Q: “I noticed my child isn’t singing or participating during his time in the music workshop. I thought Kids Village was about encouraging creativity, participation, and play. Should I be concerned?”
A: “It’s normal as parents to feel concerned if you don’t see your child participating in one of the workshop classes, but even observation is part of the learning process!
“Children are assimilating important information whether or not they are outwardly participating. Even when your child seems uninterested in learning or participating, important unconscious learning is taking place.
“This is especially true in the music class! Sometimes children are more confident playing music on their own at home instead of in a group (or may develop anxiety if they catch a parent watching during their workshop), but being exposed to the music around them is still an important building block in their future musicality (as well as in math and reading, but we digress).
“A good way to know if the music workshop at Kids Village is having a positive impact on your child is to consider what changes, if any, you’ve seen in his or her current music interest. Does your child play more with musical instruments in your home (or use instruments more in line with their intended use — ie. play xylophone notes and sing along instead of dragging the xylophone behind him by its string)? Does she sing to herself while you’re in the car or when she’s playing alone? Does he seem more confident joining in when you sing together?
“Thank you for your question — it’s an important one! If you have any further questions, please feel free to let us know or to schedule an appointment with our Education Director.”
Observation is a Form of Learning
Our workshop classes are a prized part of the Kids Village culture as they expose our students to new, real-world skills that they can take with them for the rest of their lives.
Kids Village is built on the philosophy that every student has unique talents, and that as educators it is our duty to help each child find their special gifts in the world. We also believe it is our duty to cultivate each child’s specific gifts, dreams, and imagination to help them develop confidence, creative problem solving, and a genuine passion for learning and development.
The Kids Village workshops set our school apart from traditional preschools, and are often some of the first exposure our students get to participating in such activities as part of a group and in a 5-senses-based environment.
For instance, students may have baked cookies with their grandmother before, but they may not have had a facilitated group conversation with 9 other students and a teacher about the smells, textures, and tastes, as well as an academic conversation around measurement, chemical reactions, or experimenting with flavors.
As educators, we recognize that learning comes in all different forms. Some children are most confident learning by participating, some prefer to learn through conversation and questioning, and some–especially when it’s a new experience–prefer to learn through observation.
Even though as parents it may be difficult to watch other students enthusiastically participating while your child does not, it’s important not to lose heart. Children are assimilating important information whether or not they are outwardly participating. Try to understand that your child is “practicing” in private and will make her public “debut” when she feels more confident.
Bolster Your Child’s Confidence by Offering Practice & Encouragement
We believe that every child learns in his or her own time and in his or her own ways. Trying to force participation will only create an environment where the child begins to resent the activity. Instead, it’s important to allow your child to observe when he prefers, and to offer gentle opportunities for him to explore the activity on his own or to participate when he chooses.
If you’d like to create an environment at home that helps to encourage participation, consider the following:
- Provide the tools/materials for your child to explore on his or her own, i.e. a basket of musical instruments, cooking utensils, a globe, etc.
- Be a role model. Is your child too shy to sing in front of others? Turn on music and sing to child-friendly songs while you’re making dinner. Maybe your child will chime in. Even if he doesn’t, observing mom or dad in this activity is helping them learn and become more confident with the activity. Turn on a playlist of your family’s favorite songs the next time in the car and sing along–if there’s enough repetition, we bet even your most stubborn child will eventually join in, even if it’s just tapping their toes to the beat.
- If your child asks for a repeat, accommodate them whenever possible. If your child asks for a song to be played over and over, asks to make cookies every day, or asks to read same book over and over, that means your child is working on self-development at his or her comfort level. The more times you can allow this repetitive exposure to a certain activity, the more comfortable your child will be the next time he or she attends the corresponding workshop class–and more importantly, the more confident they will be with the activity in everyday life.
- Never compare or berate. Try your best to understand that every child will take their time and explore at their own comfort level. Comparing them to other children (“See how Rosie is singing so well? Why don’t you try and sing like her?”) or letting yourself get frustrated at your child (“I’m spending money on this class, Phillip. You need to cook with the other kids!”) make your child less likely to participate; not more.
- Praise them if you see them taking a chance. Children are constantly looking for positive reinforcement. If you see your child take a chance and participate when they usually do not, first sit back quietly and let them finish what they were brave enough to begin (otherwise they may get stage fright), then after they are done, give them a hug and quietly encourage them by telling them how proud you are that they tried something new. “Holden, I’m so proud that you tried to learn a new song with your class today! I thought it was great how you looked at your teacher when you didn’t know the hand movements and practiced them by singing along with your friends!”
- Avoid telling them how they feel. Children are still learning how to understand and define their emotions. If you undermine their exploration of their likes or dislikes, you’re showing them that they shouldn’t have confidence in what they think they feel. If your child says “I don’t like music class” or “I don’t like art class” when you know he or she usually does enjoy the class, avoid saying, “Yes you do. You told me just last week how much fun you had.” Instead, acknowledge their feelings, and redirect with gentle encouragement. “It sounds like sometimes you’re not in the mood for music class. That’s okay. You don’t always have to like music class if you’re not in the mood to like it. I wonder if you look closely, if you might be able to find something you enjoy about it… Is there an instrument you like to play? Is there a friend in that class that you like to dance next to?”
Most of All, Don’t Get Discouraged
Remember, every child is different! At Kids Village, we expose our students to 12 different workshops, but we certainly don’t expect them to be passionate about every single one. Encourage your child when you see him or her exploring something new, but don’t be discouraged if your child doesn’t seem as fascinated by one subject as they are another.
If you have any questions, please feel free to send a note in your child’s book bag for your teacher or to schedule a meeting with the educational director.
You may also post your question in the comments below!