Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Tummy time for babies

OK, so I’m the first to hold my hand up and say that I didn’t do this very much with my own babies despite being told it was beneficial and that I should do some of it every day! If I put my eldest on his front he objected somewhat loudly and my youngest would just get sat on by his brother if I tried! So where was I going wrong?

Through teaching Kindermusik, I realise that plonking them on their tummy and saying ‘get on with it’ is not really the done thing so, as in class, I thought I’d suggest alternatives!

Firstly, why do we need to do it? Research[i] has shown that babies who are placed on their tummies (prone position) to play during waking hours reach motor milestones significantly earlier than their peers who spend little or no time in this position. 

Supine position
Prone position
The prone position strengthens baby’s head, neck, back, and core muscles and stretches the muscles located in the baby’s abdomen, chest and front of hips. This strength provides a good foundation for rolling and crawling and gives them a different orientation in the space around them. Even once a baby is crawling, encouraging them into this prone position to crawl develops their balance, spatial orientation and physical coordination. Babies are, quite rightly, encouraged to sleep on their backs (supine position) but for the rest of their day, do need to experience different spatial positions to develop those muscles not used on their backs.

So how can do we do it effectively and without them crying?

There are a number of factors that can make tummy time more pleasurable for you and your baby:
  • Presence of caregiver
  • Positioning
  • Props
A present caregiver
Nothing better than a cuddle
 during tummy time!
Plonking your little one on their tummy whilst you go and wash the dishes or sit down with a cuppa might be worthwhile for you but, at least initially, will not be for your little one. Not only are they now in a position that they might find strange and unfamiliar, they’ve also lost their comfort blanket - you - in the process. Getting down on the floor with your child and giving them the reassurance they seek can work wonders to overcome this distress. There are other tummy time positions that involve the caregiver being at close quarters and giving you some welcome bonding time (see below).

This is absolutely key for successful tummy time – no baby really wants to face-plant the floor! Improper positioning is one of the most common reasons why babies resist tummy time. If you are putting your baby on the floor for tummy time, roll them over from back to front gently by supporting their shoulder as you roll – this way they transition to the prone position gently, therefore avoiding any abrupt change.

Use of a towel during tummy time
For very small babies, putting a rolled up towel under the baby’s arm pits can raise them off the floor and give additional support to avoid face-planting! Help your baby to spread out their fingers on the floor or support themselves on their elbows so that they are comfortable. If the adult also gets down to eye level, the baby will have an incentive to raise their head to make eye contact.

Other positions:

Tummy down on adult’s chest: This has the added benefit of baby being on a warm, familiar surface and is excellent for bonding. Placing a pillow or towel begin the adult’s head will raise it comfortably ready for eye contact.

Placing across the legs
Across the legs: The adult can stretch their legs out in front and raise one leg slightly to rest the baby’s upper body on. The adult can then massage the baby’s back or legs for comfort and provide a prop for the baby to look at and interact with. Being raised from the floor means they can support their head in a straight line with their spine rather than having to lift up the torso to look up; a great position for smaller babies.

The leg flying position
The leg flying position: This is a wonderful and fun position for parent-child bonding. With the adult on their back with knees bent and legs parallel to the floor, baby is carefully placed on the adult’s lower legs so that they can enjoy face-to-face interaction with the adult at all times. The adult must keep hold of the baby securely but once the baby is familiar with this position, the legs can be rocked forwards and backwards or sideways to add some vestibular stimulation to tummy time.

Whilst quality time with you will encourage your baby to enjoy tummy time and should be at the heart of every session, the addition of carefully selected props, especially as they get stronger, can bring an added dimension and motivation to their play. Even when a baby has mastered crawling, the use of props to encourage them to reach and balance one-handed, and eventually no-handed, on their knee is beneficial   

You could use:
Tummy time with sensory bottles
  • Rainbowshakers or sensory bottles – these are exciting to look at, make a noise and can roll too therefore encouraging your baby to stretch and reach for it.
  • Balls – a hit with all ages, a small ball for tummy time will encourage your little one to shift their weight to grab it. For younger babies, they can follow a ball with their eyes from side to side or forwards and backwards to help strengthen their eye muscles.
  • Mirrors – looking at themselves (not that they know that!) in an unbreakable mirror will keep them entertained for ages! Babies love looking at faces and if you can come behind them to look in the mirror too, this will give them additional emotional support.
  • Getting both into the mirror
    Mirror play
  • Books – using the ‘across the knee’ position, you can add a book for them to look at from above or if they are very strong on their front, enjoy a book together in this different position: 
Books as a motivator

Finally, keep tummy time short! In the early days of a baby’s life, 30 seconds may be more than enough for your little one. Little, often and varied is key - as they get older, they will want to spend more and more time on their front as they work out how to wiggle around and move.

[i] Monson RM, Deitz J, Kartin D. the relationship between awake positioning and motor performance among infants who slept supine. Pediatric Physical Therapy. 2003; 15, 196-203

Dudek-Shriber L, Zelazny S. The effects of prone positioning on the quality and acquisition of developmental milestones in four-month-old infants. Pediatric Physical Therapy. 2007; 19(1), 48-55

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Head and shoulders - a multi-sensory approach

Every activity we do in Kindermusik classes has been carefully put together to help develop your whole child. To demonstrate this (and to give you a free song!) I thought I would examine one activity - Head and Shoulders - to show you just how much your child can gain from one simple and fun activity!

Click on this graphic to download the track and have a listen!

You may recognise this song as a variation on the childhood classic, Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes so as you sing, move your hands to the appropriate area of your body. The most obvious benefit to doing the actions with this song is for your child to learn their own body parts. This works by giving your child a multi-sensory opportunity to:

  • hear the words for the body part which in turn will increase their vocabulary
  • watch other people touch their body parts (you!)
  • mimic and touch their own body parts - this moving, touching and doing—sometimes called TPR (Total Physical Response) - boosts learning and development. 

Repetition, repetition, repetition!

The best thing you can then do for your child is to repeat this activity over and over again! However, you may have to pause the recording and sing the song slowly on your own initially for your little one to watch and coordinate their own movements in time. 

If you're feeling a little self-conscious about your own singing then don't be! To your child, your voice is the best thing there is - really - and singing together is a great way to connect! By repeating this song over and over again, your child will start to do the following for themselves too:

  • say and label body parts 
  • sing the song for themselves
  • gain self confidence as they bond with you and recognise self-improvement
  • become more coordinated with their physical (gross-motor) actions. If your child uses both hands to touch their body parts, they will be using both sides of their brain equally too!

Through repetition, your child will also develop their sequencing skills as they begin to predict which actions come next. You could try singing the song without the track and leave out some words for your child to fill in - can they remember what is missing? Older children may like to create their own verses with slightly more detailed body parts - 'Lips and teeth, lips and teeth children one, two three!" 

Every time you repeat, you could add an extra dimension to the song. Perhaps you could discuss what their body parts can do? Why do we have knees? What do we use our ears for? 

Of course, as the track suggests, you can also vary the song musically too. Why not sing it faster or slower, louder or quieter or find an instrument and tap the body parts as you sing? So many possibilities!

Finally, this song has an added bonus of including the numbers 1, 2 and 3. Whilst most children will not develop one-to-one correspondence (linking a number with an object) until they are at preschool, hearing numbers and maybe adding an extra action related to the body part whilst you sing 1, 2, 3 such as jumping feet, clapping hands or smacking lips will help to develop this correspondence. Hearing numbers in the correct sequence and learning by rote provides a good mathematical start!

So, from one simple song activity, you can hopefully see how your child can learn so much without even realising it. Every Kindermusik class is packed full of activities such as this to help you unlock your child's potential so why not book your introductory class today and discover more!

Friday, 18 November 2016

The social side of music.

This week, more than ever, I have been thankful for the wonderful social opportunities that music making has to offer.

Just recently, my ten year old son joined a wind band with our local music centre. Having played the trombone for 2 years and acquired his first exam grade at Easter, we thought (and he agreed!) that it was time for him to have a go at a group. So, off he went with a little apprehension but came out beaming and absolutely LOVED it! He is playing with mostly older children, something he can’t do at school anymore now he is in year 6, doesn’t do in any of his age-specific sports nor does he get this experience from his individual instrumental lessons. This week, he asked “Mum, is it band night tonight?” to which I answered yes and he performed his own ten year old happy dance (apparently this is a ‘thing’ …). It made me so happy to see him looking forward to going and to see his smiley happy face when he left – finally! (Question: why does he dutifully help to tidy everything away after band but not at home?). I know how he feels. The pure joy of working together with others to make music is not like anything I have found elsewhere.

So, why is music so good for enhancing a child’s social skills?

From birth, music making can provide an opportunity for babies to bond with their caregivers. By cuddling, playing, singing and humming with your child, you provide a safe environment for strong emotional development and early socialisation. Babies can also be exposed to simple turn-taking activities such as listening to instrument demonstrations and sharing instruments.

As babies turn into toddlers, music making offers a child the opportunity to interact alongside others during instrument play and also with others through group and circle dances. Making music increases their self-awareness and confidence and offers plenty of opportunities to practise skills such as sharing and taking turns, and to follow simple directions such as ‘go’ and ‘stop’, in doing so enhance their own self-control. Through music, the preschooler can begin to explore their emotions and start making friends and music together. They become more confident in themselves and with their peers.
As the young mind becomes more independent and determined, music making can provide a safe environment where ideas can be expressed, where disagreements are positively resolved and where cooperation is key. Children also learn to sit patiently in rehearsals, learn to follow rules and conventions and gain an individual motivation to succeed for the greater good of the ensemble around them. Most importantly, they begin to enjoy the company of others by sharing a mutual love of music.

Even into adulthood, music continues to provide me with a way of meeting new people and socialising. Indeed, I recently travelled to Dusseldorf, Germany under a twinning scheme between Reading Symphony Orchestra and the Orchester de Landesregierung Dusseldorf e.V. As orchestras from twin towns we take turns to visit each other, continuing and celebrating the positive relationship between our towns since 1947. As expected, an amazing weekend was had by all with a wonderfully inventive children’s concert performed on the Sunday morning combined with some great hospitality, sightseeing and, of course, beer! It is just shy of 25 years since I last travelled to Germany as part of an exchange trip with a youth wind band, an opportunity that I still remember clearly and that I hope my own children will have one day. Making music transcends language barriers and provides social opportunities that are not easily found elsewhere. 

For more information about how your child’s social-emotional skills are developed in a Kindermusik class, visit http://musicalpathways.net/docs/ourtimesocialemotionaldevelopmentbook.pdf

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Books for babies

Following on from my 'Do I need to read to my baby?' post, I asked my Kindermusik parents to list their favourite baby books. Here's a list of their suggestions - inspiration for Christmas presents or available at your local library. You can discover more ideas for babies and older children on the Bookstart webpage

Feel free to add your recommendations in the comments below :-)

Jonathan Allen: I'm not cute!
"This was a particular favourite"

Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees: Giraffes can't dance
"We like Giraffes can't dance - he loves all the jungle animals! "

Georgie Birkett: Peepo baby!
"I think this was a favourite because of the flaps and just saying peepo!"

Rod Campbell: Dear Zoo
"We loved the pop-up version of this book"

Eric Carle: the Very Hungry Caterpillar
"We read The Very Hungry Caterpillar finger puppet book over and over to Molly when she was a little baby, she loved anything with wiggling fingers! And then the real hungry caterpillar book when she was a bit older." "They like the transformation and the fruits/ variety of food consumed!"

Julia Donaldson and Nick Sharratt: Toddle Waddle
"I always thought it was a bit rubbish but Charlotte loves it...she knows it off by heart now though so can read it to me instead "

Kes Gray and Jim Field: Oi Frog!
"Oi Frog is brilliant for rhyming. We often play Oi Frog in the car and think of the different things the animals might sit on!"

Eric Hill: Where's Spot?

Ladybird: Playbook
"The baby touch series were great when he was little, this was a particular favourite"


Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury: We're Going on a Bear Hunt

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Do I need to read to my baby?

We all know that reading to children is a good thing, especially when they are learning to read themselves, yet do we really need to read to our tiny babbling babies? 

In short, yes! But let's look at why ...

There are so many benefits of reading to your baby which, combined with musical activities, will give them a really good boost in their early literacy skills.

So what do we need to do? Traditionally, we all take a book, sit down, open the book at the beginning and read all the words until the end. This is great and in doing so, your baby will experience:

inflection in your voice – no monotone readers here please!

facial expressions – have a look at yourself in the mirror when you read to see the different facial expressions you create.

how to turn the page – we take this for granted but knowing that we read from left to right is a learned skill. Turning the pages also helps young children to develop their fine motor skills as their little hands learn to physically turn the page too.

special time with you – reading is a perfect time to snuggle down and bond with your baby. Add it to your daily routine so they benefit from this one to one time every day.

visual stimulation – colourful pictures will delight your little one but they will also be developing their eye muscles every time they track across the page and look at new things.

the joy of anticipation – every time you turn that page, it’s like a great game of peekaboo! Discover new things to see and do every time!

a wider vocabulary – every new word or sound they hear will go into their brain bank ready for when they are able to speak these words themselves. Don't forget that young babies understand much more than they can speak - their receptive language is huge in comparison to the language they can actually express themselves.

Here's the thing though - you don't have to read the words from the page every time. Indeed, you don't even have to start at the beginning! By simply interacting with the book in a different way, the whole experience can suddenly become so much more. Here are a few pointers: 

Point out and label objects, colours and words on the page – small babies are very receptive of language and understand so much more than they can initially express through speech. They are carefully listening to everything you say and making connections in their brain between the words and the world around them.

Have fun with vocal play - vocal play is very important in a young baby’s life. Adding the sound effects of animals (“Moo”, “Baa”) or vehicles (“Vroom”, “Chug”, “Beep”) as you read, breaks words down into phonemes, the building blocks of spoken and written language. At about 4-6 months babies also pay less attention to your eyes but more to your mouth when you speak. They begin to work out where your voice comes from and look intently at how you make the sound so by repeating a variety of sounds, your baby will begin to imitate and speak.

Allow time for conversation - Hearing proper adult conversation is vital early on as they learn to recognise that it takes two to converse and that there are pauses to allow others to respond. Ask your baby questions. Give them time to respond in their own way – this may be a look , a point, a babble. Recognise and label any response you get – “You pointed at the giraffe!”

Read and repeat - whilst some baby books may not be a riveting read for you, repeating them again and again is a wonderful experience for your baby. Every time you repeat it they become more familiar with the book, start to make predictions about what is coming next and will pick out their favourite bits (yes, this may mean starting at the end!). Every new activity you do with a child creates a new connection in their brain but it is through repetition that these connections are strengthened and become cemented! Repetition is essential for brain development.

All of these wonderful things can develop your baby in so many different ways but, most importantly, they will grow up knowing that reading is an enjoyable, joyful thing to do and will hopefully develop a lifelong love of reading.

For my Kindermusik families list of special baby books, check out this blog post!

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Welcome to my blog!

I have been a Kindermusik educator for nearly 4 years now and thought it was about time that I shared some of my early years music ideas, knowledge and experiences with the wider world! Educating and developing babies, toddlers, young children and their parents is a joyful and rewarding job and I absolutely love nurturing the musical beginnings of young children. Who knows where their musical journey will take them?