Their giggles are contagious, and their joy is visible, too. They are “quacking” and “mooing,” then singing and dancing — and it seems that the small group of 2- to 4-year-olds aren’t the only ones who are having fun.
Their moms too are singing along or galloping like horses around the room during a Kindermusik — German for “children’s music” — class, which combines early childhood music with movement.
Aiming to stimulate children’s developing minds and bodies, the class began in Jakarta a couple of months ago and puts together work of world-renowned musicians and educators.
Developed in Germany in the late 1960s, the concept of Kindermusik was introduced to the United States in 1978 and quickly spread around the world. Today, more than one million children in 66 countries are seeing the benefits, with about 5,000 educators helping.
Priscilla Swee is Jakarta’s Kindermusik educator, who saw the positive results of the class in her 3-year-old daughter, Rei.
While living in China recently, where both often stayed home because of pollution and cold weather, Priscilla noticed her daughter’s clinginess and that she didn’t interact much with other kids.
Upon discovering Kindermusik, Priscilla saw an immediate difference in her.
“I saw her come alive, she was not shy anymore. She started being more active, and [Kindermusik has] worked well on her memory. She started to remember the songs,” Priscilla said. “The body of research that comes with Kindermusik, combined with the positive experience Rei and I had in the classroom really convinced me that [it] works.”
While Kindermusik research is based on works by renowned musicians and educators, such as Zoltan Kodaly, Emile Jaques-Dalcroze, Shinichi Suzuki and Carl Orff, it is also influenced by childhood researchers, such as Maria Montessori.
“I like that it is so balanced, and that they found this universal language through music,” Priscilla said. “So whatever they did in Germany, it worked in the United States, and from what I have seen, anywhere in the world.”
In China, “moms from everywhere” joined and watched their kids bond with others, even though English wasn’t the first language for many, Priscilla said. “But you just see them come together in music,” she added.
Composed for young children, the music is soft, playful and uses simple instruments.
Lisa, mother of 3-year-old Maya, used to play the piano and the clarinet and wants to instill a lifelong love of music in her daughter.
“I wanted her to be exposed to music at a young age,” Lisa said. “I was exposed to music and my husband wasn’t, so he is a bit tone-deaf.
“I wanted her to be a bit more music-oriented, that’s why I chose a class that was more focused on music.”
In a playful and child-friendly way, Priscilla, a former writer and advertising director, makes the Kindermusik class a mix of fun, patience and cute child talk.
After the birth of her daughter she decided to swap her pen for rhythm sticks and bells, and in the process reconnected with her own love of music.
“Music is like the vehicle in Kindermusik because it unlocks so many things in a child. Music just seems to reach out to them and help them express themselves,” Priscilla said. “When kids sing out loud, you see their happiness and growing confidence. And when you combine music and movement, I think that’s when you see the magic of Kindermusik.”
Research shows that when babies and toddlers engage in cross-natural movements, such as reaching out to their left foot with their right arm, neurons fire off in their minds, creating new neural pathways.
Music brings that out, Priscilla said.
“Everything is so connected. The more [children] move when they are very young — and to music — the more development you see reflected everywhere,” she said.
But the magic starts in the womb. From six months onwards, babies are able to hear their mother’s heart beating, Priscilla said.
Research has shown that 85 percent of the brain development occurs in the first three years of life, and that brain activity doubles by the age of 3.
“Babies learn through hearing, and they mimic, so from age 0 to 6, they are like sponges. That’s when you lay the foundation,” she said.
While Kindermusik classes are structured according to age, Priscilla’s ABC Music & Me lesson introduces a new theme every month.
This month, the theme is farm animals, and a big part of the lesson involves vocal play by identifying or imitating animal sounds.
“It sounds funny to hear them go ‘moo,’ ‘quack,’ or why would we mimic the sound of a cowbell? But when we do that, we are actually training the coordination of their breathing, their lip muscles and their tongue,” Priscilla said.
“This is going help them become better speakers.”
Besides improving children’s linguistics, the class also unlocks other benefits. In addition to enhancing creativity, listening skills, and self-esteem, it also furthers vision and focus, language and literacy, hand-eye coordination. Then there are the benefits to their motor, emotional and even social skills.
“For kids, socializing is very important, so when they come together in class, it brings out the best in them,” Priscilla said. “They learn to interact with one another.”
Sharing, for example, is not a behavior that comes naturally to the majority of kids.
“So in the class we do little things like ‘let’s pass the drum around,’ to help them see that everyone is really happy when they do this,” Priscilla said. “In our little way, we teach them good habits.
“But on top of that, they learn the beat with the music. Hopping to the beat of the music makes it more fun, and if something is fun, kids learn, almost subconsciously,” she added.
ABC Music & Me for kids aged 2 to 4 at Hulala Studio Educator Priscilla Swee,
Tel. 08 787 672 7512 www.kindermusik.com