I have a feeling that this NY Times article on the disappearing of creative play in kindergartens is a tad exaggerated (certainly highly anecdotal), but an interesting read nonetheless. If you are a K/PreK teacher, or a parent of a kindie, what's it like at your school?
All Things Considered has an interesting piece on what happens in babies' brains that moves them from perceiving all the speech they are exposed to on a daily basis to actually producing speech.
From birth, neural activity in the brain indicates babies are able to distinguish speech sounds from non-speech sounds. But the areas of the brain that control speech production (Broca's area), don't show any response to these speech signals until about 6 months or so. By 12 months, around the time babies generally are producing their first words, brain activity between the area of the brain which perceives speech sounds and the area of the brain that controls speech production become synchronized. It's not until then that the neurons involved in the perception and production of speech are connecting.
However, this process only happens when the baby recognizes the syllables, one of the reasons that learning a foreign language gets harder and harder as we grow older. In order to produce speech, we first have to perceive sounds and syllables from a foreign language that may be much different from our native tongue. Even if you are fortunate to have a "good ear", you still need to have enough exposure to the foreign language so that the neural connections between your speech perception and speech production areas can be constantly stimulated and strengthened.
I get real excited when my young students pronounce English syllables which are typically difficult for Japanese speakers, like r and l, th, v, etc., because I know they hear those sounds (something their parents will likely never be able to do consistenly no matter how much they study), and that is going to allow for so much more meaningful exposure to the language over the course of their lives.
The Orlando Sentinel's blog for Central Florida's Moms and Dads, Parent Place had a nice post a week back (so much for timely blogging from me) about finding kid-friendly music that won't drive parents crazy. Definitely worth a read, and I'm not just saying that because they said nice things about this blog...really, I'm not.
I should add the caveat here that while I do write about and appreciate artists that the whole family will enjoy, I also write about artists that will likely drive parents a little crazy, including, yes, the Wiggles, Sesame Street, Mister Rogers, and the occasional Barney mention. And I have contributed to a couple of CDs (over in the left column there) which would fall into the "okay, that's enough dear, now it's time for Mommy and Daddy's music" category.
Personally, my musical tastes are all over the place. Professionally, I work educating kids from ages 2-12 and kids learning English as a Foreign Language, so I have an interest in music that communicates simply and allows even emerging speakers to participate. But essentially, I think you can't go wrong exposing your kids to as much music as possible, especially if you are there to enjoy it together.
For parents who may have the occasional urge to pull their hair out after listening to a few too many Barney tunes, I wholeheartedly recommend the strategy suggested by Orlando Sentinal Parent Place Blogger Steven Ford:
I burn songs I like and mix them with Disney tunes or kid sing-along tunes. That way, you might hear Radiohead, then "Wish Upon a Star" then Led Zep and then "Hot Potato" from the Wiggles, etc."
Growing up, my Dad used to make mixed tapes for the long car trips we would take in the summer. He made Kid's Tapes and Mom's Tapes, and we'd take turns throughout the trip. Truth is, we probably grew to enjoy the Boz Skaggs, Carly Simon, Lou Rawls, etc. almost as much as Mom probably did...but the Kid's Tapes were ours, and they spoke to us in a way Mom's tapes never could. We wanted to share in our Mom's love of music, but at that age, developing a sense of our own selves, having our own music was important. I remember occasionally feeling a little a bit of a thrill when I saw Mom didn't "get" some of the songs on our tapes. Here's one of the songs we liked, a nice call and response number everyone could enjoy.
Clea at smALL AGES shares some thoughts on the great Carole King/Maurice Sendak collaboration Really Rosie, including some tracks for you to sample. Great, great songs...have a listen. I love Pierre, the story of boy who learns to care after being swallowed by a lion.
There once was a boy named Pierre Who only would say, "I don't care".
I imagine if Sendak wrote this story 30 years later (it was released in 1962), it would have been entitled Trevor, and his mantra would have been "yeah, whatever."