Classes focus on sound, movement for tiniest students

Published on Monday, 2 December 2013 21:35 - Written by EMILY GUEVARA eguevara@tylerpaper.com

The sight of toddlers wiggling, rolling, laughing and singing looks like regular play, but recently it was part of a class designed to teach children about their bodies, voices and the world around them.

Kindermusik of Tyler is designed for children from infants through age 7 with curriculum developed for each age group.

“Kindermusik is about process, not product,” Sarah Smith, owner and teacher at Kindermusik of Tyler, said. So the mindset is “not, we’re learning this song for a school program, but because it’s going to teach your child something about their voice (and) motor skills.”

For example, during a recent class for toddlers, the children learned about how their voices can be made to sound high or low, but they also can stretch their hands up high or put their hands down low.

Mrs. Smith said in a class for babies and their parents, she talked about patterns and how they can be incorporated into the baby’s environment.

So the exercise involved the mothers stepping forward, lifting the babies up, putting the babies down, turning around with the babies either in their arms or standing on the ground. And they did all of this to music.

“Once the babies learn about different patterns, it creates a sense of safety because they are learning about what comes next,” she said.

Instruments suitable for children, such as shakers, one-bell jingles and rhythm sticks, also are used. Even if the child is too young to play it, their parent can play it and move to the beat.

Founded in the U.S. in 1978, Kindermusik involves more than 1.5 million families and 5,000 educators around the world, according to the Kindermusik International website.

Mrs. Smith said the program appealed to her because it is research-based, has been around for several decades, and has proven methods designed for children.

With a music education degree from Abilene Christian University and a background in voice and piano, Mrs. Smith’s love for music is strong.

After hearing about Kindermusik from her high school voice teacher, she looked into the process of becoming a teacher and realized she wanted to do it.

So she became licensed to teach the program in 2009 and, after working with others for a few months, started her own program in 2010.

“Music just speaks to me and is wonderful for children,” she said. “I started piano in second grade and so it’s part of my life and I couldn’t see myself doing something else.”

Each class is built around several foundations of learning. These are basically skills that the child should learn through the various songs and activities. Parents receive information about how each activity is designed to benefit their child.

“A lot of what we do is vocal play, identifying what they’re doing, how they’re moving their bodies,” she said.

Children attend a class once a week and the cost of the program is $65 per month. Although the program is designed for children up to 7 years old, Mrs. Smith works primarily with infants through 5-year-olds.

In Tyler, she offers two classes at First Presbyterian Church and three classes for the children at Oak Hill Montessori School. In all, she teaches almost 60 students between her various classes.

She said the program goes beyond just the class. The idea behind the materials is that parents will take them home and continue to use them there.

Although there are no set evaluations incorporated into the program, progress is the goal.

“Mostly what we’re going for is to see that they’re reaching their developmental milestones,” she said. “The music and vocal play is helping them reach those milestones.”

Several participating parents and grandparents have seen progress in their children. Meghan Underwood, 32, a stay-at-home mother, said her 20-month-old daughter, Morgan, is a lot more social than she was when she started the program.

Arajane Rea, 54, a retiree who brought her grandson Garrett Porter, 18 months, said he has grown in several areas through his time in the class.

“It’s just helped with balance and walking and socialization,” she said.

Mrs. Smith recently hired Amy Williams as a fellow teacher, so she plans to offer more classes starting in January.

She said her goal is for children and their parents to come in and find a warm, loving environment in which to experience music and dance.

“I want them to be able to come in and just feel comfortable to do those things and to break out of their shells and just dance with their child and to sing with their children,” she said. “You’re setting an example for your child and they’re hearing that and they’re listening and they’re getting that.”