Knowing that I taught K and 1 and have homeschooled my own kids for two years, a good friend asked what he could do to help his four year old with academics at home.
Let her play!
Yes, we want to read to our kids every day. Yes, we want to give them the best start. I’ll get into the benefits of music for pre-literacy and math in my next post (don’t worry, they are not lost on me!), but for now, let me argue whole heartedly that brain development comes from meaningful activity and for a child in our society, meaningful activity is play.
My opinion is based on reading, my experience in the classroom, and my experience raising three children. I’ll leave links to some recent articles below, but first, let me say that I have seen that kids (and anyone!) learn best when they are interested, when they are motivated, and when they have fun.
Luckily, music and fingerplays are a perfect marriage of play and learning. Traditional children’s music is full of silly rhymes and characters doing ridiculous things like cats fiddling and babies trying to eat bathtubs.
Let the research convince you:
Preschool classrooms have become increasingly fraught spaces, with teachers cajoling their charges to finish their “work” before they can go play. And yet, even as preschoolers are learning more pre-academic skills at earlier ages, I’ve heard many teachers say that they seem somehow—is it possible?—less inquisitive and less engaged than the kids of earlier generations. More children today seem to lack the language skills needed to retell a simple story or to use basic connecting words and prepositions. They can’t make a conceptual analogy between, say, the veins on a leaf and the veins in their own hands.https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/01/the-new-preschool-is-crushing-kids/419139/
Do you want to know what kids want to do? They want to dawdle. They want to explore. They want to sniff the dandelions and squish mud between their toes. They want to laugh and they want to run. They want to read exciting books in your lap and then move on to reading exciting books in the space between two strong branches of a tree. They want expanses of time to satisfy their curiosities and to learn how to relate to themselves and to others. And do you know why they want to do these things? Because each of these things will contribute to their development in deep and untold ways. Children desperately need their childhood hours. Let’s give them some back!https://1000hoursoutside.com/blog/lets-stop-stealing-time-from-children
We don’t need a ton of structured extra curricular activities and lessons – that’s why I’ve made a podcast that is short and engaging and ideal for those errand days in the car or longer road trips.
That said, we’re all heard about the Finnish education system and how it’s amazing and wonderful… did you know that music education is a huge component?
“Children learn basic musical skills by means of “aha experiences” and other meaningful experiences. Simultaneously, the lessons support the children’s cognitive, emotional, motor, and social development,” [Timo Klemettinen, former Managing Director of the Association of Finnish Music Schools and now head of the European Music School Union] has said. Indeed, the importance of learning through play is cemented firmly in the Finnish curriculum. This according to the European Network for Communication and Knowledge Management in the field of Music Education: “In the first four grades, development of the learner’s musical expression through playful and integrating activity is central. The instruction has to give the learners experiences with a variety of sound worlds and music, and encourage them to express themselves and give real form to their own ideas.”https://musicaustralia.org.au/2017/06/finlands-music-education-system-how-it-works/
Guys, I could go on. Tomorrow I’ll go into the specific pre-literacy and math skills that are introduced and reinforced through children’s songs and rhymes, but for today, let me submit to you that standing up and acting out “I’m a Little Teapot” or moving fingers to “Where is Thumbkin?” is one of the best ways to stimulate the brain and bring a smile to the face. Especially if an adult is forging that relationship with a child and singing along from the driver’s seat.
Reason #7 why I podcast – because our children love to play, especially with us!