Posts Tagged ‘young child’

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

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!

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.

Shell Surprise Snack

This week in the Young Child class we heard the beautiful legend of “Where Stories Come From” ending with the gifting of a special storytelling shell.  So, in honor of such a sweet tale, here’s a special Shell Surprise Snack for you to share with your families.

You’ll Need:

  • Sugar cones (for your seashells)
  • Blue Jell-O (for your water)
  • Vanilla icing (as sea foam)
  • Crushed graham crackers (for sand)
  • Goldfish crackers (for fish)
  • And Gummy candy, fish, shells, and worms
  • For extra “treasure” you could also include Gold-covered chocolate coins, plastic jewelry (rings and necklaces), pirate eye patches, or mermaid gear (just make sure none of these are eaten except the chocolate coins)

Making Your Snack:

  • Give each child a cone on a plate.
  • Put a scoop of Jell-O in each cone.
  • Top it with a spoon of icing.
  • Sprinkle with graham cracker crumbs.
  • Add gummy candies, goldfish, and undersea treasures.
  • Enjoy!

Melt-in-My-Pocket Sandwich

This week in Kindermusik Adventures for the Young Child, the kids enjoyed the folk tale of “Lazy Jack”, a rather silly fellow who had a bout of good luck after a series of silly events.  This snack sounds like just the sort of thing Lazy Jack might eat (after having stuffed it into his pocket of course!).


  • Bread (2 slices per kid)
  • Butter, softened
  • Cream cheese or other spreadable sandwich fillers of your choice
  • Honey
  • Chocolate sprinkles (if you’d like)


  1. Remove crusts and make sure bread slices are square.
  2. Cut one side of the bread into a point, to make a pocket shape.
  3. On one piece of bread, spread softened butter, honey, and/or other sandwich fillers to represent the butter that melted in Jack’s pockets.
  4. Put the top piece of bread on to make a “pocket” sandwich.
  5. On the outside of the pocket, dab dots of honey “glue” around the edge.  You can top with chocolate-sprinkle “stiches!”

Elephant Tusk Snack

Bananas!  One of our favorite treats.  Here’s an adorable way to fix a banana to make it look like an Elephant trunk with tusks.

You will need:

  • Bananas, peeled and cut in half
  • Popsicle sticks, lollipop sticks, or chopsticks (1 per snack)
  • Crushed graham crackers or Frosted Flakes
  • Honey


  1. Insert a stick into the flat end of each banana half (so they are easier to hold and eat)
  2. Drizzle honey all around the banana
  3. Roll the banana in the crumbs
  4. Dig in!

Celery Crocs

Ever eat a crocodile?  You can with this cute snack recipe!

You will need:

  • Long celery sticks, washed and with leaves removed
  • Cream cheese
  • Raisins
  • Green grapes, halved
  • Pretzel sticks
  • Plates


  1. Fill hollow side of celery sticks with cream cheese.
  2. Use grape halves to make bumps down the back of the croc.
  3. Use two raisins for eyes.
  4. Position two pretzel sticks at an angle to make an open mouth.
  5. Break pretzels in smaller pieces to create claws for feet.
  6. Enjoy your creations!


This week in Tell Me a Tale our Young Child kiddos listened to the Indonesian Gamelan.  Andrew and I were fortunate enough to attend graduate school at a program that housed a gamelan.  In fact, Andrew learned to play while we were at school at the University of Illinois.  Here is a video of the very group he played with (after his time I’m afraid).  It’s a little long, but your child might enjoy seeing it, and you can share that “Sam’s dad” played with this group once upon a time.  You’ll notice, it is not one instrument but an ensemble.

Rituals and Routines Save Your Sanity: Part IV

The Beauty of Rituals:  Part Four in a Four-Part Series on Routines and Rituals

Just before Spring Break we had a nightmare.  It was a gorgeous day, and I took the boys for a long walk along a lake watching geese and turtles and letting them get in some good running time.  As we slogged our way back to the car, exhausted from our play, the boys lagged behind me.  I looked up to see  a man on roller blades blazing down the path.  Just as I turned to warn the boys to move aside, I was horrified to see both boys slammed with the force of the collision.  My 5 year old escaped with a scrape.  My 2 year old went head over heels – twice – before smacking into the pavement.  My heart stopped.  Then it’s a blur of checking on each boy and discovering a wailing two year old with an enormous bump on his head and an unwillingness to move.  The rest is a hurry of rushing to the doctor and fears in the cars with a child turning blue and looking sleepy in the backseat as mama plagued him with every song she’s every learned in order to keep his eyes open.  And then the ER, and some relief as color and spirits came back to all three of us while we waited.  And then some good looking over from the doctor and words of assurance.  No broken bones.  No concussion.  Just the let-down after a rush of adrenaline to make a little guy sleepy.  Now I just regularly repeat to myself,  “Everyone is fine.”  I must also confess to some late night breathing checks.

I share this story both because I needed a place to write about it, and because it reminded me how precious our little ones are.  And as silly as it may sound that’s what rituals are about.  Rituals are about relationship, connection, understanding.  Rituals are one of the best things we can do to say “I Love You” to our children.  Think about some of your most treasured memories with your family.  One of mine is going to eat ice cream every Sunday with my Dad and my two sisters.  Initially, it was an incentive to get us ready for church on Sunday mornings:  if all three of us beat Dad getting dressed, we got ice cream later in the day.  However, Dad really just liked ice cream, and we soon figured out it was just an excuse to go every week.  Before long, it was a ritual.  It was a time we shared and sat and talked, and I thought “Hey, I’m like Dad because I like ice cream, and we even like some of the same flavors.”  That a ritual.

Or it’s a game of “Hold still, pillow” like I used to play with my grandfather.  He’d grab us and hold us down and pretend to use our bellies as pillows.  Then he’d tickle us and exclaim “Hold still pillow!  I’m trying to sleep!  Why do you keep moving?”  It’s one of my favorite memories of him.  What a special ritual.

You probably have some special rituals already in your family, special holiday traditions or birthday celebrations.  Maybe you give butterfly kisses every time you pick your child up from pre-school.  Or maybe every night as you turn out the lights you whisper “Goodnight.  Don’t let the bedbugs bite.”  Regardless, rituals are important.  That kind of special moment together helps build heal the hurt feelings after a bad argument or tantrum.  It helps ease the rough days.  And it helps your child be more cooperative, leading to more good days.

So, this week, think of some of your favorite rituals you already share and be more intentional about them.  Then, go a step further, and setup some new rituals.  According to Dr. Becky Bailey, the best recipe for what she likes to call “I Love You Rituals” is the following:


  • A dose of playfulness
  • Some good eye contact
  • Loving touch
  • A sense of being truly present in the moment

Now, think back to your Kindermusik class.  Can you think of a few activities that could be turned into these kinds of rituals at home.  How about…

For Babies:  Baby-O, Dickery, Dickery Dare, or even Wash the Dishes

For Toddlers: Bazoo, Bazoo Butz, Bo-Peep, or Itsy Bitsy Mouseykins

For Preschoolers: Try singing Sorida with your hands touching rather than just mirroring; sing Bonjour Mes Amis and shake hands or give a snake hug or a butterfly hug; or make your own family circle dance with There’s a Little Wheel or Jing Jang

Even Big Kids like revisiting favorite activities from previous semesters like these or even sharing games and songs from class each week with you.

And if you’d like more ideas, I can highly recommend the book I Love You by Dr. Becky Bailey, which gives tons more fingerplays, chants, songs, games, and other ideas to share together with special ones for dropping off or picking up your kiddo from school, celebrating milestones, welcoming a new sibling, and healing boo-boos.

But whether you use activities from class, ideas from your growing up, or even activities from a book, rituals will fill your days together with joyful memories you’ll cherish forever.

Read Part I:  Introduction

Read Part II:  Getting Started

Read Part III:  Favorite Songs and Games for Transitions