Dear Pigeon Plums,
Starting anything new can be overwhelming. Starting school, especially during the toddler years, can be stressful for both the child and the adult. For some toddlers, attending school is the first time that your child has been away from you. When starting something new, there is always an adjustment period to acclimate oneself. Resiliency in times of stress is not something we are born with; it needs to be learned, and takes time. If we are lucky, it is acquired in our early years of development with nurturing life experiences.
Babies are born with simple on/off switches and no delay buttons. They go from calm to tearful almost instantly when a need arises. It is through consistent, loving coaching and care that they discover patience and learn the skill of calming down once their needs are met.
As toddlers, children encounter new problematic situations. They hear “No” and “Not yet,” and neither of these is acceptable to them. Again, as parents and teachers, we help them learn to adapt, stop or delay their desired actions. The nuances involved in all of this are vast and continue to be learned in every new situation of toddlerhood and beyond. In other words, those on/off switches need to become dimmer switches.
Children need to learn to regulate their moods, tempos, and excitement levels. Music helps build strong dimmer switches that assist children to modulate their responses to life’s events. Music does this through going back and forth from loud to soft, bold to gentle, fast to slow, high to low, and active to resting. Music is linked to the part of the brain called the frontal lobe, which enables us to live fully in the present. Music provides toddlers a way back to their frontal lobes, so they can continue to build the response patterns needed for resiliency.
Toddlers have a strong sense of self. The body offers a physical home and a place of rest and calmness when stressors appear. When we flee from ourselves in panic, we lose our coping skills. When we stay grounded we find our resiliency. The body needs to experience rhythm, predictability, and calming and controlled movement. When toddlers are engaged in movement, they are increasing their body’s awareness and deepening their sense of their body as a place to be.
“Movement, or physical activity, is thus an essential factor in intellectual growth, which depends upon the impressions received from outside. Through movement, we come in contact with external reality, and it is through these contacts that we eventually acquire even abstract ideas.” Maria Montessori
As teachers and guides in the Montessori toddler classroom, we help children lay the groundwork for their own resiliency. One of the ways in which we do this is through the universal language of music and movement. In the toddler program, we end our work cycle by sitting in a circle and singing songs. We then dance together to music, which we call our daily “dance party.”
We often find that new friends to the classroom will happily observe or join us for circle time and dance party. Music provides children with an interlude from the stressors they are experiencing from being in a new, unfamiliar environment. Music, and our enjoyment of it, easily takes us to the present moment and allows us to live in the now.
So, the next time you are feeling stressed and ungrounded, maybe take a moment to turn on some music and dance with your toddler, and see how you feel afterward.
During the month of September, the Pigeon Plums have been singing Light a Candle for Peace, The Wheels on the Bus and Baby Bumblebee. For our daily dance party, we have been dancing to the Golden Oldies Radio station on Pandora.
It’s all creativity right here, right now.” Billy Higgins
Happy grooving to the music!