Rock me, baby

NEW YORK - If baby yoga seems so yesterday and Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star so last century, then the latest craze among New York parents is for you: Baby DJ School.

DJ, composer and playwright Natalie Elizabeth Weiss offers an eight-week programme to teach babies hip-hop, music mixing and air guitar.

And her clients? Professional families in Brooklyn, New York - one of the most competitive cities in the world where wealthy parents are notorious for lavishing cash and attention on their progeny's early development.

"Parents love it. They freak out. They all want to bring their friends. It's growing so quickly," Ms Weiss told AFP.

With songs such as That's Why Daddy Loves Disco and modern DJ equipment, she teaches tots under-three years old electro, hip-hop and house; how to spin vinyls, match beats and create funky samples.

"Baby DJ, put your hands up, put your hands up, up," raps Ms Weiss at the start of the lesson as five toddlers sit or stumble around in a vintage clothes and vinyl shop in Brooklyn.

Excited

Some smile and look excited. Their parents push their children's arms up and down in time to the beat.

"Baby DJ, you got to get up if you wanna get down," croons Ms Weiss.

She believes nursery rhymes, such as Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star and Baa, Baa, Black Sheep, are not challenging enough.

Instead, she teaches the infants rhythm and gives them the chance to mix songs.

"They're like geniuses. Just because they can't say what they're learning doesn't mean they aren't," she said.

The children love pressing the buttons and pushing the slider on her DJ deck, but in a 45-minute class, not all the kids look convinced at all times.

"Let's try the disco arm move," cries Ms Weiss, jabbing her arm diagonally into the air and down to the side.

One toddler picks his nose and another chucks a record on the floor.

But the parents are hooked, clapping to the beat and jiggling their hips.

Ms Alexis Langsfeld, mum to 20-month-old Ellie and part-time emergency physician, said: "It's kind of a combination of exploring the world, physics and music.

"This is much more like sliding and pushing, and it makes a lot of sense. You're using someone else's tools for them to make their own music. Ellie definitely gets her little moves on."

Ms Weiss, who has taught experimental electronic workshops to older children, got the Baby DJ School idea when she showed a friend's tot how her equipment works.

The boy is now one of the more enthusiastic class members. Ms Celeste Kidd, assistant professor of brain and cognitive sciences at the University of Rochester, said musical play offers young children a lot of potential.

She told AFP in an e-mail: "Young children are typically very good at identifying what sort of activities best suit their developmental needs.

"There is a lot of learning potential in musical play, including deejaying, if a kid shows interest and someone is willing to offer his or her equipment to a toddler."


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