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HealthPartners offers free MacPhail music classes for families

Register for a class today. Plus five music activities to try with your kids at home.

By Elsa Nisswandt Keeler, MD
March 6, 2018

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Read, Talk, Sing! Music is a part of family life in every culture. Simple lullabies have been sung to babies since the beginning of time. As a pediatrician, I know that singing a familiar song can help form a special bond between parent and child.

Music is also critical for children’s early brain development. Singing, and the rhythm and rhyme that happens with it, helps shape your child’s social skills, vocabulary and ability to regulate emotions.

Music can help buffer stress, literally calming the heartbeat and soul. Even if you don’t consider yourself the best singer, hearing your voice has a calming influence on your baby when you slow down your words and sing them with rhythm.

I encourage parents to make singing part of their daily routines with their children. And I’m so proud that HealthPartners offers fun opportunities to make music with your child!

Sign up for free MacPhail family music classes

HealthPartners has teamed up with MacPhail Center for Music to offer Sing Play Learn classes. These free classes – for kids up to age 5 – are held weekly at HealthPartners Clinic locations across the metro. New sessions start April 9 and May 7. Find the class that’s right for you and your family!

Try these five music activities at home to keep singing and learning

  1. Sing when you’re counting fingers and toes.

    Use a rhyme like “Five little monkeys jumping on the bed.” When you’re counting, use your five fingers to show the five monkeys. Hide a finger each time a monkey falls off the bed. Research shows that young children who participate in music demonstrate increases in pre-math and pre-reading skills.
  2. Choose any tune to sing “We sing and we sing and we stop” – and repeat that three times.

    Then choose other fun words like “dance” or “wiggle,” and wiggle until you sing “Stop!” This helps develop impulse control skills. Musical activities, such as musical games and instrument play, naturally provide opportunities for cooperative play, listening and turn-taking.
  3. Play your favorite instrumental music and take turns acting out what the music sounds like to you.

    You can even do this with a drum! Maybe you’ll dance like fairies, stalk like lions or float like clouds. Children of all ages benefit from moving to the rhythm of music. Babies build body-spatial awareness. Toddlers gain locomotor skills. Preschoolers develop coordination.
  4. Sing songs that help positively reinforce behavior.

    “Zip, zip your zipper up to your chin! Don’t you let the cold air in!” This makes getting ready a little easier. Music is a useful tool to help children move from one activity to another. It also reduces negative behaviors and helps with routines.
  5. Choose a familiar children’s song and change the words in silly ways.

    “The itsy bitsy elephant climbed up the water spout!” Have fun finding the craziest combinations. One of the most important benefits of music is that it’s simply fun! Music is a great form of self-expression. It promotes creative thinking and offers a happy way to play and bond with your child.

About Elsa Nisswandt Keeler, MD, FAAP

Dr. Elsa Keeler is a pediatric physician with HealthPartners in White Bear Lake, Minn. She’s honored and inspired every day to focus her career on a positive life trajectory for the children in her practice. “Life happens in relationships,” she says. Dr. Keeler is married with grown children and always enjoys a little music, canoeing in the sun and time with family.

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