Bigger Better Brains!
Early childhood music has incredible benefits for babies, toddlers and young children. When a child is between the age of 0 and 5, the brain is highly active. It is actually the most active during this period in a child’s entire life! When a child is making music, it is like fireworks are creating an amazing display in their brain, enabling the child to grow socially, emotionally, physically, intellectually, creatively and in our groups, even spiritually—we love to emphasise how each child is incredibly special and wonderfully made.
Our SMILES curriculum below, ensures that children receive the best learning possible from the program.
As your child learns to recognize that the hello song signals the beginning of the group, she will experience feelings of anticipation, excitement, and happiness, preparing her for the fun that’s to come. Rituals are very important in helping children feel safe and secure.
Movement to music
Brain development is directly linked to movement. Young children benefit from being repositioned in many ways (held while parent walks, laying on tummy/back, sitting in lap and bouncing). Each time baby’s position is changed or children try new movements, the brain develops more connections.
Bouncing rhymes and songs
Bouncing allows babies and young children to feel the beat with their whole body. Bouncing stimulates the vestibular system helping to develop balance and control. Older children will also benefit as they work to keep their body upright while in motion, strengthening their core muscles. Make it a face-to-face bounce and your child also benefits by bonding with their caregiver. Each benefit, on its own, is valuable but integrating all of these areas through one enjoyable activity, priceless!
Children adore these activities because they are simply playful. And nothing is more fun than playing with mum or dad.
Intentional singing opportunities
The most common interval a child learns to sing is the minor third which is aptly named the “children’s interval”. Many of the songs feature these notes to encourage your child to discover their singing voice.
Singing to your baby is also invaluable. Did you know that your voice is your child’s most favourite sound in the whole world? So even if you are not a confident singer, don’t be shy about singing to and with your child.
Brain development is directly linked to movement. Changing the way you hold your baby as you rock—especially if his eyes are open—builds new neural pathways in his brain.
Rocking also stimulates the vestibular system, not only developing your child’s muscles, posture and balance, but also the ability of the eyes to focus. The vestibular system also helps the two sides of the brain to communicate more effectively.
Opportunities to play instruments
Children love to play instruments. Instruments engage children’s attention and focus and highlight many musical elements. Quality instruments that are durable and provide a high-quality sound are a huge bonus.
Peek-a-boo games establish a visual connection (eye contact) between child and parent and support the child’s growing understanding of object permanence. In addition, the game offers sensory stimulation (hiding underneath or behind scarves), develops fine-motor skills, and demands eye-hand coordination as the child reaches for and grasps the scarf.
Playing with bubbles offers many wonderful benefits to babies and young children. The eyes must work together to focus on a bubble (convergence) and then follow it as it moves (eye teaming and eye tracking). Watching bubbles float near and far enhances a child’s understanding and awareness of depth perception and distance, and the fun she has swatting, poking, and popping the bubbles strengthens her eye-hand coordination.
The delight and exhilaration inherent in circle games comes from the music, the spirit of cooperation, and simple, repeated patterns of movement. Circle games require rhythmic competence, challenge you to be aware of your body in relation to the larger physical space, and require keeping a sequence of moves in your memory. In addition, it fosters a sense of community.
Massage rhymes and songs
Touching your child in a loving way helps develop emotional togetherness. But it is also very good for the mind. Children who receive plenty of loving touch show enhanced neural development. Why? Touch promotes the growth of myelin which insulates the nerves. The result is that nerve impulses can travel faster along the nerves.
When you cradle your child and have close eye to eye contact, oxytocin, the “cuddle chemical” hormone is released which increases immunity, growth, pain reduction and emotional well-being.
These songs provide priceless moments that you will adore. As your child recognises the cuddle songs, take delight in each special moment you enjoy together.
Keeping it playful and fun
Playful, positive, interactive activities with a parent, grandparent or special person in a child’s life, help to foster a sense of security and self-worth that will help grow your child into a confident learner. This may be the best gift you can give your child, so be sure to find the time each day to play with your baby or young child at home.
Babies and toddlers can be very social and enjoy being with other young children, even from just a few months old. They can be very interested and sympathetic to other children in their class. Have you ever noticed the “sympathy” crying effect when babies are together?
Two and three year olds may start to develop little friendships, though don’t be alarmed if some children are very shy and just want to be with mum and perhaps even just observe. We love to call this “observation mode”—children learn through watching others. Often those who like to observe do the activities in the privacy and safety of their own home. Reassure parents that “observation mode” is totally normal. Toddlers are often very “me” focussed as they are learning to share, show kindness to others and to behave in loving ways.
As children grow older, peers grow in importance. Kids are growing in their ability to cooperate, share, take turns and show empathy to another person’s feelings. Be sure to include activities that promote group activity—circle games where cooperation is needed are great. Leading and following activities are also perfect for this age group, for example, mirroring activities, or taking turns to choose a movement for a song.
MOVEMENT & LEARNING
Babies not walking yet will benefit from music activities where they are moved, rocked, swayed and bounced with the parent. When the children find their feet and begin to walk, they will want to walk walk walk, practicing their new skill! A class full of 1 year olds may look a little unorganised, but that is the nature of this age group, so be prepared to embrace and celebrate this!
Two and three year olds love to move, so be sure to include lots of movement opportunities – activities that include gross motor skills (jumping, walking, marching, stretching up and down, even hopping and skipping with older children), along with the fine motor skills (finger rhymes, using a pincer grip to hold finger cymbals and other instrument play and exploration.) Affirm each child’s attempt to try new movements.
Galloping, skipping and hopping will become easier for 4-5 year olds. Include movement activities that will challenge, engage and extend. Actions that are more complicated and require more control are beneficial, including gross and fine movement control.
INTELLECTUAL & IMAGINATION
Music makes smart kids. Music is the one activity that simulates the whole brain— when you listen to music, the neural activity in your brain causes it to light up like a Christmas tree. When you actively make music, your brain responds with a fireworks display! The more neural connections are made, and the stronger and deeper they become through repetition, the more equipped a child is to learn, think abstractly and solve problems..
With all young children repetition is important. They will soon remember and recognize faces and objects while exploring things with their mouths and hands. They will grow to anticipate particular songs that delight them, through repetition. One year olds start to identify their body parts and will enjoy copying you and their parent. They will be interested in instrument exploration—tasting, touching, shaking, banging and more!
Toddlers begin to engage in pretend play. Acting like tigers, frogs and rockets captures their attention. They begin to recognize animals, numbers, colours, shapes and sounds, along with concept opposites such as high and low, loud and soft, fast and slow. Be sure to feed their growing brains with a variety of learning activities and topics. Be prepared to go with the flow with the ideas and conversation the children bring to your class.
Older children may like to think up funny verses for songs, choose actions for movement activities or select instruments to play. Include opportunities for older children that promote pre-reading skills (ie using felts for counting). Even older children love to role play and imagine. The phrase “I wonder…” is often a great starting point for encouraging kids to use their imaginations.
Baby vocal plays are fun for babies and young children – enjoy making “baby” sounds together. When you hear a baby coo and gurgle, it is good to imitate and make conversation with them. For one to two year olds, receptive language is much stronger than expressive. They will enjoy short books—enjoying the pictures and words.
A toddler’s vocabulary grows from roughly 200 to over 1000 words. Younger children generally won’t sing every word in a song, but pick out a few. Leaving off words at the end of phrases is a great technique to encourage the children to sing and finish the phrase.
Four to five year olds generally have a vocabulary up to 10,000 words. Always encourage and affirm a child’s willingness to be involved verbally, whether it’s in relating an experience, telling a story or describing how they feel. Kids LOVE silly sounds and silly words. Make songs fun by creating these fun experiences.
The bonding opportunity between parent and child is crucial between the ages of 0 and 2. Use touch, singing while looking at the child in the eyes, cuddles and rocking as these are all beautiful opportunities for bonding through music. As a baby grows, so does their independence and desire to hold onto special things. You will find that the best way to have children return instruments and props is to put a basket in the middle of the circle so that the child has control over putting it away.
Emotions in two to three year olds often run high. Always have an encouraging cuddle, safe lap, or a small teddy available to help console (and distract) an upset toddler. As they develop a desire for more independence, they love to be the “big helper”. Two year olds may struggle with sharing and putting things away—a basket in the middle is usually the answer.
Kids are often eager to please, love to be big helpers and independent. Each child needs to feel special and important. Giving them individual roles to play (ie taking turns at playing a xylophone or drum, solo turn-taking within a song) can be very affirming. Affirm each child’s music making. Encourage exploration and avoid “right” and “wrong” ways of playing. Children need to believe that they are indeed successful at making their own music, loved and important within a group.
Babies need to know that they are a loved member of the family. Closeness, bonding opportunities and touch help a young child feel secure and loved. Developing a loving, trusting relationship with mum or dad gives children a head start in becoming both emotionally and physically healthy as they grow.
Nurturing a child’s sense of wonder and magic for the world around them is the beginning of spirituality. A toddler will be healthier physically and emotionally if they feel connected to nature, and also feel loved and safe in their environment. Developing gratitude through conversations and rituals like grace before a meal and saying “thank you” is best done through modelling. Our depth of gratitude directly impacts our ability to receive—the deeper our ability to be thankful, the more we get out of life. Helping children learn the joy of contributing encourages a child to feel proud of making a better world and results in happier children.