Tag Archives: early childhood games

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 Magic of Finger Plays

Finger plays are songs or stories that are acted out using your fingers and hands. As parents and teachers, we all want children to experience and play with as many finger plays in their early years because they “focus on the aspect of identification of fingers and hands and experimentation with their various movements.” In Musikgarten classes, finger plays are an essential and fun part of every toddler music class.

Over the years of teaching toddler music class I have learned that I must be well versed in the finger play to be able to share it with a group of children.  As I present the activity I realize I am also presenting it to parents in the hope they will continue to play and share this play at home.

So where do we begin?

Like many finger plays, the raw material for a parent or teacher is usually a ‘head scratching’  little poem:

Five little birds without any home,
Five little trees in a row,
Come build your nests in our branches tall,
We’ll rock you to and fro.

Not much to go on…….

A parent started a discussion about finger plays in class the other day.  She asked, “How do I do finger plays? Is there an online source to show me how?  When can I do them at home?”  I realized that finger plays were not a part of her early life. As a child I was surrounded by finger plays, learning and enjoying them with my parents, my siblings, my Sunday school teacher, etc.  Finger plays were part of my everyday world as a child. Is it possible we have lost the art of finger play in today’s home life?

As a teacher a finger play is an immensely powerful tool to draw in my children and their parents to a close knit circle.  From this intimate space we will share a moment that brings smiles and giggles mixed with hugs and rocking.  Always a good plan in a toddler music class!

The experts say a finger play:

  • develops vocabulary
  • creates a stronger emotional link between parent/teacher and child
  • develops the motor facility of the hand
  • develops cognitive areas of the brain
  • creates a safe place for children and adults to explore together
  • creates a safe place for physical contact between a parent/child or teacher/child
  • connects culture from generation to generation
  • goes beyond the purpose of nurturing, caressing, comforting or feeding.
  • creates laughter and excitement and pleasure.
  • creates a place where a child wants to repeat the game and play more and more.
  • turns a hand into a toy.

The finger play, summarizes Jelena Sitar Cvetko, is the “shortest and simultaneously the most comprehensive form of Folk literature. Finger plays are pre-dramatic forms with fingers as players and the hand as the stage, completed within itself and created within the play itself.” **

Good stuff in a little activity.  But still, the question still begs, HOW do I do a finger play?

So I have created a “before children walk into the room” video of the finger play “Five Little Birds”.

With no children in the room, it appears that all you need are the words and the fingers.  Notice the pace of the poem, the vocal tone used and the expressive quality of my fingers.  I believe a finger play needs to be rehearsed before your families walk in  because when children are added to the mix, anything can happen. You need to be ready to adapt in the moment.

Here is a video of another finger play with children and parents learning side by side.  It is quite different in that  you need to engage the toddlers and the parents. Luckily it helps that you are building on the common bond of love between parent and child:

When can a parent/grandparent/caretaker use a finger play?

  • during a diaper change
  • before bed
  • during a waiting time in a doctor’s office
  • during play time
  • whenever you need a connection or just want to laugh and giggle along with a child

Finger plays are fun and can create special moments throughout a child’s day.  For the teacher, it can make a major fun moment in a music class.  For the parent, it is a break from the necessary routines of a child’s life. Yet both parents and teachers still express apprehension when it is time to actually share the finger play.

Here are some clues to help:

  • Memorize the finger play but don’t worry if you mess up a word or two. It is more about the tone of voice, the pacing and loving way you transmit the play.
  • Repeat over and over. Children love to repeat and will gladly help and correct you if you don’t repeat it exactly the same way you did it yesterday.  Believe me, they remember EVERYTHING!
  • Exaggerate the underlying emotion of the finger play. Emotional response (laughing, crying, gasping) create significant memory cues for the children.

Watch how I emote in “Five Freckled Frogs” as the frogs “disappear into the pond” only to all return at the end.

Finally, some finger plays, like “Whoops! Johnny” can be changed to include the child’s name.  I add verses which include each of the children and then Mom, Dad, Grandma, Grandpa, sisters, brothers, and pets. I had a mother say her child would go through everybody in her world before going to bed at night.  The list was quite long and she would diligently repeat all the loving people in her repeats.  And, yes, I was included!

I hope you will make finger plays a part of your repertoire as a teacher and as a parent/grandparent/caretaker. Use these whenever possible.  This magical moment will make a difference in your life as well as the child playing with you.

What could be better?

**Quote from the Paper of Jelena Sitar Cvetco, The value of Finger play as a form of Cultural Heritage in the Curriculum of the First Age Period: https://hrcak.srce.hr/file/222654