The Powerful Role of Music

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By: Angy Talbot (ECFE Blog Writer)

“I would teach children music, physics, and philosophy; but most importantly music, for the patterns in music and all the arts are the keys to learning.” ~ Plato

Children benefit from being introduced to all different types of music. Music is all around us, in the home, and in society. There are many ways we incorporate music and movement into the Discovery classrooms. Whether listening to music from Raffi to classical, singing songs, playing instruments, or musical movement, music is incorporated and created daily in our environment. We teach the children how to sing a song. After practicing together, the children can sing the song as a class, and songs then can be used for transitioning from one activity to the next or in group or circle time. Children can also use their bodies as instruments by taping their feet, clapping their hands, and making different noises and sounds with their voices. Every classroom has various instruments that can be used individually during choice time and during circle time together as a group. Music is a tool we use throughout the day.

Music can play an important role in brain development. In the article, Why Music and Arts Education Is Important, Shari Black states, “According to a recent study done by neurologist Frank Wilson, when a musician plays he/she uses approximately 90 percent of the brain. Wilson could not find no other activity that uses the brain to this extent.” When a child plays a musical instrument or sings on a regular basis, it is exercising the entire brain while stimulating intelligence. Through singing and listening to music, children can learn new concepts. Singing helps children to understand meaning of words and repeating songs helps children to memorize phrases and strengthen memory.

Singing to your child is also an important element in music. Young children love to hear a calm singing voice while listening to patterns and recognizing the familiar sound of a caregiver’s tone. Each night before bedtime, I would rock my daughter to sleep while singing to her. I do not have the best singing voice, but she didn’t mind. I could see at an instant when I sang, she felt comforted and loved. As a toddler, we would sing nursery rhymes and children songs, which felt like all day long. In preschool, she would sing many songs in the Discovery classroom and repeat them in the car on our way home. Now that she is in elementary school, she still loves to sing. I can hear that sweet voice singing a tune while getting ready in the morning or when she is playing in her bedroom.

“Music plays a powerful role in the lives of young children. Through music, babies and toddlers can come to better understand themselves and their feelings, learn to decipher patterns and solve problems, and discover the world around them in rich, complex ways. Most important, sharing music experiences with the people they love makes very young children feel cherished and important.” (NAEYC). So don’t be shy and sing a song!

How do you integrate music with your children?

Below are a few websites on music:

Music and Your Baby

http://www.babycenter.com/0_music-and-your-baby-newborn-to-1-year_6548.bc

Learning of Music: The support of Brain Research

http://www.communityplaythings.com/resources/articles/musicandmovement/learningthroughmusic.html

Music and Movement – Instrumental in Language Development

http://www.earlychildhoodnews.com/earlychildhood/article_view.aspx?ArticleID=601

Music and Young Children

http://www.theparentreport.com/2012/06/music-and-young-children/

The Importance of Play

By Ms. Angy, ECFE Blog Writer

peek a boo Play is one significant way that children learn and play is important for children’s healthy development.  Through play, children explore and use their imagination by trying out new skills and bonding with others.  Play is an essential and critical part of all children’s development.  “Play starts in the child’s infancy, and ideally, continues throughout his or her life.  Play is how children learn to socialize, to think, to solve problems, to mature, and most importantly, to have fun.  Play connects children with their imagination, their environment, their parents and family, and the world (Play, Montana State).”  As parents, we can support our children’s play by initiating play activities and simply playing with our children.  As early as infancy, parents are their child’s first playmate.  When you engage with your baby by making silly faces or playing peek-a-boo, this is the beginning stage of play.   When a caregiver plays with an infant, there is a connection and bond that helps him or her feel secure, safe, and loved.  It’s important to try to spend as much time connecting and playing with your infant or toddler.

As children grow older, play becomes their “work.”  They begin to use materials and toys in their play to assist with their imagination.  As a preschool teacher, at least 40 minutes of our class time is “Free-Choice” where children have an opportunity to play in all areas of the room from dramatic play, blocks, art, books, writing, water, sand, discovery, math, science, computer, and games.  During play, not only are children learning with the various materials, they are learning to communicate with other children and adults.  Play helps preschoolers learn how to share, play together, problem solve, and use critical thinking skills.  There are many cognitive activities that take place in a Discovery Preschool Classroom from learning letter names to numbers.  Even though academics are important, children’s social well-being and the development of social skills through play should never be overlooked or undervalued.  Play is not only enjoyable; it is the building blocks toward children’s knowledge and their experiences for the future!

I would like to share a quote by Anita Wadley, “When you asked me what I did in school today and I say, ‘I just played.’  Please don’t misunderstand me.  For you see, I am learning as I play.  I am learning to enjoy and be successful in my work.  Today I am a child and my work is play.”

The following websites promote creative play with ideas for activities you can do at home!

  • Public Broadcasting Service’s educational website for kids:

www.pbs.org/wholechild/parents/play.html

  • Art, science, architecture, history, ethnic studies, puzzles, games, activities

and much more, just for kids:   www.niehs.nih.gov/kids/home.htm

What are some ways you play with your child?

Screen Time: How much is too much?

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By: Angy Talbot (ECFE Blog Writer)

“Screen time” is a term used for activities done in front of a screen, such as watching TV, working on a computer, or playing video games. Screen time is a sedentary activity, meaning you are being physically inactive while sitting down. Very little energy is used during screen time. Most American children spend about 3 hours a day watching TV. Added together, all types of screen time can total 5 to 7 hours a day. (MedicinePlus Medical Encyclopedia). I remember when my daughter was two years old, and before naptime every day, she would watch Dora on television. During dinnertime I would put on a DVD that she could watch so I could make dinner hands free and without any commotion. I asked her pediatrician how much television is all right and she told me no more than 2 hours a day after the age of two years old. My daughter is now nine years old, and when she was younger, there were no smart phones, hand devices or apps. I remember being so cautious to be sure she didn’t have too much screen time. I can’t image what it is like for parents today with so much technology at their fingertips. I often see young children playing on screens of all sizes everywhere from the grocery store to the park. I remember as a kid looking out the window when we drove in the car, now children look at video screens.

I understand how convenient it is to keep children entertained with our various devices, video games, and television, but how much screen time is too much?

The American Academy of Pediatrics discourages media use by children younger than age two and recommends limiting older children’s screen time to no more than 1 or 2 hours a day. Too much screen time has been linked to:

  • Obesity
  • Irregular sleep
  • Behavioral problems
  • Impaired academic performance
  • Violence.
  • Less time for play

How to limit screen time – Suggestions from the Mayo Clinic

Your child’s total screen time might be greater than you realize. Start monitoring it and talk to your child about the importance of sitting less and moving more. Also, explain screen time rules — and the consequences of breaking them. In the meantime, take simple steps to reduce screen time. For example:

  • Eliminate background TV. If the TV is turned on — even if it’s just in the background — it’s likely to draw your child’s attention. If you’re not actively watching a show, turn off the TV.
  • Keep TVs and computers out of the bedroom. Children who have TVs in their bedrooms watch more TV than children who don’t have TVs in their bedrooms. Monitor your child’s screen time and the websites he or she is visiting by keeping TVs and computers in a common area in your house.
  • Don’t eat in front of the TV. Allowing your child to eat or snack in front of the TV increases his or her screen time. The habit also encourages mindless munching, which can lead to weight gain.
  • Set school day rules. Most children have limited free time during the school week. Don’t let your child spend all of it in front of a screen. Also, avoid using screen time as a reward or punishment. This can make screen time seem even more important to children.
  • Talk to your child’s caregivers. Encourage other adults in your child’s life to limit your child’s screen time, too.
  • Suggest other activities. Rather than relying on screen time for entertainment, help your child find other things to do, such as reading, playing a sport, helping with cooking, or trying a board game.
  • Set a good example. Be a good role model by limiting your own screen time.
  • Unplug it. If screen time is becoming a source of tension in your family, unplug the TV, turn off the computer, or put away the smart phones or video games for a while. You might designate one day a week or month as a screen-free day for the whole family. To prevent unauthorized TV viewing, put a lock on your TV’s electrical plug. (Mayo Clinic, Children and TV: Limiting Your Child’s Screen Time. August, 2013)

With the use of so much technology, it can be a challenge to manage our children’s screen time. We need to do more planning when it comes to the use of media by giving children limits and have times set aside for their use. Try to cut down on your child’s screen time by:

  • Decide which programs to watch ahead of time. Turn off the TV when those programs are over.
  • Suggest other activities, such as family board games, puzzles, or going for a walk.
  • Be a good role model as a parent. Decrease your own screen time to 2 hours a day.
  • Think of some activities you and your child can do instead using a device or screen. The more you turn the screen off, the easier it becomes to keep it off.

When Steve Jobs was asked by New York Times reporter Nick Bilton, “So your kids must love the iPad?” Jobs responded: “They haven’t used it. We limit how much technology our kids use at home.”

 

 

Reading: start early with your child

child reading with adultBy Ms Rebecca, ECFE Teacher

As a preschool teacher and mother of a toddler I love reading children’s books, and I think that it’s such a fun and easy way to connect with children.

Starting reading with your baby is a great way to bond. Babies learn new words, and enjoy the bright pictures. They can learn animal sounds and shapes by hearing them in short board books, even with no words. Reading with your baby can help them to develop a love for books, and reading a variety of books can teach them about different topics.

While you are reading to your baby he can sit on your lap, or you can get down on his level. You can point to pictures and name things, and let your child turn the pages.  As your child grows encourage her to repeat words and  you can respond to her when she point to pictures. Reading the same book repeatedly will build vocabulary and help your child to make the connection between words and pictures.

Reading books with preschoolers is a little more advanced.  By now, these 3, 4 and 5 year olds know a lot more about the world around them. They can often relate books to their own life. They tell funny stories about their experiences. Reading with preschool kids helps them to recognize familiar words, and letters. They learn that stories have clear structure and specific elements. They also learn that all stories have a beginning, middle, and end. Children will begin to predict what might happen next, or what a story might be about based on illustrations and book covers.

Encourage your preschooler to “pretend” to read by looking at pictures and telling the story. They can read to their dolls or toys. Reading and rereading your children’s favorite books can help them to remember certain phrases and memorable refrains. (For example, Brown Bear, Brown Bear what do you see?)  Also, reading rhyming and nonsense books with children will make reading fun. Making kids laugh while reading will keep them interested. Another important activity parents and caregivers can do while reading with a preschooler is to point to each word with your finger. This demonstrates to your child(ren) that there is a one-to-one match between the spoken and written words. Pointing as you read introduces and reinforces the idea that we read from top to bottom and from left to right.  Ask lots of questions when you are reading, both open ended and closed. This really gets kids thinking and involved in the reading.

Starting reading early will set the foundation for children to love books and reading. The skill of understanding basic book and print rules will follow kids into school and help them become successful readers.

 

New Year, New Family Resolutions

By: Ms. Angy, Early Childhood Blog Writer

Happy-New-Year-2013It is hard to believe that the year 2012 has come to an end!  As we begin to celebrate the New Year, many of us set out to achieve goals for our New Year’s resolutions.  A New Year’s resolution is a commitment or a pledge to reform a habit or make a life style change.  “A key element to a New Year’s resolution that sets it apart from other resolutions is that it is made in anticipation of the New Year and new beginnings” (Wikipedia).  Why not this year have your children set a New Year’s resolution?  For individual children’s goals, you and your child can come up with a resolution that will also help them increase independent skills.  Some suggestions are:

  • I will clean up my toys after I play with them.
  • I will always try a bite of a new food.
  • I will put on my jacket by myself.
  • I will brush my teeth twice a day.
  • I will feed our pet each day.
  • I will make my bed each morning.
  • I will get dressed by myself.
  • I will watch less TV.
  • I will read for 20 minutes each night before bed.
  • I will stay in my bed when it is bedtime.

Children’s resolutions should be age-appropriate and a goal that they can achieve with guidance or on their own.

Families can even come up with a family resolution to do together.  New Year’s resolutions are a great way to bring the family closer.  Some fun family resolutions could be:

  • Plan a family night each week from game night to bowling.
  • Eat together as a family at least twice a week for dinner.
  • Have a monthly or weekly family meeting to discuss family concerns or upcoming events.
  • Exercise as a family from going for walks to bike rides.
  • Less screen time and more family time.
  • Go outside more and plan a camping trip or weekly events in nature.
  • Slow down your schedule and do less running from one activity to the next.

One entertaining New Year’s resolution activity is to make a time capsule each year and put in the capsule items that will represent the year along with your written family resolution.  You can look through the capsules each year before making a new one!  Whatever the resolution your family decides on should help make the family bond stronger, and every goal should be realistic and obtainable.  Keep in mind that the best family resolutions are those you can do together!  Happy New Year and all the best for you and in your family in 2013!

For more ideas in family New Year’s resolutions go to PBS parents at:

http://www.pbs.org/parents/special/article-winter-making-new-years-resolutions-with-your-child.html

Or Disney Family at:

http://family.go.com/parenting/pkg-teen/article-783845-family-new-year-resolutions-t/

What other New Year’s Resolutions do you think would be good for a child or family?

From Babbling to Talking: The Language Journey

By: Ms. Angy, ECFE Blog Writer

Teaching your Baby to talkFrom language, the infant creates order of verbal communication by means of the adult’s tone of voice, nonverbal communication and the words used.  The child begins to absorb the understanding of the feelings behind the words.  Children also need to not only learn words, but the meaning of the words.   I feel that by continuously reading and talking to your baby, will help your infant with language and literacy development.  I started reading to my daughter at six weeks old.  I also talked to her all the time since the day she was born.  I talked to her at the grocery store showing her the apple and verbally labeling it before I put it into the bag.  I would walk around the house pointing out objects and identifying them by name.  When I would change her diaper, I was telling her about each step I was performing and the materials used.  Everything she would touch, I would tell her the name of that object.  We would communicate back and forth making sounds while smiling at one another.   At an early age, she was talking in short sentences.  I feel my daughter did not have very many temper tantrums because she could verbalize her needs at such a young age and she could be understood.

When parents read and speak to their children, it helps build vocabulary and language acknowledgment.  In addition to promoting language development, reading to children stimulates imagination, reinforces basic concepts and offers opportunities for new experiences.   My favorite time of the day was story time.  My daughter would sit on my lap and cuddle while we read a book.  Her favorite story then is still her favorite story today.   It’s valuable to model proper language and to expose children to the sounds of the human voice.   Infants love to play peek-a-boo and patty cake, listen to silly sounds, hearing changes in the voice from a whisper to a high pitch laugh and hearing sounds in the environment from a garbage truck outside to a phone ringing inside.  Vocabulary enrichment is continuously communicating by talking, listening, touching and connecting.  Infants bond with adults through their voice and touch.  That interaction is what develops the human relationship.  Early language development will benefit the child throughout their lifetime.  There are wonderful tips and articles to read on early language development at:

http://www.zerotothree.org/child-development/early-language-literacy/tips-tools-early-lit-and-lang.html

MN Reading Corps in The Classroom

By: Ms. Angy
Early Childhood Blog Writer

The experience I have had with the Minnesota Reading Corps has changed my teaching in many ways.  The different methods of literacy instruction introduced by the Minnesota Reading Corps program has allowed me to expand how I teach writing, reading, and language arts for preschoolers.  I feel these new added skills has refined how I communicate and interact with my students, whether it is a simple conversation, the singing of song or nursery rhymes at every transition, or reading a story.  I have transformed my classroom into a literacy rich environment by labeling items throughout, making writing materials more available, strategically placing theme based books, introducing the Word Wall and The What Is It Bag; all which enhance the enrichment of vocabulary.  I now have a better understanding of children and literacy.

I have seen first hand the impact that the Minnesota Reading Corps involvement has had in our preschool program.  Many children come into a preschool environment not knowing any letter names or sounds.  Since we have introduced the MRC to our classrooms, many children are leaving preschool knowing all letter names and sounds, and the concepts of rhyming and alliteration.   Some children are even reading.  A boy in my class began his preschool experience struggling to recognize letters.  With one-on-one interventions with the Minnesota Reading Corps member, Leah, and daily literacy activities in the classroom, he began to recite the letter names.  In the spring, one day he was looking around the room, noticing all the words posted on the walls and objects.  He looked at the word, “table” and said with excitement, “Hey, that word says table and that is a table!”  This boy started to sound out words and began to read.  When children receive hands on experiences and individual guidance, they can achieve.  Each year I am seeing more success stories and I am proud of how far we have come in teaching children beginning literacy skills and helping families to guide their children toward reading.

For more information about the Minnesota Reading Corps or becoming a member, visit their website.