"Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature can not do without." ~Confucius

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Signs of Readiness for Piano

Well, part two of my "piano for young'uns" post (I just made that title up, but it's this one.) is a list of a few signs of readiness for embarking on the study of piano.

So, if you are thinking whether or not your dear little darling should start tickling the ivories yet, here are a few things to think about.

1. Start when your child has the time to devote to learning something new.
  • A lot of parents have their child start too many things at the same time. For example, "OK, Jimmy, this fall, you'll start soccer, piano, karate and art class." 
  • It's fine to do a few different things as the child is able, but if you do start something important like piano, make sure it has the time needed for building a good foundation before other things get added on. 

2. Start when your child shows some musical understanding. 
  • This could be any age from 4-8, but look for their ability to sing a melody and show some rhythmic capacity. These little years are chock full of musical aptitude, so when it starts to naturally come out of your child, consider putting some of his/her enthusiasm into learning piano. 

3. Start when the child has an idea of their ABC's
  • The child does not have to know all of their alphabet, but a basic knowledge of letters is helpful for memorizing the alphabetical note names on the piano. 

4. Start when they can focus on a task and complete it on their own.
  • The younger the child, the more parental involvement is needed to aid in learning. 
  • It is a lot of fun to start a young child on piano. Just know that you will need to be more involved the younger they are with assisting them at the piano bench in how to play and how to practice. Be prepared to help them along until their skill level reaches the point where they can complete assignments on their own. 
  • Parental involvement continues throughout a child's learning. Just like you would encourage your child to practice their shooting skills for soccer, they'll need your help to practice efficiently. It's a great opportunity to be involved in their learning. 
Two more thoughts - 

When you have your child start lessons, please decide that you will be involved too. No one likes to be ordered into a practice room. Be interested, be involved, have them perform for the family. Be a great encourager and help shape their attitude as they go. 

If at all possible, do not start lessons with just an electric keyboard at home.
   A child is not motivated to practice on a keyboard. There might be a little motivation at first, but it       
will soon fade because that little keyboard is just not that inspiring. Thanks to craigslist, there are  
any number of used pianos you can come by (most of them for free if you can come pick it up). Get 
a piano-sized keyboard if you must. But, better yet - get the real thing.   

Enjoy the journey of seeing your child's imaginative and creative abilities come out as they grow in their natural musical ability and affection. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Make-It-Song-Monday: Bath Time!

This post is dedicated to Lisa Judson - a dear lady we crossed paths with for a few years.
When I was pregnant with baby K, one of the things this kind friend shared with me was that they do something silly at bath time called "cold, cold baby" and her kids love it. The details are foggy, but this brief little conversation inspired the now infamous song we sing as we get the boys out of the bath.

These are the words we use. Pretty difficult. Are you ready?

Cold cold baby,
a cold, cold baby
Cold, cold, baby, baby,
cold, cold baby!

(Deep, huh?)

Bath time is a great time for a simple little song like this. After your precious little bundle gets out of the bath, they usually enjoy being snuggled in a warm towel (although mine sometimes prefer running around the house a few times before coming back for the towel and "cold, cold baby").

We just made up our own little bouncing melody for the above words. When we get each boy wrapped up, we start bouncing him around and singing "cold, cold baby..." The older they are, the more exciting the bouncing, etc. They love it and ask for it every time bath is done.

A few simple melodies that might work well for forming your own song are: "Twinkle, Twinkle" or "All Through the Night" or "Here We Go 'Round the Mullberry Bush" or "Skip To My Lou."

To "Skip To My Lou" - "Bath time's done so what do we do? (x3)
snuggle in a big warm towel."

to: "Here We Go 'Round..."
"Wash your face and ears and hair, scrub up here, scrub down there,
wash your chin and fingers and toes, then we'll be all clean!"

You can make up your own words, or just improvise something simple that comes to your head.... or use "cold, cold baby!"

This would also be a great opportunity to use Sandra Boynton's "Snuggle Puppy" song for! I think "Skinamarinky-dink-y-dink" would also work well too! I know you've been dying for somewhere to use THAT song. :-)

These are just some ideas to get you thinking about more ways to incorporate music into your day. Kids will have fond remembrances of these little tunes as they learn them and associate them with sweet times in their home life.

What did you make into a song today?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Thoughts About Piano Lessons....

Since I'm a piano teacher, I am often asked, "when..." or "why should my child start piano lessons?"

So, here are a few thoughts for the parents of little or big kiddos (or anyone, really) who are thinking about undertaking the joys and challenges of learning the piano.

1. Piano is probably the most important instrument for a child in western civilization to learn.

2. No other instrument trains children in so many areas of musical activity - (reading in more than one clef, counting rhythm while playing, using hands and feet to play, learning alphabetical note names and finger numbers, being able to sing while playing, etc, etc.), yet is so playable at a young age.

3.  Piano is worthy of study because it in itself is a masterful instrument. But, if, after enthusiasm has faded a bit for some, another instrument is desired, having learned piano first is an incredible foundation  and allows the child to progress quickly in another instrument.

4. Other instruments that are popular like guitar and drums have merit, but are best introduced after the child has actually learned how to read music and keep time in piano study.

5.  There will be difficult days ahead (but don't fear!!). The enthusiasm  (which usually appears around ages 5-8), will fade and you will find yourself coaxing an uninterested child into doing their practicing. But, I can't tell you how many people I've heard say to me, "I wish my parents had made me keep going with piano when I wanted to quit."  We will have to coax our children in many worthwhile endeavors, and this should be one of them.

6. It is worth the monetary investment. Don't shy away from private teacher costs. If it presents a true hardship, some teachers will help work something out.

7. Don't be deterred if your child responds with, "Piano lessons?? I don't want to take piano lessons!" This happened just a few months ago as a mom was signing up her young son for lessons. I looked at him and said. "WHAT? Don't you know that the piano is the greatest, and mightiest of ALL the instruments? It's the LION of the instruments!" To which his eyes got huge and sparkly and he gave me a shy smile. :-)  Be firm and enthusiastic (and pray for a like-minded teacher!).

So, there are some thoughts as you ponder whether it's worth it. I'll give you 2 seconds to figure out what my opinion is.  :-)

Part two of this post will be about signs of readiness for starting lessons.

What were your experiences with piano?
What do you think about the importance of children learning to play?

Winner of the "Philadelphia Chickens" CD....

....is post #7 from Katrina who said,

We love Moo Baa La La La and The Pajama Dance! It is tough to choose. We enjoy her books so much!

Congrats, Katrina!  (You should have received an email from me)

Thanks for the entries - I wish I had a CD to give to all of you! But, you should still go pick one up on Amazon.com! (Christmas is coming, you know...) 

Happy Boynton-reading and singing to everyone! 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Baby Bounces - Ponies and 'Horseys'

If you've been here for a little while, you know how much I love baby bounces and chants. They are precious gems passed down from generation to generation producing baby smiles and giggles.  Passed down orally from one parent to the next, they are treasured pieces of tradition we should preserve for our kids to pass down to their kids.

Musical activity from infancy on develops a child's sensitivity to and understanding of rhyme and rhythm. Also very valuable is the strong bond between bouncer and bouncee that these little activities develop.

These bounces below are rollicking fun and will get adorable giggles and smiles out of your little one.
They are "horsey-themed" and thus lend themselves well to bouncy, rhythmic movement on your lap or on your hip.  (If you need a little more of a bouncing "how-to" go Here!)

Macaroni Pony

I have a little pony,
his name is Macaroni
He trots and trots and then he stops,
My funny little
Macaroni pony.

Here's what this one sounds like:

Come Up Horsey

Come up horsey, hey, hey!
Come up horsey, hey, hey!
Mama's gonna buy you a little lap dog,
Mama's gonna buy you a little lap dog,
Mama's gonna buy you a little lap dog,
Put him in your lap when she goes off.
So, come up horsey hey, hey!
Come up horsey, hey, hey!

Here's what it sounds like:

There are about 5 more I'd love to share, but I'll save them for later so as not to overwhelm you all at once. Give these a try with your child or grandchild and see if they like them!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Five Little Apples Chant and Finger-Play

Fall is *almost* here, so we're starting to get excited about all things apple (although most of the excitement is geared towards those things involving food).

This chant is about getting apples off a tree and involves a counting pattern from 5 down.

Why are chants or fingerplays worth my time, you may ask?

Well, my two top reasons are: they are rhythmic and rhyming, so they develop innate rhythm, which is uber important to instill at a young age since it is very hard to rectify a deficiency in natural rhythm as a child grows up.

Second, it strengthens their imagination and story-following ability. The rhyme and the actions help them to learn a story or routine; and they can mentally follow along with what's happening that much better.

So, this is one of my favorite chants/finger-plays, and it is easy-peasy to learn.

5 Little Apples - A Counting Chant

5 little apples in the apple tree,
The juiciest apples that you ever did see.
I shook that tree as hard as I could,
and down fell an apple and 'mmmm' was it good!

4 little apples in the apple tree....
3 little apples in the apple tree.....

The motions we used are as follows:

First, we had to make sure our hand had five fingers.
 Then we began the chant (by the time mommy started taking pics, little J was about done!)

"5 little apples...
...in the apple tree
the juiciest apples that you ever did...

 I shook that tree as hard as I could...  (this was the boys' favorite part... surprised?)

and down came the apple...
And mmmm, was it good!
 On the last apple that came down, we changed the words to "it was sooooooooooooooooooooo good!"- where they had to try and see who could hold "soooooo" for the longest. It was silly. :-)

Here's a quick video clip at the end of the fun, so it's not the best, but you get the idea!

Don't forget the Boynton (click:) Philadelphia Chickens CD Giveaway!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Starting back again... with a Giveaway!

Well, it's been a while. I don't know how those super-bloggers do it with a post every singe day! And they're awesome posts! Obviously I'll never make it to super-mom status....
Anyway - I thought it would be fun to have a giveaway to start me back on track. I seriously have been running around like a chicken with its' head cut off, so... instead of offering headless chickens, how about Philadelphia Chickens?

As I mentioned before, I am a big fan of Sandra Boynton (I even emailed that Boynton post to her!). And, so this summer, I finally picked up her CD Philadelphia Chickens, which is a collection of her own songs in her own silly style, and many of them correspond to some of her books.

Basically, this CD is hilarious. We all love it.  Mommy and Daddy have their favorites. Each boy has his favorites (actually, I don't know baby M's favorite is yet, but when he starts talking clearly, I'm sure he'll let me know).

What I love musically about it is the diversity of styles, the creative text and the descriptive singing. At the very least, it's worth having because we all need a little silliness every now and then.

So, if you would like to have this CD (for free!) to add to your child's musical selection, here are the instructions:

     1. Leave a comment below telling what your favorite Boynton book is.

     2. Include your name and email address as well (email addresses will be deleted once this giveaway  
     is over) so I can contact you if you're the winner.

A number will be chosen using random.org next Wednesday, Sept. 19th. So, spread the word! You have a week to get your name down! :-)

Here's to more fun music-imagination and expression with your precious little ones!