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?

Enjoy a StoryWalk in Downtown Lakeland

Can you and your young children WALK and READ at the same time???  Of course you can, on a special StoryWalk™.   I’m setting one up in Downtown Lakeland for the month of June, for your family’s enjoyment.  Since it is in the store windows, it costs nothing, and you can even go when the stores aren’t even open.   Try some of the activity ideas on each page, then head to the next store.

Every month, since before my son was born, I read the Family Fun magazine cover to cover, and we are often inspired to create some family fun !  The May issue inspired me to create a StoryWalk™ for downtown Lakeland with one of my Kindermusik books.  

The original StoryWalk™ Project was created by Anne Ferguson of Montpelier, VT and developed in collaboration with the Vermont Bicycle & Pedestrian Coalition and the Kellogg-Hubbard Library.  Find out more at http://kellogghubbard.org/storywalk.html

The idea is that separate pages of a children’s book are posted along a path.  To promote a healthy exercise activity, and the fun of reading, families can accompany their young children along the path, walking and reading along. 

For the month of June, we will feature Pete and PJ, a fun story about a boy and his dog who get dirty playing in the mud, BUT are HAPPY to enjoy a bath to clean up.   Each page of the story ends with the fun phrase “Wishy Washy, Wishy Washy, Wishy Washy, Weee!”, and while chanting it, the readers swish their hands together to the beat, then raise their hands up in the air on Wheee!  There are also some fun activity ideas for the story part on each page that the readers can enjoy on the spot.

There are 8 pages of the book which are located at some fabulous downtown businesses.   The list below has them in order, and includes a link to their website (if they have one) and a brief point of fact.

Click HERE for a map of Downtown Lakeland.

Start at The General Store.  Go in and get a bookmark guide.  This bookmark will include ALL the locations, and some contact information.  Or copy and print the following information:

KI logo

    StoryWalk  featuring Pete & PJ

1)       The General Store,      125 S. Kentucky Ave.      Groceries, Sundries, and Memories.    Make sure and say HI to Ms. Terisa and Sparky when you get your bookmark !    IBC Cream Soda …  Mmmmm !

2)      Paint Along Studios,     123 S. Kentucky Ave.     Their  Kids Kamps this summer looks like a lot of fun !

3)      Tougie Baby  (NEW)     121 S. Kentucky Ave.      A new store featuring specialty clothes and items for your babies  (She’s only been open 3 weeks !)

4)      Nathan’s Men’s Store   221 E. Main Street         A classic traditional men’s (as well as the best local Cub Scout & Boy Scout) store

5)      Black and Brew              205 E. Main Street         Coffee House and Bistro  (I LOVE their Ginsing Peppermint Tea – ICED !)

6)      Main Street Creamery  128 E. Main Street         Old fashioned ice cream shop (a great lunch too).

7)      Explorations V                109 N. Kentucky Ave.     Three floors of hands-on Children’s Museum FUN.  I got an annual membership when I moved here 12 years ago, and have renewed every year since.  It is THAT worth it !

8)      Palace Pizza   (last page)   114 S. Kentucky Ave.         The best pizza in town (in my opinion) !       

If you are reading this posting before you go, you may want to bring a few things just to make it a more concrete experience(optional, of course), a washcloth, a bath towel, maybe a bubble jar, and possibly a stuffed (or real) pet dog.  Walk, read, talk, sing, pretend, move, and have a good time together. 

This book, “Pete and PJ” by Cindy Bousman and Susan James,  is featured in several of our upcoming Kindermusik programs.

  • a Kindermusik Playdate called Tub Tunes,
  • our Music and Art Family Classes called “Splash” this June,
  • and our Fall Semester of Our Time called “Wiggles and Giggles” includes the book in the home materials.

On each of the story pages posted in the store windows, there will be:

  • Which page it is, out of the total number of pages
  • Fun activities to enjoy while reading that page,
  • Creative ideas to make it musical !
  • Which store will have the next page, and a suggested way to move to get there. 

It may look silly as you enjoy the activities, but your children will LOVE it, and may want to do this repeatedly.  The cool part is that the stores don’t have to be open to enjoy this StoryWalk, it is ALL in the windows.  It’s like a literary treasure hunt.

To enhance THIS StoryWalk with music, go to www.play.kindermusik.com  and download the song called “Wishy Washy Wee!” off of the Bake, Build, Sing and Scrub album.  It is a fun song to sing along with the repetitive phrase in the book .  You may also want to download “Sailor Scrub”, which is perfect music for marching, or gliding, or stomping, to the next location.  If you are new to this site, you get 10 free credits to use, making these FREE downloads !

Upon completing the StoryWalk, contact us at InTune Studios and you will receive a coupon for a FREE music, art, or Kindermusik class.

We are loaded with fun, creative ways to enjoy your family time.  Check out our Music and Art Summer Camps and Workshops.  Some are for families, some are for big kids.   Our #1 focus is to provide such a quality experiences that the creative juices just START to flow, letting open the flood gates, and you will see your children riding the tide long after classes are over.

Once you’ve enjoyed the STORYWALK, please share your thoughts!   Do you like it downtown?  Do you have other suggested locations?  Is it the right distance for walking with your family?   Are you enjoying the book and activities?   I’m here listening, to my comments here, on Facebook, and on Twitter.  I look forward to hearing from you.

Stopping, Trading, Taking Turns, and Waiting

Does your child have the ability to stop on cue?  How about the ability to wait patiently to take a turn with a desired toy or object?  How about the ability to see ONE marshmallow in front of them, and wait awhile WITHOUT eating it, in order to get TWO marshmallows upon your return? 

I can wait. They won't be late. For I am GREAT... at WAITING !

 

Your child’s ability to successfully master these inhibitory control tasks are a significant factor in their future success, in some ways even more of an indicator of their future success than their academic abilities. 

These are skills that a child can gain through positive practice, and is one of the most fundamental ways that parents can set their children up for future success, in whatever they choose to do.   Start young, and it will be a natural part of their personality.  But whatever the age, start !

Let’s examine several aspects of Inhibitory Control, and see how the Marshmallow Test is an indicator of the ability for Delayed Gratification, as skill necessary for success in life.

Inhibitory Control is the ability to control your own actions.  It is the “ability to resist a strong inclination to do one thing and instead to do what is most appropriate or needed. Instead of reacting with what is on the mind at that moment, the child has to stop or inhibit that inclination and enact something else.”  (Metropolitan State College of Denver – see article.)

STOP ON CUE:  In Kindermusik classes, children even as young as one year old, are exposed to activities where we move for awhile, then STOP on cue.  With babies, they are simply in mom’s arms when they first experience it.  They like it, and come to anticipate it.    As they get older, we also teach children to use sign language for STOP when they stop (it really helps).  I’ve seen children as young as 16 months old effectively SIGN and STOP at the appropriately time in the activity – right on CUE !  We practice this regularly throughout our core curriculum (0-7 yrs) in lots of different ways, with our bodies, using instruments, using props such as scarves, or even with balls (one of the hardest).

Being able to THINK BEFORE YOU ACT:  Young babies often grab toys from each other even without a reaction.  But once they start to grasp the concept of MINE (because I am holding it), they get upset if it is taken away.  In Kindermusik, one of the strategies we start teaching is the concept of trading.  In order to get one object, the person should offer another object in exchange, an example of one of the more socially acceptable ways of getting something that is desired.  Of course, this is an abstract concept for babies, so we just help them go through the movements to experience it, and they can see it does help with the interactions with other babies (less crying).  As they get older, with enough practice, they cognitively start to realize the need to consider others reactions before they act. 

TURN TAKING:  It is soooo hard to wait for a turn to handle a desired object.  One of the best ways to get a child to want to play with something is to pick it up and start playing with it yourself.  (This is a parenting trick which plays on their natural reactions.)   Starting at around 18 months, we start offering opportunities to WAIT PATIENTLY for a turn to handle a desired object.  It is best to use activities that have a specified limit on the time for each turn, such as a song.  When the song is over, it is the next person’s turn.

Here’s an example, in the Our Time class, we use a set of resonator bars to play along with a song “Sweetly Sings the Donkey”.  Only one set of resonator bars is presented.  It is hard enough to wait while the teacher plays an example.   The children are instructed to sit on their parents lap in order to get a turn to play the instruments.  Parents are provided ideas on how to get their child engaged with the activity in their own way as they WAIT for their turn.  In this manner, parents are helping their child practice skills that can help them wait. 

At first, it requires parent assistance, and working with a child to find strategies that work best for each child specifically.  Hopefully at some point, they will start to be able to use the same skills themselves in situations where an adult is not present.   

This leads to success in what is called DELAYED GRATIFICATION, the ability to forgo an immediate pleasure or reward in order to gain a more substantial one later.  The ability to do this effectively increases as children get older.  Having the opportunity to practice effective waiting strategies regularly will increase this ability even more.  As will a child’s ability to focus on the FUTURE, more than on the PRESENT.  The ability to delay gratification is often a sign of emotional and social maturity.

The MARSHMALLOW TEST is a classic study that tests a child’s ability to delay gratification.  It studies the strategies that helped children wait, and follows them through to adulthood and measures their success as young adults.  Not surprisingly, those who were more successful with this delayed gratification test ended up more successful in life.  (The New Yorker Article  “Don’t !  The secret to self control” is a LONG but FASCINATING article presenting the details of this study in depth.)

In this test, children were placed by themselves in a room with a table, a chair, and a marshmallow on a plate in front of them.  They were told they could eat the marshmallow if they wanted to, but if they waited until the researcher returned, they would get TWO marshmallows.  Through prestudies, they found that children 3 years old and younger had little ability to wait.  But starting around 4 years old, there were some who could.  So the initial test, by Stanford psychology professor Walter Mischel 40 years ago, involved only 4 year olds.  Two out of three children were not able to wait.  But 1/3 of them did.  The videos capturing their reactions while alone are priceless !     

Get the basics of the study, and global implications, in this video of a wonderful short lecture by Joachim de Posada:

For some belly laughs, watch the Mature Marshmallow Test with adults. 

How would YOUR child fare in this test?  This fun article tells How to Give the Marshmallow Test.      (This is recommended for children over 4 years old and older.)  PLEASE read the directions fully and NOTE that the results of your child’s test is not an indicator of future success, but rather an observation of their current skill level with these abilities.

Musical activities are an excellent way for a child to learn self control, and to occupy themselves while waiting, through finger plays, singing songs or rhymes, creative movement, and imaginative storytelling.  Parents can help their child gain these skills by practicing these activities during WAITING times, like in line at the grocery store.   What strategies would your child use to WAIT for a 2nd marshmallow?

If you choose to implement this test with your child, PLEASE post your comments here !  If possible, include a video of your child while they are waiting.

Scaffolding with Animal pretend play

 

A child is on the floor, on all fours, looks up at an adult with eager eyes, and barks. Mom responds, “I see that I have a new puppy in the house ! I heard your loud bark. I see your eager eyes. It looks like the puppy wants something.”   The child considers what a dog would want, and creates ways to express what the dog would want without using words.

Children LOVE to pretend to be animals. Even children younger than 18 months old are acute observers of the world, and begin to imitate what they see how others… or other ANIMALS… act . WATCH ! and when you see these imitations, let it develop into a learning experience. … HOW?

FIRST, specifically describe what the child is doing, with a focus on “I see you…” This not only encourages the child’s sense of self and confidence in their abilities, but it also helps increase their language skills and vocabulary, by giving them words for what they are doing and feeling.

Then encourage them to expand, lead them to consider what else a puppy would do. “It looks like the puppy wants to play. What shall we do today, puppy?” Again, continue to describe their actions, interpreting for their “animal language”. Play along as the puppy’s owner, asking what the puppy needs to be happy. These are open ended questions that help guides their imagination, and allows them to remain the creative “leader” of this playful activity.

If they need some further encouragement, (some are too young to know the options, some are overwhelmed with the many options) ask simple choice questions, like “Is the puppy begging for a scratch behind the ear, or does he want his belly rubbed?” Or if there is time, “Would the puppy like to go for a walk, or play ball in the back yard?” Then it becomes easy for them to decide, and can become creative again once they get started that direction.

After a bit of open play, it may be wonderful to learn more about that type of animal, through active observation of your own pet (describing what they are doing) or reading a book featuring their favorite animal, or singing a song about that animal that includes the animal doing some of the typical things that animal does.

This will help them expand their knowledge of options for that animal, which will be fun to include during the next play session. Will they bring this new action into the play themselves? Or will you gently add that in through a choice question? During each new play session, WATCH to see what the child will ADD that is NEW for them. It is amazing how quickly they can learn so much about an animal they are interested in.

Through imitating animal movements, children are developing their gross motor skills, which can be incorporated into creative problem solving.  Through imitating animal sounds, children give their speech and language skills a work out, improving their articulation and creative sound making abilities.    This often leads to increasing their ability to communicate without using words, learning to use facial expressions and gestures to get their point across.  It is fun to watch and video tape, and keep around so that you can embarras them in their teenage years…   and keep it in your memories for a lifetime.

Pretend Play develops over time through a specific set of steps, and according to the experiences that child has. One of my previous blog postings “A Parents Guide to the Stages of Pretend Play” goes through those stages specifically in a more formal way.

But today is a good day to just get in a few good ideas and enjoy animal play with your young child. My next few blogs will contain some fun SONGS and RESOURCES that are about specific animals, which you can USE in your fun play. PLEASE feel free to ADD your thoughts about books, songs, rhymes, and simple PLAY ideas for our young “animal” friends.

In the Fiddle Dee Dee semester of Kindermusik Our Time, we are fully exploring lots of animals, the ways they move, the sounds, they make, and the things they LIKE and DO.  We are in the midst of enjoying rhymes, songs, and stories encouraging interactive animal play.   If you’d like to visit a class, check out www.kindermusik.com, to find a class near you.

If you are already part of MY Kindermusik class, or the class of another teacher… TELL ME…  which animals would YOU like to see the focus on in future blog postings.  My current schedule is to address DOGS, MICE, and PIGS – in that order.

I must end by sharing a story.  One of my best friends daughter, and her cousin, were enthralled with squirrels.  They pretended to be squirrels regularly throughout an entire YEAR !  With squirrel next “forts” in the living room, short tree climbing, and halloween costumes, they explored every aspect of being a squirrel.   They LEARNED so much about squirrels, and developed life skills and passions through their pursuit.

Which animal does YOUR child like to pretend to be?

A Parent’s Guide to the Stages of Pretend Play

Experience…  Imitate…  Recognize…  Connect… Pretend… Engage… Solve problems… Expand mental images… Create…

I see these as the developmental stages, and concurrent developmental benefits, of pretend play.  Although the progression is from younger to older, from simple to complex, they may occur at any age, and at differing levels for different subject matter.  Observation will help determine where your child’s stage may be, and the examples show good ways to help them benefit from that stage fully – which is necessary before they move to the next stage.

This is a brain storm that has been brewing in my head for weeks, esp. as I watched children expanding on pretend ideas in their costumes, and is finally drizzling its way out into words at midnight, and is somewhat based on research over time, and is somewhat limited to my own brain’s way of synthesizing things.  This is for PARENTS enjoying and supporting their child’s growing abilities.  It is NOT a precise summary based on specific research.   So please feel free to add, or correct, or comment.  I’d love to know your perspective. 

Experience:  The ability to interact with the original REAL OBJECT.

A young baby feels a real tree, and crunches the leaves with his feet and hands, while Mommy uses words to describe what is seen, heard, and felt, and sings a song about leaves.  “Autumn leaves are falling down, falling, falling, falling down…”   Mommy and baby will throw the leaves in the air and watch them fall.  These CONCRETE (REAL to the TOUCH) experiences are CRITICAL for a child to develop of BASE of knowledge, building a foundation of neural connections in the brain from which all continued development will come.  So, Parents, give your baby EVERY OPPORTUNITY to experience as much of what is REAL as possible.  Learning from books and video representations have their place, but nothing can replace the learning gained from touching and exploring what is REAL.

Imitate:  The ability to copy what another is doing.

A baby must first fully observe – carefully and repeatedly watch and listen, in order to create the same sound, or movement of another person.    Babies and great actors are masters at this.   A baby watches a leaf fall gently from a tree, then mommy raises her hand and pretends to let it float down, while saying “swishy-swish, ooooh.”  After watching MANY repetitions, a baby may start to imitate these sounds and actions.  They are trying to understand the world around them, and how it works – through another’s eyes, and through trying to recreate it. 

Recognize:   The ability to see something as something else.

At home, Mommy cuts up pieces of colorful paper, and lets them float down to her baby, singing the same song.  (We do this in the Village class!)   At first Baby imitates without understanding, but through repetition with both real and substitute objects, a baby begins to recognize that one object can substitute for another object.  This is the beginning of pretend play.   It is also the beginning of understanding language – how a word can mean an object or an action.

Connect:  The ability to see relationships between objects or ideas.

At some point, the child begins to see that the tree and the leaf belong together, even if they are not attached.   They may pick up a leaf and try to put it back on the tree, and may be confused why it won’t stay there.   They are happy to have a few torn pieces of colorful paper to “attach” to a tree trunk drawn on a piece of paper.  Then letting them all fall off, and starting again.  The brain THRIVES on making connections such as these, expanding and expanding on their knowledge based on concrete (real to the touch) experiences.

Mom can also start the process with an apple – fully experiencing a real apple, showing how it comes from a tree, and providing red circles to add to our pretend tree and leaves.   “Shake, shake the apple tree; apples red and juicy.  One for you… One for me.  Shake, shake the apple tree.”

Pretend:  The ability to create actions based on a mental image of something that is not currently present.

It is fascinating to see when imitations occur spontaneously – when an adult is not actively engaged.  They are starting to generate the mental image of when mom did it, and to imitate when their brain chooses to, rather than when someone else is encouraging them to.  I was so delighted when I saw my son pretending to sleep and snore for the first time.  I KNOW what a great leap this is in development. 

It is often fun to “BE” the object when this begins to occur.  At first, the mental image is just of the tree and a few objects connected to it.  The child loves to stand still and hold a ball in each hand, pretending to be the tree, and to have Dad “shake the tree” while singing, then pick up the apples, sharing one for each, and pretending to eat the apples.  Pretend play at this stage is based in reality, and involves props that can be held.

A few years ago, a wonderful mom was spurred by the emergence of her daughter’s ability to pretend, and who wanted to BE an APPLE TREE.  So mom designed a Tree Trunk costume for her to wear, with leaves and apples that were attached to the tree.   These kind of props lead to extended pretend play, and to further levels of pretend play.

There are LOTS of stages in this particular process, from these first stages of spontaneous imitation, to full mental images of a tree and the space in which it grows as well as objects and characters that are connected to it.  I won’t be presenting all the levels in order, but the following are extensions of pretend play.

Engage:  The ability to include others in creating abstract scenarios.

The first time a child offers Mom, or a doll, a spoonful of applesauce that is not actually on the spoon, the pretend play is expanding outside themselves.  Whoop !  Now you are in trouble – they want to play with you ALL the time.  Parents that take the time to let go of the rest of life for a few moments, and immerse themselves in this pretend play offer their child and themselves extensive benefits of expansion, cooperation, and connection.   The child recognizes their ideas are worth your time, and parents can lead the child into new levels of play. 

Parents can actually lead them into more independent play by expanding on the steps involved, and in developing more character roles.   Use their dolls and/or stuffed animals as friends they can be included in their play.  “Benny the giraffe can shake the apples on the top of the tree, while Sammy, the squirrel, gathers them, and Edda, the elephant helps squish the apples into applesauce.”  Don’t you wish you had that much help?  This may also help them identify the “properties” of the different characters, to recognize their strengths and how to use them wisely.  Eventually, a parent can encourage them to continue the play with their host of characters, take a bit of a break, then return later to see how the play is coming along.

Solve Problems:   The ability to mentally go through a series of solutions to come up with a suitable solution.

Siblings and friends are excellent companions for pretend play, and can help expand their perceptions of a scenario – perhaps they like oranges and orange juice better.  When peers are involved, opinions and feelings may differ, which offers the opportunity to cooperate and solve problems.  “I like apples, but Sally likes oranges.  What can we do to make this play work for everyone?”

Friends or parents, or the child themselves, may also bring up new ideas for play that require problem solving.  For example, pretending to climb up into the tree, “How are we going to get UP there?” – engage them in a conversation of possibilities and how they think each one would work.  Go outside and try a few.  Are the branches easy to reach?  Is it as easy to climb a rope as once thought?  What would make it easier?   These concrete experiences can later help them visualize these solutions and apply them to other situations.  

Of course, some of their solutions may be a bit fantastic and unrealistic, and mentally imagining all sorts of solutions is encouraged.  There are many things real now that were never considered an option before, and that is because the mental images for some folks expanded beyond what they could see as “realistic” solutions.

Expand mental imaging:  The ability to mentally SEE more of the scene of the object and/or idea.

Their abilities to expand their mental images can be enhance by adding new dimensions to the play, like pretending to climb a tree and explore what can be seen (or heard)  IN the tree, and AROUND the tree.  There is a great Kindermusik song for the preschoolers for this kind of play, “I like to climb up in my treehouse… to see what I can see.”   This is fun to do with several children, because they will learn from each other, and expand on each other’s ideas, and help each other solve problems,  “I SEE… a spider – I’m scared!  What should I do?”    Whereas,  “I SEE… a nest ” – opens up all kinds of conversations, and further mental images. 

Create:  The ability to use a variety of objects and/or ideas in creative ways to develop something unique.

When a child has built a strong foundation of understanding an object or idea in soooo many ways, they may then be able to synthesize all of their explorations into more complex scenarios, and sequenced story play.  A child may collect pretend (or real) materials to “build a treehouse”, invite his friends (real or stuffed) to play and explore, and to protect the nest of eggs until they are hatched and the little baby birds learn to fly.   An older child may actually take a branch from a real tree, design and build a “treehouse” in it, and use objects to represent herself and household objects while creating a variety of scenarios and stories of what it would be like to actually LIVE in a tree.

Children who have been surrounded by music and songs up to this point will often make up their own songs that relate to their pretend play.  Parents can invite and encourage this addition.  This is expanding their ability to create –words into sentences about their play, and to create a melody that matches the words and is pleasing to them.  It doesn’t have to be on pitch, or even make sense, just enjoy the wonder of their processing.

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Isn’t the process fascinating ?!  Specialists in child development are probably going through this and thinking of all the things I left out.  As a matter of fact, after I wrote this, I looked up some better resources online and found an excellent article that gets into actual research and description about the stages of pretend play – Different stages of pretend play and how they relate to language development , very interesting and well written, but not necessarily consolidated succinctly for parents.

 I hope this overview of mine (certainly not original ideas, but maybe just the way it is presented) helps parents be able to easily see and recognize where their child IS in their PRETEND PLAY development, and how to interact with their child to help build their abilities at each stage. 

 I recommend regular scaffolding procedures (like we use in Kindermusik class), adapted to pretend play situations:

OBSERVE, using words to identify what is observed:  Watch your child to see evidence of pretend play (initiated on their own), and at what stage they may be.  Specifically describe what you see, and ask them to describe it if they can.  “That apple just fell off your tree, and you picked it up and tasted it to see how juicy it was.  Tell me more…”  

IMITATE:  With or without words, make the same motions as the child, bringing yourself into their world, accepting their world as an OK place to be.

ENHANCE:  Ask open ended questions to encourage their ability to come up with NEW ways to explore or play.  “What else can you see up in the tree?”  “Who else do you think might live in the tree?”   “An apple grows on a tree.  What else grows on a tree?  What can we do with that?”  After exploring some of their responses, then parents can make one or two more suggestions they hadn’t thought of yet, and expand on those ideas.  Next time you play, recognize if they bring up these new topics on their own.

ENJOY the process of pretend play as it develops in your child.  If you’d like ongoing ideas and songs to help in this process at each age and stage, get ideas from Kindermusik International, and/or get involved in a class (see website).  If you already are, YEA ! – you are taking steps everyday to make your child’s play as enriching as possible.  Kindermusik is NOT required to enhance your child’s development through music, but it SURE makes it  EASY and FUN !

Got questions?  Please ask.  

                Got a story?  Please tell. 

                             Beg to differ?  Let’s hear it.      

                                           I LOVE a good conversation !  Here or on FB.

Music and Movement – Why we move to learn

Kindermusik for Young Child  Semester 4 – Wk 8

 

In Kindermusik we cover a large amount of material concerning music terminology, pitches, songs, composers, playing instruments, etc. Meanwhile, we never forget the importance of movement! Just today we continued to dance while singing “Bow Wow Wow” and also incorporated a fun movement game into an up/down listening activity.  In listening for pitches that go higher or lower in steps (one note to the one next to it) or leaps (to one farther away), the children were asked to move up or down in small or large increments.  This is a fun activity to try at home.

“Movement is the essential ingredient of space perception…. By observing his own body and the relationship among objects in space to parts of his body, [the child] relates himself to the space outside himself….” (Dance and Grow, by Betty Rowen, p. 57.)

 Also, movement in activities such as listening for ascending or descending pitches brings a different type of understanding (a kinesthetic understanding) to an auditory concept.

To ‘pin down’ a thought, there must be movement.  A person may sit quietly to think, but to remember a thought an action must be used to anchor it.  We must materialize it with words.  When I write, I am making connections with thought by moving my hand… Talking is very much a sensory motor skill…  

Recent research is helping to explain how movement directly benefits the nervous system.  Muscular activities, particularly coordinated movements, appear to stimulate the production of neurotrophins, natural substances that stimulate the growth of nerve cells and increase the number of neural connections in the brain.”  (Smart Moves, by Carla Hannaford, pgs. 98-102.)

Literary Notes:

Smart Moves  If you want to read a great book that describes the importance of movement in the learning process, I  HIGHLY recommend “Smart Moves” by Carla Hannaford.  There is fascinating information in that book, based on extensive research, which she lists, and is written in a way that makes it very understandable.  She talks a lot about the development of neural connections in the brain, and how movement is KEY to developing strong connections, and a foundation for further learning.  It also talks about movements that help your left and right brain hemispheres to work together.

Awakening the Child Heart  I have also read her new book “Awakening the Child Heart”, which takes her theories a step farther than the nuts and bolts of the body’s hardwiring.  It’s a bit more philosophical, and I do recommend reading “Smart Moves” first.  But if you are up for a book that will make you really stop and think about human beings and how integrated our body systems are – and how even little things make such a difference – pick that one.  From Carla, to me, to you:  I wish you Coherence.

Kindermusik Our Time – Wk 6 – “This Little Piggy” book

“The greatest pleasures of reading consist in re-reading.” (
Vernon Lee) Today you and your child went home with a brand new book, This Little Piggy Played the Fiddle. I am sure that you will be reading, re-reading, and re-re-reading this book all week! For adults, re-reading brings the opportunity to ponder, catch nuances and remember details. Children, although at a different level and pace, also benefit from re-reading. Their “need” to re-read is evidenced by requests to “read it again.” Although their need is a subconscious one, it is important because it takes repetition to solidify learning. So as you re-read This Little Piggy Played the Fiddle, try these interesting variations:  

  • Make sounds for each of the instruments mentioned.

         Fiddle – zin, zing, or ziggle, ziggle

         Drum – boom-bam, rum-pum-pum, bomp, rat-a-tat-tat

         Whistle – pick a favorite tune to “tweet”  (a young child’s whistle)

         Hum – ask them to hum their favorite tune, then guess what it is

  • Help your child name each little piggy.

– Can name them by colors, or names that rhyme with their musical-ness

  • Make up a tune to go along with the words.

– I like the melody from Joe Scruggs, “The Last Little Piggy”  ***

  • Encourage your child to use her finger to “follow” the bee !!!!!

         Great for eye hand coordination

         Also builds awareness of moving through space in specific ways

  • Read the book while doing the traditional “toe wiggle.”
  • Make up five more “this little piggy” ideas for five more toes.
  • Talk about what the other animals might be doing, and how the piggy’s are going through their day.  Make up your own story about the piggy’s day, by filling in details about:  who, where, why, what, when, and how.
  • Or… create your own variations.

I hope you enjoy your book!