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Out and About in KC: Favorite Holiday Activities for the Under 5 Set

by lalofont used by Creative Commons License via Flickr

“Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, doorbells and sleighbells, and warm woolen mittens, brown paper packages tied up with string, these are few of my favorite things.”  Gets you in the Holiday spirit doesn’t it.  I have such great memories of watching The Sound of Music with my family at this time of year growing up.  Well, here are some Kansas City favorite things to do with the under 5 crowd during the Holiday Season, with a little something for everyone I hope.  (Recommendations come from both our family and several other families in the Kindermusik program.  If you have others you’d like to share, we’d love to hear them.  Just add them in the comments on our Facebook page.

Journey to Bethlehem at 2nd Presbyterian Church

Friday, Dec. 2,  7-9 pm

Saturday, Dec. 3,  5-7 pm

I have driven past the sign on Brookside Boulevard for years, but only a few years ago did our family decide to find out what “Journey to Bethlehem” is all about.  I must say I was very impressed with this 45-min walk-through of the story of the birth of Christ.  We felt truly immersed in the story as we turned in our “census” to the Roman rulers, “bought” things at the Bethlehem market, and then were led by a shepherd all over Bethlehem to see the exciting events of that first Christmas.  Now it is a family tradition.  My kids beg to go every year. (NOTE: I recommend attending well diapered and fed as you may have to stand in line for quite a while.)  Admission free to all.

Powell Gardens

Dec. 17, 9: o0 am – noon – Fun with Santa and Mrs. Claus (We’re having trouble getting the full details for this event for 2016.  We know the date is Dec. 17 and have listed the info. from last year.  If this interests, we recommend calling or visiting the website to learn more.)

Enjoy a Chris Cakes style pancake breakfast when you come out to meet Old St. Nick. Afterward, make a craft to take home, join Mrs. Claus for storytelling and admire the Victorian display in the conservatory. Then bundle up for a ride on the outdoor mini-train (weather permitting). Reservations are required.
Visit the website above for more information and costs.

Dec. 10-11, 5:00-7:30 pm –  Luminary Walk

Another fabulous experience to check out is Powell Gardens, though it is a bit of a drive, so you might plan to go and stay for a while if possible.  Their Luminary Walk will be beautiful.  Enjoy live holiday music, homemade cookies and hot chocolate by the fireside and a walk along a candlelit path to the peaceful Marjorie Powell Allen Chapel.  Admission $7/adults, $6/seniors, $3 children 5-12, children under 5 free, free for members.  While you’re at the Gardens, be sure to ride the Trolley (really our favorite part.)

Holiday at Union Station

Every year when the boys were little, we made a trip during the Holiday season to Union Station to see the model railroad exhibit.  There is also a fun train ride around a huge Christmas tree at the end of the Grand Hall and special events going on all the time.  Charges may apply to special appearances, exhibits, and train rides.  (p.s.  Memberships are great and can give you some nice discounts if you have a kid who likes Science City, like we do.)

Hope these ideas will help you create a few special family traditions to share for years to come!

Exploring Imagination

We all enjoy the imaginations of children.  Parents and teachers are often amazed at the ideas of young children.  In the preschool years, children’s questions and thinking are not fettered by the rules of society, physics, or logic.  Anything goes, so hang on to your hat!

Imagination is Vital to Learning

It was Albert Einstein who said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”  That is especially true for people who live in a changing world.  Yesterday’s solutions will not work for tomorrow’s problems.  Children need an opportunity to develop the ability to visualize scenes and solutions that are not right in front of them.  To be able to read, learn about history, geography, mathematics, and most other subjects in school, it helps a child to be able to create a mental picture of things.  The “raw materials” for this skill are developed in the [toddler, preschool, and early childhood] years and at Kindermusik.

Create a Wealth of Experiences

To develop your child’s imagination, give him a wealth of interesting direct experiences using all of the senses.  The root word of imagination is image.  Provide your child with an opportunity to create many images.  Try sensory experiences like playing with water and sand, cooking, or dancing to your Kindermusik CD.

“Open-ended” activities encourage the development of imagination.  Those are activities where there is not one particular “right answer” or product.  For example, give your child art materials to use such as crayons or paint.  Instead of telling her what to draw, try saying, “I wonder what you’ll come up with this time.”  Then be surprised.  Show interest and delight in her work, and invite her to explain it to you.

Pretend play is a great avenue for a child’s imagination.  Provide some dress-up clothes or “props” from your playset and enjoy the show.  When a child uses objects for pretend, such as a paper plate for a steering wheel, she is actually creating her own symbols for “real” things she has seen.

Storytelling, as well as reading to your child, are other great ways to develop imagination.  When you tell a story with no book, your child can form the pictures in her mind.  Your facial expressions and intonations, as well as your words, can help her understand the story.  After she has heard you read a story, she will naturally enjoy telling stories herself.  Try forming the “framework” of a story and let her fill in the details.  In the following example, wherever there is a blank, let the child fill in any word or words that come to her.  Then you can continue the story with connecting phrases.

“Once upon a time there was a (bear).  This bear, who’s name was (Fuzzy) was very very (dirty).  He was so dirty that (his mother wouldn’t let him come in the house).  Now that caused a problem because…”

These stories are fun because you never know where they’ll lead.  You could tape record them and write them down later.

Don’t All Children Have Imagination?

All children have the potential for a rich imagination, but you can help increase that potential.  Avoid unlimited exposure to television – many hours in front of the TV absorbing “canned entertainment” can create a passive child waiting to be entertained instead of one creating his own ideas.

Encourage free thought and creativity by not getting too caught up in reality.  Compliment your child on her ideas instead of her looks.  “You have such good ideas…I never know what you’ll think of next.”  Show interest in her and you can be sure that your child will continue to express the wondrous products of her brain.

– written for Kindermusik International by Karen Miller, Early Childhood Expert, Consultant, and Author

Nurturing Self-Expression

Young children are at a wonderful stage of life in which they are learning to express themselves in many ways.  As infants and toddlers, they mainly respond to what they found in front of them.  Over time, with the new tool of language and the more complex thinking skills that come with it, their world of ideas is broadens.


Words provide an anchor for thoughts.  Vocabulary grows with new experiences.  Along with providing your child with interesting experiences, you can be most helpful by acting like a “play by play announcer” providing words for your child’s perceptions.  Describe what your child is doing and use rich descriptive words about size, color, shape, texture.  Help your child recognize and talk about feelings and to know that there are no “bad” feelings. Anger, sadness, frustration, fear, as well as happiness, excitement and joy are all part of the human feelings menu.  Kindermusik books and puppets can be fun tools to help children express themselves with words.

Music & Movement

Making music and moving to music are some of the most basic ways in which children express themselves – like bouncing, rocking, and moving to music.  You can encourage this by playing different kinds of music – starting with diverse and culturally different songs found on your Kindermusik Home CD.  Encourage your child to dance – and join in!  Use scarves, simple props and your special Kindermusik instrument to make it more fun.

Singing is a tradition of every culture in the world and a powerful way in which people express emotions.  Sing along to your home CD and discuss the feelings that come from each song.

Art & Constructive Play

Children can express how they’re feeling using paints, crayons, play dough, art media or playsets.  Some creations may be rather “abstract” but valuable nonetheless.  Also, as they play with blocks and construction toys, children give shape to their ideas.  It’s not necessary to tell your child what to make, but rather be interested and ready to be surprised.  Invite your child to tell you about his or her creation.  Granted, sometimes she will have nothing at all in mind, but will simply be experimenting with the materials.  Interesting stories may emerge.  Offer to take dictation and write down what your child says to show your interest in her ideas.


Both boys and girls use pretend play as a primary way to express themselves. Play themes should be your child’s domain.  Try not to edit her play unless you are genuinely uncomfortable with what is going on or it threatens to hurt someone or break something.  Support her play by providing a variety of things to use such as music, dress-up clothes and hats, large boxes and props.  Become a play partner yourself.

All these experiences give your child the message that her ideas are interesting and valuable.  As an appreciative and listening parent, you are giving your child the skill and the disposition to express herself in appropriate ways – skills that will help her throughout life.

– written for Kindermusik International by Karen Miller, Early Childhood Expert, Consultant, and Author

Building Emotional Intelligence

Early childhood is a time of life that challenges both developmental psychologists and parents with its fascinating mixture of change, growth, joy, and frustration. Between the ages of 18 months and 3 years, babyhood is left behind and a verbal, relatively competent preschooler emerges. Before long, those preschoolers are moving from wiggleworms who share every idea that pops into their heads to sweet school kids learning to follow school rules, make friends, and steal your heart.  During these transition, the changes in the physical, cognitive, social, emotional, and communication skills can be amazing and, at times, overwhelming!

Early childhood has gained a reputation as being a difficult period of tremendous energy and great capacity for movement and activity in the child, while at the same time it is the period when children are just beginning to acquire the rudiments of self-control and to accept the need for limits. One of the most rewarding challenges for parents is selecting activities that introduce new learning experiences without overwhelming the child’s capacity
for change. This is particularly important because successful activities, like the ones presented in Kindermusik, support and strengthen the parent-child relationship, while activities that are developmentally inappropriate can stress it further.

Knowledge of some of the key emotional tasks of the early childhood years can help reduce frustration and increase the joy!

The Quest for Control
The issue of developing control (over body functions, physical activities, feelings, or the world around him) is crucial for a child. A balance between structure and unnecessary regimentation is important.  Children do best when they are invited and attracted into activities, rather than required to participate in them.  Kindermusik invites children to participate in activities, but there are no performance expectations.

At Home

  • Instead of trying to force your child into playing a game or reading a book, start playing or reading it by yourself. Your enthusiasm will most likely draw your child into the activity.
  • Give your child lots of choices throughout the day both to allow her to have some control and develop those all important reasoning centers of the brain.  Let her choose this shirt or that one.  Help her pick the  red car or the blue one.  Slide or swings.  There are plenty of opportunities for appropriate choices.

Hold Me and Let Me Go
A major task for young children is resolving the conflict between desire for love and protection and the urge to become independent. The mantra for many  is “by myself”.  Yet, when the going gets tough, the tough get going right back to Mom’s or Dad’s lap.  Some call this the “rubber band” stage because it seems like the child is pulling outward and then snapping back. Giving your child permission to retreat to safety in your arms allows him to naturally move to greater independence.

At Home

  • For “Our Time” kids: Recite “Run and Jump” (Home Activity Book, p. 33) while your child jumps into your arms. This allows your child the opportunity to practice and master the skills of running and jumping and has meaningful emotional content. Knowing that her caregiver will catch her when she jumps represents a level of emotional security in the relationship.
  • For “Imagine That!” kids: take a pretend boat ride with your child on your knees or lap.  Let a storm attack your boat rocking it from side to side until you “crash”.  While at first it may seem scary, making it through the tumultuous ride with you builds trust in your relationship while reassuring your child that even stormy seas can be made less scary when shared with a friend or grown-up.
  • Some children require a little extra gentle push to be independent.  Encourage your child to try new things on his own or to go exploring without you holding his hand.  Studies show that parents of more reserved children who gently encourage their children to step out and try things on their own can indeed help their children build more outgoing temperaments.  However, don’t force the issue, and do stay close by in case they decide they need you.

Control of emotions is one of the most complex challenges facing young children and their parents. Children vary greatly in the intensity of how they experience and express feelings, depending on inborn temperamental factors, but it is a rare toddler whose feelings do not become intense and overwhelming at times. By providing both limits and loving support to your child, you are helping her gradually learn ways of handling and modulating her feelings so that the tantrums of the toddler ideally give way to the emphatic verbal argument of the school-aged child.

Music, as a fundamental route for the expression of human emotion, is an excellent tool for helping learn to identify and channel emotions. Even very young children can identify music that makes them happy or sad.  Musical expression of wide ranges of emotion can help make them more manageable, less overwhelming, and much more understandable.

At Home

  • Use emotion words to help your child learn to identify and later label how she is feeling.  One child psychologist has been known to say “An emotion named is an emotion tamed.”  Describe to your child how she looks when she is sad or angry or happy, so she can connect the way her body feels with the emotion itself.
  • Remember that emotions in and of themselves are not good or bad.  It’s our expression of them that is deemed appropriate or inappropriate by society.
  • Help your child learn appropriate ways to deal with strong emotions such as taking a deep breath, counting, going to a quiet place to calm down, drawing, snuggling a stuffed animal, finding something else to do that will help them feel better, or even as they get older talking about their emotions.

The more you help your child build emotional intelligence, the more successful he will be in life.  Our ability to read, understand, and express emotions in healthy ways as well as our emotional security affect everything we do and color our ability to interact with others every moment of our lives.  But the good news is, building emotional intelligence can be both easy and fun, and it all starts with the simple love between parent and child.

Variety is the Spice…

Life is so much more fun when there are 31 flavors of ice cream available.  I can vividly remember going every Sunday growing up with my Dad to the local Baskin Robbins ice cream store and staring into the cases trying to decide which flavor I’d pick.  While I had my favorites (mint-chocolate chip), it was always fun peeking at the possibilities and getting those little tasting spoons to try a bit of something new before making a decision.  I see the same joy in my kids’ faces now when we go to a local yogurt bar for a similar ritual.  The combinations are so much more delightful simply because there are so many choices.  There is so much variety.

Music certainly works that way.  Oftentimes what is hailed as genius provides new and interesting combinations of instruments, rhythms, pitches, or presentations.  And great musicians are great in part because of their immense versatility gained by learning to play or sing in a variety of styles, colors, and ways.

Variety.  It adds color, flavor, interest.  And our brains like it.  Studies show we are drawn to music that is in part familiar and in part new and different.  And as is often the case, our brains like musical variety because it’s good for them.

Here are some of the benefits you can see:

  • Vary instruments, timbres, tonalities, tempi, rhythms, etc. to help your child become more aware, alert, and sensitive—not only to music but to his total environment.
  • Include a variety of settings for music both passive and active, and you are teaching him the many roles that music can play. Music can help him relax, cope with feelings, celebrate, create, and express beyond verbal capabilities.
  • Expose your child to music with unfamiliar tonalities to promote the development of new neural pathways and help him master more complex music later in life.
  • Share with your child new instrument sounds, music in modes other than the typical Major and Minor modes of traditional Western music,
    and songs of cultures other than your own to allow her to appreciate a broader range of music throughout her life as well as expose her to cultures other than her own.
  • Sing and speak in both high and low ranges as a means to initiate different responses from your child.  Research has discovered that exposure
    to high sounds plays an important part in maintaining alertness and energy required for learning. Lower pitches calm and relax the body.  And mid-range pitches are easier for early singers to reproduce.

Want to provide your child with musical variety?  Here’s the easiest homework you’ll ever have.  Simply by coming to class and listening and singing along at home your are providing your child with an extremely varied musical diet.  While we start with simple things like a variety of timbres (instrument colors) from drums to egg shakers to sandblocks.  You’ll also hear music in class and on your CDs from all over the world including folk songs, instruments, and compositions from Europe, China, Indonesia, Japan, India, Australia, Africa, South America, and more.  We even sing songs in more uncommon modes (beyond Major and Minor) like Dorian, Lydian, and Mixolydian.  It’s just one more reason we love Kindermusik!

Valentine’s Kindermusik-Style

Wanna’ make some sweet Valentines for friends and family?  Here are some they will enjoy now and treasure for years to come.

Making Valentines with Babies

Make a recording of you engaging in some vocal play with your child. You might read a book and allow your child to share in the play of copying animal sounds or car, bus, or truck sounds. You could also simply play with tongue clicks, favorite syllables (ba, ma, da), or blowing raspberries and see if your child will follow along. Create your own little conversation, pausing to allow him to add his own sounds as he chooses. Label the recording with the date and age of your child and give it along with a card as a gift to your chosen Valentine. Have fun and remember that along the way you’re encouraging important language and turn-taking skills.

Making Valentines with Toddlers

Follow the instructions for the activity above with a few adaptations. You might see if your child would “read” a favorite book such as Shiny Dinah from memory or even sing or echo sing a favorite song (you sing part of the song, and he echoes back with the same). If reading a book, try asking your toddler what comes next in the story in order to build sequencing skills.

Making Valentines with Toddlers, Preschoolers, and School-aged Children

Select several favorite songs, maybe even some songs that say “I love you.” Record your child singing them along with you. You might even think about adding some instrumental accompaniment with a simple percussion instrument, like an egg shaker or a drum. Give the recording along with a card to your Valentine.

In addition to creating a great memory and gift, you are encouraging your child’s solo singing abilities as well as creativity and problem solving. Make sure to include him in the choices of songs, the making of the card, and the choice of instrumental accompaniment (if included). School-aged children may even want to create a song of their own!

Enjoy your Valentines!

Play Brings Big Dividends

Are you looking for a way to slow down and “de-stress” your busy life?  Try playing with your child!  Try getting back in touch with that playful, creative child inside of you and the imaginative, engaging child in front of you.

Many parents don’t play with their children.  They buy them toys to “occupy” them.  They are missing one of the best ways to “bond” with their child – to strengthen and reinforce the relationship.  Dr. Stanley Greenspan, a pediatric psychiatrist, and author of First Feelings, Milestones in the emotional development of your baby and child, coined the term “Floor Time” and outlines how parents can connect with their children in this emotionally powerful way.

How to Do It

  1. Let the child take the lead and decide what to play. You act as the “stage manager” and help gather the things you’ll need.  Then ask the child what role you should play, and even what you should do.  “What are we playing?”  “Who am I?”  “What should I do?”  Let your child be the train conductor and you be the passenger.
  2. Do what she says. If you’re playing with blocks, copy what the child is building, or build something similar.  In pretend play, go with her idea and play your assigned role.
  3. Add an idea. After you’ve copied her, add a small new idea of your own.  See if she accepts it.  If not, go with her agenda.  Let her add to that idea and see how many back and forth new ideas you can come up with.
  4. Sustain the play. See how long you can keep it going, keeping her interested.
  5. Don’t edit. There are only two rules for your child:  1.)  No hurting, and 2.)  No breaking things.  Otherwise, anything goes.  See where your child takes the play theme.

Materials to Use

This type of play works best with pretend play and dolls, puppets or stuffed animals, or playing with miniatures.

What’s the Benefit?

There are many benefits when you play with your child.  It’s about power.  You are putting your child in a position of legitimate power. He can take the lead and direct what’s happening.  Playing this way can help reduce other “power struggles” you may be experiencing.  It is also suggested that you increase the amount of “Floor Time” play after you have had to discipline your child or impose limits.  It re-establishes the positive emotional connection.

It is also a way of showing your child that you find him interesting and that you value his ideas. “You have such good ideas.  I would never have thought of that.”  You can learn about your child, as well.  You may find out about what is on his mind, or hear some vocabulary you didn’t know he had.

Play becomes richer than when the child plays alone or with an age-mate.  You are teaching your child how to be a good player and how to elaborate roles, add ideas and take suggestions from others.  You are supporting your child’s imagination.

Finding the Time

One suggestion is to turn the TV off for half and hour and play, read or listen to music.  It should be when everyone is reasonably relaxed and not hungry.

Remember, this is what real “quality time” is all about.  It works with any age child, even babies.  You’ll have fun, you’ll laugh, you’ll relax and your child will remember these times.

– Written specifically for Kindermusik International by Karen Miller, Early Childhood Expert, Consultant and Author

Just Can’t Stop

It doesn’t matter the age – kids love to move, or be moved. Bouncing, wiggling, running, jumping, climbing on furniture, it seems they never stop.  And in fact, such energetic locomotor movements are valuable, appropriate, and fun activities for little ones.  The child’s innate need to move is inextricably linked to learning.  We not only learn to move as we grow, but we literally move to learn.  Educational Psychologist, Dr. Becky Bailey is fond of saying, “The best exercise for the brain is exercise”, and science bears it out.  (Just check out the recent Newsweek article on how to make yourself smarter.)  So,  movement is important and provides outlets for your child’s energy as well as for her skill development.

Moving and controlling one’s movements are learned skills, and one of the best features of learning to regulate one’s movements as we learn to crawl, walk, run, jump, and swing is that it helps us learn inhibitory control, or the ability to stop oneself and wait.  Now, I love inhibitory control because it’s an amazing developmental bonus you can often hide in a fun activity or game.  Kids will be playing along, giggling and smiling and never know that they are working on learning how to stop and wait, which really means they are learning self-control or impulse control. Having inhibitory control is important for social skills like taking turns, waiting in a line, waiting your turn to speak, asking for a toy rather than just grabbing it from another kid (or pushing them over for that matter).  Inhibitory control helps us stop and think through the choices rather than repeating past behaviors that got us into trouble like hitting a sister, jumping on the couch, or eating all the cookies.  In fact, a lack of impulse control or inhibitory control can cause us to get into a lot of trouble in school as well as in life.

So, I mentioned earlier that I love inhibitory control because it’s so easy to sneak it into fun activities.  How?  Simply play “Stop and Go” games.  Even babies love ’em because they delight in anticipating when the stop and start will come, while kids of all ages find great joy in developing mastery over their own bodies as they command their feet to stop.  We’re going to be doing lots of stop and go play in all our classes over the course of the semester.  But here are some fun things you might try at home:

  • Learn the ASL sign for STOP. One fun way to add stop and go to almost any activity is to learn the ASL sign for STOP.  In class with the preschoolers you might hear us chant, “Walk, walk, walk, walk, walk, walk, and STOP (all-caps is a common signifier for American Sign Language signed words).  Simply as it sounds, the kids love it.  You can use any locomotor movement – jump, drive, swing.  For babies, this can be a great way to teach the sign.  Simply push baby in a baby swing and then surprise them with a quick STOP as you sign STOP.
  • Play Move and Freeze. It’s musical chairs.  Well, sort of.  Most of you probably remember in playing musical chairs how you moved to the music, and when the teacher paused the music you had to race to find a seat.  Same idea minus the chairs.  Instead of racing to find a seat when the music stops, simply freeze your body.  If you want to add more silliness for preschoolers or big kids try have them freeze in silly shapes or statues when you pause the music.
  • Play Red Light Green Light. This is another game I remember fondly from my childhood.  It’s a little too involved for toddlers unless they have adult assistance, but it would be great fun for preschoolers with a bit of help or bigger kids on their own.  One person (works well for a grownup to take this part) is the traffic light and stands a good distance ahead of the other players with his back turned to them.  The traffic light calls out “green light”, which means the other players can attempt to sneak up and tap him on the shoulder.   However, when he calls “red light”, they have to freeze before he turns around and catches them.  Anyone the traffic light sees moving when he turns must return to the starting line.  The first player to sneak up and tap the traffic light wins.

Thanksgiving Road Trip – Kindermusik Style

by WishUponACupcake via Creative Commons License/Flickr

Don’t Forget!

There will be no classes the entire week of Thanksgiving, November 21-26.

But just because we’re closed doesn’t mean you can’t take Kindermusik on the Road.  We’ve got some perfect ideas for filling the long hours for a trip to Grandma’s.  You’d be amazed how much time a Kindermusik CD or two and a few of your favorite activities can fill.


  • Load up your CD player or iPod/MP3 Player with Kindermusik Favorites.
  • Give every activity a try. You might be surprised at which ones appeal on the road. I know I was shocked to find out that those same “Warm-Up Exercises” from the Village class I couldn’t ever get my little guys to sit still for brought peals of laughter when they were restrained in a carseat!
  • Don’t be afraid to shout out a little Kindermusik in the airport. People love it, and anyone would much rather see a singing, giggling child than one who is whining or fussing. (Yes, I have been known to break into actual Kindermusik dances while waiting to board a plane. Anything to keep a crying child soothed. Plus, it worked.)
  • Remember, everyone gets tired of sitting too long, and adapted fingerplays and movement activities are great for getting the blood flowing as well as raising everyone’s spirits.  If you’re in Village, think about trying the “Pig Jig” chant or “Toodala”.  Kids from Our Time might get a kick out of “Johnny & Katie”, “The Frog in the Bog” or “All By Myself”.  Imagine That! kids might love “Three Blue Pigeons” (as a fingerplay) or even making up silly words with the song “Allee Galloo.”  Even circle songs like “All the Day Long” or “Ha, Ha, This A-Way” can be done in the car or on a plane, though it sometimes means stomping into thin air.
  • Last but not least, use your favorite lullabies to help soothe your little one to sleep.

With a few songs from class you can turn a long day on the road into a time to build memories and make connections you’ll share together forever.

Look at Me! Look at Me!

“Becoming a careful observer of young children reminds us that what might be ordinary at first glance is actually quite extraordinary.  A string of “ordinary” moments for a child becomes like a bead on a necklace, each one unique, though related to the others, combining to create a work of wonder.” – from The Art of Awareness by Deb Curtis and Margie Carter

When you look at your child, what do you see?  Perhaps it’s the shiny blue eyes that mirror your own.  Maybe it’s that familiar nose or the dark, wavy hair.  And maybe you see a budding teacher, artist or musician.  But what else do you see?

Every day your child is doing something or saying something that provides a beautiful window into her developing traits and personality.  During the preschool years, your child’s wondrous individuality is truly beginning to form.

Christopher was thrilled about the classroom “trip” to the imaginary Grasshopper Park.  When the children were asked what animal they saw in the park, the other children responded with bird, squirrel, dog, cat, skunk.  Christopher, on the other hand, saw a dinosaur — the same dinosaur he saw on a recent family trip to Science City.  And that’s how it goes in class, whether your child is 6 months or 6 years, we want to encourage a lot of individuality, creativity, and personal expression as we work to foster a classroom that truly “follows the child.”

Following the Child is a Montessori concept expressing the idea that children learn best when they are allowed to lead and even direct the learning experience.  What does that look like in the classroom?

  • A baby claps his hands at the start of class leading the teacher to say “Are  you ready to clap hello today, Will?”
  • Teachers constantly monitor and choose to extend activities, repeat activities, or move on based on the reactions and inclinations of the children.
  • Babies, toddlers, preschoolers, and big kids are all given the opportunity to explore and discover how props or instruments might be used on their own.  “Look at how Sarah is rolling her sticks on the floor.  Sam likes to use his sticks to tap his knees.  Eli is making the letter L with his sticks.”  The kids ideas are then incorporated into the following activity.
  • Older toddlers, preschoolers, and big kids begin to add to stories and songs creating new ideas and verses.
  • Movement exploration is often built from the kids’ ideas and extended from there.

And the kids love it.  Not only does it mean class often moves in a direction that interests them, but the validation is satisfying.  Listen to the rising confidence in your child’s voice as she expresses her opinions during class.  Such expression will help her as she begins to pick out different sounds while listening to a song and then describe which sounds she likes and why.  Take note of his original thoughts and ideas – and how he relates a concept to a previous learning experience.  Then watch his face light up as his idea is utilized in class.  Sometimes the teacher even thinks their ideas are important enough to write them down!  That must mean his ideas are really special!

Kindermusik allows your child to express his thoughts, actions, and imagination in his own way.  There is no right or wrong.  By soliciting and incorporating a child’s ideas and feelings into each lesson, we are affirming that their thoughts and ideas are important and worth exploring.  Each little success is noticed and celebrated.

And you can “follow the child” at home, too.  Now’s the time to “stop, look, and listen” as your child begins to cross the street of independence and individuality.  More importantly, you can cross the street with him by taking some steps to help nurture his budding originality.  For example:

  • Let your baby take the lead as you play peekaboo, determining how long the game goes one, whether you hide or she does.  When her interest wanes, let her show you what she wants to play next.
  • Listen closely and respond to your toddlers thoughts and ideas – let her lead the way when it comes to navigating around the zoo…or let her make up the rules to the game.
  • Encourage the “process” by allowing your preschoolers to “try,” then offer positive reinforcement for his effort.
  • Solicit your big kid’s opinions on various subjects – why does she like or dislike a certain song or type of music?

Not only does “following the child” provide greater creativity, independence, and problem solving skills, but it also helps you stop and tune in more fully to all those moments you share together helping you make memories that last a lifetime.