Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Composition Contest 2017 Winners

Each year we have the glorious opportunity to hear AMAZING compositions from young students who've only been taking music classes for three years (and only been working on the piano for 2 years!) and we find them full of expression, creativity, and skill.

These compositional highlights are nothing short of FANTASTIC, but what's even more amazing... this year over 500 compositions were created by third-year Let's Play Music students across the USA! 

A tiny little army of creative, musical composer-children has just been released into the world. Happy Day! Teachers had the opportunity to send us one student's work from their studios and a panel of judges chose these favorites to share with you today:

Best Melody: 
Mermaid Tales by Chloe D
This is a story of a shark chasing mermaids!

Best Use of Chords: 
The Last at Bat by Jace C
You'll hear the pitch, a strike-out, and a big finish!

Best Use of ABA Form:
A Walk in the Forest by Carson B
In this song you'll hear 4 animals: a fast and choppy chipmunk, a happy working beaver, a low and slow moose, and a bear.

Most Original:
Rodeo Heart by Kassie C
You can hear horses' hooves in this tune. Kassie loves horses!

Best Story:
Tuki's Island by Bella B
A toucan named Tuki has lots of adventures, including this one when she's chased by a leopard and is almost eaten! Want to see if she survives? Listen to the end to find out:

Best Overall:
The Dark Wizard by Brady E
This evil wizard casts evil spells and you can hear how mysterious he is:

Congratulations to these kids AND all who have successfully composed, published, and performed their very first piano piece!

We'll be looking forward to another batch next Spring.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Nursery Rhymes Teach Coordination, Social Skills, and MUSIC!

Here we are in Part 3 of a post series on what your child learns from nursery rhymes. Hop over and review Part 1 (Speech and Vocabulary) or Part 2 (Reading and Math) if you missed them. 

This is the final post where I get to give you a BONUS PRIZE for reading all 3 parts! (keep going!)


When we learn nursery rhymes in Sound Beginnings class, we like to incorporate movement and finger plays that naturally lead to development of coordination and whole-body control.

Jumping over a candle like "Jack be nimble" or using the fingers to show "One, two, three, four, five, once I caught a fish alive" give practice for large and small-motor control and lead to improved coordination.

Just speaking the rhymes and forming the words quickly and with rhythm is a workout for the mouth, tongue an vocal chords! (Go back to part 1 for more mouth workouts)

It takes even more practice to do actions to the beat. Chanting and acting with fingers/arms/body builds neural pathways for coordination!

Social Skills

Sharing rhymes that we memorize as a class and chant together is extremely social.

Children really feel that they belong to the group when they participate in a shared experience like reciting or singing together.  "I know how to do this. I belong to this group. I know what we do here. I am safe here." 

Holding hands and making simple games from the rhymes (Ring around the Rosie) helps children connect with their parents and peers. Positive physical touch with parents (clapping hands, dancing, hugging) during rhymes also strengthens bonding through play. 

When your child is bored or sad, holding her in your lap and whispering a nursery rhyme is a fantastic way to soothe, comfort, and bond. Memorize some rhymes!

How else do rhymes help with social skills? Characters in rhymes exhibit different emotions, giving children a larger vocabulary for identifying and labeling their own emotions.  Rhymes can give a platform for imagination and creative play acting out the characters.

Why did the little dog laugh when he saw the cow jump over the moon?
How did Jack and Jill feel when they fell down the hill?
How would you feel if a fish bit the finger on your hand?
Why do you think the two little blackbirds go everywhere together?


Did you see where we were heading with this? 

A broad musical foundation requires students to have control of the singing and speaking mechanisms. To have an ear practiced in hearing pitch, volume, and rhythm. To have coordination of the hands and body that will be used to play an instrument. To socially connect with other musicians and family members through music.  

Those are the skills we just itemized as being strengthened through nursery rhymes! Nursery rhymes teach fundamental music skills.

When we chant rhymes in class, we always love to establish a steady beat for the children to match and maintain. Adding words is the next-level: addition of rhythm to a beat. Yet another fundamental skill gleaned from rhymes.

Sound Beginnings students will be ready to excel in music!

BONUS:Finger Plays Library!

You know there are MANY reasons to enjoy rhymes with your child, so here are several nursery rhymes with actions/ finger plays for you to enjoy with your child.  Yes, you'll be teaching all kinds of amazing things, but you'll also be having fun, preventing boredom, and sharing love with your child!  ENJOY!

In case you missed Part 1: Speech and Vocabulary in Rhymes
or Part 2: Reading and Math in Rhymes
you can circle back and read them!

- Gina Weibel, M.S.
Let's Play Music teacher

Nursery Rhymes Teach Reading and Math

You read about how nursery rhymes are powerful tools for helping children develop speech and vocabulary in PART 1. Here in PART 2 I want to show how nursery rhymes teach reading and math skills!

Reading and Phonics

One great part about nursery rhymes is the rhymes. Children practice hearing rhyming words and sensing how vowels and consonants combine to make different words and word families. 

Memorizing nursery rhymes is an important way to build a repertoire of rhyming words!

Recognition of word patterns helps young readers make sense of phonics and bolster their reading skills. Hat, bat, cat, fat...they all sound the same at the end and voila! They have the same letters at the end!

A favorite game I like to play with toddlers is Find a Rhyme.  This usually happens in the car, when everyone's strapped in and needs something interesting to think about.  

Hey! I've got a word: BEE. 

Bee, Bee, what rhymes with bee
Bee, Bee, how about...."  
(child shouts)  TREE
Bee, tree, bee and tree
I like to rhyme bee and tree.

Repeat with new words until you reach grandma's house.  To make this game a little easier, prep your child with a few words that rhyme, or let older kids give hints to your toddler, or let older kids play a few rounds to show preschoolers how it's played. Be sure that everyone cheers when a rhyme is found.

Reading and Reason

Nursery rhymes also often incorporate very short stories with beginnings, middles, and ends. Jack went up the hill, then he fell down, then Jill fell down. These short tales give practice in sequencing events and understanding the flow of stories: more early literacy skills!

At home, make pictures to go with your favorite rhymes (we give them to you in Sound Beginnings class for some rhymes).  As your child recites the rhyme, have her put the pictures in the correct order, like my little daughter does here:

Finally, your rhymes will offer lots of alliteration (Goosey, Goosey, Gander) and onomatopoeia (Baaa, baaa, black sheep), again giving tots lots and lots of experience with words and how they work with phonics.  Words that start with the same letter have the same starting sound. Amazing!

The more words and rhymes your child learns, the bigger her repertoire to draw from while making these connections and internalizing how phonics works.

Math Skills

Nursery rhymes have patterns of syllables and rhymes. It's one of the traits that makes them so enjoyable and musical! You know what I mean...

Doo dum tweedle Doo
Doo dum tweedle Doo
Doo dum diddle dum diddle dum.

Doo dum tweedle Doo
Doo dum tweedle Doo
Doo dum diddle dum diddle dum!

Internalizing how patterns flow strengthens mathematical thinking and helps in memorization. 

Many rhymes also sneak in conceptual math words (none, many, few, plenty) as well as counting numbers, which means even more early math skills to internalize.  

One, Two, Three, Four, Five
Once I caught a fish alive
Six, Seven, Eight, Nine, Ten
Then I let it go again.

One, Two, Buckle my shoe.
Three, Four, shut the door.

Old Mother Hubbard went to the cupboard
to get her poor dog a bone
but when she go there the cupboard was bare
and so her poor dog had none.

If you missed it, check out our post on PART 1: Rhymes teach Speech and Vocabulary: 

Don't miss the bonus gift for you 
if you make it through part 3!

-Gina Weibel, M.S.
Let's Play Music teacher

Nursery Rhymes Teach Speech and Vocabulary

You've noticed that in Sound Beginnings we do many things beyond singing. 

One thing we include in every class is a chance to practice our nursery rhymes.  But why?

Nursery rhymes are POWER-PACKED with educational awesomeness.  In this three-part blog series, I'll walk you through the skills and tell you how you can have more fun at home!


When children hear nursery rhymes, they practice pitch, volume, voice inflection, and the rhythm of speaking.  

If you consider your own speaking voice, it sounds different when you ask a question or make a statement. You have a different rhythm and inflection when you tell a story than when you place a sub sandwich order. Your child needs to learn how to use all of these to sound like a native speaker. 

Young speakers also must work the muscles of their mouth, lips, and tongue to create all the new sounds and articulate tricky words.

Nursery rhymes give an opportunity to practice these skills in a silly, fun, playful way...which is to say, in the native language of children!

Speech Practice at Home

Does your child have a little trouble articulating some sounds? It's a learning process for all toddlers!

Step one: Pay attention to your child- which letters seem most tricky? Plan to do a little practice for those.
Step two: Be very aware of how YOUR mouth and tongue move to create the sounds.
Step three: SHOW your mouth/face/lips to your child as you speak. Point out what is going on. Ask her to copy you.
Step four: Learn some nursery rhymes together and practice saying all these wonderful words together!

Here's a video for teaching 'G' and 'K', from a speech pathologist and here is a podcast for teaching /r/.

Here's a video for practicing T, D, N and L:

HERE is another video for practicing letters 'F' and 'V'. 
And HERE is a video for practicing 'P' 'B' and 'M'.


Nursery rhymes introduce interesting vocabulary to help expand a youngster's repertoire: Jack and Jill went up a hill to fetch a pail of water.  Mary, Mary, quite contrary. Jack be nimble, Jack be quick.

Research has show that in 1945, the average elementary school student had a vocabulary of 10,000 words. Today, children have a vocabulary of only 2,500 words.  Parents are not reading to their children as often, and vocabulary is suffering. The decrease also stems from children not memorizing rhymes, the bread-and-butter of traditional early children's literature.

Memorize nursery rhymes with your child!

Capitalize on the opportunity to have a "word of the week" and use the new words from Sound Beginnings class all week long: "Can you please fetch your sock and shoes? If your sister is feeling contrary, maybe some tickles will cheer her up. Hop nimbly up into your car seat! Be quick!"

Traditional rhymes are repetitious and allow children to memorize basic structures and patterns in the English language, then they'll want to try it out on their own with longer, more complex sentences.  

I remember the red-letter day when my then 2 year-old son said, "I saw the cat go down the stairs into the basement." It was his longest sentence ever! We were delighted.  

Be on the lookout for your child's construction of similar wonders, and repeat them back. "You saw the cat go down the stairs into the basement? How exciting!"

 It's important that young children learn to memorize through verse!

Fun at Home: Role Play

Get more practice with emphasis, accent, inflection, and vocabulary through role-play games at home.  It's time to bring out your inner thespian! 

Role-play can also help children prepare for and process situations they encounter in daily life. And, of course, your children LOVE when you are silly and vulnerable enough to play this way with them.  Here are a couple of ideas to get you started, and be sure to take turns in different roles.

RESTAURANT: Kids love to pretend they own a restaurant. Act out what you'll say when you go to a restaurant! Here's one family's version of this type of experience (you get the idea):

DENTIST or DOCTOR: When you're the patient, it's hilarious to invent crazy symptoms. "I have purple spots in my armpits. What could be causing that?" Kids will practice speaking in a confident, authoritative way as they answer you.

BUS DRIVER: Set up chairs to set the 'bus' stage, then tell the young driver where you'd like to go. Talk about what you see out the windows. "Driver! Can you please pull over? I see some chickens selling eggs and I'd like to get out and buy some!"

NURSERY RHYMES: Create a storied experience from your favorite rhymes. Have Humpty Dumpty fall onto the sofa, Jack and Jill climb up the stairs, and Teddy Bear run 'round and 'round the kitchen table.  "Hello Mister Dumpty, are you sure you should be sitting up there on the sofa back? I am afraid you are very fragile."  "Jack, will you please bring that pail and climb this hill with me? I need to fetch some water. It's a very big hill."

Want to see the rest of the seven amazing ways nursery rhymes are teaching your child to be fantastic?

We've got a bonus prize for you 
if you make it all the way through part 3!

Keep reading for PART 2, How rhymes teach Reading and Math! 

or jump ahead to PART 3: How rhymes help with coordination, social skills, and MUSIC!

-Gina Weibel, M.S.
Let's Play Music Teacher

Practice Tip: Adjusting Expectations

Piano practice time will sometimes be frustrating.

No student or parent will tell you they graduated from Let's Play Music without having SOME times when it was a little tough to get motivated, stay on task, and get all of the week's practices in.

But, overcoming these struggles is part of what we're teaching in LPM! In this post, I want to share one tip for parents to help relieve some of the frustrations that arise.

Adjust your Thinking

Maya Angelou said it this way, 

"What you're supposed to do when you don't like a thing is change it. If you can't change it, change the way you think about it. Don't complain."

When I find myself frustrated in interactions with my child, I step away and take a moment to examine my thoughts. 

I notice frustration arises in me when I have a story about how things should be going, and about what my child should be doing...and the story is not the same as reality! 

There's a big gap between what I expect and what is real. The disconnect between my story/belief and my reality is what starts all my inner turmoil. 

Today I'll give you some ways to bridge that gap in your thinking so you can let go of frustration and start to change what you don't like. 

Step One: Lose the 'should'

Take a minute, and think about what you expect and what you believe SHOULD happen at practice time. Notice the word should. If you find yourself thinking of how things should be, then you've zeroed in on the narrative that runs in your thinking. This story is how you expect things to happen.  

Write down a few ideas of what you really expect to see at practice. Your list will be individual; you have your own expectations and your child is different from any other!

Sometimes, things go as you believe they should. Sweet joy! Your mind is at ease.

Other times, things go very differently than how you believe they should, and that's frustrating. Notice I didn't say how you WOULD LIKE, or prefer, or hope. That's a little different.

Step one is all about accepting reality.  Sure, you would like your child to be the one to remember to practice and to initiate practice time every day.  But is that what is actually happening in your home?  If you honestly expect it and it doesn't happen, you will get stressed out!

ASSIGNMENT: Make a list of things you catch yourself thinking should happen, 
and then compare it to what really happens.

Step Two: Flip It Over

Okay, this may seem strange, so just trust me for a minute.  

What if you went down the list of what REALLY happens, and you imagined that as your new narrative. What if you went so far as to make reality what should happen?!

Yes, she should need reminding to practice, because building a practice habit takes years of repetition.

Yes, she should get frustrated, because this is going to be mentally strenuous, and yes, I expect her to whine because she's not very practiced yet at expressing her frustration.

Yes, I expect her to want to be the expert, because she'll want to be proud of her knowledge and independent. She hasn't learned yet how to fit in advice from mom with her desire to feel accomplished.

Yes, I expect her to get distracted and fatigued and try to create diversions, because her mind is accustomed to easier things, and I'm trying to push her out of her comfort zone.

Each time reality happens, you can say to yourself, "I'm so frustrated! This is not how things SHOULD happen!" or you can say to yourself, "Yeah, this is about what I expected."

At this point, nothing has happened differently, but do you FEEL differently? 

When you let go of your attachment to thinking that things should be going a certain way, do you feel more relaxed?  Less stressed?

THAT'S what I'm looking for. You are thinking about the frustrating situation in a new way, and you're mentally ready to do something productive.

ASSIGNMENT: Read through your list of how things really play out.
Practice saying, YES, this is what I expect to happen.
Evaluate: How do you feel when you approach this situation with the new expectation?

Step Three: Hopes and Goals

Now you may be mentally calm and prepared to approach practice time with acceptance. 

"But Gina!" you're saying, "If I let go of my expectations of how things should be, how will we ever make progress?"

Good point, reader.  I don't wish for you to become complacent with reality, I just don't want you to be surprised by it any longer.  

You'll approach practice time with the narrative, "Yeah, this is what I expected. Right now, practice time is challenging both mentally and emotionally for me and my child."

You know the facts. You know the reality. You're not afraid.  Then you say, "Okay, this is my reality. What am I going to do to make it better?"

Maya Angelou said when you don't like a thing, change it! You have to expect reality, and brainstorm what you'll do to improve it.

Embrace Reality:
When I sit with Zelda to practice today, I expect her to start whining as soon as I ask her to play with both hands together. I won't get flummoxed when she does, because it's exactly what I expect.

Find a Postive Action:
What can I do to change that?  Maybe I'll give her a pep talk beforehand and see if that helps. 

"Zelda, I noticed yesterday you were really nervous about playing both hands together. Is that the toughest part about practice today? Yes? I am really pleased when I see you try hard things, and it's okay if it doesn't turn out perfect- we just have to try.  Today when we get to that song, will you play it through TWO times? Yes?  Now, I know that when things get tough, it's very tempting to whine or cry a little. I'm going to be watching to see if you can try TWO times on that song without crying. Maybe you can take a big breath, or you can make a serious face...what can you do besides crying when something is tough? If you can do that, I'll be excited. That will show that you're growing up! Okay, ready to warm up?"

Celebrate Progress:
Well, Zelda still fussed and complained about the assignment but it was less than yesterday, so I think we're making progress. And I stayed calm, because I had realistic expectations of where we are and where we are going.

We don't have to throw away the ideas from your expectation list, we just move them to a new list called hopes and goals.

ASSIGNMENT: Visualize how you would love to see practice go and write a list of hopes and goals. Check-in periodically to see if reality is getting closer to your goals. What actions can help you get closer to the goals?

Parents, too!
You'll notice my expectations and shoulds were all focused on how I expect the children to behave.  Let's not forget that self-talk and narratives also include the expectations we have of ourselves!  

Go through these 3 steps again, considering how you already expect yourself to behave. 

Do you feel like giving up when reality does not align with those expectations?

Or can you use these steps to be kind to yourself, acknowledge the struggle and give yourself room to grow toward your hopes and goals?

Don't be complacent. Change what you don't like. If you can't change it, change how you think about it.

Helping your child learn to practice is worth it. Don't give up.

- Gina Weibel, M.S.
Let's Play Music teacher

P.S. If you'd like to use this type of thinking process to turn around frustration in other relationships and activities in your home, you'll enjoy The Work, by Byron Katie

Monday, May 15, 2017

Thinking of Joining?

So, you're thinking of joining Let's Play Music or Sound Beginnings class! Hooray! 

We've put together a list of articles from the blog that will be especially interesting to you as you figure out what we're all about and as you decide if this class is right for your family. Enjoy reading and please leave comments or questions!

First: Enjoy our video overview: this is Let's Play Music!

If you know you want your child to learn piano, you may be asking which is better: Private Lessons or Let's Play Music? Read this article to get the low down on what makes these two styles different.

For readers with a child who is 3-5, wondering "why should we even bother with  music lessons now...isn't he too young?" Please read my post on the pros and cons of getting an early start (in an age-appropriate program).  

How much do music lessons cost? Diving into a new program brings new financial commitments. Read this post to learn some tips for making sure your money is spent in ways that bring the most joy to your family, and get some insight about how much you can expect to spend on early music lessons.

Read Are Music Lessons Holding Me Back? to address the worrisome problem that some adults experience: they took lessons as a kid, learned to read and play a bit, but still came out after years of work believing that they don't really know anything about music. Help your child do it right this time.

How Let's Play Music teach note reading?  In a very natural and nurturing way:  
Read our 7 Steps for Music Reading Success here

Read our post to see that we help little fingers develop strength and form in a progressive way.  We will help your kiddo start to develop good piano skills, but be aware that Let's Play Music is not specifically a piano program.  

PLAY is one of the Core Values at Let's Play Music. 
Read the postWe Value Play for four four big reasons play is critical for learning, and how we use play in our curriculum.

Research shows that group classes are a big part of creating a playful atmosphere where learning through trials can happen. Read our post to understand why, at this age, children learn best in groups. 

Another core value at Let's Play Music is: We Value RelationshipsRead the full article to see how classes are built to encourage bonding between parents and children through an enriching, wholesome, and fun experience.  

We hope you are excited to join our Let's Play Music and Sound Beginnings family. Find a teacher near you today!