Let’s Learn Together seminar highlights key teaching tips for parents

Raising a smart child can’t simply be left to handing them the latest gadgets and electronics; it turns out that the best tool for a child’s development is their parents.

Guest speakers Judy Arnall, certified parent educator, and Jennifer Buchanan, music therapist, were featured in a recent info seminar attended by more than 30 parents of young children looking to learn more about their kids’ development.

 This particular seminar, held at Coffee & S’cream in northwest Calgary, was the third since Let’s Learn Together’s inception last August. Free for the attendees, it focused on the development of young children and what can either help or hinder their learning processes.

“I wanted to give parents the opportunity to have educational professionals come together for the pre-kindergarten age range and give them a chance to have a dabbling of many subjects to learn about,” said Amy Spray, former special needs teacher and founder of Let’s Learn Together.

Arnall focuses on toddlers and technology and how it affects a child’s development.

“Parents don’t need to feel like they have to buy the latest technology or toys in order to raise a smart child,” she said. “Their greatest asset is themselves, their language and their voices.”

Arnall’s best recommendation for parents is to simply talk to their kids.

“It’s hard when you’re at home with a baby and you’re thinking, ‘I sound stupid talking to this baby,’ but really you’re building their language skills.”Jennifer Buchanan, a music therapist, said parents should expose their children to a wide variety of music because it will help them to develop preferences.

Photo by Kassidy Christensen

Living in today’s digital world, it can be easy for parents to resort to the latest gadget for their kids, thinking they can learn just as much by watching a screen, but it may not always be beneficial for the child, Arnall said.

She recommends the amount of “screen time” a child should be exposed to can vary by age, but should always be kept to a minimum.

The provincial government agrees with a current Alberta Education project stating that, one in four children are at risk of not being up to date developmentally in terms of language skills, social skills and emotions, due to having too much screen time.

“Screen time is not interactive, and it’s not social. It also doesn’t utilize the five senses,” Arnall said.

The second presenter, Jennifer Buchanan, also founder of JB Music, shows clients – from 18 months to 104 years – how music can impact their lives.

“Regardless of age or ability, music is going to reach people, it’s such a brilliant connector,” Buchanan said.

The main goal as a music therapist is to get people to reconnect or create a lifeline through music during a difficult time in their life.

“Music we like immediately releases hormones. Dopamine is being released, the feel good hormone, and so is oxytocin, it makes us feel connected to other people,” Buchanan said.

The connection experienced through music and individuals can also be applied in a sense between children and their parents, suggests Buchanan.

Parents should expose their children to a wide variety of music, she explained, they begin to develop a sense of preference and can also link certain types of music to specific situations in the their day-to-day life.

“It seems to be that with choice [of music] they’re going to learn how to self-regulate through music; they can find the music that can soothe them, or music that can help them feel motivated and that’s what is the key for a child,” Buchanan said.

“Especially when they start hitting the teen years, kids are using so much music, for some of them it really is a life line.

“Music can essentially take you to anywhere you want to go.”

Jennifer Preece, new mother to a three-month-old son found what the experts had to say very helpful.

“I left feeling like we’re doing the right things, since this is my first kind of worry if he’s going to be OK, Preece said.

“It’s nice to know that we’re on the right track.”

kchristensen@cjournal.ca