Early Childhood Music and Movement Association

ECMMA: Early Childhood Music and Movement Association

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Movement Matters

After many years of making music with children, Eve Kodiak, M.M., became interested in the brain/body processes that underlie the learning process. As an Educational Kinesiologist, she now works with people of all ages, using music and developmental movement to create positive change. Eve can be found in her office at The Lydian Center for Innovative Medicine in Cambridge, MA, or at home in New Hampshire, writing and recording. Her CD/book sets include Rappin' on the Reflexes and Feelin' Free, which combine developmental movements with songs, raps, and narrations with music. Eve also performs and records as an improvising classical pianist. More information and articles on music and developmental movement may be found at www.evekodiak.com.


The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily promote official policy of ECMMA.

The Power of Environment

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For those in the Boston area – I am giving a free talk Saturday, Feb. 1 at 11 AM at the Robbins Library in Arlington, MA, for TACA (Talk About Curing Autism) called “From Fight, Flight, Freeze! to Breathe, Smile, Move! How Simple Movements Can Transform Your Child.” 

The process of development is the process of internalizing an environment, from sperm and egg to the incomprehensibly complex human being we become. We start out inseparable from the amniotic fluid and the womb that surrounds us. The process of gestation is all about putting everything we need inside of us, so that we can eventually live live out in the air. Once we are born, our mothers and caregivers become our virtual wombs – nurturing, feeding, holding, supporting our growth to independence.

Environment never ceases to be important to us, no matter how old we grow. At any age, if our survival system reads something in our environment as dangerous, we may go into fight, flight, freeze!

This can happen in the womb, when chemicals we can’t deal with are introduced, or if our mother is frightened or injured. Often, those experiences in the womb are “red flagged” by the survival system. Anything similar we encounter once we are born can get the same all-out reflexive response. Traumatic experiences may be ever-after “read” as triggers for the survival system to go into action. The more triggers we have, and the more inter-connected these triggers are, the more reactive we tend to be.

Change the Water, Heal the Fish. To avoid triggering a reflexive stress response, it helps to keep the environment as peaceful as possible. This is true for any child, but special needs children tend to have more difficulty filtering out extraneous phenomena. Overwhelm can lead to survival stress and fight, flight, freeze!

We can be overwhelmed by things we can’t even see, like electro-magnetic fields (EMF’s). Environmental energy can confuse the natural communication system we have within ourselves. Even extremely low frequency (ELF) has a perceptible impact, especially over time.

So at home, turn things off when they are not in use. Don’t leave computers on all the time. Turn off the wifi at night – or use cables instead. Remove cell phones from the bedroom, or turn them completely off. Take the time to warm food up on the stove instead of zapping it in the microwave. Just a little bit too much stimulation can overload the survival system, and what might have been merely bothersome to a child instead triggers an all-out reflex response. So every microwave counts.

Creating a quiet visual and auditory environment helps. So often, children’s rooms are over-stimulating, with bright colors and lots of objects around. Natural objects, a muted auditory environment, soft textures and colors, not too much stuff around – all this helps keep the child out of vigilance. Plants actually emit frequencies that help ground us (our bodies were, after all, designed to be in nature – which means being around lots of plants all the time!)

It helps to avoid bringing children into over-stimulating environments. Grocery stores are some of the worst– the fluorescent lights, the hollow acoustics, the shelves of bright yet unattainable delicacies . . . We tend to assume that we have to take the kids shopping with us – and sometimes there are no other options. But assumptions tend to self-perpetuate. There may be other solutions, if we step back and think creatively.

And, as for the electronic devices– however convenient they seem to be for entertaining children and keeping them quiet - use them sparingly or not at all. These devices create survival stress, with their flashing lights, their beeping sounds, their flat screens that encourage the eyes – and therefore, the brain – to fixate on a tiny piece of the (unreal) world.

When children “play” with devices, they learn that all the answers come from outside themselves. Screens deliver compelling stories from which deviation seems impossible. But to grow the imagination – which builds the neural pathways necessary for self-regulation and executive functioning – children need space in which to wonder about things. 3-D multi-sensory environments, relationships with real living beings, whole-body movements – these are what encourage children to integrate reflexes and grow their brains.

The child’s most powerful environment is probably us. “Multi-tasking” has been disproved as a concept – it is simply a fast series of different single tasks. When we are on a device, we automatically negate our connection with anyone else. The attention we have for our devices is fundamentally different than our attention for washing the dishes, or folding laundry, or cooking – there is something about the screen that puts us into vigilance and keeps us riveted there. The openness of attention we have for children when we are with them matters. So at the store, in the classroom, on the playground, at home, be present.

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ECMMA is grateful for the ongoing sponsorship of our Supporting Businesses and Organizations. Please be sure to thank them for their efforts in supporting Early Childhood Music and Movement. Learn more about ECMMA Supporting Businesses.