Monday, July 28, 2008

Small Things Speak Louder than You Think

A friend of mine recently ate at a rather glamourous restaurant. The food was pleasant, the ambience very nice indeed. The bill was commensurate with the ambience. Then she went to the bathroom.

No, I'm not about to "over share". The bathroom was clean and had the usual facilities. The toilet paper and dispenser of soap were... Coles homebrand.

There is nothing wrong with Coles home brand. But you expect something a bit more flash at that price point. There's a big dissonance or incongruity in a posh marble and chrome bathroom, with a little plastic Coles home-brand soap dispenser sitting on the vanity.

It's a simple - and probably sensible - attempt to reign in margins, something any successful restauranteur needs to do. Somehow it is easy to see this small thing as either "we didn't think" or "we don't care".

Inexpensive and attractive soap dispensers can be purchased from most homewares shops. All they had to do was buy one and decant the home brand into it. My friend's hands would probably have noticed that it was inexpensive soap, but she wouldn't have noted it as cheap soap.

As a result, this was the story my friend told about the restaurant. It sprang to mind today when I drove past the restaurant. I don't think that's what their Marketing Manager or Maitre d' wants me to be thinking.

On my last driving holiday in rural England, I found a way to get a good dinner was look for pubs covered with baskets of flowers. If the flowers were in good condition, the food was likely to be good. My theory was that any publican willing to climb a ladder to keep their flower baskets in good condition during high summer really cared - and that was the kitchen I wanted to eat out of.

Small things speak louder than you think.

What I'm loving at the moment...

Grimm's Magnetic Puzzles handcrafted from wood. (Mine is the spiral design.)

I bought mine at Honeybee in Malvern, VIC.

It's curiously soothing to play around with the pieces, which can be put together in a number of different ways. Freude durch Farbe (Happiness through Colour) indeed.

What does a baby get out of a music class?

The youngest child I ever had in class was a one week old. But I have had several who started Kindermusik Village around the 8 week mark.

The first 4 months of a child's life is all about INPUT. Like the fluoride in Colgate, it does get in Mrs Marsh. [That's a reference to an old ad, if you're under 30.] No, we can't see what the child is learning/getting out of class, but they're taking in the world.

Even asleep, they are absorbing rhythm and pitch. Most of all, they are absorbing the emotional flavour of the experience. We know from brain research that babies learn first through the limbic system, through emotion.

In a Kindermusik Family Time class, the baby is experiencing positive music making with its family. It is learning at the deepest possible level that music is something you do, not something you receive. Even if the baby is not conscious, it is still learning this. That's one of the most important things I want children to get out of KM - you can have music if you want it.

In a Kindermusik Vilalge class, the baby is experiencing positive music making with its mother, and a community of other babies (older and maybe younger). This baby is also learning that music is out there, it's something you can do. It's enjoyable. This baby is also learning that there are others like it in the world. It's a very positive experience of a peer group.

After 4 months, children become more EXPRESSIVE in their learning, so you start getting some OUTPUTS. At that point, you begin to see what the child has learned or 'got out of' Kindermusik from coming so young.

In my experience, the babies who attend young have excellent rhythm, they tend to carol and babble more freely and with a bigger range of sounds, they also tend to be more emotionally stable (at least at Kindermusik class). They feel safe in the space, and that is a great grounding for learning to build on later too.

The babies who come from their first weeks of life tend to respond to music more strongly - by jigging and waving their limbs, by copying the music with their voices or just by turning their head toward the sound when they hear it. So they are more
sensitised to music. They can actually pick it out of a range of sounds. I'm betting that means their hearing is better connected up than a child who hasn't done an early music and movement program.

I had a family who stopped coming at 4mths because, "the baby wasn't really getting anything out of it, she just lies there." They came back at 12 months, because the mum was playing the Village CD, and the track came on that we did the warm up
exercises to - the baby plonked herself on her bottom and began the cross lateral toe-touch in rhythm to the song. The Mum was astonished, she hadn't done that exercise with the child since they left KM (as she admitted to me, with a red face) yet her child remembered. Not consciously, but it was in there somewhere.

I remain a licensed Kindermusik educator, and have been a Mentor for Kindermusik International for several years.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Driven to Distraction?

Here's a link to a lovely article about the creative process - and indirectly about time management.

Article: Driven by Distraction

While I am (obviously) childless, I was moved and inspired by this piece.

A book by the author will be out in September, published by Melbourne University Press.