Happy Mother’s Day!
In honor of this special day, I’d like to share some useful tips for using music with young children.
Repetition helps babies and young children learn.
Repeating songs over and over helps children not only learn the songs, but find comfort in knowing what to expect and practice early communication skills. Even though they can’t sing with us, singing repeated melodies to infants and toddlers helps them develop their social, cognitive, and communication skills.
Have you ever had a staring contest with an infant? Infants love to stare at faces and hear adults talk and sing to them. Singing or chanting repetitive songs helps infants learn to trust us and their environment. Infants need stability and familiarity, and we can all provide that through repetitive music! Do you have favorite song you have sung multiple times to your (or someone else’s) baby? Way to go! You helped that baby feel stable and learn how to trust.
Toddlers practice new skills through repetition. My 12 month old daughter loves to applaud after “The Itsy Bitsy Spider.” When I start to sing the song, she watches me quietly until the spider goes “up the spout again,” when she grins and claps. The simple act of singing The Itsy Bitsy Spider 4-5 times in a row every once in a while has turned into an exercise in waiting her turn, active listening, and communication. Pretty good for a 1 year old!
Even knowing the benefits of repetition, singing the same thing over and over can get boring. Here are some ways to keep it fun and engaging for both us and the kids:
Slightly change the lyrics.
Maybe the next spider is big and fat, super hungry, or very smelly. This trick works great with older children who want to suggest their own types of spiders, and with babies, it at least keeps us interested enough to sing it a few extra times before we get bored.
After singing it through the same way 2 or 3 times, suddenly pause in the middle of a phrase.
“Down came the rain and -” freeze! Stand still as a statue until the children respond. A baby may coo, giggle, or kick her feet after a brief silence. Reward that baby with a big smile for being so smart to recognize there was an interruption in the song. Will she pay even closer attention next time, waiting for the pause?
Change your volume or tempo.
What will the child do if you suddenly begin to sing in a whisper voice? What about if you speed up, or suddenly sing comically slow?
I hope these tips help you feel confident in your ability to use music with children. Try them out and leave a comment to let me know how it went, and get your extra bonus tip by subscribing to the Joyful Melodies email newsletters at the bottom of the page!