Sunday, November 29, 2009

Parenting Tip #16 Speaking Childrenese

The preschool teacher was orienting the afternoon volunteer as to what their plans were for the afternoon group of preschoolers arriving soon. She showed the paper plate faces the children were going to make. "This morning", she explained, “I held up this mirror and had the student look into it to see what color of hair he had so he could choose that color of yarn to glue on his paper plate head.” The teacher continued, “Some of the children don’t speak English very well, but someone told me to say this sentence to them.” The teacher then recited in Spanish the sentence, “look in this mirror” as she had been directed. The volunteer, who spoke Spanish, began to laugh and said, “Oh, no, that’s not what you said. You said look in the envelope and see what color your hair is.”
“Well, no wonder the little boy looked at me with such a confused look on his face!” she replied.

Do you sometimes feel like you are speaking a different language to your children? Do they look at you in a confused way, or totally ignore you? Or go on with what they are doing as if you hadn’t spoken?

Maybe we need to learn to speak “childrenese”. The best way to learn childrenese is to understand children and know what they are capable of doing or not doing.

For example would you ask a 2 year old to “go hurry and get dressed”? Would you tell a 3 year old to share his favorite toy—and actually see him do it? How about an 8 year old? Would you expect a 4 year old to own up to doing something wrong and not blame it on someone else? Would you instruct a 5 year old to sit still for 30 minutes without moving while waiting in a doctor’s office? Would you take a 6 year old grocery shopping with you and tell her to walk quietly beside you and not touch or ask for anything? (Ha! You’ve all said that I bet! But it certainly doesn’t translate into childrenese—nor did any of the above situations.)

The next time you speak to your child and she looks at you with a confused look on her face, or just ignores you, think about what you just said. Was it age appropriate? Did you give too many instructions at once? It may take time, but soon you will become fluent in childrenese and suddenly life will become better.

Music Tip #16 Dance!

I went to my nephew's wedding this weekend. At the reception they had dancing and as I watched everyone dance I saw smiles, heard laughter and saw enjoyment on everyone's faces. The music was versatile and soon I heard the strains of "The Hokey Pokey" playing. My sister-in-law grabbed by arm and I found myself dancing with everyone else. It was fun!

But that's the only dance I danced (except for half a dance with my brother). I was too self conscious to join my nieces out on the dance floor. They were having a great time and when they started line dancing I really wanted to learn the steps and dance. But I thought how silly everyone would think I looked--an old lady out dancing with all the youth.

I missed out on a lot of fun. As the night wore on I noticed two older women about my age dancing on the sidelines. They were smiling and laughing and having a great time. I wished I could be as confident as they were so I could dance too. Oh well. I decided I would dance at home.

What a fun family activity--dancing. Put some music on and dance with your children. Dance by yourself. Dance to decrease your stress, to lose weight, to exercise, to have fun!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Parenting Tip #15 Play Dough

Ahh, the joy of play dough. What child doesn’t like to play with play dough? It’s such an open ended toy, just waiting for a child and his or her imagination. Put play dough on the table, set a child in front of it, put some music on in the background and watch the magic happen.

Here’s the basic play dough accessories: toothpicks—for poking into the dough, muffin tin—to hold pretend muffins or cookies, rolling pin, popcycle sticks or butter knife to cut the playdough with, cookie cutters, and anything else in the kitchen that looks interesting.

But don’t forget the music. Any upbeat or children's CD will do. I personally think that playing music in the background helps children play longer, more happily and helps them think creatively.

I always make my own play dough (though I hate washing the pan). It’s kind of fun to make and it’s nice and warm to play with. Here’s a site with some fun variations on making your own play dough.
So the next time your kids need something new and different to do, make some play dough, put on the music, and watch the creativity flow.

Music Tip #15 Singing Rounds

I love to sing rounds. I don't know why. I think it's because I love to hear harmony and when you sing a round you end up singing harmony. Growing up I liked to sing "I Love the Mountains", "Frere Jacques", "White Coral Bells", or "Don't Put your Trash in My Backyard".

I like to teach rounds at school, but they're harder to sing (and make sound right) than you would think. 3rd graders have a hard time keeping their group going without getting confused unless they know the song very well. But 4th-6th can sing pretty well, after lots of practice.

Some of my new favorite rounds are "Hear the Song of the Nightingale" from the movie Madeline, "Music Alone Shall Live", "Dona Nobis" (which is really, really hard), "Scalloped Potatoes" and "Jolly Red Nose". I can't wait to teach the Tacobel Canon. I just found a recording of it here as well as the Scalloped Potatoes one.

A friend and I go hiking once a week and we love to sing as we hike. I like to sing rounds with her and should be happy with the two part harmony we make. But then I think, wow, if we had another person we could sing three parts......

Do you like to sing? Want to come hiking with us?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Parenting Tip #14 Read Aloud to your Child

There my children were, pajamas on, teeth brushed, all snuggled on my waterbed, listening to me read the book, “Number the Stars”. Just as I got to a good part, I said, “okay, that’s all for tonight. Go get in bed.” You would have thought World War III erupted! “But you can’t stop there, Mom! It’s too exciting. Please keep reading, please!!”

Ahh, music to my ears, “You can’t stop there, Mom. Please keep reading!” Isn’t reading aloud to your child one of the most fun, warm, bonding experiences you can have? Not to mention one of the most beneficial experiences you can give your child. Research shows that children whose parents read to them become better readers. Their vocabulary increases, their language and speech development speeds up, and their listening skills are focused and ready for school.

Many of you are followers of Jim Trelease ( He has championed the importance of reading aloud for years. He has lots of suggestions for books to read aloud, too.

Here has been some of my children’s favorite books that we’ve read aloud: The Wheel on the Schoolhouse, The Hobbit (my husband read the kids this one), Mandy (by Julie Andrews alias Edwards), The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles (another one by Julie Edwards), Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh, From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, Summer of the Monkeys, (sniff, sniff) and the Boxcar series.

Share some of your favorites with us.

Music Tip #14 "Dad, that music is powerful"

My son took his family to a concert a few weeks ago. It was a pianist, Jon Schmidt, who has become a family favorite. The orchestra was accompanying Jon on one of the numbers and it was rich and full and loud. Kayli, my 6 year old granddaughter, leaned over and whispered to her Dad, “this music is really powerful!” Her Dad replied, “how do you know?” She answered, “because I feel the Spirit.”

Kayli, at age 6 could feel the Lord’s Spirit whisper truth to her. Music IS powerful! It affects our emotions. It can soothe, excite, relax, and energize.

When my daughter lived at home, she always had music playing in the background. The orchestra teacher at school, who was a colleague of mine and talked to me on the phone quite often, commented, “you always have music playing at your house. I need to do that more often.”

This daughter has since married and moved away, and I’ve noticed how quiet our house has become. I have lots and lots of CDs sitting on the shelf. But do I play them? I did one summer. I decided to go straight through all my CD’s and play every single one of them. I think I’ll do that again. Right now I’m listening to the soundtrack from Enchanted.

What are you listening to?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

ASU music class Harp Guest

Yesterday my friend, Debbie, came to play her harp for our class. She has just started taking harp lessons 5 months ago. The babies were enthralled by the music and there was complete attention and silence as she played.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Parenting Tip #13 Overwhelmed and Stressed?

My daughter called me on the phone from Texas. She was overwhelmed and stressed. She is single and getting a Master’s degree in cello performance. The next morning my oldest daughter called me from Florida. She was overwhelmed and stressed. She is a mother of 3 small children with a husband who is going to medical school. Two hours later my youngest daughter called. She was overwhelmed and stressed. She is newly married, going to school and trying to find a job.

As you read this blog, you’re probably overwhelmed and stressed yourself. So what do you do when you’re in that situation? Here are a few ideas:

Scream in a pillow in your bedroom (I mean it. Try it and see if it doesn’t help!)


Call your mother/friend

Eat Chocolate

Dance, go for a walk, jog, exercise, just MOVE

Read a book and ignore everything

Lower your standards (It’s better than abusing yourself or children)

Dovetail your “To Do List” where possible

Endure and know that “this, too, shall pass”

Be grateful because at least you are alive and active

Forget being perfect. It doesn’t exist.

Stop comparing yourself with others

Remember to enjoy the journey. This is part of the journey.

What do you do when you're overwhelmed and stressed?

Music Tip #13 Music Lessons

I asked a mother of one of my piano students (who has 7 children who are at various stages of music training) to give her thoughts and ideas about music lessons and children. Here are some of Lisa’s thoughts:

What is a good age to start? Our oldest son was six. He was so hyper that a 30 minute lesson was all he could stand. I have seen younger children begin music lessons, but the successful ones are usually those families with one or two children.

What are the advantages of starting early? It becomes a part of your life and a part of your routine. We have all learned a lot about music. We have also learned about baby steps and small amounts of progress over time. I don’t think it is always that way with other things, like sports.

What other areas of life are affected by music lessons? My son has gained focus and can concentrate better from all of his practicing. He also has learned about team work from playing in the orchestra. With chair auditions, he has been first chair and also 22nd chair, so he has learned that there is always someone in front of you and always someone behind. He has learned that if you practice you will have a good outcome (usually) and there are consequences if you don’t. Another son has learned to work at something that he finds difficult and he is starting to play the piano as a stress release.

How do you keep your children interested in practicing? I think we just do it every day, like brushing our teeth or doing math problems. I have never been big on elaborate reward systems. In the beginning I would help my son practice 10 minutes before his favorite television show came on and he would get to watch it when he was finished. If he messed around, it ate into his television program. Now he practices on his own.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Parenting Tip #12 I Love You Chart

I had just gotten home from taking my husband to the airport. He would be working out of town for 3 weeks and with three small boys at home with just me, well, I didn’t know how I was going to hold up. It looked like a long three weeks of fighting and crying (the boys fighting, me crying).
A friend stopped by and I told her my situation. She immediately said, “You should make an I Love You chart and hang it on the refrigerator.” I replied, “A what?”
“An I Love You chart,” she said. “Every time anyone in the family says I love you to another family member, they put a star on the chart.” I thought, “yeah, that’s really going to help.”

After she left, I decided to try her suggestion. I mean, it couldn’t hurt. So I hung a piece of blank white paper onto the refrigerator and told my little boys,
“okay now, whenever you or your brothers or mommy says,
I Love You, we can put a star on the chart. Let’s see if we
can cover the whole paper before Daddy gets home in 3 weeks.”

Guess what? It was a miracle! There was little fighting.
There was hardly any crying. What there was, though,
was a lot of family members saying “I love you”. And that
chart was covered in stars before Daddy got home!

Music Tip #12 Fun Songs to download

Here's some fun silly songs as well as lullabies that we've been singing in my ASU Music for Tots class. You may have heard of some of these, but if not, enjoy them now. Here are links to the lyrics as well as the mp3 download links:
If all the Raindrops were lemondrops and gumdrops
mp3 download:

mp3 download:

Cuppy Cake
mp3 download:

Tell Me Why
mp3 download:!624868011%2Ci%3Adigital-music%2Ck%3Atell%20me%20why%2Cn%3A624899011

Jig Jog Gee


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