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Preparing for Life - Your Child Is Unique!
While walking through my bank’s foyer the other day a brochure caught my eye. On the front was a photo of a dad with his young baby about 6 weeks old, fast asleep, lying across his arm and head resting in his hand. The words at the top of the page were, ‘Where’s the manual?’
When you see your newborn baby for the first time, all the knowledge you may have gained from books, courses attended, conversations seem to disappear as you see your own child before you, completely unique, totally original, and astoundingly wonderful and you are responsible for preparing them for life! Where is the manual? Oh, if only there could be one manual that would help you to do this right!
Well, we know there is not one manual that can cover it all, but if we can start by realising that our child is an original and begin to take time to discover and observe who they are as they begin to grow and develop - this can be an enormous help.
I have had the privilege the last 18 years of taking parents on a 7 year journey of discovery with their children. Music and Movement are the key components and I am constantly sharing the benefits of these to families, but I would like to focus on my core values which are to nurture and inspire children and parents and their relationship together so they can be better prepared for life.
How do I do this?
I start by trying to create an environment that feels safe and appropriate for both the parent and child.
For the very youngest age group, 0 - 1 years of age, this would mean asking the parent to take time to observe their babies, to watch their responses to sounds, touch and movement and to discover and adjust their responses accordingly. This brings such freedom in a group setting e.g. a new mum could stop an activity and see that their baby needs to stop being stimulated for now and needs to be fed, a parent may start rolling a shaker on the floor for the baby because the baby wants to be crawling around.
The benefits of observation and then exploring together continue for the 1 to 2 year olds. Many of this age group have discovered their feet and want to move, move, move and touch everything they can. They are absorbing so much of their environment but need mum or dad to be able to help to make sense of it all.
Talking at every opportunity, putting into words and telling them what you see they are doing, saying that you see them rolling the ball, shaking the bell, affirming what they are doing, encouraging them to try something new; taking time to discover together.
At the age of three, when many children are adjusting to becoming more independent and going to nursery or playgroup, being safe will mean feeling secure and if you have had lots of time to observe and explore together you will have a good idea of how you think they are going to cope and you can support them accordingly.
At the age of 3 and 4 I have a length of time with the child in a small group with other children on their own and then the parent comes in for a Sharing Time when they can not only see what their child has been doing but also share in the experience together. This Sharing Time is an integral part of every session. This kind of sharing time continues building foundations of trust and feeling valued.
There is a specific method of observing and exploring which is really worth looking into in more detail. This method is called ‘scaffolding’.
I might give a family some shakers and give them free time to play with them together. I ask the parent to observe what their child is doing with them. I encourage the parent to describe to their child what they are doing while imitating their child’s action e.g. shaking fast. The parent then goes on to demonstrate another way of using the instrument, this could be tapping the shaker on the floor or on their knee, rolling the shaker, tapping shakers together, lifting it up high, playing it loudly and quietly, the list goes on.
The child feels valued because the parent has shown great interest in what they can do by imitating their initial action and has also encouraged them to try something new. These are fantastic skills for life and learning.
With children from 3 to 7 a form of ‘scaffolding’ can continue during the session as well as in the Sharing Time. I might get out hoops for example and encourage the children to discover the qualities of a hoop e.g., shape, colour, texture, the way it moves and to allow them free time while I affirm what I see them doing and then encourage them to try discover new things.
The possibilities can be endless as hoops not only can be spun and jumped in and out of, they can become cages, boats to sail in, and a sun lifted high in the sky with both hands up!
The 5 to 7 year olds who have already experienced a number of years of exploring in this way are now ready to try anything new: reading musical notes, moving to different rhythms, playing a glockenspiel.
Learning and discovery has become fun and their success is not based on doing everything just right but having the confidence to try and be encouraged in their own successes.
Understanding how children are all unique and have different ways of learning and expressing themselves has helped me on my journey as a parent of 4 children and as a Music and Movement teacher.
My greatest joy, and when I know I have done my job well, is to step back and watch my parents begin to play and explore with their children without any prompting. I observe their children’s faces as they are getting all that eye contact and attention from mum or dad and I see the confidence of the parent as they understand what their children love to do and help them to discover new things.
I would like to finish with one of my opening thoughts. We don’t have one manual that tells us how to do everything right, but if we realise that our child is unique and we take the time to observe and explore with them as they grow and develop - this can be an enormous help!
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This blog was submitted by Jan Holt of Kindermusik by Jan.
Kindermusik By Jan offers music & movement classes for babies, toddlers, big kids, and families from newborn to 7 years old.