Katie McQuaid Cote is is thrilled to be able to share the magic of music with her children through Manchester Community Music School and share her family’s experience through the MCMS blog. Katie is a wife, mom, columnist, and lifelong Manchester resident. She and her husband Bill have three boys. Charlie is 5, Joey is 1 and Milo is less than a month! Learn more about the Music School’s Early Childhood Program
Katie is taking a bit of a break this week after giving birth to our 3rd son. Yes, she will soon be raised to the level of sainthood. So this week it was dad’s turn to bring little Joey to the Music and Me class. I was working different hours when Charlie was Joeys age and I had a lot more opportunity to do these sort of things with Charlie so I was glad to have the chance to do it with Joey.
First off we had a ton of fun. Miss Aimee was great. You can tell she loves the kids and they love her. It’s quite possible that she goes home and sings songs to the tiny little woodland creatures who come by to tidy up the place.
What struck me most, not regularly seeing Joey in this type of setting was how much he’s grown up. I know it sounds silly to say that about an 18 month old but it’s true. He was running around, getting excited about things, strumming Miss Aimee’s guitar, putting things away, and anticipating the next activity. That was the funniest thing to me. Everything was his favorite. He’d get excited while we were doing flashlight games because he knew that next was the bubbles and be as excited during the bubbles because he knew that the parachute was next. It was a riot to watch and to see him be so helpful when cleaning up was amazing to me. I’ll have to question his big brother a bit more the next time he lays the blame on him.
I’m glad I had this chance to be a part of Music and Me with Joey this week. It certainly brings joy to my middle one (going to take a while to get used to that) and anything that can do that brings joy to me.
I think we’re still picking feathers off of Joey after this week’s Music & Me class. Miss Aimee brought out a basket of multi-colored feathers for the kids to play with while we listened to music. Dare I say Joey has developed a feather fetish?
He immediately grabbed fistfuls of feathers and began dumping them over his head. While other kids had fun holding one or two, Joey bathed himself in them, rubbing them on his face and head. I told Miss Aimee that if he starts wearing feather boas in 15 years I’ll know why!
Joey seemed to be more excited than usual about all of this week’s activities, especially during bubble time and the “We Are the Dinosaurs” song.
We only had three kids in class when we started this week. By the end of class our group had doubled in size. That’s the beauty of Music & Me, it doesn’t matter when you show up. Miss Aimee understands it’s difficult to be on time with small children, and her class format makes it easy to join the fun at any moment.
The same goes for joining mid-session too. Families interested in Music & Me and other group classes are also welcome to join at any time during the session. Manchester Community Music School will pro-rate the cost so you don’t have to pay for the classes you’ve already missed. Talk about customer service!
Miss Aimee had a real treat for the kids at Music & Me this week. Xylophones of all shapes, sizes, and materials were brought out for experimentation. The larger metal and wooden xylophones seem to be the most attractive to our group, not because of the sound they made, but because they could be taken apart. After banging out a few notes with the sticks ( I believe real musicians call them hammers) many of the boys went straight to “deconstruction” as Miss Aimee put it. She said that happens a lot with the xylophones. Deconstruction seemed to be a boy thing, but since our class only has one very adorable little girl our observations weren’t very scientific.
This week Joey was more comfortable with Miss Aimee and the group as a whole than he’s ever been. He is getting more independent and wasn’t immediately looking for me anytime we got separated during an activity. This was fine with me. At nearly 9-months pregnant I don’t have the energy to carry him around and have him on my lap every moment. When Miss Aimee took out her guitar for a few songs he even approached her and gladly accepted her invitation to strum the strings. His pride at making the sound come out of the guitar was visible. Later, he was feeling so comfortable with Miss Aimee that he had a seat in her lap.
I was really excited by Joey’s participation in this week’s class. Miss Aimee’s songs required a lot of direction following, and he seemed to be really concentrating. Last time we did the “Run Along Rover” song, where we pretend to be puppies, it was all I could do to get him to walk around the circle with the group. This week he was walking in the circle, getting down on the ground and rolling over at the right parts of the song. I appreciate how Miss Aimee introduces a song or activity one week and then brings it back a few weeks later so we can see how our child is progressing.
Flashlight dancing has become a favorite pastime in the Cote house. We turn off all the lights in one room, grab any flashlights we can find (keep our fingers crossed that they contain working batteries), turn on some tunes, and start dancing. It’s a sight to see, especially when we’re in our PJs.
The impromptu mini disco session is just one of the games we learned from Miss Aimee at Music & Me, but have adapted for home. In our world where technology is sometimes the easiest way to entertain our children, it’s always nice to have new options for getting our kids away from the TV or Ipad and start moving. It seems like something that should be easy to do, but stay-at-home and working parents alike can agree that our brains are often too “fried” to be creative on their own.
This week I discovered I’m not the only parent to use Miss Aimee’s activities and songs at home. The “Toys Away” number is great for teaching a toddler to pick up. Several of us in the class laughed at the fact that our children do not help clean up at home until we start singing, “Toys away, toys away, it’s time to put the toys away.” It’s like we’ve installed little chips in their brains that send them into cleanup mode whenever they’re triggered by the “Toys Away” song.
Most of the children were using their chubby, little toddler hands to wave hello during our weekly “Hello” song, where we go around the circle and say hello to everyone in the group. What a difference from week one where most of the kids just had a stunned look on their face when we sang their name. Now they all seem to know when it’s their turn, and get a proud and happy expression when we sing their name. Miss Aimee said she loves it when the class activities really begin to “click” like they did this week. It makes the parents happy too.
A little light bulb went on during this week’s Music & Me class. I finally realized Joey is not going to sit by me or in my lap for every activity, and I don’t have to chase him down to drag him back to the group!
I’m about to have our third child, and when Joey left the group for what seemed like the thousandth time to play with a stereo in the room this week, I just couldn’t muster up the energy to go after him. When I stopped trying to control my child for one minute I had a chance to look around the room and realize other parents had already discovered the sweet serenity of a free range child. Instead of wrestling their children away from distractions and back to the group, they sat relaxed and happy watching their children enjoy their independence.
Like most parents, I want to raise children who are independent, but who know how to behave properly in public situations. Let’s just say I’ve been focusing way too much on the “behave properly” part. There are places – like the grocery store or a restaurant – where I need to keep my children under my control. But Music & Me is a safe place where I shouldn’t feel the need to keep Joey tethered to me every minute. I don’t know why I felt the need to restrict my child in the class. Miss Aimee certainly encourages as much independent exploration as possible. She even welcomes children to sit on her lap for different activities, especially when a parent has more than one child in the class.
This week’s new activities included playing with sand blocks and the “Walk Along Rover” song that let us pretend to be puppies and roll around on the floor. We also used long ribbons to pretend we were different animals. When I stopped worrying about how Joey was supposed to behave and just let him behave like a normal 16-month-old the class became even more enjoyable for both of us. We can’t wait until next week!
Music & Me is not just a music class for my toddler. It’s therapy for me! Being a parent is tough, and being a parent cooped up during winter in New Hampshire is even tougher. I’ve begun looking forward to my weekly escapes to Manchester Community Music School because it’s a great way to stimulate my child and let him expel some energy on a wintery morning. But also because I get to be with other parents and talk about our common questions and struggles.
The class always starts with several minutes sitting on the floor with a bucket of toys for the children to play with as they come out of their shells. Parental conversation runs the gamut from the merits of rear-facing car seats to what age your children should be before you let them play outside in the backyard. It’s always nice to get the advice and perspective of parents outside my regular circle of friends.
Of course, we don’t let our impromptu parental therapy sessions interfere with the fun our children come to class looking for. And Miss Aimee did not disappoint this week by bringing out some exciting new instruments and toys to play and move with. I appreciate how she always sprinkles new activities and songs among the consistent ones our children have learned to depend on. It keeps them comfortable and excited all at the same time.
This week Miss Aimee brought out drums that we learned to play fast and slow and loudly and softly. We also got to dance and move with hula hoops. Some parents were actually quite good at hooping, but at 7-months pregnant it’s not really my best skill right now. I’m sure I’ll be able to do it again someday, but if I can’t, my fellow Music & Me parents will surely be there to help me cope.
Joey has found his passion, and it is the egg shaker. The second week of Music & Me was such a different experience from week one. Joey entered as a shy boy again, but within minutes he was feeling confident enough to leave my lap and help himself to the box of toys at the center of the room. With Miss Aimee as the teacher, it’s hard not to feel comfortable and welcome. She’s a born nurturer, engaging all the children on an individual level and giving each one just the amount of attention they need.
By the time the egg shakers came out midway through class, Joey was walking around the classroom like he owned the joint, shaking (and trying to eat) his plastic, sand-filled eggs. I was worried he wouldn’t want to part with his eggs when it was time to move to the next activity. But, for some reason all the kids love to help Miss Aimee put things away.
While Joey would never part with and clean up his toys this enthusiastically at home, I appreciate that he’s learning to act like an obedient child in public. If we can get this cooperative behavior to carry over to the grocery store then I’ll gladly pay Manchester Community Music School some kind of surcharge.
Miss Aimee introduced us to a toddler’s version of the “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” song. I’ve sung this song a million times, but, never appreciated how it actually teaches small children about parts of the body. Of course Joey was more interested in getting me to pick him up than actually participating in the dance, but I made a mental note to sing the song with him at home. I’m sure he’ll be differentiating his head from his toes in no time!
A final note, for all the germaphobic parents like me who cringe at the thought of children putting instruments in their mouths. As you can imagine, this happens a lot. But Miss Aimee sanitizes all the contaminated toys after each class.
I had assumed the “Me” in Manchester Community Music School’s Music & Me class stood for my 16-month old Joey, who would be exposed to a music class for the first time.
I wasn’t in Miss Aimee’s classroom for five minutes before realizing the “Me” also stood for myself and everything I would be learning about my child and how I parent him.
Music & Me is designed for children ages 6 months through 2 years old and their parents. Classes are kept small to help with social interaction. It was clear the eight children in our class would be interacting with each other and participating in very different ways. And it was comforting, as a parent who came to the first class with a cranky and shy toddler, to know that interaction and participation was definitely not required!
Joey was fine with the beginning of class where he could enjoy Miss Aimee’s songs and her guitar from the comfort of my lap. But, when it was time to get up and move to the music, there was no peeling him off of me. As the gal who loves being the center of attention, it was astounding to me that my offspring wasn’t trying to be the star of the class.
Fortunately, Miss Aimee understands our little boys and girls have even littler attention spans, and we moved quickly from one activity to the other. Some activities, like playing with a bucket of instruments, Joey loved. But others, like sitting on top of or underneath a parachute while the parents billowed it around the children, were not going to happen for Joey on day one. No worries, I soon realized that my little one was really no different than many of the others. I may be his mom, but he is his own person and his enthusiasm for a particular activity is something I will never be able to control.
Miss Aimee has a masters degree in Early Childhood Education and is a former professor of early childhood education at Southern New Hampshire University. She really understands children and their different needs and it was clear that she was going to be attentive and patient with each child’s unique needs. She’s also a parent, and made it clear that we could talk to her about any developmental questions we had about our children.
While this was the first class for Joey, some of the children had participated in previous Music & Me sessions, and they were clearly more comfortable with Miss Aimee and the activities. It may not happen during Class 1 or even Class 10, but it was good to know that my Joey may one day sit inside the parachute too.
Learn more about the Music School’s Early Childhood Programs.
Katie is also writing about her experience with her son Charlie in the Music School’s Suzuki Readiness classes. Read more about those here.