Music as a Bonding Experience

Routines and rituals are important. They help to guide children through transitions (cleaning up, starting the day at school, getting ready for bath or bed, etc.). They connect us to our past, our cultures, our communities. Songs can be an important element of any routine or ritual, and by singing with our children, not only are our voices connecting, but our hearts are as well.

At a recent event for Gryphon House authors I had the opportunity to meet Jackie Silberg, a very kind person, wonderful musician and prolific author. She is a wealth of information about music and young children. In her blog she promotes music as a family experience and provides several example of how music can bring families closer together. She begins with infants, and goes on to give family music tips for all ages.

When you hold a baby and sing to him, all of his senses are stimulated. He hears your voice, he sees your face, he smells your  body and  feels your vibrations as you sing.

Through song we can be present with children, even if we are not right next to them. We can guide their actions through gentle words and music. Songs can teach children about seasonal changes or prepare them for big events. Traditional songs also help children connect to the past and to their greater community.

Teachers and families can learn from one another when it comes to music. Parents who struggle with transition time issues can use music to prepare children for a change of activity or place. Learn or make up clean up songs, bath or bedtime songs, travel songs, etc.

Teachers can move beyond typical transition or large group songs and explore sharing a song with an individual child or small group. Get silly with a child or two and make up songs together.

The holiday season is an especially wonderful time to make the effort to bring positive musical experiences into your home or classroom. With all that is going on families and teachers are stressed. Kids feel this and it effects them. Music is a great stress reliever. Just by sharing a song we can build and reinforce positive relationships with our children.

For ideas on how to share music with your infants and toddlers, check out the WoW Kits Making Music with Little Ones Bag or Binder.

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A Gift of Endless Books

With economic times being what they are, and the holidays fast approaching, it’s time to challenge the idea that children need a lot of expensive presents to be happy. Instead of waking up at 4 am to catch the great sales this Friday and ratcheting up that credit card debt (you know, the one that keeps you up late at night wondering how you’re ever going to pay it off), let’s break the parent/holiday-stress-cycle and consider gifts that cost nothing, but are packed with meaning and value:

  • A child’s own library card– wrap it up in a fancy gift card box, or bundle it with some books you’ve already checked out that you are sure your child will love. While you’re getting the card, look into the story times and other children’s programming your library is sure to offer. Your child will feel so grown up with their own card and they will love the special time with you that a trip to the library will give them. It’s a gift of endless books, and many libraries lend DVDs, CDs and toys too!
  • Coupons for phone-free or computer-free time with mom and/or dad– We usually aren’t aware of how often we check our email or talk on our cell phones when we are with our children. Yes, it’s important to stay connected with work and friends, but it often makes children feel unimportant. Make up a coupon or certificate that reads something like “Valid for an afternoon (or evening, day, 2 hours, etc.) of phone free time with Mom”. You can make it fancy on the computer, or just a simple hand-written note. The important thing is that you honor the promise when your child wants that uninterrupted time with you.
  • Take-out menu from your child’s favorite restaurant(s)– Wrap it up and explain that the next time the family orders out, your child can pick the menu. You can elaborate on this idea by using a hole punch or stickers as your child “redeems” the number of times she is allowed to choose the restaurant.
  • Start a new tradition– bake cookies together, look through old photos, have a holiday dance party. Think about the things that everyone in the family enjoys doing and set aside time to do it. Maybe it’s not something you all do at the same time (Mom and little brother can make the cookie dough and then Dad and big sister can decorate the baked cookies). The important thing is that you enjoy the experience together.

I’m not suggesting that you ignore your child’s wish list and skip the toys completely. But instead of worrying about how you are going to buy everything your child may want to make sure the holidays are special, think about how you can use the holidays as an opportunity to remind your child of how special and important he or she is to you.

Holidays: An Exploration of Diversity

As the holidays approach, conversations in your preschool class may begin to revolve around the upcoming family celebrations that your children are so looking forward to. For teachers who have cultural diversity in their classrooms, this can be a stressful time. Honoring the various traditions of your children’s families while trying to meet the expectations of the majority, or even a minority of very vocal parents/community members can be challenging. It is also a wonderful opportunity to explore the concept of diversity.

A diversity theme can be intimidating, but it can also be a wonderful way to get to know your families, strengthen the home/school connection and create a strong sense of community within your classroom. Here are some ideas:

  • Send home a parent letter and questionnaire– give parents advanced notice of the theme. Ask families where they come from, if they will be having a holiday celebration and if they would be willing to come in to talk about their traditions or bring in culturally relevant items or food. (Intelligences: Interpersonal, Linguistic)
  • Introduce the theme to your group by making “kid masks”– take a photo of each child. Blow it up to 5×7 or larger. Cut out the face. Laminate the photo. Mount it on a craft stick. Give children their masks. Encourage them to look at each others masks, try out the different masks, talk about how they are alike and different. Use them throughout the theme. Sort and group the masks by hair color, eye color, etc. Incorporate the masks into the dramatic play area. (Intelligences: Spatial, Interpersonal, Linguistic, Logical/Mathematical, Kinesthetic)
  • Encourage children to bring in photos of last year’s holiday celebration at home, or of a favorite family tradition. Use these photos to jog memories, have conversations, draw pictures or create stories. (Intelligences: Interpersonal, Intrapersonal, Linguistic)
  • Explore books that are relevant to the cultures of the children in your program. (Intelligences: Linguistic, Intrapersonal)
  • Learn games from the family cultures of your classroom. (Intelligence: Interpersonal, Kinesthetic)
  • Look for songs in the home languages of the children in your classroom and encourage the class to learn a word or phrase in that language. (Intelligences: Musical, Linguistic, Intrapersonal)

These are just a few ideas. If you’ve tackled this challenging theme with the children in your program, we’d love to hear about what worked for you!