By Kathryn Brunner, Founder & Chief Musik-Maker: Musik at Home, LLC
I've never been a good tennis player.
I took lessons when I was a kid. I could serve well, but the return was always the hardest part for me. I'd hit the ball into the net. I'd hit it out of bounds. I was great at returning it directly to my opponent so she could easily slam it down on my side of the court to give me a forced error. Ah, my tennis days were numbered. But, there's one thing I'll always love about the game of tennis. It's the give and take, especially when playing for fun to help the other player learn how to play & succeed!
This same kind of give and take is all over our game as parents.
Our children look to us to play with them (all the time, right!). We can return that desire in many different ways.
When we take notice of our child's focus, then lean in to support and encourage our child through active play, we have returned our child's serve. Harvard University's Center on the Developing Child calls this back and forth interaction between a child and adult "brain building serve and return."
Small moments of serve and return play during the day help "build up the foundation for a child’s lifelong learning, behavior, and health—and his skills for facing life’s challenges." (Center on the Developing Child, developingchild.harvard.edu, 5 Steps for Brain-Building Serve and Return).
The Child-Adult relationships formed in early childhood "build a strong foundation in a child’s brain for all future learning and development."
Harvard University Center on the Developing Child
Harvard University's 5 step process for child-parent serve and return looks like this:
1. Notice the child's serve and share the child’s focus of attention.
2. Return the serve by supporting and encouraging the child's interest.
3. Give it a name! Help your child understand what he or she is doing.
4. Take turns…and wait. Keep the interaction going back and forth.
5. Practice endings and beginnings by moving to the next activity when the child is ready.
As parents, we invest in our child's future by engaging in the developmental process of interactive play.
These kinds of playful interactions literally help to construct a child's brain architecture. Brain architecture refers to the billions of neurons that are being connected in a child's brain before birth and into adulthood. These connections are most easily made during the first few years of life. Strong neural connections made in early childhood contribute to better brain function during childhood and into life as an adult. The chart below illustrates the ease of plasticity in a young child's brain in response to new experiences versus the brain of a full grown adult.
Now is the time! While our children are little, it is critical to intentionally interact with them through playful activities that strengthen these neural pathways in the brain.
Child brain development is at the core of our mission here at Musik at Home.
Musik at Home Classes are intricately crafted for intentional child-adult interactions that fuel your child's developmental growth.
Simple activities can yield exponential results for child brain development.
Think how much your little one loves the game of Peek-a-boo (even my 5 year old still loves it!!). It can go on as long as your child is having a great time going back and forth with you. When interest wanes, that's the cue to move on to the next game or task at hand.
Then, imagine this kind of peek-a-boo activity happening consecutively back to back with other similar engaging games your child loves. With this kind of play together with you, brain activity is off the charts for your little one!
Musik at Home classes are structured for continuous child-parent play.
We provide you the opportunity to engage your child's growing mind in brain-building play as easy as tapping, singing, and dancing along with countless musical games. Incorporating music together with play ensures that both hemispheres of a child's brain are getting a work out.
Playing a musical instrument has been shown to be the only activity that exercises the motor, auditory and visual cortices of the brain at one time. Prior to learning an instrument, full bodied musical play is the corresponding activity that engages every part of the brain for the young child. For more information on this research, check out this TED-ED film, How Playing an Instrument Benefits Your Brain.
In a Musik at Home class, back to back playful activities give your child the chance to interact with you in a variety of ways at his or her own pace.
As the instructor of our classes, I encourage parents to follow what I'm doing on the screen. In turn, your child is encouraged to follow you. When going through a class video, you might find your child simply observing what you do for the first couple of classes (or your child might be all over the room doing anything but following along -- this is totally ok too! It's all about a child's own pace). After the comfort level is established, you may begin to see your child offer a "serve" with new ideas for how to play along together. Your role is to "return" that serve with encouragement and support for interactive play with you! There is no right or wrong here.
As the instructor, I might be modeling the use of rhythm sticks, but your child may want to simply dance around the room with a scarf. This is your opportunity to meet your child in that active moment of play. In another song, you may want to encourage your child to follow exactly what you're doing to build skills in following instructions. It's a joyful game of serve and return. A playful give and take.
While the activities may seem simple, there is a unique purpose behind every activity in a Musik at Home class.
Consecutive activities for musical play stimulate the motor, auditory and visual cortices of the brain, strengthening a child's neural connections for better brain function. Movement activities enable the inner ear to begin stabilizing helping to establish your child's sense of balance and spatial awareness. Once this is achieved, the ear can move into it's secondary goal which is hearing and attentive listening.
Here is one example of our class flow for Family Music for Babies & Toddlers: Smiles & Slumbers. You'll see the function of each activity along with your role as a parent. I've also included your child's role. Click here or the image below to view the PDF.
Musik at Home Classes enable you to capture your child's music aptitude in its most moldable stage!
Music aptitude is at its height from birth to age 9 and then it begins to rapidly decline. Our goal is to provide you with the opportunity to make sure your child does not miss out on these critical years to reap the benefits of music education for overall whole-body and brain development.
Musik at Home classes lay the foundation for music literacy and lifelong musicianship.
In every class, I give you and your child the opportunity to "be my echo" on rhythm and tonal patterns. I take patterns out of the songs we sing in class and simplify them for echoing. Repeating rhythm patterns and tonal patterns over and over again lays a strong foundation for an intellectual understanding of the basic building blocks of music.
What can you expect from Musik at Home Class time?
- Special child-parent interaction
- Brain development through intentional play
- Music aptitude advancement
- Music literacy preparation
- Preparation for formal instrument learning
- Full bodied musicianship skills
And, if that's not enough, it gets even better! Here are a few more benefits of consistent music education.
All of this is possible for your child with consistent exposure to music education classes.
It's true! Just a little bit of active music making each week can change a child's future.
Our classes for Ages 0-7 will enlighten your moments of play with your child.
While I may not be any good at returning the ball in the game of tennis, I am enthralled with the process of serve and return when it comes to interactive play in parenting, especially musical play! I'd like to think I'm getting better at my game. :-) Every day with my daughters ages 5 and 2, I am working on watching for that serve so I can master the art of the return. Sometimes I totally lose sight of the ball. Other times, I am on it and then some!
Last spring, a Harvard doctor who is a mom of 3 children under the age of five heard my two year old talking. She looked at me in amazement and asked, "How do you get your two year old to speak in full, articulate sentences?" My immediate answer was "Music education." Underneath that answer lies the treasure of playful, musical interactions that aim to engage the billions of neural connections in her growing brain.
Let's master this serve and return game together to give our children the brightest future possible!
Ready to enroll in a Musik at Home class membership? Go here to pick the membership package that's right for your family. I'm thrilled to have you and your child here!