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My daughter, Heather, and I participated in Gymboree for about a year beginning when she was eight months or so and it was a good experience. She was at the time a very, very shy kid and it helped her connect well with another adult (the instructor) and promoted her sense of "body self." When we would go home she would continue to try out body movements she learned there, practicing and developing her agility and coordination. It was nice for me to connect with other parents, just for casual conversation about developmental issues. Heather has been involved in Kindermusic for about a year and loves it! And the exposure to music has made her much more aware of it than I ever was at her age. She is now, at age 7, learning to read music, play songs on a glockenspiel and is making up songs all the time. Her class, which includes about 8 kids, is on Saturday mornings at our church in Alameda. Her instructor, Teresa Gacad, (who teaches piano lessons as the rest of her career) is a very gentle, effective teacher who will begin teaching Heather piano this summer when she is too old for Kindermusic. All of this has made Heather very open and excited about playing the piano. Teresa says she always prefers to teach piano to students who have had Kindermusic because they are so much better acquainted with concepts in music.
We have done all 3 (gymboree, habitot, and kindermusik) and loved all three. Our son has not been in daycare at all and I think that these activities have been really important since he has lacked the interaction with other kids on a daily basis (except the park). You must be 2 (I think, maybe even older) to do kindermusik but when you get to the age, I liked it (and so did my husband). Re: habitot and gymboree. We have done gymboree for many sessions and he enjoys it. We usually do one session on and one session off so it seems new and exciting to him. We are also Habitot members and there is stuff there designed just for kids that age. We love it. You can go one time, and if you join that day, the day's money goes toward membership. Have fun.
At about 10 months, I took my daughter to a MusicTogether intro class. I thought it seemed good, but she seemed pretty uninterested. At that time, Kindermusik didn't have the infant class that they now offer (Village class, for infants up to 18 mos). Since MusicTogether didn't have any classes in my area, I let it drop for the time being. When she was about 15 mos I called Kindermusik for info. They sent me a list of classes, including some that were in my area (San leandro). However, when I went to sign up, I discovered that the San Leandro teacher wasn't giving classes anymore. I ended up at St. John's in Berkeley (the same place that the Music Together courses are offered!). I've had some trouble getting the classes I want since then, and so far there are no classes for my daughter's age group in San Leandro. They keep promising "next semester".... On the plus side, though, the Kindermusik program is EXTENSIVE, and there are a LOT of classes to choose from, so if one turns out to be inconvenient, there's probably another one that will work for you. That's part of why I've stuck with it. And I have found a class that is relatively convenient for me, and has enough kids in it every week to make it work for Allegra. Also, they are very understanding about make-up classes, and will pro-rate your fees if you start late in the semester. PROGRAM: She loves it! We started her at just about 18 months, the youngest age for the Beginnings class. She's often unfocussed in class, but the teachers don't seem to mind, just saying that the kids will do whatever they need to do, and they still get stuff out of the class just by being there. I have found that having her in a class with more kids (5-7 rather than 2) works better, as the other kids help keep her on track. Also, for her, the classes at St. Johns are better than the ones in Alameda, because the room is very spare, with fewer distractions. But she really does love it, and she's started doing the rhythm and pitch matching excercises on her own. I have read somewhere that kids who are exposed to pitch matching and music-making (not just listening) are much more able to become competent at these things as adults. And if you miss the window (in EARLY childhood, like before age 6), there's much less ability to pick this up later. It's not impossible, but it's much harder, much in the way that it's harder to learn a foreign language the older you are. So anyhow, I'm a big fan of this approach to music (whether Kindermusik or MusicTogether--which I am told was started by former Kindermusik teachers), and my daughter (now 26 1/2 mos) really loves it. I hope you'll like as well, if you choose to try it.
So far, so good, my 6-month-old enjoyed his first Kindermusik class, and we go to the next one tomorrow. We also visited a MusicTogether class this week (I first heard of it when it was advertised recently on this list), but we had already enrolled in Kindermusik. There is another 6-month-old in the KM class, and she seems to enjoy it also. There is a lot of play with movement, voices, high/low register, and textiles and rhythm instruments along with the music, so it seems to be a very engaging experience for them.
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