Tag Archives: early childhood music

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.

How to Market Childhood Music Programs to Millennial Parents

The Millennial generation has often been hard to define for many marketers and business owners, but it is extremely clear that if you are marketing to the parents of young children, Millennials should not be ignored. The Pew Research Center defines the Millennial generation as those being born from 1981 to 1996, (or currently falling within the age of 22 to 37). In 2016, Millennials accounted for 82% of births in the U.S. In order to best market an early childhood music studio, owners need to know what makes the Millennial generation tick, and what to keep in mind when reaching out to these parents. Here are a few tips for marketing music lessons to Millennial parents:

Digital Natives are All Grown Up and Rely Heavily Online

 While it can be argued that the Internet had at least some influence on consumers before 1981, there is no doubt that Millennials were the first full generation to grow up with it from birth. They have been so engaged online, that many have never even heard of an encyclopedia. As would be expected, Millennial parents depend heavily on the Internet to find the parenting information they need. Online resources – parenting websites, online forums, parenting blogs and social networks – collectively gather 71% of first and second place rankings when it comes to top parental influencers.  The majority of this influence points towards social media, where 97% of Millennial moms and 93% of Millennial dads find social media helpful to their parenting for exchanging ideas, product reviews, and price checks. Music studio owners marketing out to Millennial parents cannot ignore this 22 million strong and growing group of heavy social media users!

Understand How to Talk to Millennials

 With children comes a new identity and responsibility for parents, and marketers need to understand that when creating a message that resonates with them. However, Millennials are very much about being genuine and not being “helicopter parents.” However, they do need recognition to make them feel good about themselves and the decisions they are making in regard to purchases for their child or children. Think about the “trophy for everyone” mentality that was so pervasive in their childhoods, and you can begin to understand Millennials need for acknowledgement and affirmation.

Millennial Dads are More Involved

 Millennial dads spend nearly triple the amount of time with their kids than that of previous generations. It’s important to note, however, that Millennial dads are not taking over the roles of moms, but rather looking to define a more involved role for them in the family. Early childhood music studios are increasingly catering to including dads in their curricula, inviting dads or both parents to participate in classes from the earliest stages of music appreciation and understanding. Marketing to not just the mom, but both parents of the millennial generation has become far more important than previous generations.

Millennial Parents Prefer Video to Reading

 Millennials use of online resources cannot be overemphasized, whether checking reviews, social media, or Googling about high fever in infants, they were the first fully connected generation. It is no surprise, then, that Millennials prefer Digital Video such as YouTube over traditional TV. With these parents depending on web based content for recommendations and reviews, the influential use of video becomes clear. When promoting childhood music programs to Millennial parents, short video testimonials can be a very effective way to inform and build trust. But be careful, Millennials understand what is marketing, and are suspicious of something that does not come across as genuine.

Music studio owners who understand where to find Millennial parents, what format is best suited to reach them, and how to craft a message that is meaningful to them will be able to reach millions of potential new early childhood music students each and every year.

Getting Free Press for your Early Childhood Music Studio

Last month, we began a children’s music studio marketing series that touched on several ways to attract parents through various low to no-cost marketing tactics, including the value of Word of Mouth Marketing (WOMM).

A very effective and no-cost vehicle to generate WOMM is the press release. Editorial publicity is often called “earned” media, and will strengthen a music studios credibility and identity.

However, there is no guarantee that a press release is going to be printed or aired. To increase the chance of being published, keep these things in mind when writing a press release for your early childhood music studio:

  • Make it “Newsworthy” – Most press releases that media outlets receive from businesses are extremely self-serving, and read like any other paid advertisement for that company. Relate your press release to a topic that would be interesting to anyone exposed to that media, so that it is newsworthy. For example, you may want to write about how your children’s music studio is helping to fill the void where public school music programs have had budgets slashed, or how scientific studies show exposure to music help with infants with positive cognitive development.
  • Write it Like an Article – Write the press release from the third person perspective, just as it would be published in the newspaper or online publication. Be sure to cover all of the facts about the topic, answering all of the Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How questions. Editors will often take a well written press release and simply re- publish it verbatim, especially if they are up against a deadline. 
  • Become Your Own Topic Expert – Not only do you want your press release published, but you would also like to have an editor or reporter reach out to you for an interview to add more depth to the topic. Include an informed quote from you on early childhood music learning and be sure to make yourself the Contact person on the press release. Include another quote from a teacher at your music studio or parent of a child student, as “supporting evidence” for your topic.
  • Jazz Up Your Press Release with Visuals – Any advertising or marketing professional will tell you that photos or videos of kids are sure attention grabbers. Provide a good photo of some children having fun in your music studio while learning about music. Better yet, a video is often better for getting the point across, especially to attract broadcast or online media. Just be sure to get permission from each child’s parent with a media consent and release form for minors.
  • Submit your Press Release to the Right Person, and Follow Up – Media and Publication companies typically have several editors/reporters based on different departments, so be sure you are reaching out to the right human being, not just a department. Typically, early childhood music programs fall under the Arts, Education, Hometown News, or Community departments. Reach out to the contact person, and find out the best way to get the press release to them. The contact number on your press release should be one where you can be reached very easily, not to a voicemail box. Reporters have very short deadlines for publication, so it is important that you have quick availability. Finally, once you send the press release to the right person, make a friendly follow up call to see if they received it. That follow up call may just turn into a phone interview!

A well-placed press release can be a beneficial marketing tool of early childhood music studios for many reasons. With advertising, the audience is already skeptical of an articles claims, whereas the media provides third party validation. And while advertising unabashedly says “buy this product,” well placed media says “this is important.” If you write your press release with those things in mind, you may just get some free and valuable publicity for your children’s music studio.

 

Marketing Your Early Childhood Music Program

Lets Face it. Teachers of early childhood music are not necessarily marketers. Their focus is on inspiring young minds and their adults to love, experience, and learn how to make music. But making a living teaching early childhood music can be a daunting task. Studio owners must not only keep their current music students engaged in learning, they must also keep a steady stream of new students signing up for new classes. When thinking about marketing for early childhood music studios, focusing on parents and parent education is key. The introduction of early music education is almost always initiated by the parents, and in most cases, by the mother.  This conclusion is based on Musikgarten’s thirty plus years of experience in training teachers on how better to market their childhood music studios. Here are a few marketing ideas for early childhood music education programs:

  • Focus on Word of Mouth MarketingIt is often said that Word Of Mouth Marketing, or WOMM, is the most important social media. Mothers always talk to each other about what is going on with their child, and there is no better way to gain new music students than referrals from happy moms. Early childhood music curricula such as those offered at Musikgarten include participation from one or two parents, which creates a social circle within your studio.
  • Offer a Test Drive – For anyone who has ever bought a car, you remember how it felt when you actually sat behind the wheel and drove it. The same can be said for marketing early childhood music education. While a referral can be a powerful marketing tool for your studio, sometimes it takes a little something extra to bring the prospect in the door. Consumers are leery of signing up for a commitment without knowing how they (or their child) will like it, so a no obligation, free first class might be just what you need to nudge them in the door.
  • Combine Both Referral and Complimentary First Class – For music studio marketers, there is a low-cost way to create a program that provides incentive for both the referring parent as well as the new prospect. Simple, complimentary first class cards given to your current music studio parents, serves several purposes. First, by simply having them write their name on cards given out, they provide a means to accurately track which parents provides referrals. Second, they represent a tangible value that acts to remind both referral and parent alike of the complimentary lesson. Simple and low-cost business cards can be printed for this purpose.

Word of mouth is just one very powerful marketing tool for early childhood music studios, but it must be carefully nurtured. We’ve all heard the saying that a bad experience is shared ten times to every once a good experience is shared. It is important to make sure parents are comfortable and pleased with your music studio before asking them for a referral.

In this ongoing series of blog posts, Musikgarten will continue providing more marketing ideas for owners of early childhood music studios. If you would like to receive notification of a new blog post, please contact us by email here.

How to become more comfortable teaching improvisation.

Improvisation is a skill we piano teachers need to develop.   When we teach our students to improvise, we know they gain a greater understanding of the language of music.  Sylvia Rabinof, my improvisation instructor at the Juilliard School wrote, “It is a tool to building effective musicianship.  Together with ensemble training, the study of improvisation is perhaps the most undervalued and misunderstood phase of music education today.  We tend to forget that improvisation is a basic element of music making and that one who can improvise successfully uses all of the various idioms and skills of that language as naturally as if speaking in his native tongue.  The entire musical literature, which its tremendous diversity of expressive styles, has evolved from improvisatory traditions; all of this predated systems of notation.  Improvised music, then, no matter how primitive or limit, carries on a unique artistic heritage.”

But for the majority of piano teachers, the art of improvisation was not included in their own weekly piano lesson. As a result, many teachers feel awkward when it is their turn to create an improvisatory phrase in front of their students.  Can we, the teacher, still develop our improvisational skills?

I believe the best answer is to teach The Musikgarten curriculum, Music Makers at the Keyboard, a three year sequential program for group piano.  This method has the best improvisation sequence I have found.  It teaches improvisation step by step and I recommend you, the teacher, follow this program to develop their own improvisational skills. If you work alongside (or a bit ahead of) your students and master each step of the process you will find this process of creating music gradually becoming easier for you.  If you haven’t yet started a class I still think you can go through the program and work on the steps bit by bit.

Let’s take a quick look at how improvisation is introduced in Book 1 of Music Makers at the Keyboard:

  1. In Book 1 the children and teacher are echoing fundamental tonal and rhythmical patterns that are found in the pieces they are singing and dancing to. The patterns we practice are commonly found in the songs such as See the Pony, Who’s That? and Hot Cross Buns. These are pieces we are singing and dancing to and eventually learning to play by ear on the piano.

Video 1 – See the Pony, Who’s That?, and Hot Cross Buns with Tonal patterns.

  1. As the children become more familiar with the songs, such as the song we sing and play within the video, we play a game whereby they find these patterns in the piece they are singing.  There is such a sense of satisfaction and “AHA’ in the children when they are successful in finding a pattern in a song.  These patterns become their friends at the piano as they work out how to play the patterns in different keys and how they work them into the familiar tunes.  This takes time. Almost the entire Book 1 is devoted to becoming comfortable with these patterns.  I hope you as a teacher also become comfortable with these patterns in your voice and at the piano.
  1. By the tenth lesson, the children begin to create their own tonal patterns. We do this exercise on the floor. First, they echo the same pattern I chant and then they are asked to create new patterns on their own. Here is your opportunity as a teacher learning to improvise to start to create your own patterns. Try thinking of different ways you can make a tonal pattern using Do, Sol and   Then go to a piano and find those patterns.  When you are comfortable, try two tonal patterns in a row. This will be good preparation for what will occur in Book 2.

Video 2 – children singing rhythmic patterns and then improvising on the patterns.

Video 3 – children singing tonal patterns and then improvising on the patterns.

In Book 1 we play with duple and triple rhythm patterns and major tonal patterns based on the Tonic I Chord.  In Book 2 the children are led through a carefully planned sequence of activities which lead the students to improvise patterns on the piano within a duple or triple rhythm context.

You should feel comfortable making up patterns on the piano, but if this is difficult for you I suggest:

  1. Learn the patterns as the children are learning them, using the practice CD to learn the songs by ear on the piano.
  2. Create a tonic pattern on the piano and then figure out it’s name. Then sing a tonic pattern and find it on the piano.  Go back and forth until you can do this easily.
  3. When you are comfortable, move to longer patterns.
  4. Add a Tonic chord under your improvisations and play with this.

Creating a few patterns each day will slowly increase your confidence at learning to improvise.  You may be a few steps ahead of your students or perhaps at the same level.  Just keep going to the piano and play, play, play.

What have you found works for you to become more comfortable with your own improvisational attempts?  Let me know by responding to this essay in the comment section below.

Interested in taking training for Group Piano? Click here to find out more!

Benefits of Early Childhood Music for Your Studio

Teachers and parents are starting to understand that if you give children the gift of music at an early age, the benefits last a lifetime. It is not just listening to music, but engaging in music in an active way with in a group.  The parents see the benefits instilled in their children and the teachers see these and the benefits for their studios.

For children the benefits can be:

  • Their toddler learning to relax and be calm, control impulses, or move with rhythm and grace
  • Their preschooler learning to share, take turns, sit still and listen, or get ready to read
  • Their school age child falling in love with music, learning to compose and improvise

Teachers see the same great benefits for the child through their classes, but also understand that having or adding early childhood music to their instrumental studio makes business sense. Here are just a few benefits for the teacher:

  • Extra income – you make more money with group classes then just teaching one student
  • Making the most of your day – you can schedule early childhood classes at different times, like a morning time, than private lessons
  • Laying the ground work for good musicianship and building your instrumental studio from the ground up

Long time Musikgarten teacher Ellen Johansen recently spoke about this in a podcast with nationally recognized piano teacher, Tim Tophan, and specifically using the Musikgarten material to attain these goals, especially laying the ground work for good musicianship. Here is a quote from the session when discussing why she uses Musikgarten:

“That’s why I do it. I love it, I love the flow of it. I love that it covers all the bases and it answered the most important question for me when I was looking for it 20 years ago. And I was frustrated as a traditional piano teacher. I kept getting students who are following all those method books and they were following everything I was saying and yet they weren’t creating music, and they weren’t reading very well. And the question kept popping up, “How do I get these kids to read music?” And I mean it became a major issue for me and that when I found this program (Musikgarten) it answered the question and more. I had no idea and I’ve never gone back to that traditional mode since then.”

Click below to listen to the complete podcast:

Teaching Music using Musikgarten

Tim also focused on this topic in a recent blog post, referencing some of Ellen’s thoughts.

How to Build an Early Childhood Program

Maybe you are a piano teacher, singer or other instrumentalist who wants to make extra income or just want you students to be more musical. Musikgarten is the answer!

Come take a look by attending one of these free events:

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Introduction to Piano Partners

The Value of the Parent in a Toddler Music Class

The time to start experiencing music is in early childhood; the place is in the family. Home is the first and most important school for children, and involved parents are the most effective teachers. Adults are learning how to interact effectively and easily with children through music, and families are growing together musically. This is good for children and good for families. (Musikgarten, Family Music for Toddlers, On a Trip, 2016)

When I teach a music class for toddlers I must acknowledge the elephant in the room.

elephant

Next to, or nearby, every toddler attending class is an adult. This adult could be a parent, a caregiver, an uncle or a grandparent, but what do they all have in common? They are no longer toddlers and therefore have completely different musical needs from a toddler. They may be agreeing to sit in a toddler class but does that mean they need to sing along, dance along and play along? Wouldn’t they rather grab their cell phone, find a corner and start Facebooking? What can you do to keep those parents from herding into a corner and starting a gossip circle?

News Flash! You are not only about to teach a toddler music class, but also teach music to adults. So let’s first address the question,

“Why do Musikgarten family toddler classes include a loving adult for each toddler in the room?”

  • The adult links you, the teacher, to their child. For instance, you will demonstrate a steady beat by bouncing your stuffed animal and the adult will bounce their child the same way, instilling that steady beat.
  • The adults join in a community chorus of singing and participating that surrounds the toddler with hopes that one day s/he will feel comfortable joining.
  • The adult creates a space that becomes a safe zone for the toddler. Within that space the child feels most comfortable; in their comfort space they can best learn.
  • The adult makes logistics easier in the classroom. Imagine walking into a classroom filled with 12 roving toddlers and no adults. Bounce along? Maybe one at a time if you can catch one. Sing to them? They won’t sing back and will stare at you with a lost look. Sit in a circle? What’s a circle? Hand out sticks? Could be dangerous. Ask them to Walk and Stop? Good luck. Try pulling out that drum. Bam, oof, watch out!

Teachers agree: The parent is the channel through which you instill the heart and life of the Musikgarten program.

When the parent participates in class, the class is moving and grooving. When they sit back and watch or zone out your class is compromised. So your parents need to know this and you need to acknowledge their presence and worth. They already have a clue that music is wonderful and significant for their children. They have heard that music is part of a well-rounded education and it makes a significant difference in the lives of children.  Now the participating adults need to know they are the magic key to accessing the music education in your classroom. So what can we do as teachers to help the parents feel their value?

  1. Make sure you have spoken to every parent that plans to attend either on the phone or at a parent’s meeting. Besides reminding them about arriving on time, washing hands, and taking off shoes, they need to learn to enter the studio with excitement and anticipation, leaving the worries and cares outside the door, along with their cell phone.
  2. Before class begins, set the mood by having the CD for the program playing softly. So often I have parents walk in and begin to sing along with music. This is marvelous proof that they have been doing their homework and playing that recorded music often enough that they know the words.
  3. Room should be free of clutter and all toddler distractions put away. Remind the parents to leave all toys and food outside of the room. Stuffed animals that sneak in under a child’s arm gets invited to watch on my piano. Invite them to sit on your clean carpet or floor. Maybe have a drum or other classroom instrument to explore. Note: I keep that instrument with me at all times.
  4. Begin the class on time. I can’t emphasize this enough and tell the parents that we always begin on time. Note: I say this every week and also mention this at the end of class.
  5. Ask the parents to gather up their wandering children to form a close-knit circle.
  6. Quietly remind the parents that you are modeling all movement and they are expected to sing and move just like me. Mention this for many weeks – not just the first week! Note: I do not go into the discussion of “But I can’t sing” at this time.
  7. Sing the opening song quietly with a smile.
  8. Keep a slow tempo and make sure you have had eye contact with each parent and hopefully with each child.
  9. As the class progresses you will deal with individual needs and issues: roving toddlers, toddlers that need some quiet time in the waiting room, chatty parents, non-participating parents, etc.
  10. End on time, acknowledge the class, and invite them back for next week’s class.
  11. As parents leave, take care of any business. Note: I sometimes choose to call or email business related items later and keep the goodbyes pure.

As rapport grows, encourage parents to sing more and more in class. First encourage the ancient word, “la” and then urge the parents to eventually sing the words. Repeat a verse so that parents can sing along. Note: I make sure I drop out for a verse or sing quietly along, promoting their musical participation.

There are a few ways to communicate to parents between class and this is a great way to smooth out any miscommunications or to continue to educate parents about music class.

  1. A follow up phone call
  2. Through emails or handouts
  3. Indirectly through the encouraged use of the CD or downloaded music at home

By making the parent the most valuable asset, you are investing in your studio because these are the parent who will return next semester and the year after that.  Eventually you will have a base from which you can teach all that Musikgarten has to offer.

Make this your first step towards establishing your music studio.  You will reap the rewards of all your hard work.

Question:  What have you found to be the most effective way to guide your parents into joyful music making in your classroom?

Instruments: In the Classroom and at Home

An essential part of a Musikgarten music class is playing simple instruments, like rhythm sticks, rattles, jingles, and drums. Children love to explore these instruments and I want to make sure I have a selection of the highest quality available for my students in the classroom. Since we, as the teachers, are models to the parents, parents often ask me, “What instruments should I have in my home for my children?” Parents value instruments that are not only fun to play but ones that will also last over time and make beautiful sounds. There are lots of instrument choices for parents to purchase on the internet but many of these choices are not appropriate for young children. If it looks like a toy, it is probably a toy.

When I create a list of instruments for parents to choose I consider:

  1. Instruments that have an excellent sound quality.
  2. Instruments that are made of natural materials.
  3. Instruments that are safe for children to handle.

In the classroom I mainly use instruments that Musikgarten offers, including their beautiful and simple drum. It has a wood frame, natural calf skin head, and is sturdy, but light weight. It is perfect to put on the floor and have the children play with their hands, but light enough to hold while standing.  I always make sure I have enough for everyone to have a drum.

IMG_0247crop

Musikgarten sticks are natural and have no varnish added to them so they can be mouthed by the babies and tapped by all the children.  These sticks need to be smooth and have no rough edges.  I like sticks that are small enough that they cannot become a ‘sword’ and heavy enough for hands to actively tap in various ways and roll on the floor.  Perhaps they may even become letters or houses.  I also have sticks with ridges so we can explore the sounds of insects, trains, rubbing or other imaginative sounds.

IMG_0265stick crop

Musikgarten rattles are also made of wood and large enough so they cannot be swallowed by the youngest baby, but are small enough to feel comfortable in little hands.  With these cylinder shaped objects we can tap, pound, and roll and, yes, create towers to crash to the floor in a noisy heap.

IMG_0262rattle crop

A classroom can survive with only these instruments – great news for new teachers on a budget.  As the years have passed I have collected and adorned my studio with ethnic drums, band instruments my own children attempted to play while in school, bells found in antique shops and garage sales and other odd assortments perfect for a play-along time. These instruments are like flavor to a stew and can be used for a fun celebration at the end of class or at home.

I have also found it very helpful to give parents some instruction on how to store the instruments. My favorite suggestion is to collect all those instruments and place them in a music area in your home. As families participate in the Baby and Family music program they receive a home instrument with each unit including a set of sticks, rattles, bells and sand blocks.  These can go into a basket which is separate from the toy box.  Add a music player that children are allowed to control, place the basket of instruments on the floor and you have music time!

IMG_0013basket resized

Then when your music time is over, place the basket OUT OF REACH of the children. Why?  I believe instruments should be treated differently from toys.  They are tools to create sounds and are taken out and put away when the activity is done.

Remember, for both your studio and when advising your parents, to keep it simple. Choose instruments that have a great sound quality, are made of natural materials, and are safe for children to handle. I advise staying away from plastic instruments and those 20 instruments in a set deals that you can find on the internet.  Homemade instruments can also be fun as long as they are safe for the children.

Eventually the question comes up from parents, “When should I purchase a piano for my child?” This is a blog article in itself, so stay tuned for the answer!