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?

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.

Bunny Rabbits – Funny Habits

 

Hiding in the grass

 Bunnies just look soooo cuddly that it is a natural  impulse to want to pick them up and hug them.  Luckily we have a lot of stuffed animals for little children to do just that.   Wild rabbits are actually very timid creatures (some children can really relate to them), and it is fun to explore their unique habits through a variety of rhymes, songs, stories, and activities.  (It may also share with some children how timid and shy creatures still live very happy lives.)  These are some of my favorites offered by a variety of authors and sources, including Kindermusik, and a few of my own.

Personally, my favorite Easter icon is the egg  (see my eggcellent egg post).  But, this is the semester we move like, sound like, act like, and celebrate ANIMALS, and the animal of the day is the BUNNY RABBIT!Enjoy the activities that work best for your family.  AND SHARE with me some of YOUR Favorites too.   I do hope you have a wonderful Easter !

                                                DESCRIBE the BUNNY

 I’m a Little Bunny   by Jan Brennen
(Sung to “I’m a Little Teapot”)   Take time for the actions with your child.

I’m a Little Bunny, in a field I lie,               (curl up on the floor like a rabbit)
Here is my nose, and here are my eyes.   (point to body parts)
Here’s a bushy tail that likes to wiggle,     (wiggle tail area)
Tickle me and I might giggle.                         (… just do it !)

I’m a Little Bunny, soft and sweet,              ( front “paws” pet each other)
Here are my ears, and here are my feet.   (touch body parts)
When I’m in the garden, I look for treats,     (hop around and look)
And nibble on all I like to eat.                         (pretend to nibble on food)

***  This is also fun to with a little baby as “the bunny”.  Make eye contact, use an expressive voice, and adapt the actions to be “ON” the baby.

*** Older children may like to use a stuffed rabbit, or rabbit puppet, to make the motions, with this, or any of these rhymes or songs.)

It might be good to find a book that describe the true habits of rabbits.

 —————————————————————–

Outside Fun

 This Kindermusik song (an old folk song) is perfect to explore so much of HOW a rabbit may move or act.    

What Shall We Do when we all go out, All go out, all go out.
What shall we do when we all go out, All go out to play?

Let’s all hop like a rabbit, A rabbit, a rabbit,

Let’s all hop like a rabbit, When we go look for food.

  • Twitch your nose like a rabbit . . .   – So we can smell the food.
  • Let’s all munch on a carrot . . .         – Crunch, crunch, crunch…
  • In the dirt, we’ll dig a hole . . .          – And that will be our home.
     
  • Listen carefully with my long ears . . .   – So danger we can hear
  • Hide in a hole when there’s danger . . .  – Until we know it’s safe.

*** Perhaps you can tell that this is sort of a story within a song.  Follow the pattern consistently and talk about the story, and the children will pick up on the pattern, and begin to tell the story themselves.

 

Fun HOPPING  Activity Ideas

  • Hop from the squatting position
  • Have a hopping race to a finish line
  • Play hopping tag
  • Listen for sounds, then find the source.
  • A person can hide with a specific sound, then others can listen and find them.

 

My Bunny Hops All Through the Garden

(Sung to “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean”)  To sing while playing tag!

My bunny hops all through the garden,  My bunny hops all through the yard:
I like to play tag with my bunny,  But trying to catch him is hard.
Come back, come back, Oh, come back, my bunny to me, to me.
Come back, come back, Oh, come back my bunny to me. 

———————————————————————

“Danger Training”

This Kindermusik rhyme focuses on one of the most unique characteristics of rabbits, HIDING when there is danger.  

Of course, it can be fun in many ways, such as enjoying  finger play where the fingers hop about and finally into the hole made by a criss crossed lap.

Here’s a Bunny with Ears So Funny

And here’s a hole in the ground,

At the first sound he hears (make noise)

He pricks up his ears,

And hops right into the ground.

This is a great opportunity to teach your child what to do when there is danger.  Talk about dangers that may occur, and what you want your children to do in those instances.  Agree upon cue words to start the hiding process, such as “Danger, hide inside.”  Agree upon a specific safe hiding spot, and practice playing “Rabbit danger”.  The children should wait quietly until “mother bunny” comes get them. 

After one spot is learned, try other safe hiding spots in the home and yard, so they don’t panic if they can’t get to that one.  Hopefully, it will always be a game.  But if there’s ever a need, you’re child will have the skills to handle it and is less likely to panic.

Book Recommendation: “The Runaway Bunny” Margaret Wise Brown

Although the little bunny is in NO danger, When he wants to run away from home, his mother assures him that she will run after him and find him because she loves him.  This is a reassuring message that fills a child’s heart and mind with connection, hope, and love.

———————————————————————–

Eating Time Fun

 Try this as a finger play when your child is sitting in their high chair (like This Little Piggy)

 

This Little Bunny

likes food that’s GREEN.
This little bunny thinks carrots are keen.
This little bunny likes food that’s yellow
This little bunny is a hungry fellow.
This little bunny nibbles away
At apples and celery every day!

  • Touch each of five fingers while reciting.
  • Recite during food time when eating “rabbit food” (veggies) and replace the underlined words with foods on the table.

 ***  Rabbits love to eat raw plants of all colors:

Green:  lettuce, celery, broccoli, cabbage, sugar snap peas

Orange: carrots, sweet potato, cantalope

Yellow:  yellow squash, corn, pears

Red:  apples, papaya, tomatoes

Lay out a garden spread for your little bunny with various things to spread on it or dip it in, such as:  honey, peanut butter, dressing, caramel, cheese, cream cheese, etc.

For fun, here are directions on how to make a bunny pear salad.

My son’s favorite quote while eating carrots:

“Eheheheh,

What’s up, doc ?”

 

What kind of bunny fun is hopping around YOUR house?

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?