When I participated as a mom in Kindermusik’s music and movement classes, whether as participant or as teacher, with any or all of my three kids as toddlers, now upper elementary and middle school, I quite typically experienced concerns, questions, or even sometimes embarrassments! I’d like to share a few thoughts with y’all, which I hope you’ll find helpful with your own toddler or young child in a variety of situations. That said, I’m particularly addressing the types of moments in the middle of music class when Toddler refuses to sing or swing the scarf and instead clings to your leg. Or better, he grabs your shirt, lifts it up, and tries to nurse, having been weened over a year ago. It happens. Or she simply refuses to participate. Or runs wild. Or whatever. Name the scenario; it happens in a toddler or young child music class. I’ll try to write helpful Kindermusik tips regularly, as I’m able.
Below, I’ve written about some thoughts that may or may not apply to you. Today’s topic is “when Junior or Junior-ette isn’t doing music class ‘right.'” Read whichever of the snippets below are meaningful to you and, I hope, be encouraged in your pursuit to engage your child musically and help him or her grow exponentially!
“My kid isn’t doing it ‘right’!”
This would fall into either the frustrating concern or embarrassing situation category! LOL Believe me, I had plenty of these when my kids were little (still do). LET ME REASSURE YOU: in Kindermusik classes, we know that no situation with a toddler is ever-ever perfect (ok, maybe on rare occasions) and we are also convinced that toddlers are always observing, learning, processing and retaining. So, we welcome the child participating in whatever manner in which the child is inclined to explore and participate at that moment.
What does this look like in class? It looks like “Junior” running around when the rest of the class is sitting in a circle exploring scarves. It looks like “Junior-ette” refusing to participate and sitting on your lap or behind your back, only peeking out occasionally. Here’s the thing: both of these behaviors – and many more – are completely appropriate for this age group.
Here are some suggestions for what you can do:
“Follow the child.”
You’ll hear me saying this repeatedly. It’s a Kindermusik principle. We recognize the benefit in the child participating in a manner that feels comfortable and that works for their energy level. Am I saying that a child who wants to test Mommy more than tap a steady-beat on a drum can run wild, disturbing the class? No. But let’s say Junior is not in sit-still mode when we’re doing a drum play-along, exploring steady beat together with the whole class. Grownup can acknowledge, “Junior, I see you standing as you tap the beat – I’ll try that, too!” Then Grownup stands with Junior, tapping to the beat of the music.
Another Kindermusik biggie that really works and provides so many benefits to your child, as well as to your relationship. When Junior’s standing-tapping isn’t cutting it or when Junior expands to walking around with the drum – continue to acknowledge, validate, and imitate. You can then add an invitation to expand your toddler’s notion: “Junior. I see you marching while you’re tapping your drum! I’ll try that, too! [marching tap, tap] I’ll tap mine way up high! Can you tap yours way up high, too? [tap, tap] What else can we do, Junior? What other ideas do you have?” You’ll see me scaffolding over and over in class And we’ll use this many times in various classes, bringing attention to the process, because my job is to model it for you. Here’s why it’s good for you to do this with your child: scaffolding engages the child, validates their efforts, allows him to participate at the level he’s able, and invites him to expand his idea. And it bonds you two, because you’re the one directly validating, engaging, reflecting his ideas, and inviting to expand.
Often, simply acknowledging their effort will be enough to interest them in continuing and even deescalate the potential wild runabout. Just like us grownups (only we mask it now), they want to know they’re seen, they want their attempts to be acknowledged and validated, and they want to be invited to create more.
But let’s say Junior does need “a lap” to express or even just get some energy out – feel free to let him “take a lap.” Toddlers move. Period. Keep it light. Then, you can gently draw him back in using the scaffolding technique.
For the Junior-ette who does not want to participate, wants to stay on Mommy’s lap, or even sit against the wall
with Daddy, it’s perfectly fine. Again, follow the child and participate at her comfort level at the time, giving repeat opportunities to return to the group activity but allowing the child to choose her group-participation level.
Children might take several weeks to acclimate to a class, especially a large one, but any class really; adapt to the rituals/order of class; or even engage with me as the teacher. But toddlers are always observing and processing. Always. Even during a tantrum (maybe especially…) or during a period of pulling away and isolating herself.
The biggest thing of all:
Just keep on having your own fun, modeling for your child that you love music and you’re enjoying both the group and the current activity. Sing heartily and participate in whatever manipulative we’re doing at the time. But remain with your child and participate with them, allowing their level of involvement, and inviting their ideas and level of participation acceptable to them at the time.
Have fun in your Kindermusik class!
Here’s where I teach in Chattanooga, TN: https://www.cadek.org/page/kindermusik