by Michelle LaRowe
Editor in Chief
Recently I had a chance to catch up with Cindy Wilkinson, friend, musician and fellow INA Nanny of the Year award recipient, about her latest adventures and her next CD, Jumpin’ Into Dreamland. Here’s some of Cindy’s expert advice for incorporating music and the arts into the everyday lives of children.
eNannySource: Why are the arts important for children?
Cindy: I once heard a teacher say that we need to offer art and music in the schools as an outlet for “artsy children,” that they will be the ones who benefit the most. In my opinion, all children will be influenced greatly by exposure to the arts, whether it is theater, music, visual art or dance. Studies have shown that key components in fields such as engineering and business include the abilities to think outside the box and work collaboratively. Think about it… when I was a child, many televisions were still in black and white, computers were just entering our culture and landline phones were our only means of communication. It took those who are true visionaries to come up with these new and unimaginable ideas, then develop them into the advanced technology we find in our culture today. Exposing today’s young children to the arts will help us in developing our creative thinkers for tomorrow!
eNannySouce: How can a parent incorporate art and music into their child’s day?
Cindy: It is easy to go to Google and find an array of interesting art projects for children. Introducing your child to painting, cutting, pasting and working with an array of other mediums will open the door to that child’s creative expression! Once a child masters the basics of scribbling with a crayon or dabbling with a paintbrush, that child can begin to explore creatively each day. Encourage the use of a wide variety of mediums, such as chalk, tempera paint and watercolors, pompoms, googly eyes, cotton balls, foam sponges, popsicle sticks, string and, one my favorites, tin foil.
While children can learn from following directions in a parent directed art activity, also allow for the child to think outside the box. Present your child with different items and see what he or she can create. For example, what happens if you have tin foil, pompoms and tempera paint? The child could use the pompoms as a way of painting on the foil, or perhaps paint the pompoms and then glue them onto the foil, or even roll up the foil to create an alien! The possibilities are endless… you get the idea. Make each art project with your child a new and great adventure!!
Incorporating music into your child’s day can be an exciting way to enhance literacy development. Learning a new song or finger play is much the same as hearing a favorite story. Children will love singing a song or acting out the story, as in a finger play, again and again. Repetition is a key component for activities with young children. Just like a favorite book, the child will want to hear it frequently. And if you’re not a great singer, don’t be afraid to just chant the words with your child. It isn’t the melody the child is focused on, it is more the interesting story being told. Be sure to introduce your child to a variety of songs, both new and old. While there are wonderful recording artists with a repertoire geared to kids, also include traditional songs too.
eNannySouce: Are lessons or classes important? At what age?
Cindy: A child’s early introduction to music and art can play an important part in their development. While many aspects of an art or music class can be done at home, there are also some great benefits to participating in a formal class. As a long-time arts educator, I often take classes myself from others working in the arts. Every class I take, I walk away with something new, which I can then use in the work that I do. I see this as the same rationale that a parent and child can gain from such an experience. There are so many educators with a wealth of experience in what impacts children the most. Taking a class with such an educator can allow both the parent and child to learn activities, which can then make their way back to the child’s home and become a part of that child’s daily life!
There are wonderful classes for infants, toddlers and preschoolers. I don’t feel there is any best age, it is mostly important that the class is geared to the age group of your child. If the class is age-appropriate, a child of any age can benefit.
eNannySource: What should parents look for in ECE art and music programs?
Cindy: Again, the age appropriateness of the class is very important. For example, when I am teaching a music class for toddlers, we focus more on exploration of sound, while older children would focus more on music fundamentals. I have created a collection of shaker bottles – empty water and soda bottles filled with rice, confetti, beans, etc. My toddlers love to watch the colorful items inside the bottles, banging them in different ways; they’re very interested in how they are creating sound. Older children use them for creating rhythmic patterns or playing along with other percussion instruments.
Making sure that your child is actively engaged is also a key factor in finding a great arts education program. Whether it is a music or art class, if your child is spending much of his or her time waiting, rather than working on an activity, this would be a red flag. A great teacher will have enough paint brushes, glue bottles, tambourines or rhythm sticks for the children in her class, allowing each child to remain enthused about the amazing works of art they are creating in their class! A wonderful teacher can both inspire and empower children, encouraging the budding artist inside each child!
Cindy Wilkinson is a graduate of the University of Nebraska – Kearney with a degree in Early Childhood Education. She has worked extensively with children since 1977 as a pre-school teacher, music teacher, nanny and children’s performer. In 1998, Cindy was named the International Nanny Association Nanny of the Year. To learn more about Cindy and her music visit http://www.jumpinwithcindy.com.