Music and movement; Toddlers learn motor, listening skills while having fun

Photo by Sue Suchyta
Jessie Allstaedt (right) of Canton Township leads a baby and toddler music and movement class Aug. 19 at the Southgate YMCA with Sara Toboy (left) and daughter Maxine, 5 months, of Wyandotte, and Nancy Libra, of Southgate, with grandson Gabriel Domingo, 18 months, of Riverview.

Times-Herald Newspapers

            SOUTHGATE – In an exercise studio filled with parents and toddlers, music, motor skills and socialization mix with fun as youngsters thump improvised drums, clap their hands and move about the room.

Parent and child Kindermusik classes at the Southgate Family YMCA, 16777 Northline Road, offer caregivers and young children a chance to enjoy songs, move to music, play with simple percussion instruments and socialize with other children while building listening and motor skills.

Music instructor Jessie Allstaedt offers both morning and evening classes for caregivers with babies and toddlers up to age 2, and for adults with 2- to 4-year-old preschoolers.

Fall YMCA classes begin the second week of September. To register, visit the Southgate location, call 734-282-9622, or go to

For more information about the classes, contact Allstaedt at 734-341-2968,, or go to

Three years ago, when her son was five months old, Allstaedt, a kindergarten through eighth-grade music teacher, sought a position that would let her to stay at home with him and still teach music. She learned about Kindermusik classes from instructor Karen Onkka Schanerberger when she took her son to a class in Canton Township.

Kindermusik is an international program that offers music and movement classes for babies, toddlers and older children with their families that for more than 30 years has helped them develop a love for music while nurturing language, social, emotional and physical skills.
For more information, go to

Allstaedt earned a license to teach Kindermusik three years ago after taking an 8- to 12-week course, which included child development information and provided access to online teaching guides. She started classes in Southgate two years ago.

She said the classes are great ways for children and parents to socialize.

“I found when I started bringing my son as a five-month-old I was a first-time mom, I had tons of questions,” Allstaedt said. “So it is lovely to sit in a room with other moms and be able to ask questions. It is nice to know that there is somebody there that understands you, and a lot of times playgroups form from classes, too.”

For Nancy Libra of Southgate, giving her grandson, Gabriel Domingo, 18 months, of Riverview, whom she watches weekdays, a chance to meet children his age motivates her to take him to the class at the Y.

“They really do learn a lot, and they like to mimic the other children,” Libra said. “He’s come a long way.”

Leah Mong of Flat Rock brings her son Garrett, 11 months, to the class to socialize with other children his age and build music skills while giving her a chance to get out of the house.

“I think it is really nice for him to be able to do the hand-eye coordination with the instruments,” Mong said, “and make the connection with the cause and effect with what makes a noise and what he has to do with his hands to make the noise.”

Exposing his daughter to other children and stimulating her mind motivates Dan McAllister of New Boston to bring his 10-month-old daughter, Lucy, to the class.

“She impresses me every day,” he said. “She is able to recognize things and associate things we say. She loves the interaction. We just really enjoyed the whole session. It is a lot of fun and definitely worthwhile.”

McAllister said Lucy loves listening to music at home and “gets in the zone.”

April Pitts of Detroit said she was auditing the class to see what makes Kindermusik effective as opposed to other forms of early childhood education.

She said the chance for children and caregivers to interact in a fun, low-pressure way and for children to develop their social skills with children their age appeals to her.

“For a lot of kids, this is their first opportunity to learn how to interact with other people, a separate environment outside of the one they may be raised in,” Pitts said.

She said she encourages caregivers to come with their children and just have fun.

“They don’t have to be perfect,” she said. “I think that is what puts off a lot of parents from getting involved in music and movement courses. It’s, ‘Oh, I can’t sing,’ or, ‘I can’t dance.’ Do not worry about that. Just come and have fun, and let your kids have fun, too.”

Allstaedt said a fun aspect of the class is seeing children develop and pass milestones while attending sessions.

“In a Kindermusik class we are building early literacy, early language skills, we are using sign language (baby sign language adapted from American Sign Language), and we are working the fine and gross motor skills,” Allstaedt said.

She said encouraging fine and gross motor skills help babies when they start to crawl, and teaches balance for walking, while the simple percussive instruments help children learn to keep a steady beat.

“I love watching the kids get excited, and the moms,” she said. “I love when the moms come tell me that the kids are singing at home, doing the activities at home, or how it has helped them.”