FIRST Observe – Start where the child IS

“I See YOU!”  “Look what you are doing…”  “Wow, that looks fun, I want to try it.”  These phrases are TREASURES in a parent’s tool box.  Every child LOVES to be noticed.  How many times do you hear “Watch ME!”  Every child LOVES to be recognized for what they CAN do, or what they HAVE DONE already.  Every child feels more competent when a significant adult in their life wants to copy them.   These all start with the most important part of connecting with and teaching your child, to watch closely, OBSERVE.

OBSERVE and RECOGNIZE before

TEACHING or TRANSITIONS or PROBLEM SOLVING

Oftentimes, we as parents are in the position of giving our child directions.  Sometimes our children are exploring or learning something new, “Stack the blocks like this.”   Other times, it is due to our schedule, or daily routine. “Sarah, it is time to brush teeth, and get ready for bed.” And other times, we find them needing to solve a problem, “Let me help you.”   Many times we find it easier and faster just to quickly give directions or solve the problem ourselves.  

Aaah, but connecting and teaching take time…  and it starts with the time to observe and recognize. 

Observing starts by simply stopping and WAITING to see what they are doing, or what they will do.   It is certainly human nature to start showing examples when a new object is given to explore, or giving directions first.  Try this.  Do it like this.  But then we don’t get to observe what the child already knows, or, for that matter, what they can teach themselves.   Over 100 years ago, Maria Montessori found out, by intent observation, that given the opportunity, children are very capable of teaching themselves a great many things.  As adults, it is our responsibility to provide them that opportunity and wait to see what they can teach themselves, and to provide just enough support to help that process along.

Recognizing means that somehow we share with the child that we see and care about what they are doing, without judging them.  Sometimes this is through using our words to DESCRIBE (which supports their language skills).  “Sally, I see you tapping your rhythm sticks together end to end.”  Sometimes it may just be letting them see you COPY them.  Someone(?) said, “The best compliment someone could give you is to copy you.”  Without any words at all, the child knows that they are SEEN and RECOGNIZED.  Sometimes it may be a little of both. 

Without judgement means that we refrain from making a vague statement like “Good Job.”  Not that it is a bad thing to say, but that it is not clear what was done well, AND that it infers that the importance is on the parent’s evaluation that it was “good”.  When a parent says, “You did it !  You placed the sticks in the shape of a V !”, the child is able to take ownership of the act, and be proud of himself for doing so.  Ultimately, the child’s inner motivation is what will get her down the path to success.

A whole different benefit to these parenting skills was an eye-opening kick in the pants to me.   I had been having problems with transitions, getting my child to do what I wanted or needed them to do NEXT.  And it specifically was significant when I approached him when he was involved in an activity independently.  My son would be playing his room with his Legos, and I would come in and ask him to wash his hands for dinner.  A fairly simple request really, but it was met with reluctance and procrastination.  After reading much about parenting through Becky Bailey, I learned that my son is heavily invested in what he is doing at that moment.  It is important that I recognize the hard work in which he is engaged.  His mind is busy designing, problem solving, and creating.  Washing hands for dinner seems so insignificant in comparison to the processes currently at work in his mind.  So, it is important to take the time to start the conversation where his mind is presently.  “Wow, look what you are doing with those legos !  You have made some sort of flying machine.  I can see the wings are jutting out here and here.  Tell me more.”   OH, what a difference a few minutes of observing and recognizing can make !!!  Sharing out loud what is “on the table at the moment” allows for a winding down of the brain process, and an openess to what may be next.

This works for young children as well, even those who are unable to talk.  When they are engaged with a toy or activity, the few minute a parent takes to patiently watch, and then describe gives them WORDS to pair with what they are doing, lets them know that there is respect for their ability to focus, and that what they can do for themselves is recognized.  THIS is the starting point for teaching, ie. expanding on their current interest,  or for transitioning to another activity. 

Without getting into a lot of details, the same skills are exceedingly important when a child is faced with a challenge or a problem to solve.  Wait; watch what they will do; ask them questions to help them assess the situation effectively.  If intense emotions are observed, the best support is to allow them (or yourself) the opportunity to find a quiet place to calm down before they tackle the task of solving the problem.  ANYONE who is too emotionally distraught cannot solve problems effectively.  A chemical in the brain screams to fight or avoid – not solve.   When cooler heads prevail, approach the problem like a puzzle, allow them to, or help them describe the pieces of the issue without emotion, wait and listen, and encourage a creative list of solutions, from those based in fantasy, to those based in reality.

A parent’s time to observe and recognize helps children feel confident and competent, and eager to try more things, and more able to solve their own problems.   And it helps US, as their primary teachers, know where to start with the teaching process, and how to support their own abilities to teach themselves.   It is the beginning of the incredibly effective method of teaching called scaffolding, which we will be talking about more over time.

These parenting skills do not necessarily come naturally.  I consider myself a good parent, yet I have to continually focus to ensure that I WAIT and OBSERVE before giving directions (so hard for me at times, esp. in our busy schedule !).  Before I approach my independently engaged child, I often have to give myself a Becky Baily Pep Talk to OBSERVE and CONNECT first !   When my child is struggling with a challenge, it is hard to be patient and let them come up with the solution themselves.  It is an ongoing challenge not to blurt out “Good Job”.

BUT, EVERY TIME I do it RIGHT…  Every time I take the time to Observe and Recognize…  Every time I DESCRIBE instead of Judge…   I SEE how my children respond so well to it, and I KNOW that it is worth the continual effort.  It does get easier.  Just like learning to play an instrument, practice makes perfect.

Do you have a story to share about how observing your child FIRST made a difference?

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So your child likes Trains

Whoo! Whoo ! ALL Aboard !  Children LOVE things that go ! Some of us never grow out of it. I love train rides and long road trips that give us a chance to feel the wind in our hair, see new places and connect with our traveling friends.

Trains are especially exciting for young children, with all the sounds, the motions, and the adventures !  Most folks are aware of Thomas, and all the wonderful stories of he and his friends.  But there are many other wonderful resources, ie. books, movies, websites, and more about unique trains, and even railroad track layers.  In the following linked blog posts, I have listed some of my favorites ! 

This coming semester,  In Our Time:  Away We GO!, the children will love Shiny Dinah, her book, her songs, and the big case in her shape, as well as exploring the many other methods we use to get places !    In Imagine That: Toys I Make, Trips I Take, we help set up a train set in our Toy Store, and pretend we are going on a train ride… but where?  Our students learn to draw maps to show where they want their train ride to go.  Take your child’s train play to a whole new level… and let them learn music concepts in the process !   This can take your child’s train play to a whole new level.    Try out one of these classes this week at a Free Demo class.  And join us for delighful traveling fun and learning at the beginning of February as part of our Spring Semester of Kindermusik.   The process of music will amaze you.

Enroll for a Demo class today !

Enroll for a full semester of Kindermusik ! – Monthly payment plans are automatically set up upon online enrollment.

ENJOY the resources at these links !  The music and books are really great !

DOWNLOAD some great music from:  Play.Kindermusik    Check out these albums:

  • All Aboard
  • Zane the Train

And enjoy the resources that I have shared on my blog postings:

Holiday Thank You Cards as a Family Ritual

Gratitude is a gift you give back lovingly, not a chore to be forced.   SO, how can we, as parents, set this up for success for our children to take on this task with pride and wholeness of heart?   We make it into a full family ritual, complete with sounds, smells, tastes, and a Thank You Card (or Method) that incorporates their personality and their abilities.  Make sure to do it each year the week after Christmas, or the Hanukka events, or whatever holiday you celebrate, and it will be a cherished memory, and a lifelong tradition they can share with their children.  When done with love, it helps them embrace an important life skill: an attitude of gratitude.

Although it will take some prep time on your part (see below), when your family sits down to complete the task, make it special, and give it plenty of time.  

  • SOUND:  Put on some enjoyable Winter Music, or some of your favorite children’s Christmas songs, or music specific to your holiday.  Our family’s favorite is the Charlie Brown Christmas album (LOVE that JAZZ).  Or the Winter Wonderland album.   NOTE:  The title song is a FREE DOWNLOAD during December, a special gift from Kindermusik International.
  • TASTE:  Serve hot chocolate, or spiced cider, and a few nibbler treats to munch on (choose to serve before, during, or after, based on what works best for your family.)  Many times, we are still working on finishing off our Gingerbread houses.  
  • SMELL:  Add a delightful aroma with some of your favorite candles or essential oils of the season.  This year, a special family gave me a “Twisted Peppermint” candle – a perfect addition to our tradition.
  • TOUCH:  Set up the table with all the things you need to make this successful and free of stress.

First, consider the best method that YOUR child will enjoy to make MULTIPLE  Thank You cards.  Take into account their ability level, and their personality.   Each one of these activities allows the child to share a bit of themselves in a way that makes them feel special for “giving back”, without overwhelming them with the task.  Combine the ideas, and make them your own.  If you have any of your own, please add them in the comment section.

PICTURES:  For a baby or any child who is not yet able to write, take a photograph of the child with the objects given to them by each specific person/family.  They may be wearing the new outfit, or playing with the toy, or even sleeping with it under their arm.  This can be emailed with a quick note, or printed and sent by mail with a handwritten note below the picture, or on the back.  IF gifts are given personally, it is an awesome memory to take a picture of the giver, the child, and the gift while they are together.  For your child, when they are ready, it is a great idea to have a picture of each family and friend in a photo album that is easy for them to use.   Review these family photos, and talk about which person gave them which gift, and maybe help them remember some details of that family member.   These pictures can be looked at again and again, with stories weaved in to make the family tapestry strong.  BOTH my children repeatedly sought out and  lingered over family pictures in their baby books – mesmerized as young children are with faces.  As they got older, we had to call each one… even if just to listen to the other family member talk.

Thank You stampINK STAMPS:   There is an amazing array of stamps on the market now because of Scrapbooking.   For children able to use stamps (but not write well), get a STAMP with their NAME on it.  For the very young, you may use a self inking stamp (to avoid patches of ink everywhere), but the regular stamps offer more of a variety with children just a bit older.   Ink pads come in a variety of colors, so get a few of their favorites, and let them choose which color to use.  Or, of course, you can have them use their markers to color the stamp any way they want, and then stamp it on the paper.  You may even take them to the store, to choose a few stamps that reflect their interests, ie. trains, animals, or royal accessories.   Cut a sheet of card stock into four postcards and let them decorate both sides with their “personality stamps” and their NAME stamp on ONE side at the BOTTOM, and let dry.  Parents can write the address on one side, and on the side with the name, a quick note commenting on how their child reacted to the gift.   If they are starting to write, you may have them write just the NAME of the person it is for.  Help them “picture” the person in their head by showing pictures, or telling stories of fun times they had together.

COPY ART / SIMPLE THANK YOU:  Maybe your child can trace or write THANK YOU ! and their NAME, and add their own art work to a sheet of paper.  This page can be color copied, as many as you need, full size, or even half size on the top of a full sheet of paper, allowing the parents to add a few handwritten details at the bottom. 

FORM LETTERS:   For those children who are able to write a bit, but get bogged down in the repetitiveness of the Thank You note, appreciate having a Form letter with many of the words already written.   This can easily be done on the computer by the parent, or even better, the parent and child working together to design it.  A normal Word document with expanded margins, with two columns, on a horizontal page can fit FOUR “postcards”.  See, or even USE my sample.

Dear _________________,                                                                                            December 2011

Single Snowflake

 

Like a single snowflake, you are unique,

and you have brightened my world with

the gift of your friendship.

I especially want to thank you for

_____________________________

_____________________________

_____________________________

The world is a more beautiful place because of you !

May your new year be filled with beautiful unique adventures!

                                                                                  __________________,      ___________

Cora (almost 8 years old) wanted a snowflake this year, so we found a good image online and we worked on the words together.  She can, and would be willing to write this ONCE, but would fight tooth and nail if she had to write it multiple times.  Once printed and cut into postcards, she can personalize each one by just writing the NAME of the person, and the gift received, as well as a short comment about her reaction to it.  Then she can decide how to end it, and add her name.   Actually, she is choosing to cut each postcard a little smaller and send each one in an envelope this year, along with a paper snowflake that she has cut out herself (a good use for all the snowflakes that seem to be multiplying at my house.)

Even my 16 year old son, James, likes using the Form Letter format.  He just types in the information instead of leaving blanks.  This is only for the family and friends who don’t use text messaging… the current means of ANY communication for a teenager.  Handwriting, as I am told, is no longer used to communicate.  Except, as I tell him, for those few family members who consider his handwriting a treasure of their own.

SHORT & SWEET VIDEO:  For all the drama kings and queens out there, especially those with parents who have access and knowledge of video taking and sharing, there is ALWAYS the personal Thank You video.  Cora got one of her wishes fulfilled when Grammy sent her matching outfits for her and her American Girl doll.  Within the hour, She had to put the outfits on both her and her doll, then pose for pictures, and showcase her gift and her appreciation via a short video taken on my smartphone and texted to Grammy.   Then we called her to make sure she got it, and they had a grand discussion.  YES, she will still be sending a Thank You card in the mail because these things mean a lot to Grammy.  But the immediate nature of communication these days offers a LOT of options ! 

Whereas, my teenage son won’t even let me take a picture of him.  What is up with that ??!!

PLEASE share your ideas for Holiday Thank You Methods with me as well !

Benefits of Beats for Babies and Beyond

Why do I need to spend time with my child focusing on Steady Beat?  There’s an old adage, “With age comes wisdom”.  And then there’s the comedy trailer, “… and sometimes age comes all by itself.”    The same is true for steady beat. 

Most people don’t understand its importance:  in an international study by the High/Scope Educational Research Foundation, the majority of 2,000 teachers and 5,000 parents indicated steady beat was only of moderate importance, and that no teaching was necessary for it to occur.  (Weikert, 1999)

BUT, a steady beat does not develop along with the ability to walk.  Just because we have a steady heartbeat does not mean everyone can match the beat of recorded music.  There are plenty of adults who don’t have this ability.  How many of you KNOW someone with “two left feet”?   It doesn’t mean they can’t learn it.  It just means they haven’t…  yet.     

Steady Beat, at any age, must be experienced fully.   And “developing a sufficient level of competence requires support from knowledgeable adults and plenty of opportunities for active engagement in targeted learning experiences.”  (Weikert, 2003)   In other words, get with someone who knows what they are doing, who can provide a wide variety of activities that can help that skill develop.

If this worries you as a parent (if you feel you have two left feet), be comforted.  For one – please realize that parents do not have to dance with a perfect beat, or sing with a perfect pitch.  Your joyful musical interactions with your child are beneficial across so many developmental realms – the musical benefit is just one of them.  Just KEEP making music with your child, even if you can’t “carry a tune in a bucket”, or you avoid skipping rope like it’s a snake!

In Kindermusik, a licensed educator facilitates the class, providing the “knowledgeable adult” who will help both you and your child to experience and develop this skill.  Even in class, we offer a variety of options, allowing each individual to find their own “best way” for beat development.   It’s never too late to learn !

So WHY is it so important to teach it to my child NOW?

Like learning a language, steady beat, rhythms and pitch of music are best learned through immersion at a young age.  As we talk, sing, and interact with our children throughout the day, they are naturally learning and using the same skills that are somewhat more difficult to learn later in life.   With each repeated steady beat activity in childhood, the early neural networks are laying a solid foundation upon which MUCH MORE information will be connected.   As the child is developing the concepts and skills, the benefits start working right away !

The consequence of insufficient steady beat experiences in early years can result in poor physical coordination, halting speech (in some cases, stuttering), and even weakness in thought flow. 

 So, really, how important is  steady beat competency?

Of course, there is the fact that a good steady beat is required for any musician to play an instrument effectively, as a soloist, or as part of a larger group of musicians;  and the sooner they learn it, the better.   Formal music instructors on any instrument, including the voice, can guide the child’s progress so much more effectively if the student has already have mastered steady beat.  Just ask a music educator.  You will get an earful.

But if someone is not planning to become a musician, how much does it really matter? 

Steady beat is an organizer for the child, purposeful and calming.

This skill is required for many physical abilities, both large motor skills, like walking, skipping, and bouncing a ball, as well as fine motor skills, like using a pair of scissors, or chopping vegetables quickly like a master chef. 

Because beat, rhythms and pitch are also a part of language, the addition of rhythmic and music experiences in their daily routines also supports the child’s development of speech, communication, and writing skills.  Actually, we KNOW that steady beat can help those who stutter to speak more clearly.   Some Scientists believe that a poor sense of rhythm could be the cause of dyslexia.  “Researchers concluded that an awareness of beats can influence the way young children assimilate speech patterns, which may in turn affect their reading and writing abilities.” These examples underscore the importance of steady beat in helping children make sense of their world and organize their responses.”  (Education Tuesday, 23 July 2002).

Feeling and moving to steady beat develops a sense of time, and the ability to organize and coordinate movements within time.   (A sense of time… what a great gift to give your child. )

The research carried out by High/Scope Educational Research Foundation (Timing in Child Development,  Kuhlman & Schweinhart, 1999) shows a positive correlation of steady beat to many academic and school skills, as well as physical coordination. 

“Standardized testing shows that children with steady beat independence are better readers and more successful in mathematics.  Further, teachers report that children with better abilities in steady beat are more well behaved in class and have less aggressive physical contact with other students.  Steady beat seems to help in these areas because it contributes to children’s ability to concentrate, to understand space and distance, and to have better control of their actions.”  (Weikert, 2003)

Wow !  All that can come from learning to keep a steady beat !?!   How can that be?

Well, let’s take a look at which basic skills are involved in developing true competence with steady beat:

They must LISTEN – intentionally listen – well enough to feel the beat in their head and in their body.  That, in itself, takes training.

They must OBSERVE – to watch closely enough to match the actions of others;  from the early stages of learning to keep a basic beat, to when they become involved with ensembles (playing music with others in a group).

They must CONTROL their movements, not just for a moment, but over time -coordinating their actions according to what they HEAR and SEE – repeatedly and consistently.

These are a fabulous set of skills to continually practice and develop for any aspect of life (and they do not necessarily develop in the natural course of aging.) 

Fascinating, isn’t it?   Now that you know WHY, let’s move on to WHAT &  HOW:

A Parent’s Guide to Beats and Rhythms –  includes games to help clarify these topics

Developmental Progression of Steady Beat – how the skill develops over time

The best teaching methods for parents to use, with links to a wide variety of ideas specific to each age group;  babies, walkers, preschoolers.

References

Insights on the value of music and steady beat  article by Phyllis S. Weikart   This article helped me round out a lot of my thoughts on this topic, and is referred to regularly in this review.  It is well worth your time to read the whole article, which also includes other musical skills such as pitch. http://www.childcareexchange.com/library/5015386.pdf

BBC News Education. (Tuesday, 23 July,2002). “Poor Rhythm ‘at heart of dyslexia’.“ pg. 1.

www.highscope.org/Research/Timing  Paper/timing study.htm

Weikart, D. P. (1999). What Should Young Children Learn? Teacher and Parent Views in 15 Countries. Ypsilanti, MI:  High/Scope Press.

A Parent’s Guide to Beats and Rhythms

For the non-musician, sometimes musical terms can be a second language.  For many parents, some terms may be familiar, especially with the brilliant musical teachings of The Little Einsteins (Thanks Disney).   But it might not be easy to explain it to someone else, much less understand these concepts well enough to help your child develop these skills, or to know why it is important to do so.

Before we start, I need to clarify that this is for the parents.  PLEASE don’t feel compelled to try to use words with children to explain these concepts.  From birth to around 5 – 6 years old, they must simply feel each of the concepts in their bodies.

 

What is Steady Beat?  

 Steady Beat is the most fundamental property of music

and life.

It is the underlying, unchanging, repeating pulse. 

We each have our own internal steady beat, our heartbeat.

“… it starts as a heartbeat, and sprouted a rhyme”    – Village Do-Si-Do

 

You may feel this as you tap your foot or dance to a piece of music.

To illustrate a steady beat, tap with each underlined syllable as you sing the song.

Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,

How I wonder what you are.

Up above the world so high,

Like a diamond in the sky

Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,

How I wonder what you are.

The taps should have continued at an even pace throughout the song.

 

Make it a GAME:  Let the child choose a favorite song.  The adults clap the steady beat while the child sings the song, or as you sing it together.  Once it becomes easy, try tapping the beat on your child’s back, or on the bottom of their feet.

There are LOTS of ways to experience and practice steady beat:  See my blog posting:  “Catching a Beat” with very young Children.

 

TEMPO

The steady beat of a particular song may be fast, or slow; this is called Tempo.

The tempo of the steady beat may even change during a song.

Physiologically, beats that are slower than the heartbeat calm the body, allowing it to slow down and relax.  Beats that are faster than the heartbeat engage the brain, getting it ready to learn, and engage the body, getting it ready to move.

Make it a GAME:  First, the child and adult should FEEL each other’s heartbeat.  Choose a favorite lullaby song, sing it together several times, or listen to the recording while rocking to the beat.   Then feel the heartbeat again. 

Do the same with a favorite upbeat song while “dancing” the way it makes you feel – sung or recorded.  Feel the heartbeat.  Wow ! 

 

How does Steady Beat relate to Rhythm Patterns & Melodic Rhythms?

Rhythm Patterns

Within the steady beat of most ALL music, there is steady underlying pattern of a stronger beat followed by less strong beats.  In music, these are often carried by the percussion instruments, and help to keep the rest of the musicians playing together.

 At the most basic level, our human perceptions often “recognize” rhythms in a series of identical sounds, such as dividing clock-ticks into “tick-tock-tick-tock”. 

That is a basic 2 beat pattern.

 

MOST popular music from the Western side of the world has a 4 beat pattern, including marching songs, and folk songs like 

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,           How I wonder what you are

    1             2              3          4                  1           2              3                4

 

Make it a GAME:  Holding your child, or holding their hand, step forward 4 steps with the beat of “Twinkle Twinkle”.  Then walk backwards on the next 4 beats.  Continue forward and back throughout the song.  Make it more fun by standing in front of a mirror watching yourselves.  Or march toward and away from another favorite adult who is making funny faces when you get close.  Got it?  Try it with another song.

 

Waltzes and many lullabies contain 3 beat patterns, and have more of a swooping feel, such as:

 “Rock -a-  Bye    Ba—- by,  In the tree    top———”

      1  –  2  –  3      1 – 2 – 3      1 – 2  –  3       1  –  2  –  3

Make it a GAME:  Standing and holding your child, sing “Rock-a-Bye Baby” while swaying side to side.  Start moving the opposite direction on each count of ONE.  Feel the swinging motion.  Once that feels natural, change the way you are moving.  Try swooping the baby up to one side, then down and up on the other side.

 

Musicians around the world have enjoyed working with these familiar rhythm patterns in new and different ways, as well as exploring unique patterns of strong and weak beats.   Cultural music from Africa often includes a variety of beat patterns even within the same song. 

 

Melodic Rhythms

follow the melody of the music,

it is the beat of the words in the song

that are unique within each measure of that underlying rhythm pattern.

To illustrate this, clap along with each syllable in these songs  (with the X): 

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star

    1         2          3          4  

   X     x     x     x    x   x   x

 

Notice that sometimes you clap TWICE for each beat (twink-le)

 

“Rock -a-  Bye    Ba—- by,  In the tree    top———”

      1  –  2  –  3      1 – 2 – 3    1 – 2  –  3       1  –  2  –  3

      x  –  x  –  x       x – — – x    x – x  –  x        x ———–

Sometimes you DON’T clap along with the steady beat (top).

 

These rhythms are unique within each set of beats.

A melody is a combination of pitch and rhythm, and is sung with the voice,

or played with a melodic instrument.

Nursery rhymes are basically melodic rhythms without pitch.

 Make it a GAME:  Find a book full of nursery rhymes.   Tap along with each syllable as you chant the rhyme.  The fun is to find new ways to tap.  Tap on different parts of the child’s body.  Tap on an upside down cooking pot.  Use a stick to tap on a tambourine as the child holds onto it.  Tap on the table of the high chair they are sitting in.        

For older children, play “Name That Rhyme” using just the beats of the words.  To make it easier for preschoolers, just make it a choice between TWO familiar rhymes that are in the book.  This makes it more concrete.

Experiencing beats and rhythms, repeatedly, in new and different ways,

is the best way to build a foundation for these skills.

 

Every class of Kindermusik is filled with beats and rhythms: in the rich recorded music, in the songs we sing together, in the Hello song we sing for each child, in the lap bounces that make us giggle, with the instruments we play, in the circle dances we share… in so many ways.

Kindermusik makes it easy and fun.  Come join us.

 

Find out WHY this is important for a child to learn at such a young age.

Learn about the developmental progression of steady beat.

Learn about the best teaching methods to help your child progress

Explore LOTS of ideas for each of these age group:  babies, walkers, preschoolers.

 

How do you share beat and rhythm experiences with your child?

Developmental progression of Steady Beat

Help your child develop a Steady Beat

Learning to keep a steady beat is more about ability than age, because you can improve this ability at any age.  And it always starts with experiencing it fully FIRST.  But during the earliest years, there are developmental milestones that must be met in order to progress to the next level.  It is important to understand the basic progression that a child goes through to develop a steady beat during the first 7 years of life

The ability to react to the beat in music is an important learning process.  This beat is basically a walking pulse.  Many young children are able to steadily tap to an “inner beat”.   Yet they may have difficulty changing their “inner beat” to correspond to the pulse of music or a drumbeat.  Encourage, but don’t impose an external beat too early, it may result in tension, resistance, or loss of confidence in their abilities.  Experience it, and Encourage practicing a beat in a variety of ways (see the linked posts for each specific age group).  Realize that children will progress through these developmentally appropriate stages as they grow and develop their abilities: 

#1        First a child must  experience a steady beat.  They can feel the steady beat by having someone tapping on their knees (or a variety of body parts).  Sing, play music with a strong beat.  “Catch” the beat with their hands on yours while you sing.  This is pretty much what is appropriate for a baby before they are comfortable with walking.  Even as they begin to gain abilities, it is good to continue to just EXPERIENCE it repetitively.  There are plenty of ways to continue experiencing this all the way through their elementary years.

#2  Watch for Repetitive Movements, like hand clapping, tapping a chair like a drum, tapping Dad’s head like a drum.  Sing or dance along AS IF they have the best steady beat that makes you move.  For babies, the focus is the joy of making the sound, as they are not able to keep a steady beat yet.  But they can still experience it through your interactions.

#3  Around 1 ½ to 2 years old, start your own beat and verbally encourage them to imitate different ways to keep a beat. With your hands over theirs, start the beat… but remove hands after a few beats.   Encourage them to continue throughout a short song or piece of music with a good steady beat.  We are only encouraging continued movement, and looking for signs of the next step.

#4  –  Have them walk or march (without recorded music), and watch carefully for their “inner beat”.  It usually is more apt to occur first with these large motor movements.  Then will progress to using their hands.  Imitate their beat with your own hand movements, drum, sticks, or tongue clicks, and keep the same pace while singing a familiar rhyme or song to their own “inner” beat.  

Expand on this by practicing with variety of hand movements and body movements.  Take enough time to process even just one movement for a whole “short” song.  This repetition is necessary for their development.

#5  While singing, practice with percussion instruments – continuing to match their inner beat.   AFTER they have mastered a steady “inner” beat with their hands and body, is a great time to start working on steady beat with an instrument.  Until then, when they play an instrument, the focus is to explore how to make sounds with that object.

#6 –  Once they feel confident with their “inner” beat, encourage them to slow down their beat, or speed up their beat.  Then finally, encourage them to Match YOUR steady beat.  “Watch my hands and try to tap your knees at the same time as my hands”.  Praise any effort on their part to watch your hands, or if they try to adjust what they are doing.  They don’t have to be perfect to make progress. 

#7 – Eventually, they will be able to keep a beat with recorded music, and practice the beat with movements and non-pitched instruments.  Just so you know, that doesn’t usually happen until around 3 – 4 years old.  But those children with more guidance and experience in their life are likely to develop it sooner.    It is a major focus of our Kindermusik Imagine That program for preschoolers.

#8  And finally, they will be able to keep a steady beat to play simple accompaniments on melodic (pitched)  instruments, ie. xylophones.  These are skills we work on with the 5 – 7 year olds in the Kindermusik for the Young Child program.

One of the most popular postings on this blog offers some of the best teaching techniques for parents while “Catching A Steady Beat with very Young Children”.

For a wide variety of ideas of steady beat activities for a specific age, see the following posts:  Any of the ideas for the younger children can also be used for older children (if it captures and engages them).

Ways to Catch a Beat with Babies

Ways to Catch a Beat with Walkers

Ways to Catch a Beat with Preschoolers

America The Beautiful Helps Children Connect

Do you and your children get tingles of pride when you see a large flag waving in the wind, or hear the national anthem, or sing “America, the Beautiful” together?   I DO, I proudly put my hand over my heart and often get tears in my eyes as I watch the flag parade by.  I cherish the freedom  available in our country, appreciate the sacrifices of  the veterans and families that helped us achieve it, and recognize our personal responsibilities to maintain it.  And I am doing my best to help my children feel the same feelings of pride and connection.  I want them to visualize for themselves the “spacious skies”, and “purple mountain majesties”.

This video of “America, The Beautiful” allows the viewer to see snippets of the beauty of this country while listening to a grand chorus which helps build this feeling of awe and wonder.  This version also includes the lyrics  throughout the video so all can sing along.

 

The song, “America, the Beautiful” is a perfect simple song, with an appropriate vocal range, to help children FEEL the pride of their country.  It is short and slow enough to sing well at a young age, allowing them to mentally visualize the many aspects of the lyrics.  

And when the many voices of a family sing it at the same time, it helps build emotional bonds in the child that helps them know they BELONG… with their family, and with their country.  This is critical to the emotional health of every child… every person.  It also helps our children establish the kind of respect for their natural world that will inspire them to help maintain this healthy beauty far  into the future.

During this last two weeks, my family has froliced in the new spring flowers and romped in knee deep snow at Angel Lake in Nevada, taken a tour of an underground wonderland (Timpanogas Cave), floated and bumped down the Colorado River, and hiked to exquisite red rock arches and formations in SouthEastern Utah.  Yesterday, we went horseback riding in the mountains of Northern Utah.   We are a little sore and achy, but love the connections we have made, with family, with nature, and with our beautiful world.

Many of the treasures of our nation, and of nature in general, can be experienced with a minimal budget.  Just go outside, try some new nature activities, find out the “national treasures” that are near you, and explore our wonderful world.  I will be sharing some fun ideas for nature activities, and family sing a long songs through Facebook and Twitter, so LIKE my FB Page, and follow @debbiemondale on Twitter, and join in the conversation.  I’d LOVE to hear how YOUR family makes the beauty of our country come alive.