January 8th, 2017 by Sarah Steel
We already know how important it is to talk to children and not just ‘park’ them in front of screens, but this article quotes expert Michael Jones and makes fascinating reading. He reminds us that it can take a child up to 500 times to learn a new word, so we need to surround them with a ‘language rich environment’. The temptation to ‘dumb-down’ should be resisted – a ‘baby horse’ is a ‘foal’, and a ‘baby lion’ is a ‘lion cub’.
I remember hearing Penny Tassoni talking at a conference a couple of years ago. She recounted a story of seeing a child in pre-school being asked ‘what colour was the post box’. The child rolled her eyes and said ‘red’. She was reading the same story again, after nearly 2 years in pre-school, and had clearly heard the question many times. How much more exciting to describe the post-box as ‘scarlet’ or explain the term ‘letterbox red’?
I have heard many a 2 year old explaining that the ‘stegosauraus’ is fighting with the ‘diplodocus’. If they can manage to remember complex words when they interest them, surely we should supply with them with as many interesting words as we can?
Food for thought – for parents and practitioners alike!
August 10th, 2016 by Sarah Steel
When it comes to under fives there are a lot of bad news stories – rising obesity, the effects of increased ‘screen time’ on social development, children reaching school age without basic skills required for learning. So you may think that serious early years educators don’t have time for fun stuff – like dancing around to silly songs!
Music is Fireworks for The Brain
Luckily for music-lovers like me, 20 years of neuroscience has shown that music is very good for us! More than virtually any other activity, active music making – music making that involves seeing, hearing, touching, moving – engages all of our senses providing one of the richest learning environments that there is. In fact cat scans show that music activates the whole brain, with each component of music affecting a different part of the brain. So here are my top 5 reasons for making music part of your everyday life.
- Music Is Fun Fun: Let’s be honest. This is why we actually love music. It’s so much fun! Whether you’re singing along to the radio, waving your arms at a festival or singing a lullaby to your toddler, music makes us feel good. Why? Research shows that dopamine, a “feel-good hormone” is released every time you listen to music you like. Music has actually been shown to alleviate depression. And we have probably all experienced a bad day that was made better by listening to a song we love.
- Music Creates Togetherness: Yes,release your inner hippy! I’m sure we all have lots of special music moments: My favourite is from when my youngest daughter was around 5 years old. She had learned to whistle and we used to spend car journeys whistling our favourite tunes in harmony. It was hysterical and we never did get to the end of a song without collapsing into giggles. You may have sung in a choir, as part of a football crowd or in the car like me and my daugheter. Wherever it was, we have all experienced the bonding that occurs when we share music. Scientists put it down to the release of prolactin, a hormone that bonds people together.
- Music Boosts Language Development: The very earliest exposure to music increases your baby’s mental age, communication skills and language development. A pioneering study in the benefits for babies was the first fully controlled study to assess the effects of music on babies (McMaster University Canada 2012). Within 4 months the babies in the music group were significantly more advanced in communication and social skills. In another study (Johanella Tafuri, Italy, 2008), babies that were sung to by their parents daily were compared to those who were not. It was found that the music babies developed vocalisations at a rate previously unimagined by developmental psychology researchers themselves.
- Music Helps Us Move: As soon we can move we respond physically to music: babies sway, toddlers march, pre teens work out their dance routines, some of us pretend to be Beyonce in the evening aerobics class…or is that just me! There are major international corporations making huge amounts of money out of the fact that music encourages us to move…and if it’s good enough for Zumba it’s good enough for us. Walking, marching, jumping, balancing, swaying: all of these physical skills can be developed through actions songs that focus on each particular movement.
- Music Develops Confidence One of the wonderful things about music is that it allows children to participate in their own way. One child may love to dance, another may focus on keeping the beat by clapping, another on singing. Children’s self-esteem is directly connected with their perception of themselves as competent. Music allows a child to be express herself in a way that is right for her, encouraging competence and confidence in her skills and providing a context in which those skills can be nurtured and celebrated.
If Music Is So Great, Why Aren’t We Doing It With Our Children Every Day?
I’ve only just scratched the surface of the many benefits that music making has for young children. If you want to know more, check out this video by researcher Anita Collins – it’s very entertaining as well as enlightening!
But here’s the problem…many of us just aren’t confident to do music, either at home or in the setting. We think that music is for just for musicians. This is wrong. Music is for humans. (And musicians are human too you know!)
So just to prove to you that YOU CAN DO IT here is a really fun music activity for you to try. There are 3 steps
- Watch the ‘How To Make A Shaker’ video here
(This is easy, cheap and fun to do together!)
- Watch the ‘Shakey Shakey’ video here
- Download your ‘Shakey Shakey’ song here and listen to it whenever you and your child want to boogie…which is everyday, right?!
Have fun and keep on boogie-ing!
January 31st, 2016 by Sarah Steel
As January draws to a close, many of us will have made some new year resolutions to eat and drink less, or exercise more. However, there has also been a lot in the media about sugar and how bad it is for us. We’ve been focussing on sugar in drinks with our pre-school children in nursery, showing them pictorially how much sugar is in some soft drinks, including those directly targeted at children. A small carton of Capri-sun, which some might think was ‘healthy’ as it is fruity, contains 10g of sugar in just one serving. A 471ml bottle of Friij toffee milkshake contains an amazing 12.9g of sugar.
At nursery we serve only milk and water and encouraging toothbrushing after lunch. There are some great public health resources for anyone interested in cutting down on sugar, do have a look at: http://www.nhs.uk/change4life/Pages/change-for-life.aspx
November 15th, 2012 by Sarah Steel
I read an e-newsletter yesterday which said that one of the golden rules of blogging was to never apologise to your readers for having not posted for a while. I will therefore ignore the shameful gap since I last did exactly this, due to many reasons, not least a house move and 2 nursery moves, which seem to have kept us all fairly focused. Read the rest of this entry »