Beth’s Corner # 5

Sugar Mountain PR

Sugar Mountain PR

By: Beth Blenz-Clucas

Give Kids Tools to Communicate:

“Language Based Music” Grew from Experience with Preschoolers;
New CD features Lyrics Developed by Early Childhood Specialists Lizzie Bicknell and Jeremy Zmuda, with Performances by Madeleine Peyroux, Kirk Douglas, Leo Sidran and Joy Dragland

New York – Now that the new school year is upon us, it is more important than ever to be aware that when young children enter a new environment without knowing what to expect or how they are supposed to behave, feelings of anxiety, fear or confusion may make it difficult to find the words they need to navigate the situation. Lack of communication coupled with feeling nervous can be very frustrating and often leads to a loud session of crying and tantrums.

According to former Early Intervention Program Administrator and children’s book author Lizzie Bicknell, the key to avoid these meltdowns is to give young children a toolkit of social scripting, guided empathy and physical strategies for maneuvering in their world. “Music can be a great way to help the learning process along,” says Bicknell, who is raising a special needs child.

Jeremy Zmuda

Bicknell teamed up with Jeremy Zmuda, a NYC based musician and early childhood music specialist, to craft a collection of 14 original songs for children ages 2 to 6 called Use Your Words (September 28, 2010, Freeze Dance Records). Bicknell and Zmuda, along with a host of musical talent, present these songs as “language-based music,” giving children the words to use to communicate their feelings and to handle everyday social situations. Use Your Words features musical styles ranging from jazz to rock, pop to country-folk, and lively performances by Madeleine Peyroux, Kirk Douglas (The Roots), Joy Dragland and Leo Sidran.

Zmuda has gained a loyal following for his popular music programs in NYC, and he is the music director at two schools. “All children are inherently musical, and the natural fascination with music is a valuable tool,” Zmuda explains. “Children have been engaged by music and taught basic language and labeling through songs for generations — The ABC’s”, Old MacDonald, and Pat-A-Cake for example. Our music expands this opportunity teach strategies and social language. We aim to teach social skill development, purposeful language, and emotional concepts without compromising the joy and fun of singing and dancing. The music itself communicates the messages of the songs, allowing children to move their bodies and feel the songs they are singing, thereby reinforcing the words and educational value.”

Bicknell agrees, saying, “The songs on Use Your Words give the kids phrases to take with them and use, which will allow the parents and educators around them the opportunity to understand and provide what each child needs. So a parent or educator will be able to sing the song in the moment when a child needs help, and give the child of real way to talk about and deal with the situation.”

With the title track, and songs like “HappySadSillyMad,” “That Hurts My Ears” and “That Food Makes Me Sick,” listeners quickly learn effective ways to communicate their needs and feelings. Other songs help children learn social skills, such as the “House Rules,” how to share “Your Turn, My Turn,” and how to learn from a mistake (“Wrong’s Alright”) while yet other songs explore more intricate concepts, like being nervous (“You’ll Be Fine), difficulty with transition (“Let Me Know”) and body awareness (“I Meant To Do That”).

The educational content of Use Your Words is enhanced by smart musicianship and catchy melodies. For example, the bright and peppy alt.pop sound of “Differently” memorably conveys the idea that it’s ok if someone looks or acts in a way you’re not familiar with. And the slow-cooked, bluesy jazz of “Keep My Cool” (featuring Peyroux’ sultry-soothing vocals) provides practical ways to stay calm in a stressful situation. While many of these songs provide actual scripting, some of the tunes are more conceptual and offer food for thought, according to Bicknell.

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