The Powerful Role of Music



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

Learning of Music: The support of Brain Research

Music and Movement – Instrumental in Language Development

Music and Young Children

Parent-Child Time: The Heart of ECFE


By: Ms. Angy Talbot (ECFE Blog Writer)


I believe in the statement that parent-interaction time is, “The heart of Early Childhood Family Education programs in Minnesota’s programs for parents with young children”.  It is a wonderful time for parents to interact with their children in a prepared and safe environment.  This time is used for children to have an opportunity to socialize and interact with other children of similar ages.  It benefits the parents by giving them an opportunity to observe, interact, and learn more about their child.  The parents share quality time with their children, and on occasion, generate ideas that they can bring home to do with their child.  This valuable time enables them to learn new songs they can sing with their children, recreate art projects, and interact with their child through play activities.  When I attended ECFE with my child, I found it very beneficial having this chance to observe my child in a different setting with children her age.  I could see developmentally where the other children were and how this compared to typical development.  It helped me to observe how my child interacted with other children and how I could help her to learn social behaviors and skills.  My daughter loved the messy play that we could do in an ECFE classroom and I did not have to worry about the mess.  We painted many pictures together, played with silly putty called “Glurch,” and there were often many art activities that we explored and later tried out at home (I found the best play dough recipe from the Early Childhood Teacher).  The time we spent together in ECFE are moments in her lifetime that I will never forget.  I always looked forward to our days where we could just play together and forget about the outside world.

For more information on our ECFE classes and other programs go to:

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:

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

and much more, just for kids:

What are some ways you play with your child?

Hands-On Math for Preschoolers

By: Ms. Angy, ECFE Blog Writer

preschooler and mathThree years ago our Discovery Preschool Programs adopted a new math curriculum called, Real Math – Building Blocks.  Real Math is, “the first program to fully integrate all five strands of mathematical proficiency as defined by today’s research.”  The five key proficiencies that students need to achieve math stated by the Real Math curriculum are:

  1. Understanding: Comprehending mathematical concepts, operations, and relations – knowing what mathematical symbols, diagrams, and procedures mean.
  2. Computing: Carrying out mathematical procedures, such as adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing numbers flexibly, accurately, efficiently, and appropriately.
  3. Applying: Being able to formulate problems mathematically and devise strategies for solving them using concepts and procedures appropriately.
  4. Reasoning: Using logic to explain and justify a solution to a problem or to extend from something known to something not yet known.
  5. Engaging: Seeing mathematics as sensible, useful, and doable.

The Real Math curriculum combines skill-building and problem-solving instruction that includes technology.  Each child is given access to mathematical games, which can be found on the real math website.  Since the children login to their own account, each child’s successes and progress can be monitored.  This technology resource helps take the classroom to the next level while giving parent’s a great alterative for their child’s computer use at home.  Every Discovery classroom has a computer available for the children to use during class time.  The children greatly enjoy playing these different math games on the computer, which has provided a variation to learning diverse math skills.  “Technology opens the door to mathematical understanding and application that will prepare students for the real world.”

Each day children engage in whole group math activities, small group math activities, and hands on learning in the math center.  Each week the children learn and practice a math concept from counting, learning about shapes, measuring, patterns, number recognition, sorting, classifying, adding and subtracting small numbers, and much, much more!  Overall, the children are learning through hands on activities and teacher directed instruction, while children’s progress is monitored.

As a preschool teacher, I have enjoyed using this math curriculum.  This program offers support and training for teachers.  The lessons are very thorough, nicely prepared, and can be easily implemented into any classroom setting.  I feel it is very important for children at a young age to develop and understand numerous math skills.  The children are often applying and learning math concepts without even realizing it.  The activities are engaging and very age appropriate.  I want children to feel confident in math and think of it as fun!  “Quality mathematics is a joy, not a pressure.  It emerges from children’s play, their curiosity, and their natural ability to think.”  For more information on the Real Math curriculum please go to:

How do you apply math concepts at home?

RTI for Kindergarten Readiness-Helping Children Early in the Classroom

rti_pyramidBy: Ms. Angy, ECFE Blog Writer/Discovery Learning Teacher

RTI stands for Response to Intervention and is used to reach the needs of all children by providing early instructional interventions.  In Discovery Learning, when children need extra support the teaching team (lead teacher, ECSE teacher, MRC Representative and Classroom Assistant) in the classroom works together with the child in more explicit and purposeful teaching.  One way we administer our interventions is to begin with individual assessments.  By assessing children quarterly and when needed, we’re able to keep track of children’s progress and see areas of need and growth.  One example is in our literacy assessments.  Children are tested or bench marked on letter names, letter sounds, alliteration, rhyming, and picture naming in the fall, winter, and spring.  With the help of the Minnesota Reading Corps, children are progress monitored throughout the school year.  After the very first assessment in the fall, children who need some extra help will begin working with the classroom teacher or MRC representative to provide extra literacy support in small groups or one-on-one.  After each literacy goal is achieved, a new goal is implemented until the child is at benchmark in each area of literacy.

Another form of RTI in the Discovery Learning classrooms is the Response to Intervention and the Pyramid Model.  “The Pyramid Model provides a tiered intervention framework of evidence-based interventions for promoting the social, emotional, and behavioral development of young children” (Fox et al., 2003; Hemmeter, Ostrosky, & Fox, 2006).  The model describes three tiers of intervention practice:

  • Tier 1:  universal promotion for all children
  • Tier 2:  secondary preventions to address the intervention needs for children at risk of social emotional delays
  • Tier 3:  tertiary interventions needed for children with persistent challenges

One of the great advantages of working with RTI in our ECFE/SR program is the resources that are available to us.  With the Pyramid Model (formally TACSEI) and High Five (ISD 728) a team is available to guide the staff and families in RTI interventions from behavior specialists, parent educators, coaches, and a school psychologist.

This is just the tip of the iceberg in a description of RTI in our Discovery Classrooms.  There is so much being done daily in our environments for the achievement of every child’s academic and social-emotional success.  With the implementation of RTI:  early identification of children’s challenges is recognized, student’s are provided with instructional support, and children’s progress is monitored and assessed regularly.  I hope it is reassuring to know that our program will do what is needed to ensure that every child will be successful and prepared for kindergarten.

For more information on RTI go to the Center for RTI in Early Childhood website at:   To find information on Tier 2 and Tier 3 social emotional/behavior interventions, go to the Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning at and for information on the Minnesota Reading Corps go to:

What are your thoughts on RTI interventions in preschool?

8 Strategies Designed To Help Your Child Sleep

By Ms. Beth, Early Childhood Parent Educator

child sleeping    Do you have questions or concerns about your child’s sleep?  Is bedtime a hassle for everyone?  Does your child wake up several times a night?  Does your child no longer want to take a nap?  Following is a list of suggestions to improve your child’s sleep:



  1. Your child should go to bed within an hour of the same time every night.  And should get up within an hour of the same time every morning.  That way you are setting a sleep pattern.
  2. Have a bedtime routine:  bath, read a story, drink of water, etc. This will signal to your child that it is time for sleep.
  3. Help your child create his / her nest (comfort object, blanket, temperature and light in the room, etc.)
  4. No screen time  (TV, video, computer) after supper.  The light from these screens turns on a portion of the brain and makes it hard to fall asleep.
  5. No exercise after dinner.   (This may include roughhousing.)  Exercise raises the child’s body temperature, which also makes it more difficult to fall asleep.
  6. Naptime completed by 3 PM.  Sleep after 3 PM makes it hard to fall sleep at night.
  7. No caffeine.  Caffeine can stay in a child’s body for up to 8 hours.
  8. Put your child to bed sleepy, but awake.  If your child falls asleep in your arms and wakes up later in his/her crib it will be more difficult for him/her to fall back asleep by him/her self.

Does your child give you cues as to when s/he is tired?  Some children rub their eyes, slow down, yawn, etc when they are getting tired.  It is easier to know when to put these children to sleep.  Other children give very few cues or the cues come so close to the optimum time for sleep that you may not have time to get your child into bed before s/he is overtired. And if they are overtired, it is much harder for them to fall asleep.  Many of us as parents have put our children to bed at a later time hoping that they will sleep later in the morning, only to have it backfire on us.   Our children take much longer to fall asleep, they may wake during the night and they awake at their usual time in the morning.

If you have difficulty deciding when your child is ready for sleep, try putting your child to bed for naps and night time 15 minutes earlier.  Do this for several days and see if their sleep is improved and the process goes better for you and your child.

If your child starts waking at night, try to determine what has changed in your child’s life.  Is she getting teeth?  Is he learning to walk?  Has preschool just started?  Does the new childcare do naps at a different time?  You may want to keep a journal for a week or so to see what might be influencing your child’s sleep.  The journal should include:  wake up time, meals, naptime, activities during the day, exercise and bedtime.  The best solution for night time waking (that can’t be altered by other means) is to go to your child’s room, reassure the child that s/he is okay, pat their back, etc and leave.  It is okay to check back in 10 minutes if the child is still crying and then again in 15 minutes, etc until the child falls back asleep.  This process can be very upsetting for both parents and children, so it may take some time to be comfortable with it.

This is a very brief overview about sleep.  Much of the information I have shared is taken from Mary Sheedy Kurcinka and her book, Sleepless in America:  Is This Child Misbehaving or Missing Sleep?

Modifying your classroom to meet childrens’ needs – TACSEI

Child on trampolineBy Ms Angy, ECFE Blog Writer

At this moment, I am observing the children working on Visual Phonics.  The children are reciting the letter name, letter sound, picture that starts with the letter, and a physical motion, which represents the sound of the letter.  There is a child in the room who is jumping on a trampoline.  This child is so focused and immersed in the activity.  While bouncing, I can hear him reciting the letter and doing each action.  Ironically, he is one of the most engaged participants in the room.  The children surrounding him are concentrated as well with the activity at hand.  Before we brought in the trampoline to our room this same child struggled to stay connected during many activities of the day from the morning meeting to story time.  When it was suggested that we add movement to his learning, this modification helped him to thoroughly be part of the class and learn.  If you had asked me last year how I would have felt about having a trampoline in my room, my first thought would have been “distraction.”  This year, I have seen firsthand how modification, such as a trampoline in the room, can have a significant impact on a child’s learning and the other children are not fazed or distracted.

Another child struggles when it is time to clean up.  She often walks away from an activity before putting it away.  I walk up to her and show her a visual of “clean-up,” a picture that illustrates the task.  The child looks at the picture, looks at me and says, “Oh, I need to clean-up!”  She walks to the activity and picks up each piece, returning it to the shelf.  I am amazed that by looking at a picture, it makes a connection for her immediately.  I have used no words, just a simple action that has resonated in her consciousness.

At this moment, there is a boy running in the room.  Maren, the Early Childhood Special Education teacher that I co-teach with, kindly stops the child and says, “walking” and shows him the printout of the classroom rules and states, “Running in not safe.  Our classroom rule is that we walk.”  The child looks at the pictures of the rules, smiles at her, and begins to walk.

I have seen so many changes in the behaviors and social skills of the children since we have taken on TACSEI this year.  All staff in my classroom now use visuals while working together as a team in making modifications and adaptations for each child, and implementing many TACSEI tools from Sunny the puppet, Tucker the turtle, and social stories (just to name a few).  We were also coached and observed on a regular basis to implement goals and new teaching strategies, which supported TACSEI.  I believe that all teachers would benefit from this training, and families can bring so many of these ideas into their homes.  I am appreciative that I could learn and implement these astonishing tools.  With TACSEI, the children are learning how to do things on their own.  This realization is clear when I hear a child say, “Teach me, so I can do it myself!”

For more information on TACSEI please go to their website at: