When parents of toddlers get together and the subject of schools comes up, the question of whether or not your child will be prepared for school inevitably comes up. It’s easy to start worrying if they will be able to read and write in time. But what I know from my experience as an elementary school teacher is that children need to learn how to be ready to learn. We teachers want children in our classes that know how to get along with other children, listen to the teacher, and take turns. We look for these signs of school readiness: self-regulation, listening, social-emotional skills, plus pre-literacy and pre-math skills.
One of the best ways to gain these skills is through group music classes. Why? Well, firstly, kids learn these school readiness skills best in an environment with other children. Secondly, they also learn pre-math and pre-literacy through music. Third reason? The learning is all through play – it’s fun!
Music class helps self-regulation
Depending on where your child goes to school, there could be up to 30 children in a classroom – that’s 30 possible distractions! So, if your child can control their own behavior, emotions, thoughts and impulses, they are better at being able to focus. In our Kindermusik classes, children are given lots of practice moving to music, stopping and then starting again – all in a safe space with other children. By taking turns, they learn how to control their behavior and emotions. They learn about personal space and controlling their bodies while dancing with their friends. So what may look like kids rocking out to their favorite songs, is really them learning what is considered safe and appropriate behavior through example and positive reinforcement.
Music class teaches listening skills
We’ve all been there at some point (and if you haven’t you will) when it seems like your child is ignoring you. I wondered, how can my own children learn if they seem to be in their own little world? But for kids (and even some adults), listening and following directions must be learned and takes practice. While listening to music, children learn to focus, recognize and distinguish sounds, and determine the meaning of what they’re hearing. In nearly every Kindermusik class, the children can hone their listening skills with Focused Listening (or active listening) and take in what they are hearing. And by the time school starts, you’ll see they’ll be ready to listen.
Music class encourages social-emotional skills
Like it or not, kindergarten teachers are being told to focus more on academics than they used to. It used to be “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten”, however it now seems like preschoolers need to know those “soft” skills that help people get along before kindergarten. But if done through music play, children will quickly learn to share, take turns, make friends, help a friend, wait patiently – all those things that make us better people. When I see my toddler students easily share instruments, wait their turn to talk in the group, clean up, and make friends with their classmate, I know that they are well set and ready to learn in school.
Music class develops pre-literacy skills
Why is there is SO much pressure from other adults for our kids to read before kindergarten? Studies consistently show that there is no advantage for it – skill levels seem to even out by third grade. If your children are like mine and love reading, let them. But there should be more emphasis on being “ready to read”. While singing those cute silly songs, they’re building pre-literacy, or early literacy, skills. Children develop an awareness of word sounds (phonological awareness), recognize differences in phonemes (auditory discrimination), understand and recall the order of sounds and words (auditory sequencing), and vocabulary. That’s a lot of stuff to learn! But music makes it fun and easy to remember. Being in a music class rich in song develops an awareness for words and what they mean, or how to figure out what they mean – a key skill for literacy.
Music class promotes pre-math capabilities
There’s lots of research showing that learning how to read music helps with math skills, but what about participating in a group Kindermusik class before kindergarten? Turns out it does help with pre-math skills. By using finger plays, dancing, drumming, and hoop play, children are learning spatial awareness, counting, sorting and pattern recognition. These are the essential building blocks for math.
So, do music classes helps kids get ready for school sooner? Yes! It may look and feel like fun and games, but children are learning a lot through musical play in a Kindermusik class. They’re gaining the essential school readiness skills that educators look for and sets them up for academic success. Your child’s future kindergarten teacher will thank you for taking a Kindermusik class.
Written by Amelia Vitarelli, owner and educator of My Little Conservatory in San Jose, CA. Amelia has be enriching the lives of children in Silicon Valley for over 20 years.