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Music Brings the Best out in Children

June, 2009
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Music has always been such an integral part of society. It has the ability to captivate our attention, stir emotions, or serve as a means of relaxation. It is with this strong and influential effect that studies have time and again confirmed that even a newborn can gain a profound experience from listening to various types of music.Music (1)

With this understanding several childcare centers in Shanghai, such as Co & Ko Music Education (Co & Ko) originating from South Korea, Gymboree and the America-based Music Together, have tried to implement music actively into a child’s development. They have created a new, innovative method of not only using music to nurture and ease the stress of growing up, but also encourage children to be fully active in unlocking all their wondrous potential right from the get-go!

Co & Ko Music Education first started in South Korea in 1998. However, it was only recently that a centre in the Gubei area of Shanghai was opened. Catering for children aged 0 to 6 years old; Co & Ko has combined the complete learning vision of Maria Montessori to help children learn about life, culture and art as well as fundamental basics such as Biology, Mathematics and language development.

The Maria Montessori philosophy believes children would learn most effectively in a “happy growing” experience. As one of the teachers elaborated, “This meant that each child not only was cared for as a one of a kind child, but also was able to express and truly feel as though they themselves were unique.”

Music serves as an ideal medium for this purpose, which is why Co & Ko Music Education sought out affiliation with the Montessori school of thought. According to Melanie, Head of Marketing at Co & Ko, parents can choose to sign up for strictly the musical programs or the Montessori educational course or a combination of the two at Co & Ko.

The Music Education courses at Co & Ko are split up into various divisions based on age, matching the types of development that would take place in a child of 6 months – 1 and a half years old as opposed to 3 to 6 years of age. Thus, some classes for the youngest of children include clapping or rhythm exercises to increase their alertness, or for older children aged up to 6 years old there are activities such as dancing and having musical focus groups such as an ensemble or “circle songs” where the children become much more comfortable with being an active participant of a larger group. Music (2)

Music has always been a fundamental means of expression and Co & Ko Music Education adds to the child’s “happy growing” environment by using music to build self-confidence and self-expression. This is done through activities such as on-stage performances or musical exercises involving singing, copying various musical tunes and a wide range of cultural/ bi-lingual songs to enhance their alertness and openness.

Co & Ko boasts a facility with state-of-the-art playpen obstacle courses imported from Europe, several mini-stages with professional-like lighting and a wide-range of over 1,000 different musical instruments! Co & Ko has three large classrooms created specifically for its musical learning experiences as well as one other classroom filled with all the necessary items to instill Montessori’s main educational vision. Meanwhile, Domestic toys such as tea sets and all other sorts of common household objects are available for the child to interact and adapt to common daily life exercises, while wall-sized maps and drawing boards give the child a healthy dose of how big their world really is!

Compared with Co & Ko Music Education, Gymboree Music & Play program and Music Together program are more internationally recognized.

According to ZeZe Li, Marketing Officer of Gymboree, Gymboree started in Shanghai six years ago and was one of the first childhood development centers in Shanghai, with several other branches in Gubei, XinTianDi, Pudong, and Wuhei.

The philosophy for Gymboree is found in their concept of the “whole child,” helping children acquire the full range of key ingredients – motor skills, social skills and self-esteem – that they need to grow into confident, happy and successful people.

To achieve this goal, Gymboree offers a carefully crafted seven-level Gymboree program with specific aims such as teaching babies cause and effect and how they actively make things happen in Level 2, as well as using words and symbols to enhance the child’s communication in Level 5 or lastly, encouraging exploration and using problem-solving to improve language and social skills in Level 7. The Music program is split up into three different tiers according to age, ranging from 6 months to 1 and a half years, 1 and a half years to 2 and a half, and so on.

Courses are 45 minutes per class and it definitely helps the child maintain a high focus, energy, and interest as children may be distracted easily or have short attention spans. Moreover, the child can take as little as one class per week or as many as s/he wants, as the parents or guardians are required to be present and actively participating in their child’s growth.

The customer base found at Gymboree comes from all around, much like their organization’s breadth around the globe, thus the teachers all speak English as well as Chinese. Gymboree is a viable option for parents seeking a reputable and comprehensive music and play program for their children, as one parent at the Gymboree centre reflects: “I know that in taking her to Gymboree, my child is learning from a very distinguished, recognized brand-named institute, which makes me relieved that there is a high reliability and standard that must be kept regarding my child’s care.”

Music Together is also a US-based educational program founded in 1985, and its branch in Shanghai Puxi was started by Lori Carbonneau in 2006. Lori is a mother in Shanghai, who herself was a participant of the Music Together program back in the USA.

Music Together believes the parent or primary caregiver is the young baby and child’s most important music teacher. In this sense, the parents need to learn in class how to guide their child’s musical development. This is done by singing, rhythm chants, tonal and rhythm patterns, and playing with egg shakers, scarves, sticks, drums, bells, etc. The educational goal of the program is to develop early music-making skills - basically rhythm competency and tonal competency.  But the goal is also to have fun, and to teach children that singing and making music is a natural and fun part of everyday life.

Compared to Gymboree and Co & Ko Music Education, Music Together is not a “music lesson” with any sort of emphasis of performance- orientation but rather participation and any participation is accepted. Music (4) Some babies prefer to hold their musical toys and just watch the other kids.  Others like to bang the shakers on their heads rather than shaking them.  Or even put them in their mouths.  All of which is perfectly natural and acceptable learning behavior.

Course layout also differs greatly in Music Together, where it is split into 8-10 week sessions, singing from a collection of songs distributed by the Music Together headquarters. The classes have an average size of 6-12 kids and there are two teachers that conduct these classes. The songs are written in the key that is most natural for young developing voices (which sometimes makes it harder for the grownups to sing!)  Each collection of songs also includes songs in different tonalities and rhythms.

No matter which music program you choose, music surely delights a child’s educational sense and helps them to grow.

 By Joshua Ang

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