It’s no secret that toddlers and preschoolers love music. But what you might not know is that music plays an important role in your child’s development, benefiting early literacy skills and building fine- and gross- motor skills. For this reason, we've developed a series of Circle Time videos to watch with your toddler. Each short video features songs, finger play, movement, and more! These videos and more are available on our YouTube channel.
Click on the video title to watch the Circle Time video on YouTube.
In this first Circle Time Video, we sing some fun songs and do a simple mindfulness breathing game.
Singing is wonderful for your child’s brain. It supports language development, memorization, social skills, and so much more! The finger plays and dancing we do as we sing are wonderful for getting our our energy out and for motor development. Practicing controlled breathing is a simple mindfulness activity that can help children (and adults!) regulate their emotions. Research shows that practicing mindfulness can reduce stress, boost our working memory, and improve focus. Mindfulness practices can also foster deeper human capacities such as awareness, attention, empathy, kindness, and compassion. This fun introduction to deep controlled breathing is an early building block in mindfulness activities.
"I purposefully repeat songs that we sing because repetition helps your child to build on the language skills they are learning from our songs," says Parenting Educator Ali. "Repetition also benefits their memory, and it builds their self confidence because they can anticipate what comes next. I will introduce 1-2 new songs each circle time."
The activity for this circle time is Playing With a Scarf! So much learning happens when your child plays with a scarf!
By grasping the scarf your child is strengthening their fine motor skills. These skills stimulate hand and eye coordination which is a wonderful pre-writing skill. When your child moves the scarf up and down, in front and behind, they are learning directions and prepositions. By alternating hands your child is crossing the midline of their body which is another pre-writing skill as well as a pre-reading skill. As your child moves the scarf all around in many different directions and patterns they are acquiring kinesthetic awareness (a subconscious sense of how the body feels when it moves in a certain way) and developing their sensorimotor systems, both of which are prerequisites to cognitive learning. When they use their imagination and pretend with their scarfs, they are building their creativity and developing balance and control.
The activity for this circle time is a Listening Game. This is another early building block in mindfulness. When we train our minds to slow down and listen to our surroundings, it wires our brains to be more easily in the present moment. It also supports our brains to be better listeners, which we know can lead to great success in deepening relationships, communication, your child’s social skills, and improvement in focus and attention. I use a chime for the listening game is this video. You can also use a bell, a Tibetan Singing bowl, or any instrument that has a sustained sound. And as always there is singing in this video!
The activity in this Circle Time Video is Water Play! It is intended to give you ideas on how to set up water play for your child. By using regular household objects, you can create a wonderful sensory experience and support many areas of growth and development for your child. When your toddler pours, scoops, squeezes, and squirts the water they are strengthening their hand and eye coordination known as fine motor skills. When you use new vocabulary such as funnel, eggbeater, and evaporation you are helping to enrich their language skills. Describing the water in a cup being full, empty, or having more or less is introducing science and math skills. Children also learn to problem solve as they explore the water and how the materials sink or float. Remembering to also give your child the opportunity to play by themselves (under your supervision) encourages them to use their imagination and develop their creativity.
In this Circle Time Video, we sing some more fun songs and do another simple mindfulness breathing game, called "Horse Breath." It is super silly, which makes it fun to do with children. What makes Horse Breath different from the Flower Breath we did in video 1 is the action we do with our lips. By imitating a horse, we allow our lips to vibrate, releasing muscles in the face. The release of the facial muscles can help calm our nervous system.
In this Circle Time Video, the activity is Storytime! Reading to your babies and toddlers is wonderful for their development. It strengthens their language skills by exposing them to new words, vocabulary and language. It also supports their cognitive and social/emotional development when you ask them questions and have conversations about the story.
Parenting Educator Ali shares ideas for you to do with your kids to allow time to fill up your cups. Being a parent can be a hard job, and during this pandemic it can feel harder. May these ideas give you moments of replenishment so you can handle the harder times with more ease.