ELKHART — Several of the toddlers watched with wide eyes at first as the adults around them sang, clapped and made arm motions to do with the song. After a few songs, though, the toddlers too were moving and starting to add their voices to the music.
Friday was the first day of Music Together classes at Step by Step Child Development Ministries in Elkhart. Through the classes, instructors use music — singing, rhythm and movement — to teach much more than music.
Deb Kauffman, Goshen College’s Music Together director, explained that the classes help emotional and social development, such as classroom self-regulation and how to be involved in a group setting, and physical development, as movement is also a part of the curriculum.
“We would say music learning supports all learning,” she said.
“We’ve found it to be wonderful for parent-child bonding,” Kauffman added.
Goshen College has been offering Music Together classes at its Music Center and several other Elkhart County locations for the past few years. Kauffman said that officials are working to expand the program to a larger variety of locations, including those that include children who may not otherwise have access to this type of program.
Tracey Weirich of Elkhart led the three classes — a class each of babies, toddlers and 4- and 5-year-olds — Friday at Step by Step.
Each class begins with the “Hello Song,” where the children and adults sing “hello” and “so glad to see you” to each person in the group. Later songs brought rhythm activities, movement reminiscent of riding in a car or fishing to go along with the songs’ theme, and dancing with scarves.
“Don’t think that babies aren’t musical — they most certainly are,” Weirich said during the infants class, pointing out how some shrieked, made other sounds or bounced in response to the music. This summer, in fact, Goshen College piloted a Music Together class for infants.
Maria Crockett, Step by Step director, said she thought the program was “awesome.”
Even on the first day, she said, she saw children responding to the activities. Crockett noted that some of the kids who are often more active seemed to be more observant during the Music Together class.
She had been interested in incorporating some sort of music class into the school, she said, and through the center’s transition team connected with Goshen College’s Music Together program.
She was thankful for everyone who had helped the entities connect, she said. The classes will be offered weekly through December, Crockett said, and hopefully beyond that.
“I hope as we start them out as infants,” she said, “from the womb to infancy to school-age, to keep them interested in music, all types of music.”