Kindermusik and Community

Yesterday was Ellie’s first day of Kindermusik, a wonderful weekly class we heard about through Austinmamas and Google. We really want to help Ellie adjust to a more structured, classroom environment, while still ensuring she’s enjoying every darn second of class. When we heard about Kindermusik, it seemed like an obvious choice. Even my Aunt Sue suggested it for Ellie Belly. See, folks who know Ellie understand just how much she loves music. Even the most basic beat tapped on the edge of a table and Ellie is tapping, singing and dancing along.

When we got to class, we were a tad early, so we could chat with the teacher, Ms. Alissa. Of course, the first thing she says is that everyone needs to take off their shoes and put them on the bench by the door. For Ellie, this is awesome, since she isn’t a fan of trapping her feet. For me, it reminded me that I really should’ve gone for that pedicure with my sister while she was here. Live and learn.

Back to the class — Ms. Alissa was very warm and inviting. We weren’t sure what to expect, honestly. Classes like these can seem…well, like lots of things: elitist, sterile, too clinical, clique-ish. Or maybe that’s just our experience with the Austinmamas Yahoo group? But, Ms. Alissa was everything you’d hope for from a modern day Mary Poppins with an awesome academic pedigree… She answered any question we were going to ask (and a few we didn’t even think to ask) right away, while we were still the only parent/baby combo in the dance room/classroom. She also let Ellie play with an entire drawer of scarves, which made for a very happy toddler. Especially when she was asked to help put away said scarves. Ellie loves playing clean up. She thinks of it as a game. We don’t mind this one bit. 

Before we knew it, babies starting arriving attached to very cool mamas. And class started. Kindermusik has numerous classes based on age range. Ellie is in the Village class, which is for newborn to 18 month old babies. The whole point of the class is to bond with your baby while stimulating their physical and cognitive development through music. But, really, it’s much more than that. It’s an amazing avenue to work with your little one on boundaries, social interaction, self soothing and decompression.

Ellie was the oldest little one there, so she did a lot of showing off. And, of course, she amused the adults with her very special brand of Ellie humor.

The best part, for me, was watching her smile and watching her eyes light up whenever we were singing songs and dancing. Many times, she went to the middle of the circle of parents and kids and danced and sang and laughed. She’d run to the other babies, as if she was asking them to join her in the fun she was having.

Another highlight was during the relaxation part of the class where the lights are turned off and we are all quiet while listening to relaxing music. Think of the end of a yoga class. Ellie decided she wanted to explore the room while we were all resting on the floor. And another baby decided to go and explore with her. They talked for most of the relaxation exercise. Ellie kept trying to get that baby to chase after her, but that other baby wasn’t having ANY of it. But…to the highlight. At the end of relaxation time, Ellie ran over to me and snuggled up next to me. She relaxed. It showed how much she is progressing.

We played one game where we all bounce and bounce and dance and…stop! Ellie was the only baby who did not want to sit on a lap for this exercise. She wanted to run. When Ms. Alissa would sing, Ellie would run back over to the circle, stand next to her and dance and sing, too. And when Ms. Alissa said ‘Stop!”, Ellie would stop and look at her with that coy smile that we all know and love. And she did that over and over again. It amazed me that she understood what she was supposed to do without ever experiencing this song or exercise before. It also introduced the room to her cheeky sense of humor, because she found the whole thing hilarious!

Ellie was able to show off her ball rolling and throwing during a jingle ball portion of the class, but really, it showcased her love of sharing. She really enjoys sharing her toys with other people. And we love watching her continue to develop and cultivate that love of sharing.

The last activity involved musical instruments, which had Ellie over the moon. She played with the egg maracas, just like the ones she has at home from Uncle Roon. She played with regular maracas. And tambourines, too. And at the end, she was a great helper when it came to putting the musical instruments away. When the crate of egg maracas was put on top of the drawer of regular maracas and Ellie noticed a regular maraca that was out of place, she lifted the egg maraca crate out of the draw to put the misplaced maracas back where it belonged. That surprised me — she is very particular about her organization!

After that wonderful class, she signed up for Kindermusik right away. Ellie had such a wonderful time and we know it will be a great environment for her to continue to develop and experiment with boundaries and social interactions.

She hugged and kissed everyone there and waved hello and goodbye. And she did so with such an understanding of what she was doing. It was just so lovely to see.

Community is so important. When I had Ellie, I knew that there were people in our lives that wouldn’t be a good influence for her. People that I wanted to limit her interaction with, as best as I could. But, it was hard to cut those people out, for lots of reasons. As those friendships came to an end and a sense of relief washed over my husband, Ryan, and I, we knew it was the right thing to do because we truly believe in the ‘It takes a village’ mentality. That being said, it can work against you, too. It’s important to understand that everyone who is interacting with your kid(s) will have an impact, in some way. And it’s your job, as a parent, to make sure the right people are interacting with your child, especially during these formative years. When we joined Austinmamas and started going to playdates, we quickly learned that most of the parents we interacted with were not the kind of people we wanted around Ellie.  (This is likely influenced by the fact that the playdates seemed more about the mom and less about the baby, along with the fact that most of their events are not dad friendly.) Not to say we’re sheltering her, but why purposely have her interact with people that we feel do not add to her development? After one 45 minute class at Kindermusik, we knew we found a group of parents who have similar mentalities to us.  And they welcomed Ryan with open arms, which is very important to us, since he is so actively involved in Ellie’s life. We experienced a sense of community that we couldn’t deny Ellie.

We hope our next class is even better than the first!