Category: Children & Music

As a mother of five boys and author of Good Music Brighter Children, I want to share with you why music is so important to learning and some ideas on how to incorporate music into your child’s schooling experience.

Brandon 1997009My third son Brandon suffered a traumatic birth that left him with severe learning disabilities. As I studied different ways to help Brandon learn, I discovered that he, like so many children, loved and responded to music. So, I used musical games, rhymes, and songs to help him learn his school lessons. I also played classical music for him while he was studying, and I taught him the piano. I was convinced that parts of his brain, rather than malfunctioning, were in need of the kind of exercise that one gets from studying a musical instrument.  It was true—music became the catalyst for him to learn and process information.

Seeing what music did for Brandon and carefully researching the science behind music, I have come to understand that music can be a vital part of the learning process for all children. Music makes learning stick and music makes the learning process easier.

Here are 6 Insanely Awesome Reasons Music Builds Your Brain:

Reason #1: Music Builds the Auditory, Visual and Motor Areas of the Brain

Music strengthens the auditory, visual/spatial and motor areas of the brain. These areas are important to speech and language, reading, reading comprehension, math, and brain organization. Scientific research shows that kids involved in music have better language skills, reading and math skills; are more organized; have better attention skills and do better on standardized tests.

brain on music

Your Brain On Music

 

 

Reason #2: Listening to Classical Music Helps With Memory

Listening to certain pieces of classical music changes the way the brain processes information and helps us to absorb, retain, and retrieve information better. When we listen to specific pieces of classical music, the electromagnetic frequency of the brain changes and when this happens—learning, memory, and retention of information increases.

 Suggestion: Try playing Handel’s “Water Music” or Bach’s “Brandenburg’s Concertos” as background music while your children are studying their lessons. It will help them learn the material easier and retain it better. (See the Resource Section of GMBC for more musical suggestions)

Reason #3: Marching Organizes and Energizes the Brain

If your child has difficulty concentrating or seems tired and needs a boost of energy, put on marching music and march around the house or yard to the beat of the music. Marching to music wakes up the brain, organizes the brain, and gets the brain working on all four cylinders. It helps children focus and helps them to “stick to their tasks.” In our family, we made it into a game. The boys woke up to marching music and whenever they moved—they marched—into the bathroom, making their beds, getting dressed, putting their schoolwork together and then downstairs to eat breakfast. Marching is similar to what crawling does for a baby—it organizes the brain.

 Suggestion: Incorporate marching into your daily routine. Movement is an indispensable part of learning; a must for building and organizing the brain and for keeping your kids focused.  Try playing the marches of John Philip Sousa such as ‘The Stars and Stripes Forever,” or “Semper Fidelis.”

Children and the band in the parade illustration

Children Marching–A Great Brain Organization Activity

Reason #4: Rhythm Helps Kids Learn

Music is built upon melody, harmony, and rhythm—with rhythm being the most important element of music. It is what enables us to recognize a piece of music and motivates us to tap our feet to the beat of the music. Singing or chanting spelling words or math facts to a repetitive rhythm helps kids learn and commit this information to memory. Find a piece of music or a nursery rhyme with a strong rhythm that your child enjoys. Use the rhythm and incorporate spelling words, math facts, or even geography or history facts into the song as a fun and effective way to teach these subjects.

 Suggestion: There are some wonderful nursery rhymes with a strong beat that work perfectly when learning addition, multiplication or spelling, etc. For example, “Miss Mary Mack” is great, or I love the sing-song rhythms found in “The Alphabet Operetta” by Mindy Manley Little. As your kids get older, try the strong rhythms found in rap music—eliminate the lyrics and using the repetitive rhythms, clap out, beat out (with rhythm instruments), or sing out multiplication tables, spelling words, history facts, etc. Remember—any time you set learning to music—it sticks!

Sharlene Blog028

A Great CD for Teaching Kids the Alphabet–in Operatic Form!

Reason #5: Music Helps Kids Learn to Read

I’m a big advocate of reading to your children every single day. The benefits are too numerous to mention here, but those of you who read to your kids daily know what I talking about. When our boys were growing up I read many books that incorporated music, (think “Lentil” by Robert McCloskey) but I also tied other subjects to the book such as science, social studies, language arts, history, etc. Not only does it make the book come alive in many ways, it is a creative way to stimulate your child’s critical thinking skills.

 Moses-Concert-1Suggestion: Read, “Moses Goes to a Concert.” It is a delightful story about a little boy who is deaf. He and his classmates go to a concert where each child is given a balloon to hold so they can feel the vibrations of the music coming through the balloon. Use this book to teach your children about many different subjects such as: children with physical disabilities; particularly children who are deaf; American Sign Language; the science of vibrations; what they are and how they are created; the composer Beethoven and how after he went deaf he sawed the legs off his piano and put it on the floor so he could feel the vibrations coming through the floorboards. Let them experience how to feel a vibration through kazoos, percussions instruments, or balloons, (hold the balloon next to a speaker with music playing). You can also stretch a rubber band between your teeth and while strumming it feel the vibrations on your lips. Have your children watch the excerpt from Jurassic Park when the children see the water moving in the glass caused by the movements of the dinosaurs (another vibration).

 

Reason #6: Music Lessons Build the Entire Brain

Absolutely get your kids playing a musical instrument or taking singing lessons. My book teaches you how to choose an instrument, a teacher, and how to get kids to practice. Scientists have found that because music involves the brain at every level, the following occurs:

  • People who learn a musical instrument or sing have larger brains—5 percent larger than non-musicians.
  • Musicians’ brains are more analytical and better at math and reading and have more sophisticated language skills
  • Playing a musical instrument refines the development of the brain in a way that cannot be done by any other activity.
  • Playing a musical instrument is vital for the total development of the brain
  • People who are involved with music lessons have greater coordination, concentration, and better memory skills.

In short, people who play a musical instrument or sing have bigger, better brains! (for more information on this see my blog, “Why Music Lessons Build a Bigger, Better Brain”).

Suggestion: Involvement in music should start early and never stop. Check out your neighborhoods for teachers and programs. Kindermusik or “Let’s Play Music” are both excellent programs and offer lessons starting around 18 months of age. Google choral, band or orchestra programs in your community and sign your children up. Keep in mind that the voice is an instrument so singing is wonderful for many children. Getting your kids involved in music is not just about building a bigger, better brain—it is also about the friendships they will make and the values they will learn in the process. Music really does make a difference in a child’s life!

These are just six ideas of how you can incorporate music into learning and I include many more ideas in my book along with a 50-page Resource Section chock full of fun educational ideas, books, music, games, etc.

Enjoy!

Sharlene 2014

 


Today is a continuation of last week’s holiday toy suggestions. These are great toys to build your child’s brain while he/she has fun and builds brain cells.  Be sure and check out the YouTube video demonstrating the Sports Stacking Cups—an amazing toy with so many possibilities!

 

 Toy #8: Kidoozie Foam Pogo Jumper

 

Jumping fun for everyone! Made from soft, durable foam and great for indoor and outdoor play This lovable foam pogo jumper squeaks with every hop! The bungee stretches to accommodate children of all heights and can support up to 250 pounds. Kids and adults alike will have a hopping good time on the Hop & Squeak Pogo Jumper.

 Ages: From ages 3 to 100 depending on the functionality of your bones at that age.

How it builds the brain: Helps with balance and jumping–movement

 

Toy #9: Gamecraft Safety Guard Scooters (Scooter Ball)

 

It’s safe, it’s portable, and kids’ eyes light up when you bring it into a room. This board should be used only under adult supervision as kids have a tendency to try to stand on it or can roll it over someone’s fingers if they aren’t paying attention.

 Ages: 3 and up (need supervision at first)

How it builds the brain: helps with sensory integration and motor planning; used by occupational therapists.

 

Toy #10: Hoppity Hop Balls

 

Thicker than other brands, the Hoppity Hop is the greatest and “funnest” way for kids to exercise without even knowing it! Guaranteed to help your kid’s burn off that extra energy. Try an adult size Hippity Hop to bounce along your child, after all, adults can have fun too, right? Share the fun!

 Ages: Recommended for ages three and up

How it builds the brain: great for building balance and brain organization

 

Toy #11: Neon Dart Ball Game

 

Inflate the inner circle of the Neon Dart Ball Set to create a 24″ diameter dart ball board. Dart balls adhere to the board using hook and loop technology. Includes 24″ target and 3 dart balls

 Ages: 5 and up

How it builds the brain: develops hand-eye coordination

 

Toy #12: Sports Stacking Cups

 

Sports Stacking Cups have become an international phenomena! Parent and kids of all ages love to stack these cups at lightening speed. Your child can get hooked on these and who knows—you may want to even enter into a Sports Stacking Competition. Check out this video of sport stacking children of all ages—this is amazing fun for the entire family.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q7IMT8n0lJM

 Ages: 3 and up

How it builds the brain: rhythm, timing, movement, coordination—incredible alternative than having your child waste hours playing video games! Plus—it is bouncing, interactive fun!

Enjoy!

Sharlene 2014


The holidays are upon us and the frenzied gift-giving chaos is in full swing! Today I want to pass along some great toy ideas for your children that will build their brains. These are toys and games that get your children thinking and moving creatively while building brain cells.  When I was a kid, my favorite toy were my blocks. I spent hours building and creating things with those blocks. Did you know that parents rarely purchase blocks anymore for their kids? In fact, cultural critic Roland Barthes lamented in the 1970s that the wooden blocks children used to play with were in decline, and it was sad because now children were taught to be users and not creators. Childhood is a time to help our children learn to express their inner-self so those creative juices will continue into their adult lives.  How to do this?–supply them with toys that nurture their creativity…

 The toys listed below will stimulate your children’s imaginations and teach them to be creators and not just users.

 I talked with educational therapist Alene Villaneda (Integrated Learning Strategies) regarding the best toys for children that will build their brains, enhance their ability to think and encourage interactive play. Here is a list of toys and games that she suggests.

(I would also suggest that you get the CD, Baby Dance to play while your child is engrossed in these toys—it is the perfect musical addition!)

 Note: here are 7 toys and next week I will add another 6 toys to this list

Toy #1: Kidoozie Super Skipper (Musical Skipper)

This skipper makes a pretty cool playmate on a day when your child is alone or with a friend. The electronic base has 2 telescoping poles that rotate in 3 different speeds for jumping in tandem. Try to keep up with the spinning poles and accompanying music by jumping in time and avoiding them. It includes an acceleration mode that gradually gets faster. Poles fold up for easy storage.

 Ages: 3 years and up

How it builds the brain: increases timing, rhythm, balance, and coordination. Have your child jump over it to a rhythm. You can adjust the bars and the speed (think old-fashioned jump-roping).

 

Toy #2: Boomwhackers

Boomwhackers 1

Boomwhackers are eight musically tuned percussion tubes. To play, each person holds one or two of these perfectly tuned percussion tubes and whacks them against his arm, thigh, or any hard surface to produce a sound. The harder the surface, the brighter the sound will be. The tubes are various lengths and will produce various tones. They are available in diatonic and chromatic scales as well as treble extension, bass diatonic, pentatonic, and with octavator caps.

 Ages: Learning to play these instruments is amazingly fun for children of all ages. They can be played individually, but it is recommended that the tubes are played as a group, which means they are great for families and classroom settings.

How it builds the brain: They take some practice, but they are perfect for building a sense of rhythm and timing which in turn organizes the brain.

 

Toy #3: Perplexus

 

Master the challenge of the crazy, fun world of Perplexus! Inside the Perplexus Original you’ll face 22 feet worth of challenging twists, turns and obstacles! Flip, twist, and spin Perplexus to move the ball along the numbered path. When you fall off the track, head back to the start and try again. There are multiple levels of difficulty to master! Try the Perplexus Rookie, Perplexus Epic and Perplexus Twist. They’re easy to play, but hard to master. It’s a bendy, trendy, can’t put it down challenge!

 Ages: Recommended for five and up.

How it builds the brain: Helps with visual tracking

 

Toy #4: Qwirkle

 

Qwirkle is as simple as matching colors and shapes, but this game also requires tactical maneuvers and well-planned strategy. Earn points by building rows and columns of blocks that share a common shape or color. Look for opportunities to score big by placing a tile that touches multiple pieces with matching attributes. The player with the most points wins! 108 wooden blocks.

 Ages: Two to four players; ages 6 and up

How it builds the brain: These help with patterning; associating symbols—like scrabble, but rather than using letters, your child connects with shapes and colors

 

Toy #5: Ankle Skipper (also called: Geospace Sparkler LED Whip ‘N Skip Ankle Skip Rope)

 

An oldie-but-goodie for good reason, the Skipper has kept up with on-the-go kids for generations! This is a fun way to build coordination and balance (and to burn energy). This updated version’s built-in revolution counter and six flashing LEDs kick the fun up a notch, so kids can cook up friendly competitions with themselves or other kids. Takes 2 AAA batteries (not included); cord is 30″ long.

 Ages: For ages 5 and up

How it builds the brain: About coordination and timing—gross motor

 

Toy #6: Infinite Loop

 

Grip the two handles to open and close the track; and have the ball run through the tracks without having the ball fall off the track.

 Ages: 4 and up

How it builds the brain: This toy is great for coordination and hand-eye movement—visual tracking—uses the figure 8 to do it

 

Toy #7: Picasso Tiles

 

60 piece set Magnet Building Tiles Clear 3D color Magnetic Building Blocks – Creativity beyond Imagination!
Inspirational: Fun and entertaining, perfect educational presents for school age children that will never go out of style
Recreational: Entertaining for single or multiple parties, great for parent-to-child bonding with hours of fun quality time. Easy to construct and easy to put away for storage.
 Unconventional: Unlike typical toys, each piece of tiles can be replaced and more tiles can always be added to build objects as big as desired.

 Ages: 2 and up

How it builds the brain: Increases the visual/spatial areas of the brain. Picasso Tiles inspire youngsters learning by playing, children will acquire a strong sense of colors, geometrical shapes including 3D forms, number counts, magnetic polars, as well as the creativity which is the key factor to success in today’s ever changing environment.

Stay tuned for six more brain-building toy suggestions next Monday

Enjoy!

Sharlene 2014

 


child profile looking in fthe camera while playing piano

(Note: this is the last blogpost in a series of three that I’ve published over the last month)

Today we are discussing another important part of the brain that music strengthens—the motor areas of the brain.

 Brain-builder #3: Music strengthens the motor areas for brain organization and memory skills…

 Learning a musical instrument and being engaged in music develops the motor areas of our brain—which is important for the development and organization of the entire neurological system. “Let’s Play Music” as well as other music programs use both the Orff-Shulwerk and Dalcroze programs—both of which strengthen the motor areas of the brain.  Here’s how:

 When a young child pounds on rhythm instruments, claps her hands, stamps her feet, snaps her fingers or marches around the room—it is similar to a baby learning to crawl—and all these activities organize the brain; helps the child to remain focused, and increases memorization skills. These specific body movements are found in the Orff-Schulwerk program.

 

 Dalcroze incorporates the use of specific movements called eurhythmics.  Children move their bodies to the beat of the music and the body is trained like an instrument. Many different senses come together in the Dalcroze experience: seeing, hearing, feeling and moving.

 

Scientists say that movement is an indispensable part of learning and thinking. Dancing and moving to the music, marching, singing, whistling melodies, humming tunes all boost a child’s language, listening and motor skills. They also help develop physical coordination, timing and memory.

 

 So there you have it. If you want to build a bigger, better brain; one that functions at a higher level; one that helps children to read; increases language development; boosts memory; aids in the learning of math and science; and enhances motor skills—then start learning a musical instrument. It will be the best thing you do for your brain—and your overall feeling of well-being! Plus, it is just plain fun!

Enjoy!

Sharlene 2014

 


Do you have a child with learning disabilities? Autism? Sensory Integration issues? Auditory Processing? Attention Deficit Disorder? Etc.?

In chapter eight of my book, Good Music Brighter Children I talk about how music can be a powerful catalyst for kids who suffer from a variety of learning disabilities.

Alene

As mentioned in other blogs, all learning disabilities begin with auditory processing. This means that the child can hear fine, but have difficulty processing what he/she hears. In order to help learning disabilities, you need to find something that strengthens the auditory cortex, and that something is music.

Alene 2

Today I want to introduce you to an educational therapist who uses acoustically modified music as one therapy to help learning-disabled children. Her name: Alene Villaneda. Her company: Integrated Learning Strategies.

Alene 1Alene Villaneda, an educational therapist from Kaysville, Utah, uses amazing sound therapy programs called Integrated Listening Systems (iLs) and Advanced Brain Technologies (ABT) for her students. Since 1994 her company, Integrated Learning Strategies, has worked with children who have a variety of learning disabilities including: ADD/ADHD, dyslexia, sensory processing disorders, speech and language issues, and autism. Specifically speaking, she helps children who suffer from issues relating to auditory processing (both receptive and expressive language), vestibular  issues (the foundational system for visual and auditory), gross and fine motor problems, and memory and concentration, as well as anyone who wants to have better listening skills. Villaneda uses a combination of different programs and has found that the iLs and ABT programs address the needs of many of her students.

The iLs and ABT programs use filtered classical music; particularly the music of Mozart while the children are concurrently doing specific movements and engaging in visual stimulation. This network of sensory systems being simultaneously stimulated—auditory, visual, vestibular, motor, and even emotional control produces amazing results.

Below are some of the results her clients have experienced after using the iLs and ABT programs.

Alene 3A nine-year-old girl came to Villaneda with severe comprehension and auditory processing problems, as well as attention issues. She also wore very thick glasses. Normally, it would have taken thirty months to fully address these problems, but by combining the iLs program with movement, the young girl experienced a remarkable turnaround in just eighteen months. She no longer has to repeatedly ask her teacher for clarification of what is said in class (auditory issues), she understands what she reads (auditory and comprehension), her attention span has drastically improved (vestibular/auditory), and even her vision has improved to where her glasses have needed adjustments.

Alene 5Villaneda began working with an autistic boy when he was seven years old. Although he suffered from expressive language issues, he did understand what people said to him. At the time, he was in a special classroom at school and had difficulty with stemming—a term used to describe constant wiggling and shaking. Villaneda started him on the iLs program, and within six short months he was talking and reading. Today, he is now in a mainstream classroom. Although he is receiving additional intervention, his parents described his change as “an awakening.”

Alene 4When five-year-old Monica came to Villaneda, she could not sit still and could not bounce a ball or catch or throw a beanbag. She was unable to focus on an object, could not coordinate her eyes, and never noticed anything around her. Monica appeared normal, but would have severe temper tantrums and extreme bouts of anger. Additionally, she did not show any affection toward her parents or siblings. Within a few short months of being on the iLs program, Monica was transformed: she became grounded, she could throw and catch a beanbag, she became very observant of everything around her, she asked questions, and, best of all, she became a very affectionate child.

My eight-year old granddaughter has severe hearing and vision issues and she recently began the iLs program that I purchased from Ms. Villaneda. I will keep you abreast of how it is working for her!

Audrey with her piano teacher

For more tools and resources, follow them on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. For great information and services, check out Integrated Learning Strategies at ilslearning.com.

Enjoy!

Sharlene 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Halloween and scary music go hand-in-hand. You probably own a couple of Halloween CDs complete with all the scary music you need, but did you know that scary music is found in the classical repertoire? Believe it or not, it actually does have some fairly ominous music.  And just in case you would like to try playing some scary classical music for the holiday, here are a few suggestions that you can download from the Internet onto an MP3 player and play at Halloween:

 Danse Macabre by Camille Saint-Saëns (cartoon & music see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9CHqhsMP80E

“March to the Scaffold” in Symphonie Fantastique, Op, 14 by Hector Berlioz ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kS2S-8YNZA4

“The Hut of Baba Yaga” from Pictures at an Exhibition with Ravel by Modest Mussorgsky ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sxTLk8gWJHg

Toccata and Fugue in D Minor by Johann Sebastian Bach (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kC4m2EDc5oY

Hungarian Dance No. 5 in G Minor by Johannes Brahms (for the ballet & music: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2yd6WduQSd4

Also Sprach Zarathustra by R. Strauss ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3rzDXNQxjHs

 Second, if you are planning a themed Halloween party, (i.e. “Harry Potter”) stir up this fun musical game that will help your guests understand just how important the role of music plays in the movies. Plus—it is scary fun! Click on the links below for some frightening sounds and visuals:

 

 

 Musical Game: Scary Music in the Movies

 Directions: Play a specific segment from each of these five movies—first without any music and then with music. Music plays a HUGE impact on how downright scary the movie is. I’ve actually done this various times and I usually start with the movie “Jaws.”

 

Scary Movie #1: Jaws

For the music see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wCfWHqrYUqo

Two single notes never did as much work as it did when queueing up the intro of the ocean’s scariest predator. The Jaws theme, written and conducted by Hollywood legend John Williams, is one of the most recognizable, horrifying clips of music ever composed.  Do you remember the scene in the beginning where the girl is swimming alone at night in the ocean? All of a sudden you hear those single ominous notes letting you know that something horrible is about to happen. From that point on, whenever you hear that music, you tense up. The audience knows that something bad is about to happen while the movie characters remain oblivious—which heightens the intensity of this thriller!

Scary Movie #2: Psycho

For the music see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Me-VhC9ieh0

The height of the film’s intensity only features a few notes of music, but the piercing, screeching violin strings echoing throughout Psycho’s shower scene held more power than most movie music would for decades to come. Warning: don’t take a shower on Halloween—opt for a bath; in the light of day; and with a weapon nearby… Music by Bernard Herrmann

Scary Movie #3: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

For the movie clip and music see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9N-_KmZmV20

Remember when Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Malfoy serve detention in the forbidden forest with Hagrid as their escort? Harry and Malfoy find a horrible creature (Lord Voldemort) who has just killed a unicorn and is drinking it’s blood. Malfoy runs away, leaving Harry behind to face Voldemort—notice the music in those scenes—scary and foreboding!

Scary Movie #4: Signs

For the music see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3097unnY95g

 

This movie is about a family living on a farm that discovers mysterious crop circles in their fields. They suggest something more frightening to come! To be honest, I have only seen trailers of this movie—but I’ve been told the movie is rather scary and so is the music—you be the judge. Music by James Newton Howard

Scary Movie #5: Halloween

For the music clip see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nQWqRGVE1Zk

 

Haven’t seen this movie—never will! However, I understand that John Carpenter’s terrifyingly minimal composition for the original Halloween is more than enough to strike fear into anyone’s heart after hearing just a few tinkering notes. The synth-enhanced tune, played in 5/4 time, was famously performed by the director—and turned Halloween from an eerie, oddly brutal horror flick to something so much more nightmare-inducing.

 I’ve been told that there are movies which contain MUCH scarier music such as: “Saw,” “The Shining,” “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” “Donnie Darko,” “The Dark Knight,” “Prometheus,” “Friday the 13th,” etc.  I’ll leave it to you to check out those movies. Hopefully, this list is a beginning of scary music and movies to play in the dark at Halloween!

 Boo!

Sharlene 2014

 


Young man looking at bright colorful sketch on brick background. Creative and analytical thinking concept

Did you know that Steve Jobs was a “low-tech” parent?  Meaning–he did not allow his kids to turn into tech-junkies by spending hours on end playing with tech-toys. He stated, “We limit how much technology our kids use at home.”

Surprising isn’t it?! I think most of us would assume that one of the greatest tech geniuses of all times would want his kids to have a technology edge and allow them unlimited use. Not so…

And Steve Jobs was not the only parent who clamped down on his kid’s tech-use. Other tech geniuses like:

Chris Anderson: C.E.O. of 3D Robotics,

Alex Constantinople: C.E.O of OutCast Agency, 

Evan Williams: founder of Blogger, Twitter, and Medium

They also limit their children’s use of technology by putting strict rules regarding its’ use.

Why? Is there something they know that we don’t know? 

Yes. They understand this very important truth: we live in a 3-dimensional world and technology is a 2-dimensional world. Living consistently in that 2-dimensional world can cause a host of problems in learning, social interactions, and emotional development.

Think about this:

Are you a User or Creator?

Steve Jobs was the genius tech-creator, but we are the users. And, there is a big difference between the two. Cultural critic Roland Barthes lamented in the 1970s that the wooden block’s children used to play with were in decline, and it was sad because now children were taught to be users, not creators.

Are we teaching our children to be users rather than creators? If so, the consequences will be far-reaching.

Let me be clear on one point: I’m not against technology. Not, at all. To me, technology is neither good nor bad—its value is predicated on how it is used.  In many respects, it is an amazing tool; provides a wealth of easily-accessible information; allows for the storage of information; a tool that provides a quick communication with people, and has the ability to keep us in touch with long-distant family and friends.

But its’ overuse can cause addiction; significant learning issues, and dehumanize us.

Like everything in life, it needs controls. I guess Shakespeare knew what he was talking about when he said: “Moderation in all things…”

I am passionate about learning, including what helps people learn and what impairs learning. For years I have gathered data on the harmful brain effects of too much technology. The studies show that the overuse of technology literally changes brain circuitry and can contribute to (and perhaps cause) many serious disorders.

Too much TV

Too much technology causes a host of problems with kids

Here’s some food for thought:

Too Much Technology? Look for these signs: 

  • Obsessive compulsive disorder,
  • ADD/ADHD attention-deficit disorder (focusing, attention to tasks, etc)
  • Visual Perception (related to reading, reading comprehension, math)
  • Narcissism
  • Sleeping disorders
  • Body dysmorphic disorder (how children view their bodies—most video games portray Barbie-like and He-Man-like unrealistic body types)
  • Mood disorders: Depression, Mania, etc
  • Addictions
  • Loss of empathy—especially when there is a video-game addiction which can cause desensitization and emotional distance

Help Your Kids Monitor Technology

Parents—please help your kids control the amount of time they spend on television, Facebook, playing video games, surfing the Internet, and cell phones, etc. Pediatricians suggest no more than 45 minutes-1 hour per day on tech devices. They also recommend that a child under the age of two should be nowhere near technology.  

When your child (up to age 10) is on the computer, sit with them and monitor what they are seeing. “Co-viewing” is important because it allows you to talk to your child about the advertisements, the videos, the images, etc., they are seeing. You want to be your child’s first teacher—not the Internet.

Need help? Here are some things we did to help our kids control their technology use that might be helpful to you:

Charts: Create a chart (click below for the FREE printable) where you can daily record how much time each person in the family is spending on technology. It may surprise everyone just how much time is wasted on these two-dimensional screens. After a month of careful charting, sit down with your family and discuss ways you can limit its use and what activities you can do instead.

Parents: it’s important that you do this exercise with your kids. It will give you an opportunity to evaluate how much time YOU spend “plugged in.” What kind of tech role model are YOU? And are your children mirroring YOUR tech-use behavior?

Charts Lead to Self-Monitoring

One of the goals for monitoring technology is to teach your child about being responsible for what he chooses to do with his time. And hopefully to choose (at least most of the time) activities that will enhance his life rather than be time-wasters.

We got our first computer in 1985. It was easier back then to control because there was no Internet, no cell phones, and rather boring video games. Our first three sons were not that interested in the computer, but our last son loved tech toys and would have spent his entire life playing games, etc. if we didn’t have some rules in place. We tried several things, but one strategy worked the best.

Our Most Successful Strategy for Monitoring Tech Toys

For every minute our sons spent on a tech device, they had to spend an equal amount of time practicing their musical instruments. Example:

10 minutes playing video games = 10 minutes practicing the piano

15 minutes watching TV = 15 minutes practicing the piano, etc.

The result: over time our boys learned to self-monitor the time they spent on technology. It freed me from being the policeman and taught them responsibility in how they chose to spend their time.

Another idea: the program, RescueTime may help your child. It’s a time management software that can help them be aware if they are spending too much time on Facebook, the Internet, etc.

One more thing: if you are putting the brakes on tech-use with your kids, there will be a “time hole” and someone or something (or both) is going to need to help her fill that hole. There are tons of things your kids can do instead of being “plugged-in,” but they may need you to guide them–especially in the beginning. 

Next up: Exchange Technology for these Brain-Building Activities

 

Happy family playing guitar together at home

Parents taking music lessons with their children

Sharlene 2014


human brain with arms and legs who plays the violin, 3d illustration

Today’s blog is a continuation of how music involvement will build a bigger, better brain. It will help your children in every aspect of their schooling—reading, writing, math, language arts, spelling and vocabulary. Last week we talked about how music strengthens the auditory cortex and how that helps with reading and speech and language. Today we are talking about how music builds and strengthens the visual/spatial areas of the brain. 

Brain-builder #2: Music strengthens the visual/spatial cortex and helps with math and science…

 Music strengthens the visual/spatial areas of the brain. Spatial people solve problems in their minds-eye; they think in pictures; they understand higher forms of math and science and they are usually very creative (they dream in color while most people dream in black & white).

 

 56unnamedThink Albert Einstein whose visual/spatial areas of his brain were 25 percent larger than most people! He was an accomplished violinist and credits music with organizing his brain and helping him to solve intricate theories and problems. His friend said that Einstein used music for inspiration and that the answers to complex problems came to him in the midst of playing his violin.

 Studies show that when a child learns a musical instrument it primes, prepares, and develops the spatial areas of the brain in such a way that a child is able to understand science, technology, engineering and math more easily. These are called STEM subjects. Interestingly, educators are now calling it: STEMMM. This stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, Medicine and Music–because more and more people and educators are realizing the importance of music. They should–Music was considered one of the four pillars of learning during the time of Pythagoras. If they understood it’s importance–then so should we!

Kids practicing 1

 The visual/spatial areas of the brain are also tied to creativity. Creative problem-solvers will be needed for 21st century problems. When you get your children involved playing a musical instrument, you will begin to notice a correlation between their problem-solving skills and their musical skills.

Jason Violin-1037

 This is such an important brain-building activity—so sign your kids up for music lessons this week! If you have young children–check out the program: “Let’s Play Music.”

Enjoy!

Sharlene 2014

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