Which class is best for my child?
While it is strongly recommended that a child be at least the minimum age to enroll in any given class, there are also three critical “transitional stages”—1 ½ , 3, and 4 ½ —at which parents and teachers have a choice about which class would be most appropriate and most beneficial for the child.
The Kindermusik philosophy springs from genuine respect for each child’s individual rate of development and thereby provides the tools through class activities and At-Home materials to honor, support, and celebrate the wonderful uniqueness of each child. Unfortunately, too much in our society forces independence too soon and too fast. We encourage you to consider letting Kindermusik be the place where flexibility and the needs of the whole family are respected.
Although it is necessary to indicate age ranges for Kindermusik curricula, these age ranges are considered to be widely overlapping and flexible. For example, it is absolutely okay for a 3 year old to be in an Our Time class. But it is also possible to have a young 3 year old who is ready to move on to Kindermusik Imagine That.
First, consider the following:
- What is your goal for your child?
- Are you interested in supporting your child’s developing independence, or is special bonding time together still very important to you and/or her?
- Which class environment do you see your child thriving in?
Try to evaluate the pleasure factor more highly than the achievement factor. Solid emotional development fosters cognitive development. Next, there are also issues of developmental readiness to be carefully considered. In order to make the best decision, you can evaluate various characteristics of a child’s physical, cognitive, emotional, language, social, and musical readiness. Below are some helpful developmental marks that might provide some direction, particularly for those parents whose child is at or near those critical transitional ages of 1 ½, 3, and 4 ½ years. (Please scroll down to view these age groups.)
A child who may be ready for the 1 ½ – 3-year-old class is beginning to exhibit many of the following characteristics:
Improved walking skills, feet are together, knees flexible (vs. the “just walker” who has a wide-based, legs-apart gait with locked knees.) Beginning to imitate/explore a variety of traveling movements—run, jump, leap. Can walk up stairs holding onto rail or hand.
Reliably points to correctly identified body parts Can follow two-step directions (i.e., “Come get a scarf and take it back to Mom.”) Understands what “one” means (vs. a handful.) Learning to use toys and objects in symbolic ways (moving beyond just enjoyment of sensory properties.) Moving beyond play schemes of mouthing, throwing, and dumping. Actions become purposeful and integrated. Can interact in a directed activity. Able to shift attention with transition. Connects to an activity; initiates a play sequence with caregiver. Reliably responds to own name (refers to self by name in secure environments.)
Uses gestures and language to deal with frustration (as opposed to just crying or whining.) Sustains interest and attention in activity for several minutes. (Note: not wanting to give something up, such as an instrument or a scarf, can be a sign of maturation.)
Can express wants and needs symbolically (gestures, words.) Has vocabulary of 20 words. Receptive language (listening) is still stronger than expressive language (speaking). Reading with caregiver becomes cooperative. Child willl select book, sit, turn pages, relate to the story and interact.
Interested in what other children are doing. Capable of distal communication (i.e., following verbal instructions from further away.)
Moves to music, perhaps to a steady beat. Responds to rhymes and songs and recognizes familiar ones.
Age 3: Our Time or Imagine That?
While the 3 year old is becoming independent, using language to express wants and needs and therefore able to function well without parent or caregiver, keep in mind that there is plenty of time to securely support this emerging independence. A child who may be ready for the 3 – 5-year-old class is beginning to exhibit many of the following characteristics:
Has a taller, thinner, adult-like appearance. Balances on one foot, jumps in place without falling. Holding crayons in pincer grasp rather than fist.
Knows if they are a boy or a girl. Can do matching games. Can name lots of animals. Knows triangle, circle, square; red, yellow, blue. Developing divergent thinking skills (“What animals do you like?”) Beginning transition from concrete to abstract thinking (humor aids this process.) Sits and listens to stories for up to 10 minutes.
Recognizes needs of another person, can be empathetic. Separates from parent without crying. Development of humor.
Beginning to master rules of language; speaks in full sentences (4-5 words), asks questions. Vocabulary growing from 300-1000 words. Can relate a series of activities, tells stories. (“We went to the grocery store, then to Grandma’s and I played with the kittens.”)
Recognizes the needs of another person. Turn taking becomes harder than earlier, but beginning to understand reasons. Learning about patience.
Recites rhymes. Sings simple, whole songs.
Age 4 ½: Imagine That or Young Child?
A child who may be ready for Young Child is beginning to exhibit many of the following characteristics:
Can jump forward many times in a row, hops, gallops, is learning to skip. Demonstrates control of pencil or marker. Can reproduce many shapes and letters. Hand dominance is evident.
Eager to learn. Has developed classification skills (i.e., can sort things that have a single common feature) and can sort by size, color, and form. Counts to 20, recognizes numerals 1-10. Engages in dramatic play that is close to reality. Beginning to relate time to events (can wait for and anticipate events.) Responds to simple 3-step directions.
Impulse control is emerging and developing. Exhibits self-confidence and reliability. Sense of right and wrong is growing. Beginning to see things from another’s perspective.
Speech is nearly 100% intelligible (exceptions may include children with hearing and language delays.) Uses grammar correctly (i.e., past and future tense.) Produces fairly elaborate sentence structures (approximately 5-7 words in length.) Identifies at least four colors. Can tell a familiar story.
Enjoys friendships and group activities. Shares, takes turns, plays cooperatively. Is affectionate and caring. Follows directions. Has a sense of humor. Better self-control, fewer dramatic swings of emotion.
Sings a whole song. Beginning to match pitches consistently. Developing ability to match to group steady beat.
When is a child ready for formal instrumental instruction?
As a general rule, children are not ready for the disciplined training of formal musical instruction until at least the age of 6 or 7. Although aptitude varies among individuals, all children have the ability to achieve musically and will be greatly influenced by the timing and quality of their early experiences.
“Kindermusik offers the broad foundation that must be the strongest part of the child’s musical development and learning,” says Dr. Elaine Harriss, Professor of Music, University of Tennessee, Martin.
“This foundation—developing a solid sense of rhythm and pitch, nurturing the young singing voice, moving the whole body to music and enjoying music with a group—is essential for music growth throughout the rest of the child’s life.” Dr. Harriss, also a piano teacher, recommends that young children have Kindermusik classes first before more formal musical instruction.
Early musical experiences such as those Kindermusik classes provide will benefit the young child both now and in the future. Many experts agree preschool music enrichment classes, which lay a foundation for musicianship through rhythmic activities, singing movement, and music notation skills, often accelerate later progress on an instrument.
Kindermusik graduates have grown up with music around them, learning in a group through exploration and movement. They have always had Mom or Dad there to reassure them. The children have been able to develop their muscles and enhance their coordination by using instruments that were just their size. They have learned pitches, melodies, rhythms, and songs by listening to others and absorbing the rich musical environment around them. Kindermusik classes have offered them everything they need to appreciate and succeed in music.