturing relationships with your existing music class parents and children.
  •  Look for Partners to Help you Achieve Your Goals – No successful business owner will ever claim that they “did it all on their own.” Think about who may help you achieve your goals and build your music studio. Whether it’s a program with the local library, or partnering with an experienced early childhood music education organization, there are many resources available out there to help you achieve success in the coming year.

There is a reason that the above list only contains five (and not ten or more), resolutions for growing your music studio in the coming year. Too many goals can be overwhelming and impossible to achieve, so starting small will help you to focus and will ultimately lead to greater success.

Marketing Your Childhood Music Program through Library Demo Classes

With the decline of music education in public schools, many public libraries are attempting to “pick up the slack” by offering early music education classes for kids. These classes not only provide a good way to make good use of your early childhood music curriculum, but also present a great way to gain new students for continued music education classes.

Approach your local public library and offer to help with an early childhood music class. Once you have your class set up, here are some tips and potential pitfalls in conducting a library toddler music program:

Have a one-minute orientation before you start your library children’s music demo class:

  • Politely ask all patents to turn cell phones off for the duration of the class.
  • Parents/adults are the models to the child and do everything. You may need to mention this again when you find yourself singing and moving if the parents are just sitting and eying their cell phones.
  • All musical teaching aids, such as songbooks and musical instruments, go on a table out of the child’s reach so as not to distract in the beginning.
  • All toddler hands must be free of stuff and ready to make music.
  • Ask that no one leaves the class until the “goodbye” song.

Other tips and considerations for your early childhood music demo class:

  • Assign a sticker to each child with their first name, so that you can include them in the songs you sing. This creates a personal connection with the children.
  • Include some new music in your class, but don’t rule out the classics with which the kids are familiar – Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star, Jack and Jill (add lots of falling and rolling on the floor), Row, Row, Row Your Boat, Walk and Stop, Clap with Me, etc.
  • Make sure to include the parents, asking them to participate in each class to create a more memorable experience for them and their child.
  • Expect all activities to take longer with larger classes.
  • Add rounds (Make New Friends is a great song for this activity.)
  • Bring enough sticks and jingle bells for everyone. Drums are also very popular.
  • A moment of “quiet alertness” sometime during the class. This may not happen in your public library children’s music demo class, but if it does, acknowledge the children and parents at the end.
  • Keep in mind that public library classes do bring in a level of families looking for the free music appreciation event. It is your job to make it more than that and invite the transition to paid children’s music classes at your own studio. Become the music and movement expert in your community, and mention your other classes that meet in a more intimate setting.
  • After the “goodbye” song, move to the doorway to wave goodbye to every child and say their name.
  • Turnout is often dependent on how well your library communicates its events.

Speak with your library administrators to see how they are marketing your demo class, and if there is anything else that can be done to make it a success, such as offering posters to be placed around all of the library branches in your area.

Most important, bring your business cards, brochures and have the class material available for parents to look through. After a few weeks of mentioning the material, parents will start showing interest in continuing the early music development experience with their child.

 

A very special thanks to this month’s contributing Musikgarten teacher:

Ellen Johansen, Ellen Johansen Music Studio