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Industry Interview – Jeff Spickard, President – Musikgarten: Online Tools for Children’s Music Studio Teachers

In this blog, we try to provide children’s music studio owners and teachers with valuable information that can help you become more successful in your business. As part of our 2020 blogging topics, we will be conducting interviews with several professionals in the children’s music industry, from leaders to teachers. Our first interview is with Jeff Spickard, president of Musikgarten, a leading early childhood music curriculum provider. We will cover how the company has enhanced the way it communicates and delivers its products to early childhood music teachers all across the globe.

Q. For those who don’t already know about Musikgarten, can you briefly describe your organization?

That is a bit of an open ended question and like most companies there are many facets to our organization. The cliff notes version is Musikgarten is the best of early childhood music education, offering teachers the best training and materials possible to help them use music to teach the whole child. To quote our philosophy, we believe:

That all children are musical,
music meets the needs of children,
music benefits the whole child,
music must be introduced early and involve the family,
and that adults should observe and follow the child.

We use the best quality resources and follow a carefully sequenced approach to music literacy.

Q. Musikgarten has been providing children’s music curriculum to teachers across the globe for over twenty five years. Technology has drastically changed over that time. How has Musikgarten adapted to the changes in technology?   

That’s an interesting question because unlike some of our competitors, Musikgarten still provides our teachers with printed materials such as teachers guides and class activity cards for our curriculum. While this may seem old-fashioned to outside observers, we find that even our youngest teachers appreciate the ability to hold physical materials in their hands. Plus these are materials they can keep for a lifetime, no matter where their journey takes them. Where we do embrace technology to better serve our teachers is providing a digital music download, along with hard copy discs, training via real time webinars, and teacher support via videos, recorded coaching sessions and live webinar coaching sessions. We still believe that in-person ways are best in relaying information, but we also understand the convenience and cost effectiveness of relaying information digitally.  

Q. What is this most recent project that Musikgarten has launched that we are going to talk about today?

We just recently launched a new website.

Q. Why did you feel the need to create a new web presence for Musikgarten at this time?

For a couple of reasons. For one thing we felt like we needed to update the look of the site to function better with today’s browsers and mobile devices. In a way, it’s a rebranding of our web presence. As web based technologies such as screen sizes and resolutions change, it becomes necessary for organizations to make changes like this every 4-6 years. So it was just time for a change.

Secondly, we also wanted to move the website to, or have it built to better serve our teachers and parents with new functionality and delivery methods.  Now we have a site that gives us a great foundation to continue to build onto. This will give us a lot of flexibility to serve our teachers. The old site had really outlived this idea and any addition to it would be “clunky’ both for the user and for the company to keep up to date akin to slapping a band-aid on it.

Q. Who all is the new website intended to serve?

It really has three areas that serve those with different needs – Potential parents who are interested in giving their child the wonderful benefits of early music, potential teachers who want to take training, use the materials, and offer classes, and our existing Licensed Musikgarten teachers by giving them a robust log in section with help materials, great online ordering system, and hopefully items that make it a little easier to run their business and develop as teachers.

Q. How does the web site serve those different customers and/or markets at the same time?

For parents it gives them the basic info they need about Musikgarten’s philosophy and classes to lead them to make a decision to find a class in their area all in a colorful, inviting way.

In the same way, it gives the potential teacher all the basic information they need about Musikgarten’s philosophy to lead them to take the next step in information gathering at no cost – our in-person webinar, Meet Musikgarten. This session allows them to listen to and ask questions from an actual teacher trainer who is also an experienced teacher and business owner. And while we have had webinar training prior to this website launch, it makes the registration process much more streamlined and user friendly.

For our current Licensed Musikgarten teachers we are able to offer them a special login section. This allows them to take advantage of the many perks of being a Musikgarten Licensee and place orders safely while calculating all their license discounts.

Q. What’s new on the new site that was not on your old site?

Of course there is new photography and images, but one of the biggest additions is an e-commerce ordering/cart system for the public and a customized version in the teacher log in area that has Licensee pricing, items only Licensees can purchase, and calculates all Licensee discounts.

Q. Why did you decide to make these upgrades or additions to the new site?

We did this in the teacher area for better convenience and service to the customer. But we have also added more business building items, from photography to memes and recorded coaching sessions on getting your business started or social media, plus items to help advance them as teachers like class videos from Dr. Lorna Heyge and our teacher trainers, and coaching sessions that focus on teaching topics.

Sales to the public are something we have always conducted. We have always had a list price on our materials for sales at conventions, training workshops, general inquiries and even physically mailing price lists to our entire mailing list. Incorporating these resources into the website is simply a more convenient, and incidentally less costly, way of delivery to our customers.

Q. How does the new site and its functionality help Musikgarten to better fulfill its overall mission and goals?

We believe in what we do and the materials we offer. We hope with the new site, fresh look, and more exposure, Musikgarten will remind parents and teachers of the importance of our philosophy of always putting the needs of the child first.

Early childhood music education conducted the Musikgarten way is fun and exciting, but also needed today. When music and movement are a natural, joyous part of childhood, kids benefit greatly in many areas of life.  Language development, self-expression, memory skills, concentration, social interaction, fine motor skills, listening, problem solving, teamwork, goal setting, and coordination are all impacted by early music and movement education.  On top of that, as a child learns to play music, other areas of development—creativity, family bonding, self-esteem, confidence, emotional development—are also positively impacted.

Parents and teachers, or rather adults in general, need to be reminded that children need and thrive under certain circumstances, circumstances that our current society may not be providing. Our classes provide this space for children and their families. So it’s a funny kind of balance we are managing in our organization, while we are trying to responsibly provide the most up to date technology to our parents and teachers, at the same time we are reminding them of the importance to “un-plug” from the world of interruptions, listen to the music and just be with your child.

Q. What would you advise a newcomer to the site to do in order to get a good idea of what Musikgarten has to offer? Is that different for different types of site visitors?

I always like to start with who an organization is first, so I really recommend the About Us section of the site and specifically the Our Philosophy and Benefits of Music and Movement pages.

From there it depends on the type of visitor. If you are a parent, I really recommend the Find a Class page. See if someone in your area teaches and then join a class. I have two kids, 6 years old and 8 years old. They have taken Musikgarten classes since birth and I can personally testify to the benefits of Musikgarten classes. Watching their musical progress is a joy, but seeing them grow emotionally and socially is just as powerful. They sing in tune and joyfully make music a part of their everyday, whether they are playing a game, dancing, or just being silly. On top of all of this, they love their family, they love being in nature, are open to learning, and have empathy for the people around them. These are things that will carry them forward no matter where their journey takes them.

If you are a teacher, go through the Become a Teacher section. We offer both in-person and webinar training to fit everyone’s schedule. Register for a Meet Musikgarten session or if you have more questions please use the Contact form or call us 800-216-6864.

We want to thank Jeff Spickard for this interview, and stay tuned for more insight from industry professionals on how to be more successful as a children’s music studio teacher and owner.

Leveraging Unpaid Advertising to Grow your Early Childhood Music Program

Establishing a successful business can be costly, especially when you have a “brick and mortar” children’s music studio. With gross sales to rent ratio being as high as 20% in some markets, not to mention utilities and other necessary overhead, savvy studio owners take advantage of ways to market their business without spending. A good deal of marketing can be done at little expense other than good old fashioned “elbow grease.” It’s important to note that while your labor may seem free, there is an opportunity cost to any effort you personally put towards marketing your business. For example, time spent going out and visiting local pre-schools is time not spent teaching at the studio. However, if you can use some of your “downtime” to spend on the following unpaid marketing efforts, you can quickly gain return on your investment.

  • Social Media – Love it or hate it, social media has become a huge part of our lives. Young parents, and especially mothers, use social media for advice and support from their peers. With young mothers being a primary target audience of children’s music studios, this opportunity is hard to ignore. While an entire series of articles can be spent on social media alone, keep in mind that these various platforms can occupy a great deal of your time. Think about participating in just a few, and do them well.
  • Network and Post – Considering that the vast majority of your music students are going to come from your surrounding community, personally reach out and network with organizations that have common ground with your program such as Daycare Centers, Children’s Museums, Preschools, Libraries, Community Arts Programs, Mothers Groups, Churches, etc. Consider offering to teach a free class, where you can provide information on your business once parents have realized the value you provide to their children. If these organizations are not interested in a free class, ask if you can post a tear sheet or brochure on their premise that includes the special offer. 
  • Press Releases – While at first glance children’s music classes may not seem “newsworthy,” a well written press release can get attention with many media outlets. When preparing a press release, it’s important to write it from an “angle” that does not come across advertorial. For example, instead of Local Music Studio Offers Free Introductory Class, try something like How Early Childhood Music Programs Better Prepare Children for School.  Just by being the author of the press release, you can develop yourself as an expert on the subject, which in turn creates opportunities for your studio. In addition to the “angle,” there are other important elements of any good press release, such as subject line, brevity, contact information, boilerplate, etc.
  • One-on-one Marketing – Whenever and wherever you are, you should be prepared to explain and promote your business. While bringing up your children’s music program at a funeral would not be the best choice, you never know what kind of conversation may come up in almost any situation. Keep in mind that small talk almost always ends up with the question “so, what do you do?.” This is your opportunity to have your 30-second pitch ready, in a nonchalant way, to explain how your business delivers value to parents and children. You’d be surprised how many people will follow up with another question that allows you to expound and ask your own questions. Your sales pitch becomes more of a conversation than an advertisement for your studio. Always have a business card on hand if it seems like they are interested, and consider offering/mentioning a free introductory class on the back of the card as incentive.

Many of the most successful business entrepreneurs are very good at self-promotion. Not only is it a good way to establish you as an expert in your field, but also help develop rapport and trust with your audience while simultaneously building your brand. By always thinking about opportunities to mention or promote your early childhood music program, you will be making the most of your “elbow grease” during business downtime.

Five Ways to Gain New Music Studio Students with the New School Year

Summer is coming to a close, and with it comes the new school year. Parents are beginning to plan class schedules and lists of needed school supplies and clothes. This is a time where the mind changes focus from the more laid-back summer activities to a more structured schedule that includes school and other activities. While parents’ minds are focused on setting up the school year calendar and children’s schedules, it’s a great time to gain new students for your children’s music studio. Here are a few tips and methods to beef up your rolls for the new school year:   

  1. Make sure your online listings are up to date – While we may not all be part of the online generation or comfortable with technology, you can bet that your target audience is! First and foremost, make sure your Google Listing is up to date. Parents use Google for even the simplest information, such as phone number or driving directions. Make it easy for them to find your children’s music studio! It’s also a good idea to perform a Google Search on your own business to see if any other listings need updating. Many online directories create listings without notifying you, so it’s important that their information is also correct.
  • Social media is where parents find recommendations and support – Older generations of parents relied heavily on books and advice from their own parents or grandparents. Today’s generation tends to rely heavily on social media. While you don’t have to be a social media guru to be effective, having a presence is imperative for reaching today’s young parents. Instead of spending too much time trying to be on all social media, pick a few popular ones and spend more time on them to promote your children’s music classes.

  • Make good use of your current parent network – As school preparation begins to crank up, parents are spending more time online. Now is a great chance to speak with and/or email your current parent client list to ask them for reviews and referrals. Google reviews are highly regarded by your target audience, so ask your current parents to provide a simple review. To get referrals from parents, consider offering a discount or free class to encourage them to provide names of their peers that might also be interested in music classes for their children.
  •  Network with your local schools and parent organizations – With the school year beginning, there are numerous opportunities to network with parents, such as open houses, PTA meetings, booster clubs, etc. Consider creating a business card with a special offer on the back to provide incentive for parents to try out your music studio. For Kindergarten and Pre-K, approach some of the day care providers and schools and offer to do a free music lesson for the children. This is a great way to gain new students by getting parents and school administrators excited about your children’s music program!
  • Consider a mailing to prospective parents – While direct mail seems very “old school,” if done correctly, it still remains an effective way to get your name out there and gain new prospects. List brokers can provide affordable lists of local prospects in your area based on all kinds of demographic information such as geographic area, number of children in household (and approximate ages), home value, etc. To make your mail campaign more effective, provide a theme and incentive (coupon or voucher), such as Back to School Music Class Special! Keep in mind that consumers typically respond better to dollar amounts vs. percentage when pricing is not known. To save even more on your mailing, explore the different options provided by the USPO to get the best Return on Investment. Finally, keep in mind that sometimes direct mail programs require several mailings to the same recipients to be effective. Be patient and budget accordingly. 

Using all or any of these methods will help you prepare your children’s music studio for new students in the new school year. Take advantage of the change in focus that affects parents this time of year to become a part of their regular new school year schedule.

The Science of Music: Creativity Wish List – How Music Inspires Children Love Nature

The Neuroscience of Music series has explored way in which early childhood music education can help to develop skills from a Wish List that parents have shared regarding Behavior, School Skills, and Creativity. This fourth and final installment of the Creativity Wish List explores ways that music influences children to love nature.

As our environment changes in dramatic and unprecedented ways, many parents wish to instill in their children an appreciation for the delicate balance between our activity and its impact on nature. They wish to encourage a respect for nature that can be carried on to the next generation.  Nationally recognized Neuroscience educator Dee Joy Coulter points out that a nature-based early childhood music curriculum is an ideal way to provide inspiration for the wonders of nature through music, and “it offers a wonderful foundation for helping children take their place at the forefront of tomorrow’s environmental problem solvers.”

Musikgarten Founder, Dr. Lorna Heyge explains that through simply interacting with nature in simple ways such as feeling the warmth of the sun or the cool wind, children are turning sensory experiences into cognition. Complex concepts made simple through nature, such as the life cycle of a dandelion, are providing children access to vital pathways to learning. Here are some ways that parents and early childhood music educators can inspire their children to love nature:

How music can inspire infants and toddlers to love nature

  • Start by building trust in infants so that they become open to fresh experiences when their interest is high. Singing to them is a great way to do this. With parents, it is a trial and error process where they learn how their child best receives new stimuli, whether it is delight through surprises, bouncing and repeated movement songs, or soothing lullabies with gentle motions. Because children have different unique temperament, there is no one correct approach.
  • Taking cues about their comfort level gradually expose your infant or toddler to simple sounds in nature such as birds singing, the rustling of leaves in the wind, or the feel of sand on their hands at the beach. If the stimulus becomes overwhelming for them, a soothing song will often calm them down and help to ensure that it was not remembered as a traumatic experience.

Using music to inspire a love of nature in preschoolers and beginning school age children

  • With 3 and 4 year old children you can begin to place an element of time to their awareness of nature. For example, families can and often sing about the seasons, reflecting how nature changes along with those seasons and giving them a feel for how the way nature is organized. In addition to the songs you are singing about nature, think about visual and tactile elements to introduce, such as leaves, rocks, and even snowflakes.

Take opportunities to expose them to nature such as trail walks, going to the beach, or simply having a picnic at the park. This not only gives them the opportunity to enjoy nature at their own pace, but also has a great calming effect on parents. Learning to be mindful in nature is a gift that will last children a lifetime while making them better stewards of the environment when they grow older.

This final installment of the Neuroscience of Music series is fitting because of the profound inspiration that nature has had on Musikgarten and its curriculum. As summed up by Audrey Sillick, co-author of Musikgarten and whose vision of the role of nature in the lives of children that inspired Musikgarten , “There is no more meaningful time than early childhood to develop relationships with the living world of plants and animals – as well as to inspire the young human’s spontaneous response to music, dance, and the arts. This is true for the best of all reasons – it is who we are.” Dr. Heyge confirms the sentiment with the declaration that “Musikgarten has made an unparalleled commitment to instilling a love of nature in children.”

*Musikgarten Delivers: The Neuroscience of Music collection by Dr. Dee Coulter is available for $10 in the Product Catalog section of our Teacher Portal. Username and password are required. You may also contact Musikgarten at 800-216-6864 to purchase.

The Science of Music: How to Prepare Children to Enjoy Practicing

The series The Neuroscience of Music*  shows parents and music teachers ways in which early childhood music education can help impact the development of children. This second set of the Wish List series focuses more specifically on a parent’s School Skills Wish List. The topic of the third installment of this set is how to get children to enjoy practicing.

From infancy to about the age of 6, children have a unique window of opportunity to learn how to, and enjoy practicing things. Dee Joy Coulter, a nationally recognized Neuroscience educator, explains that during these few years, a child’s enjoyment of repetition is strong. Parents can help them to practice naturally by providing fun activities that they can eventually master. However, this satisfaction must come from within in order to develop a lifelong habit, warns Coulter, so parents must resist praise, blame or pressure during these activities.

Below are ways that parents and early childhood music educators can use music to help children learn to develop self-discipline to succeed at school, work, athletics, and the arts.

How to introduce the idea of practicing to infants and toddlers

  • In learning basic coordination and language, infants must practice and learn the nuances of their senses in a pleasing way. They are wired to mirror everything they see, and this is highly rewarding to them. Parents and early childhood music teachers can help with imitation games with clapping and pointing to things with exaggerated facial expressions, and they will naturally follow and copy.
  • In the earliest stages of infancy to toddlerhood, parents can perform simple songs and movement games to teach motor skills and instill a familiarity. After a few weeks of repetition, leave a particular game for a few weeks and come back to it. This allows the infant or toddler time to anchor the movements and memory in their system. When the game is brought back, the predictability that goes with recognition and the control that goes with increased physical mastery are very powerful incentives for practicing.

How to teach preschoolers to begin focusing on how to practice

  • Research suggests that poor learners don’t know how to handle the failures of new learning, and so tend to abandon challenges right away for fear of failure. On the other hand, those that excel in tasks and challenges tend to have a passion for practice and truly enjoy the experience – much like the capacity of children’s minds in the first stages of life.
  • Share enjoyable music activities with your preschooler before introducing an instrument. By first instilling a love of music in children before asking them to focus on an instrument helps to ensure that they will enjoy practicing due to its relationship to something they already love.
  • The teaching practice of spiraling, or a pattern of dropping an activity for a period and then spiraling back to it, allows new skills to seat more deeply than constant practice. Childhood music programs  will use this practice along with the process of scaffolding to allow children to learn on their own and provide help at the appropriate times. This approach to creating the basis for more advanced learning is important for advancement in musical skills, mathematics, science and foreign language learning.

Music can be an important tool for preparing infants and toddlers for a lifetime of learning enjoyment. Games that encourage mimicking help to develop a love for practicing from the earliest stages of infancy. By leaving and returning back to activities, children will learn to think and accept new concepts on their own while having pleasure in practicing. This will not only serve them well in music, but also in academics.

*Musikgarten Delivers: The Neuroscience of Music collection by Dr. Dee Coulter is available for $10 in the Product Catalog section of our Teacher Portal. Username and password are required. You may also contact Musikgarten at 800-216-6864 to purchase.

The Science of Music: How Music Teaches Children to Sit Still and Listen

Continuing with the series The Neuroscience of Music*  we are sharing ways in which early childhood music education can help impact the development of children. This second set of the Wish List series focuses more specifically on School Skills Wish List and the second topic in this set explores how to encourage children to sit still and listen

In a world increasingly swamped with visual and noise stimulation, how many times do parents find themselves frustrated and saying to children “Can you just sit down and listen?” The physiological makeup of our ears might provide some insight, explains Dee Joy Coulter, a nationally recognized Neuroscience educator. The ears actually contain two channels – with one devoted to listening and the other for balance and movement. Young ears must learn to combine these two channels, first by establishing good movement skills and second by developing language skills. As the child grows older, they begin to develop speech and by the time they are four to five years, they can carry on a conversation, tell a short story, and begin to follow directions.

Parents and teachers can help develop a child’s listening skills through music and other exercises and games.  Below are a few ways.

Training the two channels of the ears separately in infants and toddlers

  • Use music games and dancing to create an even more pleasurable experience for the infant, combining familiar music or songs and movement together.
  • To help develop the listening channel of the ears, develop games with tones and simple sounds that the infant or toddler will grow to anticipate. For example, tap a series of three beats on a table top or a small drum head. Then, tap only twice to see their reaction and laughter when the third beat is skipped!

Shift focus when working with preschoolers and beginning school age children

  • When speaking with children at the preschool age, slow down your speech so that the child can process what you are saying at a slower rate. Use descriptions of things and words that they can picture in their minds. This will help them to be able to sit still and listen more easily, which will be advantageous when they begin school.

Training the preschool child to be still and listen involves understanding the difference between the two auditory channels in the ears. By first approaching the movement/balance channel and the listening channel separately, and then combining the two in musical games, the child learns to separate movement from sound at the appropriate times. This valuable understanding will help them learn to sit still and listen at home and in school.

*Musikgarten Delivers: The Neuroscience of Music collection by Dr. Dee Coulter is available for $10 in the Product Catalog section of our Teacher Portal. Username and password are required. You may also contact Musikgarten at 800-216-6864 to purchase.

How to Retain and Gain New Music Students During the Summer

As the school year winds down and families begin to make their summer plans, regular weekly schedules from the school year are sometimes overlooked or forgotten. This experience can be especially true for music teachers, as lessons are often considered part of school curriculum. Brain drain or “the summer slide” is often credited with a fall in cognitive activities for students over the summer.

With the potential for the attendance of regular weekly lessons or classes to fall in the Summer, studio owners should be proactive to not only maintain a steady income over those months, but also look at it as an opportunity to increase income. So, how do teachers retain music students, and even add to their class rolls during the summer?

Here are a few ideas that can help throughout the Summer Vacation:

  • Try Billing by the Semester or Year – Billing parents monthly, or by the class, is typical for music teachers and programs. But the approach often creates mental gaps in between those programs, providing parents and students an opportunity to “take a break” and miss some time, especially over the Summer. While it takes a bit more planning, semester or even full year billing can not only create a more stable cash flow for music teachers and studios, it can also provide a structured “pathway” for parents and students to continue lessons.
  • Gain New Students with Summer Advertising and Promotions – While Summer vacations and competing camps may cause a dip in current student music studio attendance, it is actually a time when many parents are looking to sign their students up. Consider an investment in advertising during the Spring and Summer using Summer themed programs. This does not have to be expensive, either! An ad in a newsletter at your local pool, Word of Mouth (WOM) using referral cards with current students, or offering a Summer Enrollment Special to get parents over the finish line. Summer themes stand out in advertising!
  • Offer an Alternative to Screen Usage – According to the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, children between the ages of two and five spend an average of 2.2 hours on screens every day. That number is undoubtedly higher during summer months, as parents again struggle with how to keep their children engaged in other activities while they are at work. Work out messaging to address this hot topic for parents. Emphasize that music lessons provide an extremely beneficial alternative to screens in all of your marketing and dialogue with parents, especially during the Summer.
  • Consider Free Group Classes with Organizations to Gain More Students – In addition to camps and music studios, many other organizations offer children’s programs during the summer. Public Libraries offer Summer programs and many churches offer Vacation Bible School or similar programs. While many teachers resist giving away any instruction for free, these programs are looking for daily activities to fill their days, and music instruction is a very popular subject. Partnering with these organizations offers exposure to a large group of potential new students once the free program is over. Approach them with a structured plan that takes some of the planning burden off of them. Keep in mind that having a good option for both secular and sacred music programs allows more flexibility with these partnerships.

While the Summer months may be a time when current music student enrollment tends to fall due to family vacations and camps, music studio teachers should also consider it an opportunity to gain new students and income through offering specialized curricula, themed programs, and alternatives to screen usage.

The Science of Music: Teaching Children to Move with Rhythm and Grace

Musikgarten is proud to partner with parents by delivering a highly informative series of publications, The Neuroscience of Music.* This installment is the last in a four-part set that touches on a Behavioral Wish List that matters to parents – Teaching children to move with rhythm and grace.

Rhythm may be the most important gift you can give your child, according to Dr. Dee Coulter, a renowned brain science educator. The reason is that the frontal lobe of the brain has its major growth spurt from birth to age six, when voluntary movement is developed.  The developing brain must have rhythm to stimulate this important function and growth stage. This “sensory-motor integration” helps cultivate grace, or motor flow, by building the connections between rhythm and movement.

So, teaching children to move with rhythm and grace is very important to both early childhood music teachers and parents alike:

How parents Teach Their Babies Rhythm and Grace

The good news is, they’re most likely doing it already! Mothers instinctively instill rhythm in their babies, establishing a “comfort tempo” used often to help them calm.

  • Simply nodding to a baby shows rhythmic approval and delight
  • Gentle rocking, bouncing, or patting help to comfort babies with a familiar rhythm
  • Humming, finger tapping, or even tongue-clicking are used by mothers get their babies attention
  • Traditional nursery rhymes and songs have been used by generations of mothers to teach their children the love of music and rhythmic patterns.  

How parents continue to teach rhythm and grace to their pre-school children through music:

As a baby’s frontal lobe continues to develop, there are many opportunities for parents, as well as early childhood music educators, to teach rhythm and grace with movement and music:

  • Many infant and toddler games combine music with rhythmic movement. A few familiar traditional childhood songs that teach sensory motor integration are Patty Cakes, and Hop, Old Squirrel.
  • Dancing with toddlers is a great way to teach them a multitude of developmental and social skills in addition to rhythm and grace, including self-esteem, discipline, and improved physical health.
  • Families who have daily activities and routines such as making a bed in the morning, dinner together, teeth brushing before bed, and story time offers a slower rhythmic pattern which helps to reduce childhood stress and supports reading.  

Parents don’t have to do this alone! There are many early childhood learning centers and programs that help parents teach their children from infancy to childhood how to use music to support healthy happy development in the earliest stages of life. Whether it is teaching children to relax and be calm, be patient, control  their impulses, or move with rhythm and grace, The Neuroscience of Music supports the skills and techniques that cultures from around the world have been instilling in their children for generations. 

*Musikgarten Delivers: The Neuroscience of Music collection by Dr. Dee Coulter is available for $10 in the Product Catalog section of our Teacher Portal. Username and password are required. You may also contact Musikgarten at 800-216-6864 to purchase.

The Science of Music: Controlling Children’s Impulses Through Music

Our series of blog articles for parents on The Neuroscience of Music* continues with how music can help parents control impulses in their children, or more importantly, help children to control their own impulses through “inner speech.”

According to Dr. Dee Coulter, a renowned brain science educator, children need to develop impulse control to be successful in learning, social interactions, and performing complex movement tasks. Dr. Coulter identifies three elements of impulse control – the ability to calm, the ability to wait, and one last skill that develops more slowly – inner speech. Our last two blog articles touched on the impact of music on children’s ability to be patient and be calm. This installment focuses on the use of music to develop a child’s inner speech.

Inner speech is a kind of “self-talk” children use to guide their actions. Here are some insights and suggestions for parents to help their child discover their inner speech:

Inner Speech is Out Loud Until Age 8 or 9 – We can hear children speak out loud to direct their actions or narrate what they are doing. In motor tasks, they may use this “outer-speech” as they tie their shoes, make the shapes of letters, or play Simon Says. In music, this self-talk is developed when words are linked to movements like “head, shoulders, knees and toes” or stories in song that are acted out while singing. As the words are repeated over time they become automated. By age 4 or 5, this self-talk becomes strong enough to override temptations and children can use it to control their impulses. Later, children will need this inner speech skill to guide them while silent reading.

How to Teach Inner Speech in Babies and Toddlers:

  • Sing and talk to your baby or toddler often. Research continually shows that the more children are spoken to as infants, the better their language skills will be later in life. Strong language skills, in turn, lead to improved social skills and better listening and learning skills for school.
  • You will probably notice that your baby or toddler reacts even more favorably to your singing voice as they do when you are simply speaking to them. Singing is calming and soothing to them, so they will instinctively pay closer attention. Make up songs to explain what chores you are doing or what is happening in the world around them. Put their familiar nursery rhymes to music and sing them.

Teaching the Preschooler and Beginning School Age Child:

  • To be a great self-talk coach, show them how by talking to yourself out loud. Just talk as if no one else is there and you are just thinking out loud about how to do these things. Narrate for your child as you do household chores, go to the post office, shop for groceries, or watch the activity at a sibling’s sports event.
  • Recalling song lyrics and stories also builds inner speech. Enjoy singing with your preschooler and beginning school age child, too. Help them master the lyrics to traditional as well as contemporary children’s songs. Many of these songs tell stories, or narrate actions. You will be helping your child build impulse control and perform better in school.

Teaching your child to perform self-talk or inner speech, through music has many lasting benefits, including problem-solving, patience, confidence, and impulse-control. Hearing music and songs from caregivers from the earliest ages help to teach children to sing or talk through everyday tasks. Children’s song lyrics are often a manifestation of describing actions or stories, which help them begin to develop their own inner voice.  

*Musikgarten Delivers: The Neuroscience of Music collection by Dr. Dee Coulter is available for $10 in the Product Catalog section of our Teacher Portal. Username and password are required. You may also contact Musikgarten at 800-216-6864 to purchase.

The Science of Music: How Children Learn Patience Through Music

This second installment in our series of blog posts on The Neuroscience of Music* explores how music can help parents teach their children to wait and be patient. Boy, have parents been waiting for this one!

Researchers often call it the ability to delay gratification and say that it is the single most important requirement for developing impulse control, for resisting addictive behavior, for handling the confusion of new learning, and for setting goals and working toward meeting them. While this desired behavior can be taught to children, here are some thoughts to keep in mind:

Using Negative Strategies are Ineffective – If we get overly firm and insist on making a child wait, they will see no point in waiting when we aren’t around to discipline them. We want them to be able to practice patience on their own:

  • Make sure there is enough for children to share once their turn comes. Whenever there is too much scarcity, children will learn to take what they need as soon as they get the chance.

Teaching Babies and Toddlers to Wait – There are some simple exercises and “games” that stretch the moments of anticipation of delight.

  • Songs and movement games are helpful in creating anticipation and embedding small wait times. Who can forget waiting for the POP in “Pop, Goes the Weasel,” or the anticipation of the fall in “Humpty, Dumpty?”
  • With infants also play little movement and touch games, such as circling your finger around and then gently landing it on their nose.
  • Use reward to encourage patience. Toddlers may learn the patience it takes to put on a coat or shoes if they know they are going outside to play. Baking cookies teaches them that waiting patiently has it rewards as the warm goodies come out of the oven! Of course, it is also tough for adults to wait for the cookies to cool!

Teaching the Pre-schooler and Beginning School Child

  • Sing songs with your child that involves claps, pauses, and exact timing. This not only teaches patience and anticipation, but will also help develop a strong sense of rhythm.
  • Create some family times that involve some kind of ceremony, such as setting the table before dinner or saying the blessing before digging in. This teaches pre and school age children that there is a waiting period before the gratification of eating, etc.
  • In anticipation of a coming event, such as a birthday or another special occasion, mark a calendar and observe each day with anticipation to the BIG day. Think the 8 days of Hanukkah, or (sing) the 12 Days of Christmas. Saving up or preparing for an event can also teach patience, such as saving money for a vacation, or buying presents for a future event.

As you may have noticed, the exercises above not only teach children to wait, but also can have the same effect on parents! Those of us who already have children know the importance of patience, and that we should always teach by example.

*Musikgarten Delivers: The Neuroscience of Music collection by Dr. Dee Coulter is available for $10 in the Product Catalog section of our Teacher Portal. Username and password are required. You may also contact Musikgarten at 800-216-6864 to purchase.