Prelude's Blog

Singing in Tune – Yes, You Can!
By Prelude Music Classes on July 27, 2017

Yes, you can sing in tune!

(Many thanks to Miss Emily for contributing this month's blog post!)

Hello, families! Here we are in late July, most of the way through our Summer 3 collection! Each week, I try to remind all the adults in the class to let our voices be free while we’re singing, let our bodies be free while we’re dancing, and (as best you can) let our minds be free of any distractions, worries, or inhibitions while we’re making music in class. As a parent, I am well aware that some of the worries and inhibitions we experience have to do with what we sound like when we sing out loud. Yikes!

Do you ever worry that you might be harming your child’s musical ability by singing off-key? Parents who feel or know that they aren’t “good singers” frequently ask us whether they are somehow damaging their child’s capacity to sing. Here’s some good news: you aren’t! Your child is not viewing your singing as a performance; instead, he or she is holistically hearing, seeing, and feeling the musical experience with you as a model. If you’ve been in class for more than a session or two, we hope you’ve absorbed this!

As children, many of us had music classes as part of our primary school experience … and some of us were likely instructed to “mouth the words” when performing. And perhaps you internalized the idea that you shouldn’t sing out loud because you weren’t singing in tune. More good news: anyone, regardless of age, can learn to sing in tune (even you!). Like any other skill, maybe it’s one of your strengths, and maybe it’s a weakness – but even if it’s a weakness, that doesn’t mean you're not “talented” or incapable of getting there.

Let’s try to escape the pattern whereby only people who are “talented” should be allowed to sing around others – because singing and making music is something that belongs to us all. Like all humans, you were born with an aptitude for music-making, even if you didn’t realize it until you started making music with your own child – who also has innate music aptitude!

Often, people don’t sing in tune because they don’t use the larynx muscles that allow a full vocal range. There are strong and weak places in everyone’s voice, just like there are strong and weak places in the rest of your musculature. Sometimes it’s a matter of exercising and using those muscles. Something to try: warm up your voice on the way to class! Go to the highest and lowest places in your vocal register, make a firetruck/ambulance “siren” with your voice, sing the tonal patterns on your Music Together® recordings. With use, those muscles can get stronger and allow you to sing more comfortably.

Our recorded music is specifically designed for adults AND young children to be able to sing in an accessible range. This is important for children in particular, because attempting songs that are out of their range can result in singing out of tune. And again, you don’t need to sing perfectly in tune for your child to learn this skill – all you need to do is model the effort and the enjoyment.

Wherever you are on your parenting path or on your way to reaching your true musical self, I ask you to remember that it takes practice and patience. The longer you do it, the better you will be! So many parents and caregivers come to us and share how they’ve become better singers through Music Together, just by participating and paying attention to their children’s musical growth. Can this be true for you, too?


Registration is now open for the Fall session at our Houston, Sugar Land, and Woodlands locations! Many classes fill up quickly, so reserve your spot now on the Register page. We look forward to another beautiful season of music-making with you and your child!

Music Learning Supports All Learning®
By Prelude Music Classes on June 22, 2017

Music Learning Supports All Learning

Many thanks to Miss Emily for contributing this month's blog post!

Hello, families! Happy Summer!

Many of you may have enrolled in Music Together classes because you want your children to learn some fundamental musical skills. And with time and exposure, every child can achieve what we call basic music competence: the ability to sing in tune in any key and keep the beat accurately with the whole body. How exciting! But did you know that music learning supports many other kinds of learning as well?

You may have noticed that we often sit in a tight circle during class, and the adults move from tapping our knees, to clapping, to tapping one another’s hands, moving high and low, etc. We really have to concentrate and follow the changes so that we move together! This gives our children the opportunity to build focus along with the grownups as they observe our changes in movement. When the group switches between one movement and another, it also builds cognitive flexibility – the ability to shift between concepts and handle multiple concepts simultaneously. Cognitive flexibility is an important executive function that is crucial to learning!

Do you ever use your book at home? (We teachers hope you do.) When you use the book together with the music, you are supporting pre-literacy skills. An example of this would be singing “Pussycat,” which is part of our current Summer Songs 3 collection, while pointing at various parts of the illustration – pointing to the cat on the word “pussycat,” pointing to the child on “queen.” Picture recognition is an important precursor to reading readiness.

You could also try making up a musical story to fit the illustration, which builds oral language skills and vocabulary. Asking your child questions like “Where did the pussycat go?" "Why did she go to London?" "What happened next?” supports memory, sequencing, and narrative skills as well. You can also try pointing at each word on the page as you sing the song, which builds letter/word recognition. Research suggests that a child with strong pre-literacy skills is better able to benefit from reading instruction when school begins. Even babies who are not yet working on specific pre-literacy skills can build phonological awareness (hearing the sound structure of words) and listening ability.

Movement is a part of every class, and we hope you are incorporating it into your music-making at home, too. Not only does movement feel good, but it also benefits your child in important ways. From infancy through early childhood, children are working on gross motor skills, movements which use large muscle groups and the entire body. It’s a key reason why we dance in class! Dancing and moving to the beat strengthen children’s coordination, body awareness, and balance.

You’ll notice that in class, we frequently “cross the midline,” reaching across the body with arms and legs; when we do this, we are increasing bilateral coordination, so that your child will be able to use both sides of the body together. We are also working on fine motor skills, coordinating hands and fingers. When your child picks up a mallet to play a resonator bell, or tries to tap the beat using fingertips, he or she is building fine motor skills.

There are so many ways in which music learning supports learning in other areas – your child’s language development, cognitive growth, physical development, and social and emotional development are all fostered every time you make music together. What are some of the ways you’ve observed your child learning through music?

Being Active Music Makers (and Teaching Our Children to Do the Same)
By Prelude Music Classes on May 25, 2017

Being Active Music Makers

Many thanks to Miss Emily for contributing this month's blog post!

Last month, I talked about the importance of trusted, beloved adults as musical models in our lives. Our children need to hear us sing so that they can become active singers themselves, and this week, I’ll be thanking all the parents in our classes for being models for active music-making. 

There's way too much passive music consumption in our culture, which we want to move away from — so congratulations on being active music-makers! And on behalf of your children, thank you for the model and the GIFT you provide. It is something that your children will carry with them for their whole lives.

So, Prelude parents, have you heard your child sing in class yet? Maybe you’ve heard your baby coo or sing a vocable on the resting tone. Or perhaps your two-year-old sings some of the tonal pattern or attempts the rhythm patterns. Maybe your older child does it all — even more than you expected!

Even if your child is still closing the loop between receptive musical experience (listening, watching, processing) and expressive music (singing, dancing, keeping the beat), learning is still taking place. Sometimes children who have been musically expressive will return to "receptive mode" as they continue to learn and process what they are taking in. And someday, if you are modeling music-making, you will have a child who fully, joyfully makes music as well.

Children’s voices and perception of pitch are different from what we experience as adults. A big reason why we teachers always find the starting pitch before beginning a song – with the guitar, piano, pitch pipe, or resonator bells – is that children are quite sensitive to pitch. For example, if we begin singing “I’m A Bell” in a different key than what’s on the recording, children will notice if they’ve been hearing the recorded version. It won’t sound like what they’re used to or what they expect!

Our recordings are designed to be vocally accessible to both children and adults. As grownups, we often tend to sing in a low register – but when singing with your children, see if you can counter that. Perhaps you could sing a little higher than what you feel is your comfortable register, because your natural adult singing voice is lower than your child’s natural voice. Even better, let your child begin a song and echo what he or she is singing. If you are using your songbook at home, play the recorded music while looking through the book, and eventually your child will begin to sing the song when he or she sees the illustration.

If your child is already singing along, there are many singing techniques to try. One that we often try in class is audiation – it's what we mean when we say “sing it in your head!” The pioneering music educator Edwin Gordon coined the term as a way to describe imagining music: If we can’t imagine or “hear” a pitch accurately in our heads, how could we replicate it using our voices?

At home, try leaving off parts of songs, leaving silence at the conclusion of a musical piece, or asking your child to sing a phrase or verse “in your head.” It’s one of the many ways we build music competence – and YOU, the parent or caregiver, are key.

Thank you again for being an active music-making model for your child. The opportunity to make, feel, and enjoy music is something only you can give. More next month!

You're Asking Me to Do WHAT?
By Prelude Music Classes on April 27, 2017

Many thanks to Miss Emily for writing this month's blog post!

If you’ve been at Prelude Music Classes for long, you will have heard a teacher remind all the grownups that they need to sing, dance, and let their voices and bodies be free! Though we all say it differently, it is something we teachers consider crucial to the success of our classes. But why?

As parents, we are all too aware of how our own behavior affects our children. We use polite language in hopes that our children will model polite language themselves. The same goes for all kinds of behavior: using good table manners, speaking in a calm voice, exercising, reading, taking deep breaths when we need to.

I confess that when I raise my voice at my own kids in anger, the anger is usually followed by worry – am I teaching them to yell? To lose patience? In other words, our parental instincts tell us that children inherit behavior from us, the adults who love them. It’s also true about music-making! Just as they model our other behaviors, children tend to model singing and dancing when we demonstrate it ourselves. This idea is so fundamental to Music Together that it comprises our third philosophy: The participation and modeling of parents and other primary caregivers is essential to a child’s musical growth.

So what does this mean? For many first-time Music Together participants, the idea of singing and dancing in front of others is deeply uncomfortable or even scary. But if we accept the idea that children model what we demonstrate, and we also want our children to be able to make music, we have to let go of our inhibitions. When your child hears you sing and sees you dance, there is no critique; your child is simply getting the message that singing and dancing is what people do!

In fact, research strongly suggests that human beings are born, and have adapted, to make music. There is also something to be said for attempting an activity you may not be entirely comfortable with. When your child sees you trying to keep the beat, hears you singing harmony, or listens to you layering sounds in class along with the other adults, you are making a big impression. Even if – perhaps especially if – you’ve never considered yourself a “musical person,” being an active class participant demonstrates to your child that music is for everyone, not just people who are widely perceived as “talented.” Sometimes a round will completely fall apart in class, and we either try it again or laugh at how silly we sounded. Think about how important it is to model those responses for our children!

You are demonstrating so many behaviors when you make music inside and outside of class: challenging oneself, creating community, being in the moment, engaging in silliness and play, releasing inhibitions. Yes, it can feel uncomfortable to be asked to sing and dance in front of other people, but I like to remind our families that the only one really paying attention to you is your child! 

So next time you come to class, take a moment to remember this: your singing and dancing is a gift to your child, your family, and our world in so many ways.

What (Besides Music) Is My Child Learning in Class?
By Prelude Music Classes on March 30, 2017

We apologize that this month's blog post was delayed due to Ana's busy travel schedule. She actually wrote it on a plane 37,000 feet in the air!

Dear Prelude Parents,

Week after week, you show up at Prelude Music Classes to sing and dance with your children. We love to teach Music Together® for many reasons, but mostly for the sake of music alone. Music makes us feel good, it helps us to connect and play with our children, and it helps us soothe our little ones in times of fear and stress.

Let's take a moment to look at what your children are learning — besides music, of course! I want to share with you the many concepts your child is exposed to in class and may be learning simply by watching you sing and dance, both in class and at home.

For example, when we sing and dance to "Jack Be Nimble" and "I'm a Bell" from our Maracas collection, here are just a few concepts your children are learning:

Language Development

  • Lyrics
  • Body parts (Jack jumped high and stubbed his toe, ear, nose, knee, etc.)
  • Rhyming
  • Expression
  • Inflection (high and low)
  • Verbal concepts (such as what it means to be "nimble" and "quick")

Rhythm-Beat (Pulse) and Levels of the Beat

  • Macro beat ("big beat") and micro beat (smaller division of the beat) — in "I'm a Bell," for example, we move to triple meter and show them many divisions of the beat
  • Patterns
  • Meter (duple, triple, or asymmetric)
  • Tempo (how fast or slow we sing and move)

Movement

  • We move to the beat.
  • We shift weight from one leg to another (locomotor movement).
  • We model small and large movements.
  • We experience directional movement when we go around the circle to the right, then turn around and move to the left.
  • We work on balance and body awareness.

Coordination

Children learn to "follow the leader" without us using any words! We do this by modeling actions instead of giving instructions. Children also develop coordination of their eyes, ears, bodies, and voices as they mimic us.

Tonality

Many of the songs in our musically rich program are in non-major keys or tonalities. We expose children to tonalities from all over the world, giving their ears a chance to develop recognition of a wide variety of sounds and scales.

Social Concepts

We build a musical community by singing together, which helps us bond not only with our children, but also with others in class. Many of our families have met wonderful friends in this program.

By singing together, we are teaching what it means to be an ensemble. By taking turns, we learn cooperation. By accepting ideas directly from the children, we help build their self-esteem. Every child is included and accepted in every class.

Another social concept that can't be left out is empathy. Often when a child cries in class, we notice several children (sometimes non-verbal children) try to comfort the crying child. When we did Maracas three years ago, I observed a class that Jonathan was teaching. He was leading "Jack be Nimble," and every time the "stubbed his toe, awww" part came, a child came to kiss his aching part! It was so moving to see this child genuinely wanting to make sure her teacher was okay, and she really wanted him to know she cared.

And think about the love your child feels when you sing him or her a lullaby, especially when you sing the words "I love you" like we do in "Su La Li."

There is so much more going on in class than we may even realize at any given moment. I encourage you to become a master observer of how your child learns. Notice how he receives music. How does she like to play with music? What are some of the things you notice when music is playing — or better yet, when you are singing to your child?

Our music class is a wonderful, developmentally appropriate environment where every child has an opportunity to develop his or her music potential by playing with music. Remember, children must learn to play with music before they can make music.

Thank you for being a part of our music-making community!

Keep singing and dancing,

Ana

Spring has sprung at Prelude, and we're abuzz with activity! Visit the Prelude Events page for information on upcoming family concerts, our Prelude Singers Concert, the Woodlands Woodway Arts Festival, parent education classes, and much more!

Why Parent Participation Is So Important
By Prelude Music Classes on February 23, 2017

This post is the second in a series exploring the four philosophies of the Music Together® program.

Why Parent Participation Is So ImportantIn our classes, we ask all grownups to fully participate … which might come as a surprise to parents and caregivers who expect the teacher to have sole responsibility for teaching the children. 

Our classes are designed to follow the child's needs, and we teach through the best ways children learn. We know that parents are their children's greatest and most important role models. Children are naturally wired to want to imitate and follow what their loved ones do.

(Please note that when I say "parents," I mean the people to whom the children have an emotional connection, including all those with whom they have daily contact with and look up to for security, nourishment and bonding.)

Children want to do what you do! Think about the most popular toys for young toddlers: they're little versions of things you use on a daily basis, like keys, vacuum cleaners, kitchen appliances, cleaning supplies, purses, work tools, computers, etc.

One of the things we want to make sure all parents understand is that you are your child's hero. You are their first relationship. They look up to you and want to imitate the things that you do.

With this in mind, we ask that all parents model music-making. We are not asking you to sing perfectly in tune, play along on a guitar, or lead songs the way your teacher does in class. We are asking that you simply model music-making, because your child can only acquire the disposition for music-making directly from you. 

Many of the children in class do imitate us teachers, but when they see you singing and dancing, music-making becomes part of their family culture. Parents with young children have a wonderful opportunity to instill the values and rituals at home that are important to you. This is an exciting time in a young family's life, and you can create a safe space for music-making where your children can thrive. All we are asking of you is to sing and dance with your kids!

Your children will learn more from you than from their teachers or class guides. Did you know that you really are the student in class? We are giving you the tools for creating a musical environment at home, in the car, on a plane, on vacation, at the pediatrician's office, or wherever you go! We are encouraging you to connect and bond with your children through music, knowing that you have a huge impact on their early childhood music development. We give you the tools to create lifelong musical memories with your children and to help them achieve basic music competence through play … and through watching you.

So, when in doubt … sing!

Thank you for giving your children he gifts of your time, energy, and love! We encourage you to tell your children how much you love and appreciate them. Then take it one step further — sing it to them.

Right now, you have the most comforting, loving sound for your children. There's no greater voice than yours! That might change as they grow older, but there's nothing like your loving sound.

Blessings and peace,

Ana

Mark your calendar for our next Family Concert, coming up on March 11, 4:30 pm at Levy Park!

All Children Are Musical
By Prelude Music Classes on January 26, 2017

This post is the first in a series exploring the four philosophies of the Music Together® program.

It is such an honor for the Prelude Music Classes team to be a part of a child's musical journey. Many of our students have been with us since pre-birth, joining us in utero while an older sibling participated in class. Others started as infants, as toddlers, and as three- or four-year-olds. Regardless of the age at which they started, they have one thing in common: they are all musical children.

We see and welcome children representing all learning styles, personalities, and abilities. Some children never leave their parents' or caregivers' laps. Some leap into the middle of the circle and start singing and dancing immediately. Some walk laps around the circle while we sing. Some touch walls, windows, door knobs, the piano, and other objects in the room throughout the entire class. Some sing with us continuously, while some seem to stare at another grownup. This is to be expected, and it is natural! 

All children have different temperaments, and often a child's personality and learning style are different from mom's, dad's or an older sibling's. It can feel frustrating when we have expectations of how we want our children to learn, behave, or be. 

We encourage you to embrace your child as he or she is. Become a master observer and trust that our Music Together class provides the learning environment your child needs to thrive. Again, we know that all children are musical, and all children have different ways of absorbing information and expressing the information they learned.

The children in our classes are all in Primary Music Development (PMD, a term coined by Music Together's co-authors, Ken Guilmartin and Dr. Lili Levinowitz). PMD is a journey that begins at birth and continues until the child achieves basic music competence. 

Basic music competence is defined as having the ability to sing in tune (in any key) for an entire song, and move one’s body with accurate rhythm. Many grownups have not yet achieved basic music competence and are still in their own journey of PMD.

Learning to sing in tune and move with accurate rhythm is an achieved, learned skill. It requires exposure and experimentation. Every time you show up to class, your child is being exposed to music-making, and he or she has ample opportunities to experiment and learn through play. Yes, even if your child is walking around the room throughout the entire class, she is learning from the exposure and the opportunity to experiment and explore in a musical environment!

During the PMD journey, there are two systems emerging: the receptive system and the expressive system. 

The receptive system is all about input, or taking information in. It develops through hearing and is dependent on exposure. It also develops through musical thinking, or "audiation," which you will hear us talk about in class. The term was coined by Dr. Edwin Gordon, and it simply means "thinking music." It is the ability to hear a song in your head and then sing it. Audiation takes practice, and your children have ample opportunity to practice it in class.

The expressive system is all about output. It develops by doing and experimenting. We see the expressive system in action when we see children "practice" many of the things we are modeling in class. You might not see them do the exact same things we are doing — it might be a movement we were doing three songs ago — but this practice is what helps us "see" the achievement in our children.

To achieve basic music competence, the receptive and expressive systems must be connected — think of a continuous loop between input and output.
Your children are learning by showing up to class and playing. To support their primary music development, we encourage you to sing and dance at home every day!

In next month's blog post, we will discuss the important role that you play in your child's musical development.

For now, know that you have a musical child who is in primary music development, and who needs exposure and experimentation with music-making both in class and at home.

Keep singing and dancing, making lifelong musical memories together!

Blessings and peace,
Ana

Remember to mark your calendar for our Family Concert with Uncle Gerry and Aunt Denise from the Music Together recordings! Save the date and join us for this special event on February 18 at 4 pm at Life HTX (2512 Woodhead St, Houston, TX 77019), where we will also have a silent auction benefiting the Prelude Music Foundation.

This Holiday Season, Let's Give the Gift of Imperfection
By Prelude Music Classes on December 19, 2016
"Understanding the difference between healthy striving and perfectionism is critical to laying down the shield and picking up your life."
- Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection

This time of year, there's one word that seems to come up in every conversation I have with other parents: stress. Yes, there is a lot going on right now: shopping to do, parties to host, travel to arrange, cards to mail, cookies to bake, the list goes on and on.

Through it all, there's also a tiny, sinister voice that seems to whisper, "Oh, by the way, it all has to be perfect."

Many of us are feeling the pressure not only to get everything done, but to get it all done perfectly — especially if we spend a lot of time on Pinterest. We scan through images of perfectly iced gingerbread houses, perfectly decorated living rooms, perfectly wrapped gifts, perfectly set tables for a perfectly cooked holiday feast, and it all implies "This is your goal!"

(Never mind how many hours of preparation, trial-and-error test runs, professional input, and maybe even a bit of Photoshopping went into those images!)

Can we all stop, take a breath, and give ourselves a break?

I invite you to think back to some of your most cherished memories of this season. I'd be willing to bet that not everything was perfect. Maybe it was the year dinner was ruined and you ended up enjoying a truly remarkable restaurant meal (remember the final scene in A Christmas Story?). Maybe it was the year money was tight and you had to improvise by giving hand-made gifts from the heart. Or maybe it was the year the weather sabotaged your travel plans and you had a blast playing games in your jammies at home.

Perfect? No. Memorable and beautiful? Absolutely.

When we welcome new parents to Prelude, many of them tell me "Oh, I can't sing — I have a terrible voice!" We gently encourage them, and before we know it, they're belting out "The Hello Song" with the same enthusiasm as their toddlers! Once they let go of that nagging voice that demands perfection, they're free to enter a beautiful new world of expression and connection.

So, this holiday season, I invite you to give your family — and yourself — the gift of imperfection. Let's all remember that years from now, we probably won't remember the perfectly curled ribbon on the gift. But we will remember how we felt when we were surrounded by love, joy, and the permission to be our imperfect selves.

What's your favorite "imperfect" holiday memory? Please tell us about them in the comments below — we'd love to hear from you!

Blessings and peace,
Ana

Please join us for our holiday Peace Concerts on December 20 at HMNS Sugar Land and on December 22 at Brookdale Senior Living! For more details, visit our Events page on Facebook. We can't wait to make holiday memories with you!

On Teaching Gratitude
By Prelude Music Classes on November 22, 2016

As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving with friends and family, many of us — myself included — will turn our thoughts to the abundance of blessings we enjoy.

I must admit, sometimes I worry about how much my children have. Because it's so important to Jonathan and me that our kids take nothing for granted, we make a conscious effort to instill in them a sense of gratitude. Throughout the years, we have created some "gratitude projects" that give us an opportunity to think and mediate about the things we are grateful for.

Gratitude Jar

Each member of the family writes on a small piece of paper something for which he or she is grateful and places it in a special jar or box. At the end of the year, the whole family gathers to read them out loud. The jar or box is placed in a prominent location in the home so that all can see and contribute it regularly. Reading everyone's gratitude notes on New Year's Eve is a beautiful way to ring out the year!

Gratitude Journal

On a selected day of the week, the family gathers together to express the things they are grateful for, and one family member documents each person's expressions in a special journal or notebook. This does not have to be a formal event — it can happen right before or after dinner — and the journal makes a beautiful family keepsake.

Gratitude Party

Gather your loved ones for no real reason except to say "I'm grateful for you and want to spend time with you." You can make a gratitude project together to create gifts for your guests, or you can present each one with a specially decorated gratitude jar or journal. Children love to give homemade gifts!

Blessings Poster

Get "crafty" with your gratitude! Gather and cut out pictures of things your children tell you they are grateful for — family members, teachers, pets, friends, your house, ice cream, etc. Then create a collage on a piece of poster board and mount it in a prominent place as a constant reminder of your family's many blessings.

A Gratitude Tree on Thanksgiving Day (or any day!)

Need an activity to do while others are cooking, or watching football, or talking about politics? Gather kids and grownups to collaborate on this fun gratitude exercise:

  1. Cut a simple tree out of brown construction paper, and cut out leaves using orange, red, brown, and yellow paper. (You can play your favorite Music Together CD while you do this!)
  2. Place five leaves and a pencil at each person's place setting on the dinner table.
  3. Before dinner begins, have each person write one thing he or she is grateful for on each leaf.
  4. Go around the table and have each person read his or her leaves, and let the kids stick them on the tree with tape or glue.

Our family has done this several times, and I was shocked at how much people wrote on their leaves! We always enjoy lots of laughter and even a few tears. As I write this, I'm planning on doing it again this year!

Create your own special tradition to help cultivate a sense of gratitude in your family, and stick with it. Not only will you encourage your children to appreciate their many blessings, but you'll find yourself living a more grateful life.

Some Final Thoughts on Gratitude

When it comes to material possessions, remember that children need for us to keep things simple. They don't need elaborate things to thrive. They need love, safety, and a sense of belonging. Your gratitude projects will inspire great conversations about where true happiness comes from.

I highly suggest taking action with gratitude. What can we as parents do to teach and show an attitude of gratitude? To me, the answer is service. Try a service project with your children, and remember to keep it simple. Keep granola bars in the car and share them with the homeless people you see at traffic lights. Or you can create "care packages" for the homeless: fill a small paper bag, decorated by your child, with a toothbrush, toothpaste, granola bars, an orange or apple, and water. You can do this by yourselves or partner with another family.

From all of us here at Prelude, we wish you a joyful, blessed, and gratitude-filled Thanksgiving celebration!

What are your favorite "gratitude projects" in your family? Please tell us about them in the comments below — we'd love to hear from you!

Blessings and peace,

Ana

Remember, pre-registration is now open for our Winter Session, beginning the week of January 2. Register today to keep the magic going … and if you haven't yet joined the Prelude family, this is a great time to sign up for a free "try me" class at a location near you!

"My Four-Year-Old Isn't Participating in Class Like She Used To. What's Wrong?"
By Prelude Music Classes on October 29, 2016

I can't begin to tell you how often parents approach me with concerns about their three-to-four-year-olds' participation in class. Here are just a few of the comments I hear over and over again:

  • "He always wants to move around the room. I'm worried that he's not learning anything and is distracting others in class."
  • "She used to participate with the others, and now she just runs around."
  • "He used to sing the songs in class, but now he just wants to listen."
If you've had any of these concerns about your own child, trust me, you're not alone. You're just seeing signs of some developmental changes that are normal at this age. Let me explain.

Learning Through Moving

Preschool children are experiencing a shift in awareness, becoming more cognizant of their surroundings. They are beginning to realize the world does not revolve around them, as it appeared to when they were two. This awareness drives many of them to start exploring movement through space in a bigger and more playful way, and they can do so with greater coordination.

You might notice, for example, that your child wants to dance or spin around at a time in class when everyone else is seated. This behavior is not a problem — in fact, we welcome it! Children learn naturally through exposure, experimentation, and play. They need to process all they are learning, and this processing often involves leaving the circle and coming back when the music or activity changes.

If this behavior sounds familiar, relax and enjoy watching your child explore this new awareness. She is still getting everything she needs to learn from the musical environment we are creating and the play we are modeling in class.

Listening Learners

Some parents notice a different kind of behavior change: instead of participating in class, the child wants to sit still and listen. This may frustrate you, but again, rest assured that it's another manifestation of growing minds.

At this age, your child is becoming a more careful observer and listener, able to compare melodies or patterns he is hearing to his own attempts at musical expression. Hang in there, parents! This important developmental period often comes just before a child "breaks through" and achieves basic music competence.

Too Soon for Formal Lessons?

Speaking of three-to-four-year-olds, many parents ask me if this age is too early to start piano or violin lessons. While each child is different, I can tell you that we strongly discourage starting formal music lessons before the child is developmentally ready.

So, how do you know when you child is ready? Here are five factors that must be in place for your child to have success with formal instruction:

  1. Basic music competence, defined as the child's ability to (a) sing in tune in any key and (b) keep a steady beat with her upper and lower body. The average age for basic music competence in the United States is five.
  2. Thirty minutes of solid focus. Formal music lessons require a tremendous amount of concentration. If a child is not ready for this, the fun will be taken out of music-making and it will become frustrating for both the child and the teacher — and for parents!
  3. Mastery of small motor skills. If your child has trouble with small movements with his hands, trying to play a musical instrument will be extremely difficult.
  4. Earnest desire. The child must really want to take lessons if she is to be successful. If lessons are parent-driven, chances are the child will not want to practice or continue, and a power struggle can develop between parent and child.
  5. The right teacher. Having a teacher who understands early childhood development is much more important than having one who is a great performer/musician. There are very few teachers who are both knowledgeable in how young children learn and experienced in teaching young learners, but it's worth the time and effort needed to find them. 

Please remember this is an age when children still need to play. They have such a short period of time left before they reach elementary-school age, and as parents it's vital that we not rush them.

I would like to close by encouraging you to connect more than you correct in class. Let your children play, explore, experiment, and mature in our developmentally appropriate classes. This class is for them and for you, and we want you to build lifelong musical memories together.

So take a deep breath and enjoy the watching the wonder and magic of your three-to-four-year-old enjoying class in her own way. Your child is going through a transition that needs love and compassion. I promise you that they are learning in class … and I promise you they will grow up faster than you think.

Have you noticed changes in the way your three-to-four-year-old enjoys class? Please tell us about your experience in the comments below — we'd love to hear from you!

Blessings and peace,

Ana

P.S. Remember, pre-registration for currently enrolled Prelude families is now open for our Winter Session, beginning the week of January 2. Register today to keep the magic going … and if you haven't yet joined the Prelude family, this is a great time to sign up for a free "try me" class at a location near you!