Five Ways to Get Your Child Enthusiastic about Learning Music

music lessons

music lessonsIntroducing children to music early in childhood—regardless of their musical aptitude—has a lot of advantages. One of the most important is that it greatly enhances their coordination, concentration, and cognition. It also instills the love of storytelling and teaches them to appreciate art and its different forms.

Exposure to music also helps kids explore new cultures and appreciate cultural diversity. Still, getting your child excited about learning music isn’t always easy. Here are a few ideas that should make things a little easier:

Recognize Talent
Your first step is to recognize your child’s aptitude and support it. This might take a little bit of trial and error. It may not be immediately obvious, but every child has some kind of inclination, whether it is percussion, violin, guitar, singing, chimes, or something else. Don’t expect your child to follow in your footsteps—you may love digeridoo, but that doesn’t mean he or she will.

Get Professional Classes
Once you’ve figured out the instrument that strikes your child’s fancy—guitar, for example—the next step is to find a professional who offers guitar lessons for kids. Getting the right teacher from the start is important if you want to make music education fulfilling and engaging for your child. Getting a recommendation from someone you trust is ideal, but if you can’t, there are a number of websites where you can search for music teachers according to your zip code.

Whether you enroll your child in a group music class or hire a teacher for private, in-home lessons, the teacher should be inspiring, encouraging, and have a good command of technique. Getting good instruction now could pay off in the long run: some studies indicate that children with musical skills do better with college admissions.

Make it Interesting
Scales, chords, and etudes are an important part of learning any instrument. But you can make things a little more interesting by asking your child’s teacher to incorporate some of the child’s favorite songs. Being able to play something recognizable is a great confidence booster. And in the hands of a good teacher, there’s something to learn in just about every piece of music, pop, classical, jazz, or hip-hop.

Invest in Good Equipment
Having a quality instrument is important, even for children, in part because it’ll be easier to play and will sounds. In the beginning, it’s a good idea to rent whatever instrument your child is learning. You can always buy later. Whether you rent or buy, make sure your child learns to treat the instrument with love and respect.

Help Your Child Set a Goal
What’s your goal in having your child learn music? What’s your child’s goal? For you, it should be to get your child to appreciate music and, perhaps, learn a skill that could give him or her a lot of enjoyment. For your child, it may be to be a rock star, to entertain friends, or just to play along with favorite tunes. Get your child involved in this goal setting process, and help him or her establish both short-term (learn to play a particular song) and long-term goals. Most importantly, keep those goals reasonable. The more accessible and achievable they are, the more your child will enjoy making music and the more motivated he or she will be to practice and learn more.


Poop. Nothing to Us, But CARE Knows How to Use it to Save Lives

CARE knows how to save lives with goat dung

care knows how to use goat dungThanks to CARE for sponsoring this post. We flush our own down the toilet, but there’s something amazing about animal poop.

For decades, anyone who’s had a garden knows the value of horse manure and steer manure. More recently, conservationists have been raising money to save African elephants by creating and selling artwork from elephant poop. A few days ago, I read an article about a guy in India who’s trying to save endangered rhinos (who are being killed because ground-up rhino horn is supposedly an aphrodisiac) by giving poachers an alternative way to earn money from rhinos: make paper out of their dung and then sell it.

But perhaps the best use of animal feces I’ve come across is happening in the village of Haji Pur of Rajanpur, Punjab, Pakistan, where goat poop is literally saving lives.

CARE knows how to save lives with goat dungMalaria is one of the leading causes of death among children in rural Pakistan. But apparently, burning goat droppings in a special container made of mud drives away mosquitos, which are carriers of malaria and other deadly diseases, including dengue fever. This is especially important in places like Hiji Pur, where the nearest hospital or medical facility is so far away that most residents can’t afford to make the trip. As a result, many people who might otherwise have survived don’t have access to potentially lifesaving treatments.

I don’t think we’ll be seeing goat-poop mosquito repellent here anytime soon, but in Pakistan, where burning it at night allows people to go to bed confident that they won’t get bitten, it’s a low-cost, highly effective way to save lives.

CARE, a wonderful organization that has boots on the ground in impoverished countries around the world. They’ve discovered that innovation isn’t always a top-down kind of thing. In many cases, great ideas come from the bottom up (in this case, the great idea literally comes from the bottom…)

Here’s where you can help—and don’t worry, it’s not very expensive. For only $45, you can buy a goat for a family. The milk that goat produces will provide much needed nutrition—and a way to make some extra money. And CARE knows how to use that animal’s dung to save lives.

Read more about this story and many of the other remarkably inspiring ways CARE knows how to make the world a better place for people who need our help more than we can imagine.

A bit more about CARE. CARE is a leading humanitarian organization fighting global poverty with a commitment to empowering women and girls. CARE is committed to its mission to serve individuals and families in the poorest communities in the world. CARE seeks a world of hope, tolerance and social justice, where poverty has bene overcome and people live in dignity and security. How could you not want to support this organization?

Balancing the Brains of Kids with Neurological Disorders

Robert Melillo, author of Disconnected Kids.
Balancing the brains of kids with autism, ADHD, dyslexia, and other neurological disorders.
Issues: How the developing mind is wired; what causes left- and right-brain disconnect; identifying left- or right-brain deficiency; (re)training the brain through physical stimulation.

3 Lessons From March Madness to Teach Our Kids

march madness 2015

march madness 2015March Madness. The biggest basketball event of the year and a sporting spectacle that rivals even the Super Bowl. The NCAA Tournament is the ultimate single elimination, win-or-go-home clash of 68 teams, and at the office it keeps most of us more focused on filling out brackets and sneaking game highlights than working.

On the surface, it’s all “just basketball,” but college athletics can demonstrate some pretty big life lessons to our kids. Every season produces great stories and the NCAA Tournament is no exception. In fact, it’s where the best ones are made. Our children would do well to learn these life lessons:

Kevin Ware: The Value of Perseverance

The 2012-2013 Louisville Cardinals were looking hot in the NCAA Tournament, and many brackets had them in the Final Four and beyond. Louisville guard Kevin Ware was one of the first players off the bench and producing impressive numbers in March Madness. That is, until it all came to a terrifying halt in an Elite Eight matchup versus Duke.

[Read more…]

The Brain’s Way of Healing + Disconnected Kids

Norman Doidge, author of The Brain’s Way of Healing.
Remarkable discoveries from the frontiers of neuroplasticity.
Issues: What is neuroplasticity and how does it work? the stages of neuroplastic healing; rewiring the brain with light; healing serious brain problems through movement; the special connection between music and the brain; how the brain rebalances itself.

Robert Melillo, author of Disconnected Kids.
Balancing the brains of kids with autism, ADHD, dyslexia, and other neurological disorders.
Issues: How the developing mind is wired; what causes left- and right-brain disconnect; identifying left- or right-brain deficiency; (re)training the brain through physical stimulation.

You’re Imagining the Whole Thing

Imagination is a wonderful thing. But in an era of “teaching to the test” and laser focus on grades and performance, it’s in short supply. A large body of research shows that children who engage in imaginative play have larger vocabularies, think more flexibly and creatively, and do better in school than less imaginative kids. And as they get older, those children turn into adults who have more empathy for others, work better on teams, are more adaptable, and generally have more fulfilling careers. And it all starts with stories. Here are some of our favorite imagination- and creativity-stimulating toys.

safari figurinesFigurines (Safari LTD)
Safari LTD makes a dizzying variety of figurines that are perfect for imaginative play. Whether your children’s fantasy world takes them to a farm, a faraway land, under the sea, or has them playing with mythological creatures (or maybe a mash up of the above), Safari’s figurines will be at their side for years to come. They’re fun to collect and meticulously detailed and painted, so your first reaction may be to put them on a shelf and admire them. But they’re quite sturdy, meaning they can survive a dog attack, being tossed out a window (not that your child would ever do that), or a washing machine adventure. You’ll find creatures in all shapes and sizes at

haba puppetsPuppets (HABA USA)
HABA puppets are great for children of any age (HABA recommends age 1 and up, but as they’re soft and don’t have any loose parts or buttons, they’re okay for younger kids too.) HABA’s puppets easy to manipulate—one finger for the head, thumb for one arm, and middle finger for the other—and their cheery, smiling faces make them irresistible. You can get individual puppets or assemble groups of themed characters such as Red Riding Hood and a royal family for more involved stories. There’s also a whole line of delightful finger puppets. Oh, and they’re machine washable (hang to dry) too. Most are around $15. Visit for choices.

folkmanis puppetsPuppets (Folkmanis)
With their attention to detail and creative designs, Folkmanis puppets are visually stunning. They’re also as plush as high-end stuffed animals. That combination makes mom and dad want to play with them as much as the kids do. The puppets vary in size and articulation, but they’re always wonderfully unique, with wings that flap, heads that spin, tails that uncurl, tongues that stick out, and more. Some of them are easy for small hands, but some require five fingers, and others need two adult-sized hands to operate. These puppets will get everyone’s imagination working. If your dragon breathes fire on imaginary an imaginary villages and kidnaps the LEGO residents, you can send brave knights up to vanquish it. Or maybe the hero is a princess from a neighboring kingdom. There are literally hundreds of puppets. See all the newest ones at

yottoy girl scout dollGirl Scouts Friendship Dolls (YOTTOY)
YOTTOY brings fantasy and real life together with its new line of soft Girl Scouts Friendship Dolls. These dolls promote what the Girl Scouts are all about: friendship, diversity, and taking care of the community. They also bring in an element of fun and personal style. One especially nice feature is that they come in several ethnicities, which means that your child can play with characters who look just like her (or close to it) and create her own Girl Scout meetings, go on camping trips, or sell cookies. Friendship Dolls retail for around $17 at YOTTOY, Walmart, and Or visit