Category Archives: Music

Musical Mondays: Favorite Baby Music

We live in a day and age where music is readily available to us. There is Pandora, and iTunes, satellite radio and even music channels on your TV. With all of our options, it is easy to become overwhelmed. I was recently asked by some of my students to identify some of my favorite children’s music. So here is a short list of musical collections Harper and I are currently enjoying.

Animal Playground

First of all, have you heard of the Putumayo Kids collection yet? Talk about variety! They have over 20 CDs that feature music from all around the world. I first learned about Putumayo through Pandora and have been hooked ever since. I love the Animal CD best because it is a great learning tool for teaching our little ones about the different types of creatures that live on our planet. The music is fun and upbeat and makes you want to dance. And Putumayo is not just limited to kids music. They have an extensive collection of music for all ages.

Brilliant Beginnings in Music

As I have mentioned before, exposing your child to a variety of music helps them to appreciate different styles and sounds from an early age. Brilliant Beginnings offers beautiful music from all over the world. You can dance with your child to flamenco, drum to an Irish jig or explore your maracas to the traditional sounds of the Cahuilla people. The music is simple enough for your little ones to treasure but sophisticated enough for adults to enjoy.

Family Time

There is something magical about reggae that just makes me want to groove. And now your little ones can groove along with you. A wonderful collection of original tunes and a few covers, Family Time resonates with themes of fun, responsibility, and freedom. Sing along with a new twist on the ABCs, play a musical version of “Ziggy Says” and enjoy story time with a message that promotes unity and love.

Farm Songs and the Sounds of Moo-sic

There is nothing better than a family sing-a-long. A fan of all things created by Lynn Kleiner, Farm Songs has quickly become a new favorite in our household. This CD is a delightful combination of music, learning, humor, and fun for people of all ages! Through the engaging songs, orchestral music, and activities, children will learn about music making, movement, and listening. It is sure to put a smile on your face :)

Sing-a-Longs and Lullabies for the Film Curious George

A musical collection to be enjoyed by the youngest to the oldest, Jack Johnson’s playful tunes and laid-back approach turns out to be the perfect musical alter ego for a the character of Curious George. With songs like “3Rs” which reminds us to recycle, reduce and reuse, and “The Sharing Song” children are taught age-appropriate lessons in an upbeat and fun way. Highly listenable many times around, this music makes me happy.

Your turn: What are some of your favorite children’s song/CDs? Looking forward to hearing your responses :)

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Musical Mondays: Starting Early

There is no greater gift than the gift of music.  One of the things that makes music so wonderful is that it has no limits, especially when it comes to age.  Which means, you can start making music with your little one as early as 6 months in utero.  And the sooner you start,  the greater the benefits.

When it comes to music education, starting your little one in music soon after birth can give your child a jump-start on learning.  Like I have mentioned before, we are all born with a natural ability to sing.  Which is why we find that our youngest babies and toddlers can easily learn to match a pitch because they are no yet distracted by formal language, allowing them to easily focus on the task at hand.  Music has the tenancy to encourage babies to speak sooner and more clear as singing enhances how the child enunciates and also brings phonetic awareness.

Young children learn music similarly to the way they learn to speak.  Research and practice have taught us that children who are spoken to will learn to speak and that children who are read to will learn to read.  So, doesn’t it seem obvious that children who are sung to will learn to sing?  Children learn to speak and make music by listening and repeating.  Music also teaches children to make fine distinctions in what they’re hearing.  Training your child’s ear to internalize rhythms and tones at an early age can help children recognize emotion in spoken language later on, helping to promote social and emotional skills.  In addition, music teaches children that they can use a variety of tools to communicate their thoughts and feelings, including sound and movement.

Music classes are a great opportunity for our little ones to become familiar with social settings.  Group music instruction provides a foundation for the development of healthy social skills by encouraging cooperation, turn-taking and sharing.  In the process of singing, dancing and having fun, children learn expectations of how to behave in a structured setting.

While early music teachers agree that musical skill can be learned at any age, natural talent is nourished in environments where children as young as newborns are repeatedly exposed to quality music.  These early experiences provide a foundation for future success as children who get music education from a young age will simply think of music as something they could always do.  Remember, we love what we know.  So through repetition, our little ones gain the confidence they need to build on their musical foundation.

While we are busy enhancing your child’s language, social and emotional development, why not increase spatial intelligence?  Experts say music forms strong connections in the brain that are the same as those used in cognitive skills such as critical thinking, problem solving and mathematics.  Music helps the brain lay down neural pathways that will be used later in life or later for higher learning.  Exposure to weekly music education provides a practical foundation for success in a classroom setting as musical activities help children to focus their thinking, encouraging them to follow directions in a fun and creative way.

And just when you thought it couldn’t get any better?  The incredible benefits of early music education are all happening while you and your baby are enjoying the pleasure of music together.  Does life get any better than that?  So, what are you waiting for…hurry up and get started!  Time is ticking…

This photo was taken by my good friend and talented photographer Rachel Bradshaw of Little Sparrows Photography.

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Musical Mondays: Listening Ears

The simple act of listening to music can have a significant impact on both parent and child.  Listening to music together is an inexpensive and easy activity that can be wonderful bonding experience shared by the entire family.  Not to mention, the extensive benefits for your child’s development.

Listening, comparing, and responding to various types of music helps to develop thinking skills.  Early music exposure can help promote critical language and literacy as well as creativity and coordination. Listening to music will help teach your child about patterns and sequence, and about rhythm, beat and tone which are useful for problem-solving and reasoning.  Research has shown us that children with a strong sense of beat are more likely to read well and excel at math.  Listening to music helps put babies and toddlers into a relaxed and receptive state.  Music also has the ability to raise your child’s self-confidence and self-esteem and can become a form of expression for your baby when they can’t yet talk.

So now that we know the incredible benefits of listening to music, how can we make music the most important fixture in your home?  Nowadays, music is always available because it is so easily accessed.  Many people can play music from their phones, computers and televisions.  Putting on your favorite tune and dancing around with your baby is a great way to spend time with your little one.  Think of your family’s daily life as a movie that needs a soundtrack.  Having songs playing all the time will help cultivate your child’s interest in music, so that as they grows, they’ll have an ear for it.  Make music a part of your day by breaking into sing songs during playtime.  A simple game of peekaboo can spark a musical moment.  And as the day winds down, listening to music at bedtime is a great way to help your child get ready to sleep.  Recorded lullabies are sweet, but babies love the sounds of your voice the best.

When it comes to playing tunes for your kids, think cheerful and simple songs.  Let your personal preference be your guide.  If you like classical music and your baby appears to enjoy it too, go with that.  Anything with a good melody will do, although slow songs tend to work best for bedtime and fast ones for playtime.  Your goal should be to cultivate a love for music in your child.  It should be about having fun and exposing your child to new sounds and rhythms.  Looking to spice it up a bit?  Bring your children to listen to live music.  These are great opportunities to expose them to many different instrumental sounds and styles of music.

When listening to music with your child, help them to become an active listener by calling attention to particular sections in a recording or song.  For example, comment on the tempo (slow, fast), the pitch (high, low), the volume (soft, loud) or the different types of instruments (drums, flutes, etc.) that you hear.  Over time, auditory discrimination is enhanced as the child learns about these concepts.

In my classes, one of our favorite songs to listen to is Aquarium, from Carnival of the Animals off of the Kids Can Listen, Kids Can Move! by Lynn Kleiner.  With the help of their parents, children move to the music using scarves or instruments.  Each movement is intentional, dancing down low as the melody descends and back up again when the music ascends.  The kids love to practice their jumping at the end when they hear the oboe.  Moving our bodies with the music is a great way to teach children to be active listeners as well as teach musical form.

Introducing your child to the wonders of listening to music is truly a gift .  And the earlier you expose them, the better.  At 6 months in utero, your baby is able to discriminate sound.  Although most of the sounds in the womb are muffled, the melody and rhythm of music are not much altered. A baby’s brain is able to register the rhythmic patterns of the music, and changes in beat and melody are picked up.  So, take time to sit quietly and invite your baby to a concert in the womb.  Singing and listening to music is a beautiful way to begin your relationship with your baby.

Whether your baby is in or out of the womb, putting on your listening ears and cranking up your favorite song is a wonderful way to share the joy of music with your child.  And the best part?  There are no rules.  Just sit back, relax and listen :)

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Musical Mondays: Hello Song

In my weekly music classes, each lesson begins with a “Hello Song”.  It is typically a simple folk song in which the lyrics were changed to fit the purpose of my class.  Besides being a good marker for the beginning of class, it is a wonderful activity to help introduce and instill the musical concepts that we practice weekly.

While I play the “Hello Song” on the guitar, my students and their parents join me in singing along.  Parents tap or bounce their child to the steady beat.  I like to sing a few verses that suggest tapping the steady beat on different body parts such as their shoulders, knees, head, etc.  This is a great way to sneak in learning opportunities for labeling body parts which help to promote language development.

After practicing different ways to play the steady beat, we go around the circle and acknowledge each student in the class by singing their name.  Using children’s names in the “Hello Song” is important for many reasons.  A child’s name is their identity.  When you greet a child by their name it helps to validate who they are as well as is affirms their presence in class, therefore promoting self-awareness and aiding in the development of self-esteem.  This is also a great opportunity to teach the concept of taking turns.  As we move around the circle from child to child they learn that the spotlight will be on them when it is their turn and then move on to the next child.  It becomes a subtle way to teach children how to share attention.

Singing the “Hello Song” is also a wonderful social activity.  As we are singing and acknowledging our friends, we like to encourage children to wave and greet the other students in the class.  This can be a great way for the children to learn about the social rituals in our society.  It also helps each child to feel welcomed and included as part of a group activity.

Finally, singing the “Hello Song” at the beginning of every class helps to promote routine.  When the children hear the “Hello Song”, they know what to expect.  Making them aware of what comes next helps them to experience a comforting sense of self-control.  It is a simple tool to make transitions between activities smoother, both in music class and life itself.  Taking the song home with you and making up your own verses for bath time, clean up and meals can help make mundane tasks fun and exciting.

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Musical Mondays: The Magic of Music

“The magic of music warms the heart and soothes the soul”

Today’s Musical Monday is a bit different from the norm.  However, the message is still the same.  Instead of focusing on the wonderful benefits of music for our younger ones, we turn to the other end of the spectrum and celebrate the magic of music for the more seasoned adults in our lives.

I was so fortunate to grow up in a musical family.  I began singing on commercials when I was three, started piano lessons when I was four, and in my teen years picked up the guitar.  My parents were always supportive of my passion for music and shared the joy of making music together.  But my appreciation for music ran deeper than the beautiful sounds and tones emitted.  From an early age, I was exposed to the true magic of music and it’s ability to impact people’s lives.

I first witnessed the magic of music during a visit to see my Uncle Ted.  Uncle Ted had Alzheimer’s Disease and his condition made it difficult for my Aunt Ruth to care for him at home so he was moved into a skilled nursing facility where his needs could be properly met.  One day my family and I went to see him to help celebrate his 50th wedding anniversary.  We met in the dining hall, which had been decorated with streamers, banners and balloons.  Uncle Ted was all dressed up in a tuxedo t-shirt and his best pair of pants.  But as handsome as he looked, Uncle Ted wasn’t the same person I had remembered him to be.  He was seemingly lifeless and could barely talk.  He wouldn’t make eye contact and wasn’t at all interested in the festivities that were going on around him.

After some yummy cake and refreshments, my dad sat down at the piano to play Uncle Ted and Aunt Ruth’s special song, “Moonlight Serenade“.  This song was significant to them because it was the tune that won him Aunt Ruth’s heart when he came home from World War II.  As the music began to play Uncle Ted became overwhelmed with emotional.  He was crying tears of joy.  He got up and began to dance with Aunt Ruth as he hummed along with the melody.  It was as if someone went over and turned on a light switch inside Uncle Ted.  The magic of music had brought him back to life, even if it was just for a short while.

Once the party was over and things were cleaned up, we walked Uncle Ted back to his room to say goodbye.  The excitement of the party and the music had worn off by now and he reverted back to a quite, expressionless and disconnected man.

On the ride home from our visit with Uncle Ted, my dad was reminded of when we used to visit his mom, whom we called Nanny, in her nursing home.  My nanny was also diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and lived in a private home with six other women and a staff to attend to her needs.  Upon arrival my Nanny would normally be sitting in a chair in the living room with her chin rested on her chest.  We would greet her but she would never even acknowledge that we were there.  But then my dad would begin to sing the hymns that he grew up singing with her at church, and like magic she would come alive.  She would chime in, singing each and every lyric in perfect harmony (she was a soprano).  And then, as quickly as she perked up, when the song was over, she would shut down and put her chin back on her chest and drift away.

A few days ago, I came across this video on YouTube.  It was the inspiration for my post.  It is a visual example of the stories that I have just shared with you.  This video makes me happy, it beings me joy and it gives me hope.

I believe music is a universal language.  One that has the ability to cross all barriers, including obstacles that seem impenetrable.  It can evoke emotion, resurrect memory and construct passageways that allow for loving reunion.  I am extremely grateful for the gift of music and its magical effects on all of us.

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Musical Mondays: Lullabies

As infants, some of our first and fondest memories of music are of a loving parent singing a familiar lullaby to us as they rocked us to sleep. It provided us with a sense of security, calmness and love. Since response to sound is one of the most highly developed abilities in a newborn, it is important for infants to be nurtured musically. And lullabies are the perfect opportunity for physical and emotional attachment.

Lullabies have a magic to them that seems to easily sooth babies who are fussy and tired. Babies tend to respond best to songs that are familiar to them. They love what they know. So repetition is key when introducing your little one to their favorite lullaby. While I was still pregnant with Harper, a close friend and mentor of mine suggested that at six months in utero I begin to sing Harper a lullaby. So for the months leading up to her birth, we would sing “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” to her as often as we could. Once Harper was born she was easily soothed by this song, as it was familiar to her and would remind her of the comfort and security that she felt in my womb.

Besides using lullabies to sooth an infant, rocking and singing to music helps infants become accustomed to the feelings of sound and motion. This type of gentle introduction to music helps to reduce babies natural reaction to startle due to sudden movement and loud noises or sounds. In addition, gentle rocking to the pulse of the music helps to instill that sense of the steady beat.

Another benefit of lullabies is the communication that occurs between parent and baby. It is not uncommon for an infant to respond directly to the singer by cooing and babbling, thus encouraging the development of speech and singing. In a recent conversation that I had with my dad, he recalled a special moment that he says he will never forget. When I was a baby, my dad used to rock me to sleep and sing me a litany of lullabies. One night, in the middle of one of our favorite lullabies, I began to sing along with him. I was still fairly young and had yet to say my first word, but I began to accompany him in perfect pitch as we engaged in an unexpected duet. Now that I have become a mother myself, and have experienced this with my own daughter, I can truly say, it is one of the most rewarding moments of my life. There is nothing sweeter than singing a lullaby with your baby.

Unfortunately, so many parents feel inadequate in making music on their own. They are insecure about the quality of their singing voices and as a result are ashamed to even attempt to sing to or with their children. But when it comes to singing to your children, the good news is, regardless if you can sing in tune not, they think you have the most beautiful voice in the world. What is most important is that you sing to your baby.

At the end of each of my music classes, I like to sing a few lullabies with my students and their parents. I enjoy it best when families share their own traditional lullabies with us. It becomes a wonderful opportunity for a cross-cultural musical experience and is a great way for all of us to learn a few new songs.

Having a small repertoire of favorites lullabies is a great tool to have in your back pocket. You never know when you might need to bust out a tune in the middle of the grocery store to calm your tired or fussy baby. But don’t feel limited to singing only music that is labeled “lullabies”. Try singing contemporary songs or show tunes. This is a great time to introduce your baby to lots of different styles of music. Remember, they love what they know, so repetition is key, especially with familiar recorded music and lullabies.

So go ahead and explore Pandora or iTunes and stock up on a short list of songs that you can easily memorize. Because one day, that memory you have of your parent singing you to sleep, will become their own.

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Musical Mondays: Movement with Scarves

I think it is safe to say that pretty much every baby gets a kick out of a good old-fashioned game of peek-a-boo.  It might seem like the simplest concept, but the joy it brings to their faces is infectious.  You can’t help but giggle.

Well, being that it is Musical Monday, lets spice up that game of peek-a-boo a bit and add a fun melody to it.  And then let’s explore the scarves a little more and see how many other fun activities we can enjoy with them.

In the instrument kit I told you about last week, there is a little red scarf.  We use this prop for lots of dancing and movement activities.  But of course, we can’t help but sneak a short game of peek-a-boo in too.  The scarves we use are see through so it’s not scary for the babies because they can still see their mommies and daddies through the fabric.  We like to take turns hiding between the babies and their parents.  Check out this fun tune for a new twist on this old favorite.

After we get our giggles out from playing peek-a-boo we like to take our scarves for a dance.  Playing a variety of different music encourages our little ones to explore new ways to move their bodies with their scarves.  Moving to music is a great way to promote the development of gross motor skills and rhythm.

What’s great about this activity is that it is an easy one for you to participate in at home.  All you need is some music and a bunch of light weight, colorful scarves.  You can purchase some here or check your local thrift shop for a cheap find.  You can also improvise by using handkerchiefs, cloth napkins, or bandanas.  Feel free to get creative.

Then, find some space that allows you and your little one to move about freely.  Lay out the scarves so that they are accessible to your little one, while choosing a few for yourself.  Turn on the music and begin to explore your own movement, making your scarf dance in time.  Your little one might just want to observe you for a while or they might just jump right in.  Either way, I like to label their actions.  For example, “Are you watching mama dance with her scarf?”.  Or, “I see you shaking your scarf.  Nice dancing with your scarf”.

As you move from song to song, switch out the music so that you can explore different tempos.  Help your little one to notice the contrast in the various music types by demonstrating them through your movements.  Float your scarves gracefully for slow music and jiggle them jauntily for quicker music.  Promote language development and color identification by saying, “Do you want a turn with the green one?” or “Is Mommy under this blue scarf?”

When you are all done, encourage your child to help you put the scarves neatly in a bag.  In my classes, we always sing the “Colors are Gliding” song which ends with a verse about folding.  It is a great way to teach our little ones how to take care of their things and doubles as a fun song to sing while doing laundry :)

Babies are born to dance.  Researchers have discovered that infants respond to the rhythm and tempo of music and even find it more engaging than speech.  This shows that babies may be born with a predisposition to move rhythmically in response to music.  It was found that the more the children were able to synchronize their movements with the music, the more they smiled.  So it is never to early to start moving and dancing with your baby.  And why not grab some scarves to go along for the ride :)

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