Yesterday I had the opportunity to sit down with Natisha McLeod, owner of Beautiful Noise Music School in Timmins. Natisha offers Kindermusik classes to children from 0-5 years old. She also offers private lessons and runs summer music camps. I first met Natisha last year when my daughter joined Kindermusik. Natisha's passion for music and children was evident the moment we met! I thought it would be a lot of fun to meet and talk about how the activities and strategies in Kindermusik support early language skills.
In preparation for this blog I looked at research on the effects of music training on language development. I ended up spending so much time researching this topic that I created a separate blog post on the topic. As a Speech-Language Pathologist it is my responsibility to evaluate all of the evidence to make informed decisions in my practice, which tends to carry over into my parenting. I believe that parents should be empowered by having all the information they need to make informed decisions.
Natisha and I teamed up to talk about Kindermusik and language development. With her extensive music training and my knowledge of speech and language development we came up with a list of 10 ways Kindermusik can support early language learning.
10 Ways Kindermusik Can Facilitate Early Language Skills:
1. Following your child's lead - Kindermusik is less about learning music than it is about the learning that takes place while doing music-based activities. Kindermusik understands that learning can only happen if your child is engaged and participating in the activity. If your child comes up with a different action or they want to participate in the activity in a different way, your child's creativity and imagination is supported and encouraged. For example, my daughter wanted to pull the pretend train instead of riding in it. Even though she wasn't doing the activity the way it was presented, she was still actively participating in the activity and therefore listening to the beat of the music, hearing the new vocabulary words, and engaging with her peers.
2. Being face to face - Throughout each class, specific instructions are given that encourages parents to be face to face with their child/infant. Parents are often down at their child's level and sitting with them on the floor. During classes parents are also taught to watch their child's non-verbal cues (especially parents of infants). Being face to face with your child allows your child to see how you move your lips to make certain sounds. Your child will also learn how to make different facial expressions from seeing the expressions you use. As well, being face-to-face introducing your child to eye contact and the power of eye gaze.
3. Child-Centered Approach - According to Natisha, an important foundational principle of Kindermusik is welcoming unique differences and providing individualized directions and praise. Child-centered approaches support language development as they create appropriate expectations and achievable goals for each child. This approach would also be beneficial for children with developmental delays or disabilities as each child has the opportunity to work towards an individualized goal rather than a class goal.
4. Turn Taking - Turn taking is supported throughout each lesson during songs and while playing instruments. Most of the songs follow a natural back and forth routine where the class has to repeat after the teacher. Turn taking is an important part of any conversation. The back and forth routine in the song can introduce children to the structure of a conversation. Children also learn how to take turns with their peers which is a necessary skill to build friendships, share enjoyment, and engage in a reciprocal interaction.
5. Building Familiar Routines I use routines all the time with early language learners to build language skills. Routines naturally incorporate repetition and expectations. Routines are a series of events that occur in the same order and happen several times. Children must hear the same word many times before they will use it themselves. Routines build a familiarity with words. Songs are a great example of a routine. Children learn the words to the songs from hearing the song over and over again. Through routines, children build an expectation of what word will come next in the song. Eventually (after a few repetitions), children may begin to fill in a missing word if you stop and wait expectantly. You can also change the word in a song and see if they notice that you violated the routine. Some examples of routines during Kindermusik include the Hello and Goodbye songs and Cuddle Time which are a part of every class.
6. Listening Skills - At Kindermusik children build an understanding that sounds have meaning through listening activities. Parents are taught to say and show that they heard a sound in a song (such as the sound of a train). This strategy teaches children that you heard the same thing they heard and that the sound has a meaning. For older children, they learn to differentiate sounds and learn that different sounds have different meanings. Children also practices following simple directions such as "stop," or "wiggle" which helps build their understanding of language.
7. Phonological Awareness (Sound Pattern Awareness): Phonological awareness is highly important for developing an early understanding of speech sounds and understanding that combining sounds in different ways can make different words (e.g., rhyming words). Children who are able to distinguish different sounds are more likely to develop stronger literacy skills over time. Kindermusik targets this skill through the many songs that include rhyming words.
8. Building Vocabulary - Kindermusik incorporates themes into each lesson (e.g., transportation). Themes are often used in language intervention with preschoolers because it gives children a framework that helps them understand how words relate to each other (transportation words). Along with the strategies listed above, themes create excellent opportunities to expand your child's vocabulary.
9. Using Movement to Learn - It is well known that movement can help with learning (Davis 1997). Kindermusik uses this principle by having children move or dance to the beat with the support of their parents. Children also learn to use gestures to communicate by seeing and copying actions that go with each song.
10. Social Skills: One of my favourite things to do is sit back and watch a group of toddlers interact. It is fascinating to watch them learn from each other. One great way that Kindermusik supports language development is through social interaction with peers. Peer groups provide opportunities to hear new and different vocabulary, use language to express/resolve conflicts, negotiate, share, and assign roles.
Other Great Skills...
Although the focus of this blog is on speech and language skills, it is important to note that Kindermusik also includes activities that target fine and gross motor skills. Examples of activities include "Tummy Time" for infants, dancing, holding drumsticks and alternating hands, and reaching for/grabbing a scarf.
If you are interested in Kindermusik classes or private music lessons Natisha can be reached at:
Do you have a local business that supports early language development? Tell me more about your business at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to feature you in my next Community Spotlight!
Davis, K. (1997). The value of movement activities for young children. The Reporter, 2(3), 1-3.