Why do we always start with the “Hello Everybody” song?
By Catherine Moon Rubin on April 11, 2017

Rituals, Part 1

What do a wave hello, a bedtime kiss, and applause after a great performance have in common?  They are examples of rituals that many of us participate in without thinking twice.  None of these activities are necessary for keeping us alive, but they all enhance the quality of our life and make us part of a community.  When was the last time the audience at concert discussed when they would spontaneously break into cheers and hand clapping?  Never! But we all know that when the band has finished their set, we are all going to make some noise together and that noise means: We liked that!  It’s a collective ritual that makes us feel good and creates community amongst strangers. From greetings, to partings, to holidays, and anniversaries of all sorts, rituals are routines that we learn early in life that we participate in to find our place in the world.

Music Together® loves rituals too.  Whether you are a new family in a Music Together class or a continuing member of our community, you are helping your children learn rituals that will bring them comfort and balance in many aspects of their lives.  We start each class with the “Hello Everybody” song.  It doesn’t matter whether you are in a Mixed Family or Babies class, whether you are in North America, Europe, or Asia, every Music Together class begins with the singing of this song.  And yes, we sing hello to each child present individually.  Have you ever wondered why we do that?  Who doesn’t love showing up to a place where everybody knows your name, literally?! Children love to hear their name sung to them.  Even if they bury their head in their parent’s shoulder when it’s time to sing their name, the smile they hide shows that they love the specific moment of the Hello song that is personalized just for them.  Also, they have the chance to sing for other friends around the room.  A room full of strangers becomes a community when each person is given a moment of recognition and a moment to recognize their neighbor.  Every week the kids know that this moment is coming.  It becomes a beloved routine that they might take with them to the grocery store, the playground, even to school!

The ritual of the “Hello Everybody song” is a signature part of the Music Together experience and you don’t want to miss it!  If you are ever running late to class, it’s simple enough to sing it in the car with your child.  They won’t feel left out if they’ve had a chance to sing hello to Mommy or Daddy and that you sung them hello in return. You can even sing along with the CD or the Hello Everybody app to include Uncle Gerry and Grandma Yvette to your car community.  However you want to do it is fine, just don’t leave out the important ritual of the Hello Everybody song.  Greeting each other is one of the first rituals taught to our children at birth.  How many of us held our tiny wonders in our arms for the first time and said, “Why, hello there little one”?  Probably each and every one of us.  We immediately wanted them to feel included and loved.  Every time we join our voices as a class or as a family to sing “Hello Everybody” we reach those same goals.  So sing with all your heart and reinforce the beauty of ritual to your child.

Get ready for the big SQ! Find out what makes Music Together so fun
By Catherine Moon Rubin on April 04, 2017

An important element of the Music Together experience is the SQ.  Huh?  The SQ is what takes the ordinary to another level.  We were all pretty much experts at the SQ in our earlier lives, but most of us get socialized out of it pretty early on.  Whether we lost our SQ through embarrassment, frustration, or the rigors of trying to look “cool”, it’s comforting to know that at some point we can get our SQ back. 

So what is this SQ?  It’s the Silly Quotient, silly!  Ok, so outside of Music Together circles you probably have never heard of this whole concept of the silly quotient, but follow my line of reasoning for a moment.  A person with exceptional or abysmal intelligence is qualified by their IQ, a highly sympathetic or boorish individual is known by their EQ, why should there not be a measurement of a person’s capacity for creative expression?  The SQ or silly quotient is what enables us to feel free to be as creative as we want to be without fear of judgement.  When you were 3 years old, you probably made silly faces or would launch into animal imitations without worrying who was looking at you or what they would think.  By the time you were 10, you would have thought twice before trying a monkey impersonation. At age 15, any kind of animal imitation, especially in front of peers, would be unthinkable.  So with time our silly selves are suppressed and we worry about the impression we give to others.  Obviously, it’s understandable that as we grow we can’t just give into silliness at any given moment, but it is imperative to tap into our silly quotient when we are trying to express ourselves creatively and explore our musicality.

So while enjoying a Music Together class with your child, relish in the creative environment and boost your silly quotient!  Does the song we’re singing together evoke the movement of birds in flight?  Well, then let’s flap our wings.  Is there a sad puppy in this song who just has to howl to let us know how sad she’s feeling?  As a class, let’s all put our heads back and let out our best howl!  When you start to feel self-conscious, remember that the rest of the room is doing the same thing.

Do you know why these silly moments are so powerful?  Our children learn by observing our actions.  When they see mommy and daddy freely expressing themselves, trying different sounds and movements, or just having fun, they learn that it’s safe to do the same thing.  Our children grow to embrace creative sounds and movements and they let their musical selves shine.  As a community we teach them that silly is not “wrong”, silly is part of the creative process.  Their creativity will flourish if given the opportunity to develop in a rich environment.

While at home or in class with your family, seek out the occasions to develop your SQ.  The silliness that you enjoy with your child will not only bring joy to your household, but it will help your budding composer, singer, or choreographer develop that future masterpiece.


Why Take a Music Together Class?
By Catherine Moon Rubin on March 27, 2017

Most people love music.  We hum, tap, snap our fingers, air guitar, sway, even try a little jig occasionally when we are moved by song. However, many do not consider themselves as musical individuals.  Sure, we love hearing a great song on the radio and often have our song playlist going at home, work, or in the car, but if asked to make music, we refuse.  “I’m not a good singer.”  “I can’t carry a tune to save my life!” “Singing in the shower is as far as I go!” Do these phrases look familiar to you? Perhaps, you have even said as much when asked to perform or sing out loud around other people.  We won’t make music ourselves, but enjoy pre-made music.  However, as parents, we want our kids to both love music and become the musical people that we think we aren’t. 

How then do we nurture the musical growth of our child, regardless of our own musical ability? That’s where Moon River Mother and Child steps in.  When you experience a Music Together class, you find out how important--and how fun--your role can be! Music Together classes are designed for babies through age 6, and build on your child's natural enthusiasm for music and movement - building basic music competence in pitch and steady beat through playful, purposeful activities.  Young children learn best through active exploration and live, meaningful interaction with the grownups they love. This enhances their future comfort level and ease with music.  Additionally, these classes also enhance several areas of childhood development in the process.  Even if you aren’t a musical person, per se, taking a Music Together class with your child is an excellent way to develop their musicality.  Surprisingly, some parents even discover that they are a little more musical than they thought when a semester is over. 

 The Music Together program has been published since 1987 by the Center for Music and Young Children, an organization in Princeton, NJ, dedicated to understanding how children develop musically. The program is based on the center's research findings, which show the following:

I. All children are musical.

II. All children can achieve basic music competence (defined as the ability to sing in tune with accurate rhythm).

III. The participation and modeling of parents and other primary caregivers, regardless of their musical ability, is essential to a child's musical growth.

IV. Young children’s musical growth occurs best in a playful, musically rich, and developmentally appropriate setting, free of direct instruction and performance pressure, where learning activities are accessible, interesting, and fun for both children and adults.

Did you catch that first finding?  That ALL children are musical?  Do you remember a major thing that all parents have in common?  You guessed it; we were ALL children once which means that we ALL are capable of making music.  I know that you’re now shaking your head.  Impossible.  Remember me, the “can’t carry a tune” person?  Yes, you.  That person. Regardless of the musical ability that you believe you have, improvement can happen through use.  The more you come to a Music Together class, participate with your family, keep the fun going by singing and dancing at home and in the car, the more musical YOU might become too.  More importantly though, your family is going to have an amazing time as you create musical memories in class and at home. Now THAT’s something that you’ll want to sing about!

Community has Both You and I
By Catherine Moon Rubin on March 21, 2017

Music Together Family classes are developed with the same principle: everybody learns better in a community.  Often, families register for Music Together classes so that they can spend some quality time together while learning music and movement.  The secret bonus that we build into our curriculum is that not only do parents and children bond through musical activities, but adults also get to connect with one another through our classes as well!  In our society, adults tend to form connections through language, but during a Music Together class adults have the unique ability to get to know each other in a relaxed, fun, and creative environment.  One of our fundamental teaching principles is: “Building community through music and movement.”  From the moment we’re all sitting on the floor, swaying back and forth, slapping our knees, tapping our toes and swinging our little ones in the air with a joyful, “Wheeeeee!” we are all part of a community. From such a fun group, everyone both young and not so young is bound to find a new friend. 

How exactly does a Music Together class foster adult to adult connections?  There are many ways that I help the grown-ups in class break the ice.  First, when you come to class with your family, I’ll introduce myself and little by little I’ll also learn your names.  No one exclusively wants to be known as Madison’s Daddy or Taylor’s Mommy.  By learning and using your names, it will help you feel a little more relaxed and at home within the community of our class.  When you’re relaxed you tend to not worry so much about the negative chatter in your head.  Who cares that you’ve wearing mismatched socks today, so is half the class.  We’re all in this together.

At some point the kids will wander in and out of the group, will have tantrums, or stick an egg shaker in their mouth.  That’s okay too; it’s all part of how they experience rhythm and tone. When you’re not just Mommy X, Y, or Z but known as Kristen, Roslyn and Lauren, you won’t want to disappear from sheer mortification at that moment that we will all have when our kids are not having the musical “experience” that we expected.  Just remember, we are a growing community of parents with our kids and as we get to know each other better we won’t have to sweat the small stuff.

Another way that I’ll help the adults in the room feel more comfortable during class, is through community building song variations.  I might include waving across the room, shaking hands, neighbors bowing to each other, or tight-circle games during class.  Even if you feel slightly awkward during the first class, but the time we are a few classes into the semester you’ve enjoyed many playful moments with your kids and each other. It’s nearly impossible to worry about being judged by the strangers in the room when you’ve all just spent the past 5 minutes buzzing around each other’s families like bumblebees.  When the all grown-ups in the room fully participate in the musical activities, everyone can comfortably bring out their “silly” selves.  All the children thrive in a nurturing community when the grownups model the fun of music and movement.

Community cannot exist unless both you and I are present and in the moment with our families during a Music Together class.  So many families have come to love the friendships that they have formed with other families and the sense of community that is developed over the semester of music and movement.  Come sing and dance with us, mismatched socks and all. I promise that soon your kids won’t be the only ones excited to come and enjoy Music Together again.

A Lifetime Emotional Gift
By Catherine Moon Rubin on March 14, 2017

It’s never too early in life to sing to your child.  Before your baby recognizes your face, she recognizes your voice.

It make sense though when you really think about it.  A fetus’ ears start processing sound as early as 23 weeks.  This means that she has been listening and reacting to your voice and the sounds around you for the past 17 weeks before she’s even born!  It’s no wonder then that the sound of your voice immediately calms your newborn and the sound of a lullaby helps an infant’s heart rate drop.  It’s like your baby is nervous about starting on her new adventure of post-womb life, but the one thing that she can count on is the soothing sound of your voice.  The effect of your singing to your baby is immediate, so by all means, please sing to your infant as early as possible! To her, your voice is the most beautiful sound she has ever heard.  Lavish this gift of music upon your child, it is one of the best gifts you can ever give her.

This gift doesn’t have to stop as your baby grows. Research shows that making music around and with your children benefits them in so many ways!  Singing and making music with your kids helps them with the obvious things like language, speech and memory development, but it also helps them figure out verbal emotional cues.  This way, they are better able to decipher what other people are feeling when they speak.  The more emotionally literate your kids are, the more they are able to work in groups, cope with their own emotions and feel a sense of wellness and fulfillment in their everyday lives.  Just think of the last time that you were feeling down and then you happened to hear a song on the radio that you just love!  Did you crank it up and dance like crazy throwing in a little air guitar or air drum? Maybe if you were alone you even sang at the top of your lungs! How down did you feel then?  Making music can have a huge effect on our feelings and when we help our kids learn this at a young age, they too will know how to harness the power of music when they most need it.

Sometimes we hesitate to let our musical selves shine (we’ll talk more about this in a later post). However, when we share the gift of music with our children by singing, playing instruments (even the homemade ones!), and dancing with them, we are providing them with an entire toolbox of skills and emotions that they can use for a lifetime.

Read me another story…
By Catherine Moon Rubin on March 06, 2017

This is definitely one of the most heard phrases by parents of young children.  The 1st time it’s adorable, the 100th time it becomes cringe worthy; but studies show that the more words your little one hears, the stronger their language foundation becomes.  Even before your baby can request more tales at nap time or bed time, they are listening to every syllable you speak.  They are absorbing the syntax, cadence, rhythm, pitch, and tone of the primary language spoken in the home and they will start babbling what they’ve learned right back to their parents in coos and gurgles.

What many of us forget, is that there are so many ways to “read” a story to our kids. It might involve the traditional story book, but it doesn’t have to stop there.  Have you ever considered reading a newspaper or magazine article to your child?  There are plenty of fascinating feature articles that would interest even the youngest of readers.  Remember to skim the article first to steer clear of topics that you don’t want to address yet.  Just find a piece that deals with subject matter that you know they love and go for it.  Whether the article is about dance, music, animals, travel, sports, or local events, never assume that non-fiction writing is too sophisticated for your baby.  The earlier you introduce your little genius to diverse genres of text, the stronger their literacy skills become.

Another great way to strengthen your baby’s literacy skills is through music.  Children matching rhythm, pitch, and tone sounds a lot like singing doesn’t it? Looking through the Music Together Family Songbook or any sheet music helps your child develop pre-literacy skills that they can use for a lifetime.  Reading or even just following the notes introduces the concept of reading from left to right; reading the lyrics introduces the concept of poetry and assists them in developing lyrical speech. You don’t have to be a musician to train your child to recognize a page of music.  While you read it together, you might find that you enjoy the literary properties of music and find a new appreciation for the songs that you’ve been singing in class.  Who knows, read me another story just might turn into sing me another song…

Until you have to sing it for the 100th time!

Just remember, this sweet cuddly bedtime ritual passes quickly as kids grow.  So just read another story.  You’ll never be sorry for those moments spent with your little bookworm.