learn & grow

This past weekend I attended both the NYC Vegetarian Food Festival and The Seed Experience Market.  I had such a great time, met inspiring people, tried amazing vegan food, and spent way too much money!

On Saturday, my business (TLB Music) joined The Solutionary School at the NYC Vegetarian Food Festival to lead a “Compassion Rocks” music class for the children at the festival.  It was so much fun!  We sang songs about animals, love, compassion, and world peace while the kids played on drums, shakers, and bells and we even drummed together on the Djembe:
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Did you know that January 29th is National Puzzle Day?  I love puzzles!  I snapped the picture above on New Year’s Day, at the start of our 1000-piece challenge.  Puzzles give your brain a fantastic workout- making them extremely beneficial (for both kids and adults) and SO satisfying to complete!

Cognitive Skills:  When kids work on a puzzle, they practice identifying colors, letters, and develop spatial awareness.  Puzzles also encourage kids to work on their memory.

Hand-Eye Coordination:  Getting the pieces to fit just right requires this valuable skill!

Fine Motor Development:  Picking up and placing puzzle pieces benefits fine motor development immensely.  The smaller the pieces get, the greater the challenge!

Problem Solving:  You have one goal in sight when doing a puzzle.  This requires children to think logically and come up with a plan to complete the task!

Social Skills:  Working in a group to complete a puzzle encourages kids to practice sharing, taking turns, and working in a team to achieve a common goal.

In honor of today’s holiday, I put together a list of some of my favorite puzzles for toddlers, big kids, and adults.  The toddler puzzles by Melissa & Doug have withstood years of play in our playspace and music studio’s lobby- I highly recommend them.  As kids get older, increase the number of pieces and decrease the piece size to keep up the brain-boosting power of puzzles!

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This activity sheet is perfect for learning the C major scale on the piano or xylophone!  At TLB Music, we teach young children how to play a scale on the xylophone using a simple song like “Doe a Deer”.  I highly recommend this toddler-friendly xylophone by Hohner.  It is fantastic because you can first use the colors as your guide (a color-coded song book is included) and as the children get older, they can begin to read the notes marked on the bars.  After mastering the scale on the xylophone, our students graduate to playing it on their own keyboards!

Click here to get the free activity sheet:  The C Major Scale on the Piano and Xylophone

Related piano activity sheets:
Notes C, D, and E on the Piano and Keyboard
Identifying C, D, and E
One Two Sheet Music for Piano (using notes C, D, E, F, and G)
C Major Scale Activity for Kids
Musical Spelling Activity Sheet (Level 1)
Musical Spelling Activity Sheet (Level 2)

Russian painter Wasilly Kandinsky is one of the best artists to introduce to young children. His works use lots of colorful shapes in abstract compositions, perfect for shape/color recognition and imaginative thinking. I incorporated several of his paintings in TLB Music‘s Winter/Spring curriculum, “Colors with Cozmo”.  Here are 12 of my favorite Kandinsky paintings for kids! First, identify the colors and shapes in each painting then ask children to tell you what they see in each one. After looking at the paintings, make sure to print my Kandinsky Coloring Activity for Kids!

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(Meeting the Banjo at TLB Music)

Music education at an early age stimulates the brain and can improve cognitive, motor, language, and social skills.  It’s also one of the most natural activities to enjoy with your child, starting with lullabies.   So, it’s no surprise that a music class is most often the choice for a baby or toddler’s first class!  At the Upper East Side music studio that I co-own with my best friend Katia, our classes target age-specific development goals through musical play and the benefits are apparent every day. Whether it’s a mother bonding with her baby while dancing in motion to a waltz, or a toddler learning words through song, or a 4-year-old understanding how to bow back and forth with their right hand while holding their violin’s fingerboard with their left hand- we see music stimulating and benefitting children in so many ways.

Here are four of my favorite places for kids to make music in NYC.

{Upper West Side & other locations} Creative Play for Kids  www.creativeplayforkids.com
This drop- in “Live Music Plus” class is developed for a mixed age group of 8 months – 4 years. “Different musicians rotate each week so children hear a different instrument each week! Classes include singing, dancing, playing music, stories, bubbles and an open play time!” Creative Play for Kids also offers a variety of creative classes in Battery Park, Tribeca, Chelsea, Williamsburg and the Financial District.

{Upper East Side} TLB Music  www.tlbmusic.com
This is my company- we’re a children’s music studio and indoor playspace! We offer music classes for kids ages 4 months – 6 years. Our talented teachers introduce our little students to almost every instrument of the orchestra…up close and personal, no microphones or concert-feel here.  Kids work on motor skills while playing along on age-appropriate instruments to every genre of music:  in class we play Classical, Jazz, Rock, Country, Folk, Broadway, Pop, music from around the world and more!

{Union Square & Brooklyn} Música Para Mi  www.musicaparami.com
“New York City’s original music-in-Spanish program, where children from infancy through age 3 and a half share the joy of music, dance, and the Spanish language with their families or caregivers, through weekly forty-five minute classes spent singing, dancing, playing percussion, and more, in a playful, supportive, total immersion environment.” 

{West Village} Baby Moves  www.perryschool.com/baby-moves/
Baby Moves, at the Perry School, has a variety of specialty baby classes- music, gym, art, cooking and more!  One of my favorites: “Bluegrass for Kids – Join this knee slapping Bluegrass music class for babies and toddlers! Sing along with Woody Guthrie, Dolly Parton, Earl Scruggs, The Dillards, Johnny Cash and more! Our talented bluegrass musicians will demonstrate instruments such as the banjo, mandolin, fiddle kazoos and guitar. They will even teach the little ones to play the washboard!”

*Look by location but don’t limit yourself! If you find a music studio you love that’s a bit of a schlep for you, see if they offer drop-in classes, Saturday classes, or ask if they can prorate your class package in case you can’t make it to class every week.

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Tablets can be great educational tools and, of course, entertainment devices for kids. They can also be great for staying in touch with relatives who live far away! My little nephew regularly Skypes with family in Argentina, Connecticut, North Carolina, and Rhode Island on my sister’s iPad. As his 2nd birthday approaches, I was thinking how, in only a couple years, my sister and brother-in-law will most likely be considering which tablet will be appropriate for him to use on his own. I started researching Amazon’s best-selling lists and websites like PCMAG.com and Consumer Reports to see what the best options are and compiled a list of the best-selling and best-reviewed tablets for children.

Not all supposedly “best-selling tablets” make great devices for children. For example, the iPad Mini is on many “tablets for kids” lists because of its small size but doesn’t seem like the best decision to me. With a price tag of over $300, dropping this tablet could be an expensive lesson to learn not to mention there are limited parental controls on this device.  Another example is the Fuhu NABI, a tablet designed just for kids that seems perfect on the surface,  but when you look further, its reviews tell a much different story. On Amazon alone, there are 414 customer reviews. Out of that number, 149 are 5 star reviews and an astounding 134 are 1 star reviews! One reviewer writes: “Zero customer support. Awful functionality. There is no way in the world I would EVER purchase another one. I can’t say enough negative about it.” Yikes!

So…on to the good stuff. Here are 9 kid-friendly tablets with links for you to check them out for yourselves on Amazon.

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Henry and the Hot Air Balloon (Music Classes): I finally finished my curriculum, “Henry and the Hot Air Balloon”, for TLB’s Fall music classes and am so excited to kick off the school year with this diverse program!  Our music classes follow a theme that changes every 4 months.  This theme’s concept is that we’ll be “flying” to a new country each week in class, meeting its music, culture, landscape, and animals.  Kids will listen to songs in different languages and be introduced to a full orchestra of classical instruments and a variety of world folk instruments.   The great part is that we target goals in each developmental phase as they’re simply having fun making music!  Some of the countries we’ll visit throughout the session:  Brazil, Nigeria, Austria, France, Australia, Russia, Mexico and Argentina.  Classes are available for kids ages 4 months – 6 years. Schedule/Registration Info

I ♥ Broadway: This drama class is for kids ages ages 4-6. It’s taught by our amazingly talented Playroom director, Chad. Students learn the plot and history of Broadway musicals in addition to choreography, singing, and acting! Schedule/Registration Info

Hip Hop 101 with Princess Superstar: Princess Superstar is a renowned rapper and DJ who has played in over 20 countries and worked with amazing musicians and producers! She’s designed a class for kids ages 3-6 and it is so much fun. Students learn about Hip Hop’s origins, write lyrics, practice rapping, dance, freestyle, learn slang and create beats with percussion instruments. I wrote about this class in detail here. Schedule/Registration Info

Let’s Gogh Art: Let’s Gogh Art offers mobile classes around the city and we’re excited to be hosting two of theirs this Fall. Munchkins and Masterpieces introduces students ages 2.5 – 4 years to works by great artists and uses their style as inspiration for unique art projects. Let’s Gogh Dance (ages 2.5-4) incorporates movement and story into this creative art class. Schedule/Registration Info

All classes are held on the Upper East Side at:

TLB Music
266 East 78th Street
(between 2nd and 3rd)
New York, NY 10075

I created this listening activity for our kids classes at TLB Music. The idea is to have children listen to three classical pieces of music, creating music-inspired art along with them, trying to capture the feel of each piece. We use crayons in class, but you can use a pencil, colored pens, markers, or whatever you’d like! The only information you need to give them before listening is the name of the piece, the composer and his country of origin, and the small talking points listed. When they’re done listening and completing their art, kids can cut out their three drawings to play the game. See if they can recall what each piece sounds like when you play shorts excerpts for them!

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This summer, my company, TLB Music, teamed up with renowned rapper and DJ Princess Superstar to create a Hip Hop 101 class for kids. The class is a fusion of Hip Hop dance, music and culture perfect for kids who like to dance, perform, and use their imagination.  I had the pleasure of sitting in on a class and it was SO much fun!  At the beginning of class, Princess Superstar helped students pick their rap names and made name tags for everyone. The kids chose adorable names like P-Flower, J-Star, and D-Heart, using their first initial and a symbol! Then, she taught the class some classic dance moves like The Robot, The Wave, The Moonwalk, and The Running Man. The kids were impressive- one student even pulled off a believable Moonwalk!

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Our children’s music studio and playroom is located in the heart of the Upper East Side.  We are surrounded by so many fantastic businesses that cater to families and in particular, young children.  We put together a list of some of our favorite places and classes for kids.
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Our students at TLB Music love playing the violin. They start plucking and bowing on 1/8 size violins as early as age two or three in class! These printable sheets are perfect for learning the parts of the violin. Click through for the activity sheets!

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This coloring sheet is perfect for practicing counting and identifying animals by color.
Click on images to enlarge, save, and print!

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We put together a list of 10 favorite children’s books in Spanish. Whether you’re raising a bilingual child or simply would like to introduce your kids to the Spanish language, these books are a great start to your biblioteca.
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These printable music activity sheets are perfect for piano lessons with young children.  First, learn where C, D, and E sit on the staff and then practice note recognition by searching for the indicated notes on each page. Click on each image to enlarge and print! Continue reading

These are some of the instruments we play in our children’s music classes at TLB Music in NYC.
The printable cards below are perfect for learning the names of the instruments and their families!

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