Tag Archive for: early childhood education

How Does Your Child Develop and Learn?

This issue came up in my music class today and I realized that this is something I need to write to all of you parents about. How can parents know when their young child is ready to start formally learning a new concept? What and how should I teach them things?

I have worked with children all of my life and I have raised two. I was educated to teach children and very early in my life I learned about this basic concept of cognitive development in children. It is fascinating to understand that children learn certain concepts when they are ready to learn them and not a day before. Have you ever noticed that all of a sudden in just one day your child started understanding how to hold his spoon or how to tie his shoes. She went from drawing scribbles to making circles. And then I noticed she started making faces.

One of the most important things to understand when you want to teach your toddler new concepts is to understand that very idea that they truly get it when they are ready. As a teacher of very young children I have learned to rely upon something that I used as a mother. That is exposure. In other words I would constantly expose my children to stories, pictures, shows or music about colors, numbers, counting, ABC’s, clapping, speech and conversation. Understand that your toddler is a little sponge who is constantly absorbing and learning as he watches, listens, feels, tastes and smells. His or her little body is constantly moving. One day he is sitting up and the next he is crawling. And notice that he does what some call the soldier crawl before he actually fully crawls. As a parent you know the joy of those first smiles and later giggles, those first coos and then later words. And have you noticed that every baby is developing at different times but very much in the same stages. Exposure to many concepts puts this information into a subconscious bank from which they will take to help them with new concepts. New experiences and different forms of media are of immense importance for your very young child.

When I was in college learning to be a teacher I studied about this man named Jean Piaget. Here is an article for you to read about his basic stages of human development. https://www.healthline.com/health/piaget-stages-of-development I will not bother to elaborate on the different stages here but you will see that he has divided human development into four basic stages. And yes within each one of these stages it has its own details and stages. As I have worked with very young children I am fascinated with their development and readiness to do new skills.

So how as a teacher and a parent do I use this knowledge when teaching my children. Most importantly is the idea of readiness. A child will not learn a concept until he or she is ready. I can tell it to him, show it to him, read it two her, act it out for her as many times as a want, but he or she will not learn that concept until he is cognitively ready. If I get frustrated or push too hard we all know that the child will also become frustrated. As a music teacher one of my most important goals has always been to make it fun! Parents, this is most important. Never push any concept before they are ready. This will create stress and rebellion. Work with the process and know just how to do that.

Always expose your child to the concepts you want them to learn. Put up pictures of the alphabet, numbers, colors, emotions in her room. Read to him everyday starting at a very young age. Talk to your child regularly. Communication is a huge piece in learning. Even if your child is not understanding your words he is absorbing them. Your child may not comprehend those stories or those pictures or songs but he is absorbing this information. One concept that drives me as a teacher of young children is that I believe in exposing these children to these concepts very early and simply having fun with them. My child will learn so much more quickly and energetically if he or she is having fun. When your little one is old enough play games with her. This is by far one of the best teaching tools out there for young children.

Relax. Your job is to expose and fill the subconscious bank. That isn’t that hard is it? Of course we teach concepts when they are ready and that is always more challenging, but when we are relaxed teaching and learning are fantastic. Most of what we do as parents of young children is to expose them to new things. In one way this is very simple. In another way this adds a huge sense of responsibility. So very often it is not just what we say, it is what we do and even more importantly who we are.

I could go on and on, but I will close with this statement. Fall in love with learning. If you enjoy learning and teaching these concepts, so will your child. Your child is a little sponge now. Fill him with all the good stuff and he will have a bank of information to use when he or she is cognitively prepared to use it in the next stage. And very importantly he will love to learn which is priceless.

Ten Little Pigs in a Pen

This is a song that teaches little ones how to count, how to subtract, how to take turns, how to listen to directions and how to listen to the words and instructions in a song being sung to them. That is a lot of things isn’t it? Yet the song is so simple.

You will see from my photo that I was lucky enough to find a lot of little pigs for a very good price. I have them in a little crate or a pen. That pen sitting on my table for a week is what inspired me to write this song. I just had to figure out what I was going to put in this pen, and when I found these cute little pigs I knew.

I wrote this song in a very soothing lullaby style which allows the children to relax, slow down and listen as I am singing. This was quite different from my normally very energetic songs. I instruct the children to listen to the part in the song where I say, “one ran away” before they can remove a little pig. One child at a time passes the crate around until all of the pigs are gone.

I used the number ten for the song. I can personally sing any number when I do it live with the children. There are other ways to illustrate and interact. You could create a felt activity where the children one at a time come up to remove a little pig.

This song is on my CD, How Do You Walk Like a Dinosaur? and on my lullaby CD as well. With the little stuffed pigs the little ones adore this activity. This is a great counting activity for little ones.

Mama Dinosaur

This is an activity song that I wrote for toddlers and young preschoolers to teach them colors. I tell them about how mama dinosaur when she has babies lays eggs. She then digs a hole in the ground and puts her eggs in there to keep them safe. I tell them that you are going to put the colored egg that I sing about when I sing about it in the nest which is a basket that I have found. This activity is wonderful for toddlers because it is very simple and easy to follow. As with all of my activity songs, this is a great song for teaching listening skills, following directions, waiting your turn, and learning colors.

I originally tried to use the plastic Easter eggs, but I learned very quickly that that was not going to work as little ones spent too much time taking them apart. Painted wooden eggs were the only way to make this work. I order unpainted wooden eggs from a craft store and then painted them with acrylic paints. If you can find eggs that don’t come apart that are already colored that would be even better.

This song is on my CD, When I’m Happy.

How Do You Walk Like a Dinosaur?

This is a favorite for those who buy my music.  This song is so useful in preschool classrooms 

Little ones love this song.  All I have to do is ask them, “How do you walk like a dinosaur? We have to walk really heavy.” They love it! I then continue the song with other animals that they have to copy me do: a frog, a bird, a cat, an elephant, a monkey and then we go back to the dinosaur. This song works well for toddlers, preschoolers and kindergarten children.  As  is true with many of my songs, this song is valuable for teaching little ones to follow directions, a skill that is invaluable for little ones as it totally prepares them for skills they will need for the rest of their lives in order to succeed. Sounds kind of serious, but for them it is just fun. It allows them to move and to act like their favorite animal.

Here is the link to the YouTube video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZMPtlTcqJTE

This song is available on most streaming sites and in CD form also at CD Baby and Amazon. Check out the albums page and the CD, How Do You Walk Like a Dinosaur?

Using Kazoos

Kazoos are such an awesome addition to teaching music and singing with children. They love them.  Even if they don’t get a chance to play them they love hearing them. I love watching a group of children with whom I am singing break into laughter the moment they watch me and hear me play the kazoo. A true moment of delight as I know I have connected with them in a very special way. Making preschoolers laugh is a talent that doesn’t come without understanding and experience. Once I know I have tickled their little funny bones, I know I have connected with them.

But there is something even move magical than that. It is more fun for preschoolers and kindergarten children (and even older children) to be able to play the kazoo. I regularly make kazoos a part of my preschool and kindergarten curriculum. It is not easy to get little ones to sing with you, but if they have a kazoo, they will hum into that kazoo.  The first step is to make sure that the children know just how to do that. You will find that most of them figure it out pretty quickly, but there is often one or two children that will find the skill to be a challenge. It is important to teach them not to blow into the kazoo but rather to hum into  the kazoos. I will hum and immediately put the kazoo in my mouth to suddenly create that kazoo sound and then I will remove and repeat that action. Most often they finally get it. If for some reason they don’t I tell them to hold their kazoo and keep trying and maybe they can work on it with their teacher later. I have them start by humming into the kazoo a familiar song, Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. I have them hum in their kazoos along with me.  Then I move to a song that I have written called “I Lost My Kazoo.”  I tell them that they have to put their kazoos in front of them as they will be copying me with some different sounds. What good discipline and how wonderful that they are learning to follow me. And they love every minute of it. “I Lost My Kazoo” is a wonderful song for teaching young children.

Kazoos are in Montessori curriculum for teaching young children and I can see why. I will give you SoundCloud links here but these songs are available on any of your favorite streaming sites as you can see from my album page and also Google Play which will soon be added to my album page.   https://soundcloud.com/sharon-novak/i-lost-my-kazoo    https://soundcloud.com/sharon-novak/i-have-a-kazoo   https://soundcloud.com/sharon-novak/kazoo-therapy  You can also find these songs on a physical CD which is available at CD Baby or Amazon.


The Car Song

This is a favorite! Children love the car song activity when they get to drive the cars on the road and into the garage. Children listen to the song while they have a different color car in their hand. When I sing about the color of the car that they have in their hand they drive it on the road and into the garage.  Are they learning anything? Well, of course they are.  They are learning colors. They are learning to take turns. They are learning to time how long the verse of the song takes to allow them to enjoy driving their car into the garage. Most importantly, however, they are having fun! And this means that they are learning all the more.

This activity is so easy to make.  All you need to find is different color cars.  You could use cars as small as hot wheels or you may be able to acquire larger cars. I will point out that when I started doing this activity that I used a road that was not straight from one of the pre-manufactured mats. Because the road was not straight it offered too many options.  A straight road that takes the cars directly into the garage is best. It help keep little ones focused. The garage is very important and it is easy to make. Just use a box and cut off the bottom. Create an opening and voila you have a garage. I recommend keeping it simple for little ones as you have to keep them moving through the song. That they are staying within the time of the song is great as they are learning to pace themselves.  You will find some kids take their time while others will move along quickly and get the job done. Always watch children and help them with time issues if they need that help. Some love “their moment” and have a tough time quitting so just help them move along if you have a class. For one or two children this is even easier. It is also good to know that this song works best for 3-5 year old children as younger ones still are working on mastering their colors and focus issues. But don’t hesitate to try it if you have one super bright and focused toddler.

You can find this song on my CD, Clap Your Hands. I will provide an iTunes and Spotify link here or simply check out the album page for other options. https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/the-car-song/1434357860?i=1434357872 and it is at Spotify, https://open.spotify.com/track/2ErCnrgfH5BBVTHU8R5o1b?si=O9jmPwK-Rai2DlsWuU_X9Q   I will point out that I’m also at Google Play and YouTube and many other favorite streaming sites.  Just look me up!


Color Song

This is one of the first songs I would sing with children when I started singing with them. I have adapted this song from another that I’ve heard and sing it to the tune of Skip to My Lou. The children absolutely love it. I recorded it on my first CD with a couple of other songs. The YouTube link that I will provide will provide you with the links to this song. I tell the children look at their pants, shirts, shoes and when I sing the color that they are wearing they will stand up and          

turn around.

I have carefully recorded it so that it is very useful in the classroom as I make it my goal to record my movement songs in real time. This video pictured is on YouTube.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=niyKoN23xqI      You can also find this song at iTunes https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/color-song/1434357860?i=1434357864    and on Spotify  https://open.spotify.com/track/6YusqE4e8v2iwOhXANHuAt?si=2ecSFqYSTke9AvyP3_iYwA and at CD Baby. https://store.cdbaby.com/cd/sharonnovak32    This is a fantastic song for teaching colors, self awareness, and waiting your turn. Your children will love it if you help them see the colors that they are wearing when they hear the color sung.

Cooper Caterpillar

Here is my friend, Cooper Caterpillar. I wrote this song this year (2018) and have been developing the activity that goes with this song. You will find this song on my sixth CD, Clap Your Hands. As you can see this is a very easy easy activity for you to create. Simply go on Amazon and find the caterpillar you like best. This one pictured is Mr. Tree. I also have purchased two Melissa and Doug Caterpillars that I may combine to make one large caterpillar for my more populated shows. I must always keep my music interactive.

This song teaches colors and also listening for the color that works for Cooper. If you look at this picture you will see that Cooper has felt shoes that this little girl has velcroed onto his feet as she heard the color in the song.  Young children totally love being involved in the song and look how much she loves that caterpillar. I use this song for larger preschool classes also and each child gets a different color felt shoe to velcro on his feet and when he or she hears the color in the song, he will put them on one of Cooper’s feet. As always if you listen to this song you will  hear that there is plenty of time for the children to go to Cooper to put the correct color shoe on his feet.

All you have to do is buy different colored pieces of felt, create a shoe pattern out of cardboard and and trace how many you desire on each color of felt that you have chosen to purchase.  I use a sharpie to draw laces onto my shoes to make them appear more realistic. This is such a fun way to teach colors.

If you listen to my CDs you will see that I have other songs that teach colors. You will soon find blogs about those. Look in my albums section to find my songs and download or purchase them whichever way is easiest for you. Here is a link to the song at iTunes. https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/cooper-caterpillar/1434357860?i=1434357866