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The First Acquired Language: Music

Mishael discovering the guitar in his first months

A pair of deep brown eyes stare into mine already so full of love and trust, and although I’m not sure I deserve such love and trust, they continue to gaze into mine and I am speechless.

Let’s rewind one year. Here I am. First time mom with a new born baby boy in my arms. I couldn’t be happier and also more humbled. Being in the child care field for so many years and working mostly with infants I assumed having my own would be a piece of cake. Wrong.

Sure I already knew how to change a diaper and understand baby babble but what do I do with a newborn that, well, really just lays there and looks at me?


I rested my son, Mishael, on the living room floor and crossed my legs next to him with an acoustic guitar. Delicately, I strummed chords and sang softly. He seemed pleasantly content and at peace. The next day I let him rest in the living room again as I played and sung to him. The next day as well as the next, I did the same.

Finally, a smile. Before I would even begin to play, Mishael would grin at the sight of me grasping the guitar from its stand.

And then a coo and a hum. He was not only excited when he caught glimpse of the guitar but he had acquired a unique singing voice.

Next a wave of the arm and a shake of the leg. As Mishael’s excitement grew every time I brought out the guitar, his body began to move and wiggle as well.

Music is a language he identifies with. It provides him a way of expressing himself as his vocabulary grows. It wasn’t long after incorporating music continually throughout the day that his expressions grew into many. His babbling grew into words. His waves became clapping. And his legs began bouncing to the rhythm of a song.


Mishael has developed emotionally, cognitively and physically due to music.

I truly believe that every child can make meaning of the world in their own way through music some way or another. And it doesn’t have to be with an acoustic guitar either. Here is a short list of some places nearby that my son and I love to go every week. They will provide your child with a wonderful start in music and you might just learn a thing or two as well!


Baby Time @ New Westminster Public Library. Fridays at 10:15am (no charge)

Pre-school story time @ New Westminster Public Library. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday at 10:15am (no charge)

Mini Music ages 0-5 @ Music Box. Fridays at 10am and 11am (no charge)

Music Kids Daycare @ Top floor of River Market. Occasional and flexible child care, music focused. Monday-Friday 9am-5pm. (Charges apply)

 -Kimberly Ngugi is co-owner & manager of Music Kids Daycare at the River Market, a new flexible music daycare by Music Box. After completing her Early childhood education certificate and diploma specializing in infant/toddler and special needs care, Kimberly has enjoyed many years of experience teaching children in a variety of settings from daycare, junior kindergarten and pre-school internationally in Kenya. Kimberly is passionate in creating environments for children to make meaning of the world on their own with room to create, imagine and discover. She also has special education in teaching English as a second language and music.  She lives in New Westminster with her husband and 1 year old son.

Do all children play?

Red elastic. Blue elastic. Green elastic. Yellow elastic. Tiny fingers working diligently to wrap band around band until their labours have produced a brilliant and vibrant coloured ball. Believe it or not, if you wrap enough elastic bands around themselves with a couple polythene bags intertwined, it will create a ball durabUntitled1le enough to kick around as a soccer ball.  A clever skill I learned while living in rural Kenya for three
After working in child care for many years and seeing the endless amount of plastic toys the children had to play with, it made me wonder if play was universal. Could children living in the uttermost poor and rural environments still play like children exposed to plastic toys and IPad’s?

The idea of children living in a slum with mud walls to form a simple home and walking in streets of debris seemed to shout a loud, “NO!” Surely children do not play all over the world. But as I walked through the slums of Kenya interacting with the children there, my opinion began to change.

I found children making use of other’s garbage to create toys. I remember one young girl crouched on the ground biting her lip as she put all her concentration and efforts into tying a filthy string to a polythene bag that had been thrown out. I crouched next to her and asked what she was making.

“A kite,” she replied.

Sure enough, as she finished attaching strings to each side of the bag and a breeze passed by, the kite lifted into the air. With a cheerful giggle, the girl stood up and raced around with her kite.

Do all children play? My heart and mind have been persuaded to say, “yes.”

My son & I taking a moment to explore on one of our walks.

My one-year-old son reminds me of these children every day. Like most of you, I’m sure, we have a toy box in our living room. It’s full of plastic toys, as I like to call them. Rarely do I find him playing with a single toy in it.

Instead he is eager to play with wooden spoons or to open every cupboard in the kitchen and discover a toy box of pots, pans and Tupperware’s.   When we go to the park, I pack the diaper bag full of toys and every time I fail to unpack even one of them as he much prefers to play with the leaves, sticks and rocks. I’m sure many of you can identify.

Real. Authentic. Natural. My son will choose a real adult-like spoon over his small plastic spoon. He will choose to play with a stick over a plastic car. He prefers to watch real fish in a pond than play with his plastic fish that flash and play music.

Do all children play? I’ve determined whether children are exposed to manufactured toys or left to imagine what they can create with the natural items around them, it is an outstanding YES.

After working with children for many years and studying the way they play and learn, I couldn’t be more excited to have just opened Music Kids Daycare at the river market by the New Westminster Quay. Founded with Reggio Emilia philosophies from Italy, children are exposed to real, authentic, natural items.

I believe every child is competent and should be treated so. Every child discovers and understands differently from another and I truly desire to provide an environment that allows a child to make meaning of the world in their own way.

Do all children play? Even in the uttermost poor and rural environments? I have no other word to answer with but “yes.” Let’s replace the plastic with natural, the manufactured with authentic and provide our children with an atmosphere that encourages creativity, imagination and understanding.

Clinton, age 3, discovering that he can still draw a picture in the dirt with a stick even though he lacks paper and felts.
Clinton, age 3, discovering that he can still draw a picture in the dirt with a stick even though he lacks paper and felts.

-Kimberly Ngugi is co-owner & manager of Music Kids Daycare at the River Market, a new flexible music daycare by Music Box. After completing her Early childhood education certificate and diploma specializing in infant/toddler and special needs care, Kimberly has enjoyed many years of experience teaching children in a variety of settings from daycare, junior kindergarten and pre-school internationally in Kenya. Kimberly is passionate in creating environments for children to make meaning of the world on their own with room to create, imagine and discover. She also has special education in teaching English as a second language and music.  She lives in New Westminster with her husband and 1 year old son.

Summer Bucket List

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Now that school is out and summer is in full swing…. I decided to do something fun with my oldest to help make the most of our summer! Having a very energetic 3 1/2 year old and a 5 month old who I’m sure will be just as full as energy as his brother, we need to get outside often! So the idea of making a Summer Bucket List sounded like a great idea! I had seen the idea on pinterest a while ago and  figured he is old enough to help create one with me! So I grabbed a poster board, some markers and stickers and away we went!  I did have to prompt my son a bit, but I’m sure older kids will have no trouble coming up with ideas!

We decided to do the poster and put it up in our kitchen so we can easily see it and keep track; my sister in law did it with popsicle sticks in a jar and they just pick one as they go along! You really can do it however you want!! And the best part is you don’t have to be overly crafty to do it!! You just have to come up with ideas to make Summer 2015 a memorable one!

Our bucket list includes: go to a spray park, visit the petting zoo, go to science world, go to the aquarium, go to the zoo, watch fireworks, go for a hike, go camping, go for ice cream, go to a movie in the park, go to the beach, have a picnic for supper etc. We haven’t had it up for 2 weeks yet and we already have 8 checked off! Seeing the excitement on my son’s face when he checks it off is just priceless!

How lucky are we to live in such an amazing place where we can experience these things in our own backyard or on a day trip?!? More than half of the items on our list can be done in New West which is just another reason why I love this city so much!


Common Music Lesson Questions Answered

Please enjoy these answers to a handful of common questions I hear as a piano & music teacher from parents & adult students curious about music lessons… 


Q. What about my 3 year old? 

A. Everyone believes their 3 year old is a genius (mine certainly is 🙂 There are always exceptions of course, but generally private music instrument lessons are best waited until recommended ages found in my Parent Guide. However, most music teachers are happy to give a short assessment of your child and will give recommendations for appropriate instruments and how much longer (if needed) to wait before starting on an instrument.

Q. What are most teachers looking for in music instrument readiness (regardless of instrument)? 

A. Universal of all instruments; Recognition of letters A-G and basic numbers 1-4 (no need to be writing or reading yet, however writing is preferred to have begun), Left and Right hand distinction, a particular level of fine motor skills is expected depending on the instrument (can they touch each of their fingers individually to the thumb? do up a button?), ability to listen, respond and follow instruction, genuine interest in music (do they like to sing or dance?).

Q. How do you know if it is the right instrument? 

A. Please see our Parents Guide. Generally if they meet the minimum age, show an interest and meet any physical requirements they are good to begin. To note: Sometimes, the minimum recommended age is still too young for the particular child (could be for any number of reasons such as maturity, behaviour, physical size, etc). If you are curious if it is a good time for your child but are not sure, it never hurts to get a professional music teacher to assess them and give their opinion.

Q. My child has been told to wait to start private music study – what should we do in the meantime? 

A. Parent led singing and musical activities at home are the number 1 best thing. Sing, sing, sing, dance and play music of all kinds in the house, oh and sing. Having small musical instruments around the house mixed in with their toys – egg shakers, maracas, keyboards, xylophones, recorders, drums and more encourage your son or daughter to make up songs as a play activity or jam along with the radio – aiding natural rhythmic and melodic development in a fun way. General Group Music Lessons are also instrumental in preparing children for school readiness – learning to be a part of a group, following direction and more. There are many different systems for Group Music Lessons, Suzuki, Kodaly, Kindermusik, Music Together, to name a few. We love our Music Kids Club – it is a perfect bridge to instrument learning and a wonderful supplement music program for those entering or in preschool or kindergarten.

Q. My child has a disability, can they still take lessons? 

A. Yes, most definitely. Music teachers (speaking at least of our studio) are generally familiar with working with children of different abilities, will often have special training or experience with different abilities such as blindness, autism, arthritis, speech impediments, hearing loss, MS, and more. Music training can be both therapeutic and highly successful with people of any ability, creating wonderful musicians, performers and teachers.

Q. What about group instrument lessons? 

A. Group Piano, Voice or Guitar lessons can be a wonderful and cost effective way to begin an instrument. However after the fundamental basics are learnt, immediate entry into Private Lessons is necessary as long term group classes can no longer keep stride with all learning styles, learning speeds and individual development and should not replace private study. Instead I reccomend Individualized Instruction where the student can grow at their own pace in private lessons and then bring their skills to activities such as Choirs, Bands, Ear Training Classes and Performance Groups as they provide excellent training and social elements. Music is meant to be played and performed in community after all 🙂

Q. My son is 6 and wants to learn piano but I still don’t think he’s ready for lessons yet. Should I still put him in? 

A. No. Wait until you think he is ready. Parents know best, if you have reason to believe he wouldn’t do as well now as in a year or 6 months, there is no need to rush it.

Q. Is it ever too late? 

A. No, not at all. Do not worry – starting piano at 7 instead of 4, or 30 instead of 4, or 74 instead of 4, is not a problem. The most important factor to success in music is starting and persisting, regardless of age. 


Do you have a music q? You can reach me at or

Enjoy music!


-Vashti Fairbairn is a local New West music and piano teacher, wife, mother, owner of Music Box New Westminster’s Music Academy at the River Market & a new Second location to serve you at 630 Carnarvon. You can learn more about raising your children musically at

Children’s Right to Play

(From First Call:)
In this working paper, Children’s right to play: An examination of the importance of play in the lives of children worldwide, Wendy Russell and Stuart Lester of the UK’s University of Gloucestershire discuss why play is fundamental to the health and well-being of children.
They argue that both state signatories to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Article 31 of which enshrines the right to play) and adults generally should take seriously the importance of providing suitable conditions for children to play. In the words of Gordon Burghardt, quoted in the working paper, “The problem of defining play and its role is one of the greatest challenges facing neuroscience, behavioural biology, psychology, education and the social sciences generally… only when we understand the nature of play will we be able to understand how to better shape the destinies of human societies in a mutually dependent world, the future of our species, and perhaps even the fate of the biosphere itself.”
Read the paper here.

Physical Activity Promotion and Childhood Obesity Prevention Survey

 (From First Call:)
The School of Exercise Science, Physical and Health Education at the University of Victoria has launched an online survey about physical activity promotion and obesity prevention activities, targeting children 0-5. They have been tasked by the Ministry of Health to identify programs that are in use in BC. The survey should take about 5 minutes.
It is important to note that the survey is anonymous; no data will be presented individually and none of the information gathered will be used for research or research publications. It will be used solely for decision-making.

Early Intervention: An Early Parent/Child Development Framework for British Columbia

From CRRU:

Early Intervention: An Early Parent/Child Development Framework for British Columbia

From BC Association of Family Resource Programs – FRP-BC is pleased to send you a link to a Social Innovation Discussion Paper, Early Intervention: An Early Parent/Child Development Framework for British Columbia.  This paper, developed and endorsed by the BC Association of Family Resource Programs, highlights parenting as the key factor to ensure children are ready for learning and life.  FRP-BC welcomes your feedback and comments.  Please feel free to distribute.  To obtain hard copies contact

Family Movie Fun Afternoon, and other resources

1. Family Movie Fun Afternoon:
March 19th, Olivet Church, 1:30 to 3:30pm–presented by the ECD PAC. Flyer: Familly Movie Afternoon.

2. Resources From BC Early Years Community Developers

Parenting and Brain Development:
FRP-BC – Recently the Maternal Newborn Child Health Promotion (MNCHP) Network published a Special Bulletin on Parenting and Brain Development providing a wealth of research and resources on the topic of parenting and brain development.  MNCHP is a network supported by the Best Start Resource Centre: Ontario’s Maternal Newborn and Early Child Development Resource Centre that supports service providers across the province of Ontario who are working on health promotion projects to improve the health of expectant parents and their young children.   Download the Special Bulletin here.

Power of Play:
Zero to Three – It’s good to be reminded of how important play is when you are stuck inside on a gray winter day!  Download this booklet to read the many ways play helps young children learn new skills, builds self-confidence, and strengthens relationships with the loving adults who join them in play.  Available in English and Spanish.

ECEBC Conference: Dedicated to Leading and Creating Change:
May 12 – 14, 2011
Radisson Hotel Vancouver Airport
Richmond BC

ECEBC is very pleased to present the 40th annual ECEBC Conference. “This year’s theme reflects the evolving nature of our field. Society continues to change and as individuals, families, and organizations, we observe, experience, and adapt accord­ing to our needs. … Change is inevitable and at ECEBC we are developing change in organizations and within our own practice. We are witnessing early childhood educators becoming leaders in communities across the province.”  Download the conference booklet here.

3. Resources From the Healthy Aboriginal Network
Living with FASD comic book:

Drawing Hope is a collection of five comics, based on stories told by members of the Whitecrow Village community. The stories are about struggling in school, the importance of friendships and receiving support from friends and family. A low resolution copy of the book may be previewed at The project was funded by the Victoria Foundation.