Humming, Singing, Moving, Learning,

Sasha's Top 10 (Musical) Holiday Gifts for Kids
By Sasha Judelson on 26 November 2019


Choosing a meaningful gift for the holiday season can be a time-consuming undertaking for parents. But don’t fret! Our Director, Sasha Judelson, has done some of the leg work already and compiled her Top 10 (Musical) Holiday Gifts for Kids to inspire you.

  1. The Gift of Music-Making Sasha’s number one pick is - drum roll please - giving the gift of music-making! While this might feel a bit biased to some (Sasha is both the Director and one of the teachers at Great Lakes Music Together), let us explain: Early music education is more than plain fun and fostering a child’s musicality; studies show early music education to have a profound impact on a child’s development as a whole: from cognitive, emotional, physical, social, to, of course, their musical development. In short, it’s an investment into your child’s growth and well-being, it’s fun and a chance to bond even more with your child. Buy here.
  2. Gathering Drum In our music classes at Great Lakes Music Together these are everybody’s favourite - hands down! It’s a rewarding drum (and quieter!) to play because of the drum head material. While we use the bigger drums by Remo in our classes, here is a link to the smaller version which can still be used by two siblings at a time. Buy here.
  3. “Hallelujah Handel” Classical Kids CD Hallelujah Handel” is one of a series of CDs introducing little learners to classical music and its most renowned composers. Interweaving tales of the composer’s life with their music, they are fun and engaging for little learners and grown-ups alike! (Also, check out “Beethoven Lives Upstairs”, “Mozart’s Magic” and more!) Buy here.
  4. Djembe Drum (Kids 5+) This is more of an individual drum, depending on the size. It’s important that your child’s hand fits within the entire drum head. We use these in our Rhythm Kids classes and we find that it’s best when the djembe drum is light enough for kids to be able to walk around with them. Check your local music store for kid-sized Djembe Drums. Many carry Djembe Drums in lots of funky colours and patterns!
  5. Shakers of All Kinds! Eggs, maracas, animal shakers, you name it! It’s so much fun to walk around the house shaking an instrument, a perfect way to learn cause & effect and entertain a younger sibling too. Buy here.
  6. “Maestro Mouse: And the Mystery of the Missing Baton” Book A sweet tale of a conductor who goes to lead his orchestra and then discovers his baton is missing. It’s a fantastic way to help introduce the orchestra to little learners. Buy here.
  7. Concert Tickets Look especially for concerts designed for kids. Watching live music-making is an unforgettable experience that will have a lasting impact on your little ones.
  8. Guitar T-Shirt This guitar t-shirt is adorable and reminds little learners of making music or, if you haven’t joined a music class yet, sparks their interest in music making! Buy here
  9. “Hello Everybody” Book It’s the favourite song at Great Lakes Music Together! The book goes through a small town saying “Hello" to family, your friends, your neighbourhood - even a dinosaur! Buy here
  10. Ukulele (Kids 8+) Be sure to choose one that makes a real sound and strums easily. Buy here

Now over to you! What musical gifts have been much loved in your family? Comment below and let us know.
Happy Musical Holidays!

Connections through music
By Sasha Judelson on 8 August 2018

You know that piece that played at your high school graduation, a birthday party or friend's wedding? Where every time you hear it you are right back at that event? It's no coincidence that this happens. Our brains connect music to whichever event you heard it at that is of most significance to you and new research is showing us that shared music making (singing and movement) can have profound effects on those feelings of connections. The data collected suggests that when music-making with others we each share a similar experience in neural connections, which leads to a shared sense of togetherness and sense of purpose. If you take this connection to a group making Music Together®, in class, at school or at a family gathering that connection to one another helps to foster empathy and social cohesion. A feeling of doing it together which supports the understanding of co-operation and empathy.


Back to connecting music with an event, the unpressurised environment in class helps your baby or child to relax and enjoy themselves - there's a reason for our fostering this atmosphere in class! When any of us are enjoying ourselves we are making positive connections and building positive emotions towards the activity or song. All of this means it's no coincidence that you are able to use the music outside of class not only to continue the fun, development and exploration but also, when you need to to calm your baby or child down - when they hear the music from class they associate it with class and the enjoyment they experience there. And, that's why so many Music Together families across the globe won't go on a road trip of any distance without their Music Together collection recordings: you never know when you'll need to transport your baby or child back to their happy place!!

Making it look easy!
By Sasha Judelson on 20 July 2018

Anyone who can sing in tune, find and keep the beat, and move with rhythm makes music-making look easy! Especially when they have a smile on their face whilst doing it!!! For anyone who has not quite reached that point in their musical aptitude it's far from easy because there's so much that needs to come together:

  • Hearing the pitch accurately
  • Feeling the beat accurately
  • Putting the beat into your body accurately
  • Moving from one pitch to another accurately
  • Co-ordination of voice and movement

And that's to name but a few. To accomplish each of those takes a while, including steps through each stage. Whilst we, as adults are supporting a child's muscial development making it fun as well as easy is really the key. If it just looks easy and then the child discovers it isn't easy for them their most likely reaction is to shut down and not try at all: quite the reverse of what we want them to do! In fact, we want to present kids with ideas which become a springboard for them to use whilst they process and play, try it for themselves and expand upon those ideas.

Do you remember when your baby was tiny and you were told that each of us are born with 8 intelligences? And perhaps you said to yourself that you'd do your best to support the development of those intelligences. One of our 8 intelligences is music and by supporting the development of that intelligence we are helping kids to become rounded humans. They may or may not choose to take music to the next stage (take a look at the Rhythm Kids program if you're interested in the next stage) but then we don't take our kids to swimming lessons thinking they will be in the next summer Olympics or to the ice rink thinking only of the NHL or soccer pitch imagining a world cup goal. We do all want opportunities for our kids and that's what comes from supporting each of those 8 intelligences. Supporting them in a natural way, giving them the opportunity to play with the ideas from class, and showing them that we do it too are all ways of supporting development without pressure. And making mistakes helps too! A child seeing the adult they know and love having fun and making mistakes is much less likely to give up if music-making isn't as easy for them as the grown-up makes it look. Being able to sing in tune, find and keep the beat and move with rhythm is only easy after the opportunity to practise and perfect each stage of these complex skills, having fun along the way is key to it becoming easy for them too.

Singing whatever the weather
By Sasha Judelson on 30 April 2018

Is it finally here? The all elusive warmer weather that is! Apparently we aren't doing spring this year but rather are going straight to sprummer!! It's tempting to abandon all inside activity having waited so long, so rest assured you don't need (or want) to think of music as an indoor activity. It's really important for children in the middle of developing their basic musical competence to continue having fun making music and all the development that entails.. Although from a practical point of view we can't hold the class outside singing makes all of us happier, it releases endorphins into our bloodstream. For those children in infancy through to 7 years old the more they sing, dance, move and explore music the stronger their foundational base of music becomes. For a child older than 7 years old who has their basic music competence (defined as the ability to sing in tune and move with rhythm) they need to continue using their voice and moving to music to continue to solidify that foundation.

There are lots of ways to use music outside, even if you don't fancy singing to the entire neighbourhood:

  • singing through a weekend hike
  • by the lake, in a conservation area, local trail or city park keep adding your activities to "She'll be Comin' Round the Mountain"
  • look for bumble bees, butterflies and ladybugs and sing to them as you watch them fly
  • look for your nearest railroad tracks and sing "I've Been Working on the Railroad" as you walk beside them
  • find various mouth noise for water dripping and pouring as you nourish the plants in your own backyard
  • use "Skip to my Lou" as the starting point and have your child find different ways to move around the local park
  • spy lots of animals in the trees (real or imaginary) and sing about them or to them. Once the weather is even warmer, so much so that you need time inside out of the heat, you can continue this activity inside by drawing the animals in the tree.

The possibilities are endless! You hear this in class but it's true, the more you sing, explore and develop the songs the more your child's spiral of learning will be open to the development opportunities in class. That means that they can use the class as a springboard for their ideas and will enjoy continuing their music-making outside as well as in and then they are fully using the window of opportunity to develop basic music competence.

Laughing, Learning, Doing
By Sasha Judelson on 18 April 2018

In every class there's some magic that happens! Having the opportunity to make music with kids and the people who love them likely is the best job in the world, having the opportunity to witness your little people growing with, developing because of, and exploring the music is pretty special for you too. Kudos to you for nurturing your child (or children) at exactly the age when the window of opportunity is open.

Our classes are informal though there's actually nothing casual about them! Every note and step is carefully planned and that's what ends up ensuring that we're tapping into your child's natural music aptitude, something which you continue to support all week long. Does this picture look familiar to you?

  • children bouncing on laps
  • adults singing and laughing
  • a non-conversational environment

It looks like we're just having a great deal of fun right? And it is! With all of that, in this one activity, your child is learning:

  • who's the leader in this particular setting
  • to anticipate actions and activities
  • social cues
  • to feel the beat
  • ways of expressing themselves
  • we all make mistakes and then try again
  • a new way of playing with this particular song
  • ways of moving

And, they are bonding with the adult they know and love, all at the same time!! Who knew that so much could come out of a lap song? Next time you have the chance take a minute to play with the music this way at home too - that lack of pressure which we cultivate so carefully in class is what provides your child a moment to process what's happening and take from it what they are ready too and before you know it next time they are playing with a teddy bear or other stuffy they'll be bouncing the bear on their lap and making up new words to the song!!

So, does music really make you smarter?
By Sasha Judelson on 7 February 2018

Every single week I am amazed by the power of music to bring joy, laughter, connections, happiness, silliness, comfort and much more into our lives. Music has the ability to deeply move people and touch souls in the way that few other things are able to. And yes, making music uses many different faculties. It is definitely a multi-modal activity. And, you have heard us explain in class how particular activities are supporting your child's musical development as well as supporting their spatial awareness, cognitive and emotional learning, small and large motor skills and helping them understand sociability. It's probably because music uses so many differing skills that we are drawn to be curious as to what broader effects music has. And making music accurately requires a lot of practise, in fact, 

it totally makes sense to me when Daniel Levitin, a neuro-science professor at McGill says that professional musicians have more training than either medical doctors or astronauts!!

So what is it about music? Is it the practise which requires tenacity and patience? Is it because it's best to start building the musical foundation right from infancy? Or the fact that you can also connect with people while you make music? Or perhaps it's having to develop auditory and visual skills which in turns helps kids to learn to perservere? Maybe! There's a study which took place in Bridgeport, Connecticut which you may be interested in, (more details here) where children who were enrolled in a Music Together pre-school class showed significant gains in areas which are typically measured in young children. These gains were seen in: cognitive development, self-esteem, physical development, self-confidence, and language development.  Impressive!!! This is exactly what we're referring to when in class we take a moment to mention the reason we're doing something for music development and what impact that has on the other pieces of development your child is working on. (Don't panic though, everyone learns at their own pace and some of these developments are more easily seen than others.) But yes, it's exactly what we mean when we say that music learning is supporting all learning.

Supporting the whole child is precisly how I prefer to think about music development. They really are working on and gaining skills in so many areas, in fact their brains and neural-pathways are working incredibly hard even though it looks like pure fun and enjoyment.

 Looking at it from a different angle, the connections, joy and comfort that music brings to all of us are also part of what makes us peoplekind. It is because music is a universal language that it removes barriers and provides accessibility. It is rewarding for them and you in so many different ways. And, it's wonderful too that music supports so very many other pieces of early childhood development



Keeping the circle going
By Sasha Judelson on 19 January 2018

As some of you may know, I (Sasha) spend Thursday afternoons with a different wonderful group of people leading and facilitating an intergenerational choir for people living with dementia, their care partners and local high school students. Although its certainly different to a room full of kids 5 years old and less there are some notable similarities and parallels!

  • Most importantly, and you won't be surprised, there's no pressure! We are there to enjoy the singing, the music and each other's company.
  • The songs I choose for us to sing each week are very carefully chosen, just as in a Music Together lesson. I want for each person in every Music Together class to be reached wherever they are developmentally and that's no different in this intergenerational choir, called The Circle of Music. Just as kids take away from class what they are developmentally ready to take away and store the rest of the information, so do The Circle of Music participants who are living with dementia.
  • Which leads to a really important part of both Music Together classes and The Circle of Music, the atmosphere is informal but there's actually nothing casual about what we are doing, it's carefully crafted and thought through whether it's the spacing of when to use instruments in class so that the kids are stimulated but not over-stimulated or the singing of songs such as Singin' in the Rain or Let's Go Fly a Kite followed by a song with a round which is a new song for The Circle of Music singers. 
  • And, in both places, the participants come to know each other, enjoy each others company, and support one another; whether it be the latest technique for getting your baby or child to sleep through the night or wishing The Circle of Music students good luck in their exams or sharing an event of interest. Music is the common denominator lead in both settings of course, though we are supporting many other pieces of cognitive function in both Music Together classes and The Circle of Music. And, there's mobility through moving, drumming and stomping to name but a few!
  • Perhaps most significant (and fascinating for me), when you bring your child to a Great Lakes Music Together session your are helping them to develop their basic music competence and you continue that all week long by listening and playing with the music, The Circle of Music singers also talk of singing the songs from a session all week long. Eventually, around the age of 5, if you have continued to support that musical strand, your child will learn to sing in tune and move with rhythm. When the people living with dementia sing with us they are accessing their musical strand, something they can still do, even with all the other effects and complications of living with the dementia. And yet, if they haven't achieved basic music competence as a child, we wouldn't be able to reach them in The Circle of Music.

So, you should celebrate for sure that you are giving your child a gift which will keep on giving to them throughout their lives. The Circle of Music very recently received a $500 gift from The Grand River Hospital as part of their way of thanking Dr Gagan Sarkaria, their lead geriatician, for his multiple contributions to the board of The Grand River Hospital. Dr Sarkaria chose to ask for this gift to come to us because, in his words "I believe that activities such as music and integrating with people of all ages is very beneficial for people living with Alzheimer's and dementia. Thanks for all the great work with older adults in our community."

I absolutely love teaching Music Together and I know that Pam and Lorena love teaching all of you too and it's especially significant to realise that this work comes full circle to help and support people of all ages.

Building supports the Growing!
By Sasha Judelson on 12 January 2018

If you've ever taken a Music Together class you will be familiar with the phrase "what else shall we add to the song?". This short phrase is in fact, one of the single most important pieces that can help to support the development of your child's musical journey! 

Encouraging your child to explore the music in any way in which they are comfortable is very much part of the plan! When a child changes the words, even the actions they are not only developing their imaginative play, their literacy and motor skills they are also making the music their own and that builds a comfort level for them which supports the development of their basic musical competence. Basic musical competence is the ability to sing in tune and move with rhythm.

The first thing for your child to see is that we will add almost anything to the song, including ideas which seem way out there. We aren't looking for logic here but instead for each child to see that playing with the music is fun. Each child needs to feel they can play with music before they start to make music. As adults, we are so used to seeing performers on stage making music that it's easy to forget that they too played with music before making it.

And, although not everything that your child adds or does with the music will feel accurate, part of what they are learning is that not everything will work! It's important for them to know that we can add dinosaurs, trucks, things from outer space and visits to grandma's and equally important for them to see that sometimes we have to change or adapt their suggestions just a little to fit the music. (The "we" here is your teacher!!) Eventually your child will come to recognise that the teacher has made a small change and they'll begin to try making changes themselves so that their suggestions fit more easily into the space and time available in the song - for most kids that's a long way down the line! By giving children the opportunity to play, add and explore the songs in the way that springs to their mind we are building their musical experiences and that's something which is absolutely crucial on the road to basic music competence. Just as you pull skates on to your toddler in order for them to learn to skate, rather than sit them down to watch skating, playing with the music allows the opportunity to begin that energetic and thriving bond with music which can last a lifetime!

Next time your baby is bouncing to music or your toddler is adding all the dinosaur names they know to a song or your 5 year old is singing their made up story, smile, sit back, add to the ideas yourself so that your are stimulating the spiral of learning and enjoy all the growing which is happening through play!!

Dancing, Moving, Co-ordinating
By Sasha Judelson on 3 November 2017

You may find your self surprised at how much we move in our Music Together classes! I remember as a Music Together mom carrying one (and sometimes two) children; and although being glad to be dancing as well as glad of the exercise, finding myself curious as to why we moved so much. You already know from the Learning and Exploring blog and from your teacher that kids and adults naturally want to move to music and particularly for kinesthetic learners.

     Movement supports gross and small motor skills through:




     playing instruments,  to name but a few. 

While we move we are also supporting spatial awareness and bi-lateral co-ordination. Bilateral co-ordination is the ability to move both sides of the body in either a co-ordinated fashion or differently. It's a learned and fairly complex skill so we want to give growing kids plenty of opportunities to explore the possibilities by varying our moves, alternating legs, only moving one arm and then adding in the other, shaking eggs, and varying speeds. (You can try all of these at home too!!)

Spatial awareness is a developed skill, it's learned both while we aren't moving, when we become aware of what and who are around us and when we are moving, when we need to develop that awareness so that we don't bump into each other. (Breathe easy now if your child is one of those who bumps into others, it's all part of naturally developing skills!!) By dancing and moving with others in class and at home kids and babies become aware of their own movements and the movements of others and how the space around them is changing. That in turn helps them work out how to run in the playground, sit in a circle, give you a hug or stand in line etc.

These are complex skills, developed over time and gradually. While we are supporting the skills in class you can too, simply by putting on a piece of music with a fast beat. Let us know what songs you choose for your at home dance party!!

Learning & Exploring!
By Sasha Judelson on 4 October 2017

Welcome to our blog!

One of the best things about starting each session is watching and realising how each of the babies and kids absorb the information which is offered to them in class. It can be somewhat disconcerting as an adult or parent if you aren't sure what to look for or even if you are seeing anything signficant being taken in by your child! Firstly, don't worry :) babies and kids take in far more than we can ever imagine and certainly more than it appears, even when they have their back to the action!!

There's a more formal term for how your child learns which is "Approaches to Learning", it's more of an umbrella term. In class we most often see the following learning styles:

- visual learners

- kinesthetic learners

- auditory learner

To dig a little deeper: 

Visual Learners

Are those who absorb information by seeing it. You won't necessarily see them repeating the action at the same time but you might notice a visual learner taking in  information by watching and looking. Sometimes watching the teachers though also at the other adults in the room. (It keeps us all honest to keep modelling for all the kids when we notice a child learning by seeing.)

Kinesthetic Learners

Kinesthetic learners are people who learn by moving, they are experiencing and experimenting by moving their own body. They won't always be moving in the same way as the teacher, parent or adult caregiver but are trying out the ideas to see how it feels and fits their body. You'll notice a kinesthetic learner by their desire to move and "do".

Auditory Learners

The last of the predominant learning styles, auditory learners are those who learn by listening and by then, at some point, using their listening and repeating skills to sort the information they have absorbed. Auditory learners really need to hear what they are learning and remember a lot of the information they are presented with just by hearing it.

It's important to remember that no one learning style is "better", it's a case of which fits your child and what you might perceive as their learning style when they are very young can also evolve. As we meet our children where they are developmentally, rather than expect them to meet us, understanding their learning style is hugely helpful. As parents and caregivers we all want to give our kids the very best we can, realising your child's learning style is one of the steps towards supporting your baby or child's healthy development.

What learning style do you think your child has?