In Memory of Hermann Heyge

Hermann Karl Friedrich Heyge

November 26, 1935, Ilmenau – February 4, 2021, Weimar

“The hour of departure has arrived and we go our ways; I to die, and you to live.” (Socrates)

The Musikgarten family wishes to extend its deepest sympathy to Lorna Heyge on the passing of her beloved husband Hermann Heyge at their home in Weimar, Germany.

Hermann was a precious soul with a funny, quick wit. All who were fortunate to meet Hermann knew him as someone who was always open to a good conversation and willing to go out of his way to make you comfortable.  An engineer by trade, he loved music, was an avid cyclist and always supported Lorna’s work.

Hermann and Lorna riding their tandem bike in June 2020 at Ludwigslust Castle

For the past 10 years, Hermann faced his illness of dementia with dignity and grace. At every stage he participated in as many ways and in everything possible.

If you have a memory of Hermann you would like to share with Lorna, please email to info@musikgarten.org and write Hermann Heyge in the subject line.

We will all fondly remember the “gentle man with the twinkle in his eye”.

Sincerely,

Jeff, Denise, Billy, Felicia, and Leah

Musikgarten

Learning Piano Starts with a Good Foundation

In this third installment from our series on Music Literacy at the Keyboard and children’s music programs, we will explore how setting a good foundation of posture, arm and hand position, and finger technique are vital to instrumental education. Proper posture with any instrument has various benefits for the musician, while improper technique can even compromise the ability to perform. Establishing good habits from the very beginning and reinforced by both children’s music teachers and parents/caretakers alike, helps to prevent the necessity later to correct ingrained habits.  

Start by Teaching Piano Away from the Keyboard

Start by preparing the body to establish good posture and hand and arm position. This helps piano students to concentrate on their bodies instead of the temptation of sounding the keyboard. In our last installment, we established how a foundation of singing familiar songs first helps the child better understand the keyboard once it is introduced afterward. Initiating these things away from the piano ensures the grounding of good posture and positioning, as well as establishing songs and patterns in the body.

Musikgarten Group Piano Class - Notation Games

Tips for Establishing Good Posture at the Piano Keyboard

Hand Position

  • Ask the student to swing their arms back and forth gently while standing.
  • Bend the elbows naturally at the end of the swinging motion.
  • Point out the curved hands and fingers position at the end of the motion.
  • Repeat the motions at a table, ending with the hands positioned to play on the table.
  • Keep in mind that proper hand position is dependent upon good sitting posture and sitting at the right height.

Sitting Posture

  • Sit with an upright back, with shoulders held comfortably back
  • Identify and correctimproper extremes, such as slumping or stiff, raised shoulders, tense back and stomach muscles, or collapsed wrists.

Chair and Keyboard Height

  • Chair height should allow feet to be flat on the floor or on a little stool.
  • Appropriate keyboard height is achieved when the forearm is parallel to the floor and fingers are laying comfortably on the keyboard.
  • Watch for and correct raised elbow or shoulder, and/or wrist bent upwards.

Good posture and positioning is important for beginner piano players. Not only for the ability to approach the keyboard comfortably, but also to prevent potential long-term injuries that would inhibit the ability to play. Parents and teachers should help the student remember that good habits will serve them well for their entire lives.

Approach to Finger Technique for Piano Beginners

Once the body has been prepared with proper posture, children can then move to the keyboard area. Warm up activities, beginning first with one hand and then the next helps to exercise the fingers and thumbs. Following a foundation of Do-mi-sol, three finger pieces followed by five finger pieces (tetra chord) sets the stage for one-note extensions and eventually leads to chords and scale-playing.

Because some children will have a repertoire of familiar songs, they can begin accompanying their own singing right away with open fifths. Since they have a foundation in aural development through singing, they are gradually able to figure out how to play patterns and songs in multiple keys. Melody is learned first on one hand, and then the other. Once children can comfortably play the melody, chordal accompaniments are introduced through the familiar harmony patterns from their song repertoire.

Good posture, hand position, and finger technique are essential to learning piano. By first learning away from the keyboard, children can focus on these elements separately. With a foundation of songs from early childhood music classes, as well as encouragement from teachers and caretakers, the beginning piano player has the best chance of success and lifelong love for the instrument.

Much of the content for this post was based on the introduction to Music Makers: at the Keyboard, childhood music curriculum developed by Musikgarten.

How Singing Helps to Learn Piano

Many of us have memories of piano teachers that used metronomes meticulously, or in some cases beat on the edge of the piano with a ruler as we struggled to play in time. While some of their methods may seem old-fashioned today, there was a very important underlying purpose of teaching time and meter. However, many early childhood music programs today understand that singing and movement not only naturally teaches beat, but also a myriad of other benefits to childhood development. In this second installment on our series about Music Literacy and the keyboard, we explore how for these and other reasons singing prepares children for learning to play keyboard.

Learning Piano Through Familiar Songs

Singing helps children to develop a repertoire of familiar songs. Children enjoy singing, and the more they sing the more they want to sing. As they progress to learning the keyboard, both the love of singing and having a good foundation of songs allows for greater success – because they want to play the song that is so familiar.

Singing Helps with Beat, Meter, Tonality, and Patterns

There is an abundance of research and publications that demonstrate how singing helps children with literacy, and that includes music literacy at the keyboard. There are several ways in which singing helps children be more successful learning the piano:

  • From the very earliest stages of childhood babies listen and often echo their caregivers’ song patterns, providing initial steps to music literacy.
  • Just as your old piano teacher may have done, tapping the beat while singing helps foster beat confidence.
  • Simple body movements, such as rocking from side to side helps establish a basis for understanding meter – like a human metronome!
  • Inviting children to sing the resting tone at the end of songs help to create an understanding of tonality.
Children enjoying a drumming and singing activity during a Musikgarten group piano class.
Children enjoying a drumming and singing activity during a Musikgarten group piano class.

Teaching Songs through Vocal Quality Nourishes Children’s Music Sensitivity

Children’s Music Teachers pay particular attention to their own voices in order to help children to develop a sensitivity for musical keys, tones, and pitches. Several ways that teachers ensure vocal quality are:

  • Singing mostly without music, so that the vocal quality is the focus
  • Singing clearly, but also lightly so as not to dominate the singing of the group
  • Listening to ones voice for proper intonation, so that the song model is tonality exact
  • Pitching songs in the range in which they are suggested
  • Modeling good singing posture, even when sitting

Singing with vocal quality offers an excellent opportunity for children’s music teachers to model expressive musicianship. Establishing a relationship between familiar songs that children can sing and what they will play on the keyboard allows them to echo the melodic and rhythmic patterns which make up each song. This allows them to eventually figure out how to play their favorite songs, which is well exemplified by the Montessori approach of self-learning. The child’s ear becomes the “self-correcting instrument,” guiding the hands what to play.

Singing familiar songs throughout early childhood helps to provide a strong foundation for the understanding of beat, meter, tones, and patterns. And with the five-finger position provided on a keyboard allows children to move more easily to tetrachord and scale positions. Because their playing originates from a familiarity of songs and singing,  as a result they more easily translate and play the songs in many keys.

Much of the content for this post was based on the introduction to Music Makers: at the Keyboard, childhood music curriculum developed by Musikgarten.

Music Literacy and the Second Stage of Child Development

Merriam-Webster first defines literacy as simply “the ability to read and write,” but a second definition expands that to “knowledge that relates to a specified subject.” This is an important distinction, especially when considering childhood music literacy. In our next series of articles, we will explore how music literacy applies to the second stage of child development, specifically in playing the piano and instrument instruction. While most children’s music programs focus on music and movement in the first stages of development, many fall short of continuing the progress in the second stage of child development necessary to achieve music literacy.  

The Second Stage of Childhood Development

Developmental biologist Jean Piaget established the theory of phases of normal intellectual development from infancy through childhood. The second stage, which Paiget terms Concrete Operational, is where children’s thinking becomes less on themselves and more on their awareness of external events. Some experts argue that development is actually continuous, but Piaget did agree that the depending on the child, the age ranges could vary slightly. While Piaget defines the second stage of childhood development being from ages 7 to 11 years, our focus in this series of articles will focus on the 6 to 9-year-old child.

Ready to Face and Decipher New Challenges

From ages 6 to 9 years, the child has begun a new phase of development both physically and cognitively. They are eager to face fresh challenges and have a growing aptitude for the refined movement needed to play an instrument. Their sensory motor functions have been well-integrated over the last six years, and serve as a good foundation for abstract learning. They are starting to not be satisfied merely with knowing the name of an object, but having the desire to know the how and why of things. One result is that the child’s mind is now interested in symbols, patterns, and codes to explore. This in turn helps to develop an appetite for improvisation and cooperative learning with other children.

Children Love to be Part of a Group 

Beginning in the second stage of development, and sometimes earlier, children are self-aware and ready to become part of a group, especially with peers. A peer group setting becomes a place where the child can begin to learn rules, push limits, and test ideas. This important stage of identity has the benefit of teaching important social skills of how to work with others in teams.

Groups are considered very useful for learning things, as questions can be asked and addressed from different perspectives. This is why nearly all children’s education programs use group activities in the learning process. This is no different for childhood music programs. Children love being with and making music with others. The desire to contribute to the group requires deep concentration and absorption while teaching valuable lessons in cooperative learning.

Music Literacy through Children’s Group Keyboard Lessons

Learning the keyboard provides children with the cognitive challenges and group dynamic that they desire. Music literacy applied to piano playing is much more than reading and recognizing notation or finding the correct keys, but also gives meaning to those notes in a way that allows for composition and improvisation. It is a child’s desire to communicate that motivates them to further develop a deep relationship with the aural and written art of music. This aural approach to music literacy becomes the foundation which provides the child a delightful transition to the world of music notation and understanding. This aural-to-visual method of literacy allows children to understand and appreciate music in terms of its tonality, meter, and style, while further refining their ability to listen.

In our next installments, we will explore specifically how discovering the keyboard in a group setting can be very different from the mechanical drills and rote learning that traditional piano learning imposed.    

Much of the content for this post was based on the introduction to Music Makers: at the Keyboard, childhood music curriculum developed by Musikgarten.

Small Business Tips for Emerging from an Economic Downturn

With the recent approval of two Covid-19 vaccinations, and a second economic relief package from Congress, small businesses such as Children’s Music Studios can begin to share the hope that the economy will start to pick back up in 2021. Many small business owners have not fared well during the crisis. Some 30% to 40% of those most affected by social distancing have gone inactive since February.  Typically this time of year, small business owners are setting goals and making plans for growth in the coming year. The need to plan and adjust is just as important now as ever, but the approach and mental process is different in a flagging economy.

Tips for rebuilding your small business after Covid-19

  • Understand your prospective customers perception – Consumers are extremely cautious coming out of an economic upheaval. If they believe money is going to be tight (even if they have it), they are going to behave as such. Your message to them should be that your services are very important and a good value. It is also a good time to focus on keeping quality and customer satisfaction high.
  •  Take a hard look at your finances – It’s important to monitor your cash flow very carefully and forecast it at least three months in advance. Separate the essential expenditures from those that can wait, and work with creditors to spread or reduce payments while you get back on your feet. If your cash flow projection means that you will need to borrow in order to stay afloat, identify financial resources to help you recover.
  • Put together a marketing plan – You will not be able to market the exact same way as our economy comes limping out of the pandemic. Start by letting people know that you are back to business and offer them something of value to show you are in this together. We have previously explored how to make the best use of existing marketing resources with little additional cost. However, while many companies cut back on marketing in an economic downturn, savvy business owners understand it can be a good opportunity to capture market share with smart investment.
  • Develop a time line and contingency plan – When resources are scarce, a time line can help you to understand what actions (and expenses) should be addressed first. Rebuilding a business is just that – a step-by-step building process with contingencies. Knowing how and when to address priorities helps to balance resources.  Finally, be better prepared for the next time an unexpected downturn happens – and it will. Take what you have learned from this experience and prepare a well thought out plan for a better reaction to loss in customers and revenue.

While it is unfortunate that many small businesses across the world will never be able to open their doors again due to this pandemic, studio owners of children’s music programs can begin to make concrete plans on how to recover stronger than ever. And when the next downturn happens, that valuable experience will make them better prepared to endure it.  

Musikgarten is the leader in early childhood music education — for children and teachers, that offers a complete multi-year educational program that helps infants, toddlers, and children develop a deep love of music and the ability to express it. For more about Musikgarten and its offerings, go to https://www.musikgarten.org/.

Musikgarten Exemplary Programs 2020

As we bring this year to a close, Musikgarten wants to thank all of our teachers who continue to bring the best of early childhood music education to children and parents, especially the Musikgarten Exemplary Programs for the 2019-2020 year.

Exemplary Awards are given to teachers in recognition of long-standing commitment to the Musikgarten philosophy and current offering of four or more levels of classes utilizing the Musikgarten Music and Movement Series. Congratulations to each of the winners. We appreciate your loyalty and support! (Note: These are in alphabetical order.)

Angelic Voices – Angie Sawyer

Anja Scheidel’s Musikgarten Studio

Apple Tree Arts

Shelley Baird – Texas Amps and Axes

Boone’s Tunes of Delmarva: Susan Upton

Kathryn Brunner – Musik at Home, LLC 

Community School of the Arts – Wheaton College – Wheaton, IL

Paula Craig

Betha’s Musik – Betha Christopher

Nan Croney​ – Croney Music Garden

Early Childhood Music School of Williamsburg United Methodist Church  

East Dallas Children’s Music

Glenda Evans – Musikgarten with Glenda

Heidi Fields – Immanuel Valpo Musikgarten

Joy Galliford – South Florida Music

Gate City Musikgarten                                                   

Ginger’s Music of Oklahoma City                               

Growing Musical Children

Jill Hannagan

Susan Holtzscher – The Studio Connection

Hunterdon Academy of the Arts

Nancy Spahr Huskey – Miami County Early Childhood Music

Jefferson City Music Academy and Helen Haynes

Ellen Johansen

Karen Haughey Music Studio

Shannon Kramer at Miss Shannon’s Music Studio

Nancy Kubo

Kuite Music Studio – Karen D. Kuite

Jill Lundberg – Music to Grow

Heather McEndree – Cumberland Valley School of Music

McMainly Music – Lana McMains             

Bobbi Morgan

The Music Factory                                                          

Music for Life Musikgarten Studio, Lynelle Vogel, Winona Lake and Nappanee, Indiana

The Music Garden                                                           

Music Institute of Chicago

The Music School of Delaware                                   

Musikgarten Bellaire – Jill Vaughan, Director

Musikgarten of Guelph – Caroline MacDonald

Musikgarten of Lexington – Jennifer Tutt                   

Musikgarten of Oak Park                                              

Musik Kids Program Wyoming Fine Arts Center                              

Sarah Nishioka

Dennis and Carla Pratt

Sarah’s Music Studio – Sarah Grove-Humphries

Doris Sing, St. Andrew’s School of Fine Arts

Sonia’s Musikgarten – Sonia Markholm

Chelsea Spence-Crane, Tri-City MusikGarten

Judy Stoner – Glen Ellyn Family Music School

Union Colony Children’s Music Academy               

Carla Waterfield – Carla’s Musikgarten New Orleans

Julia J. White, MM, Director Young Artists Music Studio

Nurturing Customer Relationships with Music Students and Parents

While we are by no means out of the woods of this pandemic, the recent vaccine news gives us all some hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Predictions for when we can safely resume normal activities vary from early Summer to the end of 2021. Depending on the state in which their children’s music studio resides, and personal preference, early childhood music program teachers will have a degree of flexibility as to when they can begin to offer in-person learning. For many educators, this time after a long and painful separation from beloved students cannot come too soon. With this anticipation in mind, studio owners and teachers can be marketing to return with a large number of enthusiastic students and parents.

Preparing to Return to In-person Children’s Music Classes

Many owners and teachers of children’s music studios have been offering online classes for students and parents during the pandemic, but most all agree that in-person teaching is preferable. So, in order to transition to a robust return to an in-person classroom setting, here are some marketing tips to consider.

  • Existing and Past Customers – the Low Hanging Fruit Most of us have heard the marketing adage that it costs five times as much to gain a new customer than to keep an existing one. Focusing efforts on Customer Relationship Management (CRM) rather than new customer acquisition begins with developing and managing your Customer Relationship Database (CRD). A CRD is basically a customer contact list with other customer characteristics. Business owners can start compiling a database by dusting off old customer records and creating a single list of customer contacts with whatever information you may have, whether its mailing address, phone number, email, or a combination of those. Spreadsheets are very handy for this, and can also include children’s names, their age and level of music education, etc. Please keep in mind that this kind of information is very sensitive, so it’s important to take precautions to safeguard access to the list.
  • Categorize Your Contact List – Some music studio owners may haveyears of contact records witha mixed bag of phone numbers, addresses, and or/emails. You will want to separate your CRD in as many like groups as possible. Contact method is a good way to start because it often dictates how you will contact your customers in marketing campaigns. Start with emails first, because it is still one of the most cost-effective way to reach customers. Depending on how you decide to use phone numbers, group texting can be very cost-effective (but be sure to set it up without all reply), but does not work on older landlines. Addresses for mailing programs would be the least cost-effective method of contact because of postage costs. You may also want to then categorize your customers by former and current, past purchases, or music program level. Keep in mind that just because someone has not been in the program for five years does not mean they are not a valuable contact.
  • Plan and Execute – A robust and well-organized Customer Relationship Database does no good if it is not utilized. Once your list is compiled and organized, put together a plan on how you will execute your marketing efforts. How many categories do you have with each contact method? For example, emails for current customers vs. emails for past customers.  Marketing messages and “calls to action” for each category will vary, with current customer emails encouraging new class sign-ups, while past customer emails may ask for a referral or testimonial. Determine your goals for each category, and what steps you must take to reach them. There are many free and paid Customer Relationship software programs that can help with emailing, texting, and even traditional mailing programs.
  • Messaging the Message – Before pulling the trigger on an email, text, calling, or mailing marketing campaign, you will want to make sure your messaging is clear while matching your various targeted categories. For example, you will not want to ask a past customer whose children are now grown about music classes for their grown children, but you may ask them if they know parents who might benefit from your services. For getting back to in-person classes, write your message as to create anticipation for the upcoming classes. Lastly, be sure to ask recipients to take action in your message, whether it is signing up for a class, going to your web site, or forwarding an email to a friend or family member who might be interested. The bottom line is to create a message for each category of contacts that is meaningful for that specific group.

While cases are still rising, the eventual end of the Covid-19 pandemic is finally coming into sight. In preparation and anticipation for that, now is a good time for children’s music studio owners to gather and organize their customer contact information into a Customer Relationship Database. With this CRD, there should then be a solid plan on how marketing campaigns will be executed, so when the time comes, you are ready.

Musikgarten is the leader in early childhood music education — for children and teachers, that offers a complete multi-year educational program that helps infants, toddlers, and children develop a deep love of music and the ability to express it. For more about Musikgarten and its offerings, go to https://www.musikgarten.org/.

The Importance of Teaching Children to be Thankful

Thanksgiving is the perfect time to teach children the importance of being grateful. It’s not uncommon for children, let alone adults, to disregard the significance of the little things that go on in our daily lives. While holidays do stand out in the memories of children, they don’t often understand the reason that family and friends are getting together and sharing meals. Even this year, when the COVID pandemic puts limits on our Thanksgiving gatherings, caregivers should think about ways to teach children how to appreciate things present in their lives as well as significant events and others in the past.

Expressing gratitude can decrease stress and increase a feeling of belonging. There are many ways that parents and caregivers can model behavior and teach children to be thankful.

Ways to Teach Children Gratitude 

  • Model Thanks Every Day – Teaching gratitude starts with the role-models in children’s everyday lives, whether a parent, a sibling, or a music teacher. Saying thank you to others when they assist you, no matter how small the gesture, sets an impression that children will mimic.
  • Discuss your meaning of Thanksgiving – The historic accuracy of the original “Thanksgiving Story” has been the subject of much debate over the years, and parents can decide whether to speak about it with their children.  It is important to talk about what thanksgiving means for your family so that they may put into context what you are truly thankful for, while giving them a chance to talk about things that they love.
  • Talk About Where Food Comes From – For most of us, food is something for which we depend on others. A study found that 25% of primary school children did not know where butter or cheese came from. Talk with your children about where and how food is produced, and how grateful you are for having such easy access to food.
  • Show the Joy of Giving – As you talk to your child about being grateful for what you have, it’s a good time to talk also about those who may not be as fortunate. Giving back, whether it is participating in a local food drive or donating to a worthy cause, children better understand the value of what they should be thankful for, while also observing empathy.
  • Create New Memories for Thankfulness – Create situations and activities for your family to spend time together without the typical outside influences of screens and other distractions. The act of preparing the Thanksgiving meal can be a great opportunity for the family to work together and talk about gratitude.
  • Ritual, Ceremony, and Tradition – We have written about how children love ritual, ceremony, and consistency. Even before science, all of the major religions understood the importance of gratitude. Whether your gathering gives blessing or talks about gratitude over the Thanksgiving meal, it can become a teaching tradition that children will learn from and cherish.
  • Be Sincere About Being Thankful – Young children, even before they understand language, are picking up on facial expressions and gestures from their role models. Sincerity is not often thought of as a physical act, but children can pick up on when adults give their undivided attention to a gesture, make eye contact, and smile after thanks is given.

Studies have found that people who practice gratitude gain many benefits in both physical and psychological health. From a teaching perspective, kids who understand gratitude have better grades and are less likely to get depressed. So whether at home around the Thanksgiving table, or in a classroom setting such as a children’s music class, learning to show gratitude is important and beneficial to the long term health of the child.

The Role of Adults in Young Children’s Music Class

Exploring the natural development phases of The Nature of the Young Child, we have shown how the first phases of life are crucial in how a child discovers independence. Our final part of this series explores the child’s home environment, and in particular, the role of adults in influencing the physical and psychological well-being of children. This is not merely limited to the role of parents, but also other caregivers and influential adults such as teachers of children’s music programs.

When we refer to environment in how it influences the development of the young child, we are not just referring to people, but include also the places and objects surrounding the child. However, the role of the parent or caregiver is an important model for the child. As children are introduced to new environments, they look to the guidance of their familiar people for a comfort level that allows them to explore new interactions. This is why parent/caregiver participation is so important in an early childhood music class. These may be one of the first classroom experiences of the child’s life, and the attitude the caregiver shares in the experience will influence the child’s attitude toward education and participation with others.

Suggestions for Adults in Young Children’s Music Classes

  • Take Time to Listen to Toddlers – While their language may not be fully developed, modeling respect for what they have to say will show them that it should be done for others.
  • Acknowledge and Respect – Recognize a child’s individuality and efforts that are being made in a respectful manner.
  • Speak Clearly and in Full Sentences – Baby talk is not helpful for language development, so use complete sentences and enunciate clearly to help them develop expressive ideas of their experiences.
  • Encourage  Them to Participate, Then Let Them Make the Choice – Offer an activity and acknowledge the child, but if they do not respond, move on and let them feel free to sit and observe.
  • Be Courteous in Modeling – Children between the ages of 2.5 and 4 love learning the precise movements of adults, so model courtesy when greeting others, handling instruments, putting things away, and saying goodbye.
  • Keep Things Orderly and Clean  Keeping a musical environment clean, whether in the classroom or at home, makes a lasting impression.
  • Be Melodious in Movement and Sound – Being graceful and singing in a calming, pleasant demeanor enriches the musical experience for the child.
  • Children Love Ritual, Ceremony, and Consistency – Children need a predictable and comfortable structure from which to explore and experiment, but it’s important to relinquish control without abandoning the child during class.

Perhaps the most endearing quality of children is their never-ending sense of wonder and amazement. By observing and engaging the child while allowing them to discover things on their own, adults energize their curiosity and sensorimotor mode. In these moments of deep concentration and reflection is where we observe and nurture their wonder-filled discoveries and creativity.

Much of the content for this post was based on the introduction to Family Music for Babies and Family Music for Toddlers, an early childhood music curriculum developed by Musikgarten.

The Role of Music in Early Childhood Development

In this third installment of our series on The Nature of the Young Child, we continue to explore how children learn during the first phases of life, and how the first three years in particular are critical. Based on the pedagogical philosophy of acclaimed educator Maria  Montessori to “follow the child,” there are several experiences that influence sensory and motor development for neurological organization. Caregivers and children’s music teachers can see how music has a role to play in this vital stage of childhood development.

Children Learn Through Movement

Once they have learned to walk, toddlers spend much of their time exploring the world around them. Any parent can tell you that they are constantly on the move, learning to obtain control of their body movements. As a prerequisite to cognitive learning, sensorimotor integration is one of the earliest ways that babies and toddlers learn about their world.  From reaching and grasping to crawling and walking, children are explorers by nature. Through repetition and practice, the toddler begins to unconsciously strengthen body to mind neural connections. Kinesthetic awareness, an inner sense that operates below the conscious level, contributes information about how the body feels as it moves. Such awareness is invaluable to all learning, including music – through movements such as clapping, tapping, bouncing, or dancing.

Listening is the Most Important Sensory Channel for Learning

Formed in utero, the ear is functional at four months after conception, allowing the fetus to begin hearing their mother’s breathing, heartbeat, digestion, talking, and singing. The ear is an organ that never rests, and listening is important to almost all aspects of learning – physical, social, emotional, and intellectual. Music helps children to focus their attention on familiar sounds, whether it is a lullaby sung by a parent or a children’s music class, and helps to teach appropriate interaction with adults and peers.

Shaping Language is the Child’s Great Work

 At the earliest stages of life, children understand that speaking is what constitutes communication in their world. Sounds that come from the mouth such as cooing are very fascinating to babies, eliciting excited responses that begin a back and forth form of communication. In the beginning, tone and inflection are even more important than the words themselves, and infants will imitate and practice sounds as they become excited about their own vocalizations. Music offers a very strong source of pleasure for children, as it soothes, elicits attention, and stimulates response. The rhythm, repetition, and rhyming of music all contribute to a child’s language development as they are allowed to sing to themselves, make up words, and silly noises.

Children Have a Natural Tendency for Order 

As children experience the massive amount of information coming through their senses, they begin to sort, order, classify and categorize. Remarkable because it is not based on any previous experience, this process helps children to understand their environment and how to put persons and things in their accustomed place.  Maria Montessori understood this, and once order is established around the age of 3.5 years, change is better tolerated in the external environment. Music participation and education also helps establish a sense of order through repetition and routine of familiar songs and movements.

Independence and Initiative are the Embodiment of Learning

As children develop through movement and language, they are also beginning to move from total dependence on their caregiver towards a growing sense of self. Parents fully understand the “strong will” of a toddler, and at around 2 years of age, they love to participate in self-chosen tasks. Insisting on completing tasks alone, toddlers are showing a desire to free themselves from dependency. Music can provide a valuable tool for children to explore their independence. For example, playing different developmentally appropriate instruments presents cause and effect as they see what sounds they can make with them.

Repetition is Essential to Learning 

Children love to repeat enjoyable experiences, and this is an important aspect of both learning and teaching. While allowing them to enjoy the experience over and over, the repeated action boosts both cognitive as well as muscle memory. Often with deep concentration, children repeat tasks of their own choosing until they have mastered it and established control. It is then that they look for other ways to put the actions to work. Music is a wonderful tool for providing children with both a repetitive learning task, but also a means by which to take those tasks and add their own creativity.

In the first years of life, children use these mechanisms to understand their world and grow to free themselves of total dependence on others. Music, along with movement, can provide caregivers and early childhood music teachers with powerful tools to assist in this crucial stage of child development. In our next blog, we will explore the role of adults in the child’s environment, and how to encourage these mechanisms for both the physical and psychological well-being of the child.  

 Much of the content for this post was based on the introduction to Family Music for Babies and Family Music for Toddlers, an early childhood music curriculum developed by Musikgarten.