Reflections from Two of a Kind!

Here are some reflections from Two of a Kind, our June Artist of the Month. 
Two of a Kind

A couple of my favorite things happen in the month of June: Father’s Day, and the beginning of library summer reading programs.  As the father of twins (our sons Ari & Jason came after our name “Two of a Kind”!), I look forward to this holiday.  At one point, I looked around in vain for songs for Father’s Day, and so I decided to write one of my own.  However, I got a bit side-tracked, and I ended up writing a song about other species of dads, called Animal Dads.  This song features facts about cotton-top tamarins, emperor penguins, seahorses, and Darwin’s frogs – all species in which the dads play a special role.

I have also written songs celebrating various aspects of my experience of being a parent, including This Old Rocking Chair (a lullaby), Family Harmony (tracing the history of singing in my family), Think of it as an Adventure (when things go wrong on family vacations), Gotta Go (trouble getting out the door), I Have 2 Stomachs (our sons’ explanation for why they could be full but still have room for dessert), Are You Listening? (selective hearing), and (All I Have To Do Is) Scream (a parody of the Everly Brothers’ song about infants).

Every June, we start a summer full of summer reading program performances at libraries, and we particularly love this year’s theme of “Build a Better World”.  We’ll be doing lots of reading/library/book songs, including Tom Chapin’s Library Song,  Seven Nights to Read, Author, and Monty Harper’s Hangin’ Out with Heroes at the Library.  We’ll also be including lots of songs about making the world a better place, such as We’re All in this Together, Sally Rogers’ What Can One Little Person Do?, Bill Harley’s It’s a Long Way, The World is Not Your Garbage Can, Ruth Pelham’s Under One Sky, and of course Peter & Ellen Allard’s Building a Better World.  We also love including our song I Dig Reading, for the intersection between the reading themes and the literal take on “building”.

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Tips for Teaching Communication Skills to Kids

By Don MacMannis, Ph.D.Five angry kids

One of the most common challenges facing families today is how to communicate feelings in ways that help instead of hurt. Effective techniques are available, so it’s just a matter of learning these tools and putting them into practice. Whether it’s anger, hurt, fear, sadness, or guilt, research tells us that feelings want to come out.

Feelings held too long inside can result in withdrawal, depression, anxiety, low self-esteem and a whole rash of psychosomatic problems such as headaches, stomach aches, and difficulty sleeping. On the other hand, expressing feelings in hurtful ways such as with put-downs, meltdowns, sarcasm, withdrawal, or behavioral acting out can create great strains on our relationships.

There are at least five main ways that our children learn how to communicate: from the model of adults in the family interacting with one another, from the way that the adults communicate directly with them, from their relationships with brothers or sisters, from examples on TV and movies, and from how they interact with their peers.

Tips_blogsidebar_drmacSince sibling relationships are one of the most important templates for how kids get along with their peers, we urge parents to teach social skills to their kids and encourage healthy sibling relationships. Think of life inside the family as a laboratory for learning how to get along with others. Consider the following example:

Alex and Avery were eight-year-old twins referred for school problems. From an initial interview with the family, it was learned that Alex had gotten suspended from school for hitting. Avery suffered from social isolation and complained of having only one friend, adding that lots of kids teased her.

Asked whether her twin brother ever took her side when she was being teased, Avery exclaimed, “We don’t get along.” The rest of the family nodded in agreement, confirming that the kids were constantly at each other’s throats. A stone-cold silence entered the room.

Bickering between siblings, as with Avery and Alex, is one of the most common symptoms that arise from not having tools for working out feelings. One of our favorite lead-in questions is “Do you guys ever recycle or do you throw everything in the trash?” We’ll get affirmative answers around re-cycling things like bottles, cans and newspapers, and then follow up with “That’s great, but do you know how to recycle your relationship when things get strained?” The point of the question becomes obvious.

One of the conflict-resolution tools that we teach parents and kids is called “The Repair Kit.” It can provide an effective path toward forgiveness, conflict resolution, and bringing out the best in one another. Once acquired, this method can be used as frequently as needed to help things run more smoothly.

Repair Kit

Kids between the ages of 3-8 years old love to learn the fun and meaning of this process by first listening to “Talk It Out,” a song in the Happy Kids Songs album, Talking and Listening. It also helps if parents introduce kids to this tool as part of a family meeting, when things are going well. Explain that, “We know that broken things such as a flat tire need repair. We have also learned that when people aren’t acting in caring ways toward each other, something needs fixing.” The adults can first model how to do it, and then have each family member practice by initially “pretending” to be upset with one another about something. The “repair kit” can be used with kids as young as five or six. (Click here for more Happy Kids Songs)

If you’re thinking that you and your partner may need to do a few couple’s tune-ups with this process first, don’t be embarrassed! That’s often the case, and you can use the exact same model. We’ve taught it to thousands of couples as well.

After listening to the song and learning how to use the “repair kit”, Alex and Avery’s relationship improved dramatically. They talked to each other about things that had hurt each other’s feelings and made some agreements about how they were going to treat each other. Their mom also set up more play dates with peers as an additional way for them to practice their new social skills with some coaching.

We can’t overemphasize the importance of healthy communication. In happy, loving families, family members take time to check in and learn how to talk and listen to one another. They know how to repair hurt feelings instead of withdrawing or becoming hurtful to each other. As hard as connecting can be in the hurried pace of our day-to-day lives, quality communication is more important than ever.

About the Author

Don MacMannis, Ph.D. is a psychologist and Clinical Director of the Family Therapy Institute of Santa Barbara. He has specialized in the treatment of children and families for over forty years. “Dr. Mac” is the co-author of two highly acclaimed books: How’s Your Family Really Doing?: 10 Keys to a Happy Loving Family. and Who’s the Boss? The Win-Win Way to Parent Your Defiant Strong-Willed Child. Also specializing in creative projects for young children, he was music director and songwriter for the PBS hit series, Jay Jay the Jet Plane and has also written for Mutt & Stuff on Nick Jr. Most recently he produced Happy Kids Songs, an award-winning series of over fifty songs and activities for social and emotional learning.

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Why Shop at Songs for Teaching?

Reposting this article from last year as a friendly reminder.

Songs for TeachingWe know you have many choices as a consumer, and we here at Songs for Teaching want to win your business. So here are our top 10 reasons to shop at for your children’s educational music.

Number 10. We’ve done the research! – We know that you want the best for your buck. We preview all the cds listed on our site for the following criteria:
a. The music must be of high quality.
b. The content must be educationally useful and appropriate.
c. The production value must be professional quality.

Number 9. We provide music in a variety of formats Hard Copy CDs, Mp3 downloads, Videos, Sheet Music, Lyrics etc. Many of our songs even have teaching materials as well.

Number 8. We are on the up and up with current trends in Children’s Music. As Corporate Sponsors of Children’s Music Network, a consortium of musicians, educators, producers, songwriters etc., we connect regularly with other like-minded folks who are committed to bringing quality music to children. (If you haven’t heard of this organization, check it out and join!)

Number 7. Hard-to-Find Titles – We carry many items that never made it on to those “big dog” web sites. Some artists prefer to sell exclusively with Songs for Teaching! Looking for that folk song your grandmother used to sing? We probably have it!

Number 6. Lyrics, Lyrics, Lyrics – Nearly all of our products include lyrics. This is heaven for teachers who utilize lyrics as a teaching tool in the classroom. Lyrics matter and having a printable version saves teachers precious time and energy! Can’t get that from the big dogs!


Number 5. Recommendations – Not sure what to buy? Tired of searching among thousands of songs and cds on those “big dog” sites? We have recommendation pages for nearly every topic. Just click thenext to the topic of your choice on our Home Page and it will list out song suggestions for that topic.

Number 4. I answer the phone! – Customer Service is my favorite part of the job. I enjoy talking to parents and educators helping them with their orders or offering personal recommendations. I like email too! If you leave me a voicemail or email, I try my hardest to get back to you as soon as I can. You aren’t getting the customer service department, you are getting me – an educator, a parent, a musician and the owner of Songs for Teaching.

Number 3. We take Purchase Orders. – Simply fax in your signed purchase order (866-769-8528) and I will take it from there! I am happy to jump through whatever hoops required to become a “Preferred Vendor” for your organization.

Number 2. Support Small Businesses – While “shop local” doesn’t quite describe us, the sentiment is similar. We feel like we have a little shingle hung on the Main Street of the World Wide Web. We know it might be the trend to shop at one of those “big dogs” but this Mom and Pop are committed to helping you!

Number 1. We are Artists too! – We have been writing and recording educational music for years and really believe in its power as an incredible medium for education. Our ultimate goal to get quality educational music in the hands of parents and teachers.


David & Alice Burba,
Songs for Teaching Owners

Owners of Songs for Teaching

Making the Most of Circle Time: Mindfulness & Social Emotional Learning

This is a post from the blog of one of our new artists, Dr. Jeremy Jensen(see original post here; see Dr. Jensen’s music on Songs for Teaching here!)

kids in tubeCircle time has been the focus of much of my professional work.  Back in the early 2000’s, working as a music therapist, I spent countless hours creating songs and activity ideas for preschool and elementary teachers.  At the time, No Child Left Behind was driving much of the content and as a result most of these activities focused on basic language and academic skills.

Almost two decades later a lot of things have changed, including circle time. Designing circle time activities now, as a psychologist, I’m privy to the latest research that’s driving the Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Movement. These days supporting preschool readiness and early elementary success hinges less on letter and number concepts and much more on attention control and basic social skills (1).

Research in this area commonly refers to early SEL competencies as “gateway skills”, highlighting the critical importance of learning these skills first, as failure to do so can block further learning in all areas.  For example, young students who exhibit a higher degree of voluntary control of attention are more likely to exhibit stronger language development, academic learning, social functioning, emotional control, and impulse/behavioral control (2).  Similarly, even small improvements in the early development of executive skills, a key component of mindfulness, can promote substantial physical, psychological, and social gains realized later in life (3).

Many classrooms, as a result of this paradigm shift, are spending less time with the ABC song and more time focused on activities that specifically target SEL.  Four states in particular (Illinois, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and West Virginia) have already adopted comprehensive SEL standards in PreK-12 public education with many more likely to follow.

Mindful Youth Project incorporates new insights from the SEL movement into the songs and activities that engage young learners.  I want to support teachers and related service providers as they embark on developing a powerful new professional offering that holds the promise of not only support academic success but also personal wellbeing and stronger community ties.

Dr. Jensen’s projects come with songs, instrumentals, videos, picture books and lesson materials:

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1) Thompson, R. A., & Goodman, M. (2009). Development of self, relationships, and socioemotional competence: Foundations for early school success.  In O.A. Barbarin, & B.H. Wasik (Eds.), Handbook of child development and early education: Research to practice (147-171). New York, NY: Guilford Press.

2) Wass, S. V., Scerif, G., & Johnson, M. H. (2012). Training attentional control and working memory – is younger, better? Developmental Review, 32(4), 360-387.

3) Diamond, A. (2012). Activities and programs that improve children’s executive functions. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 21(5), 335-341.