by Danielle Schultz
As the most important people in a child’s life, parents play a large role in the early years by developing and fostering their child’s sense of self, creativity and intellectual growth. One way to begin developing these areas with your child is through music.
When you think about it, music is all around us. From the lullaby you sing at night, to the catchy jingles you hum hours after you’ve shut off the television, music impacts our lives every day. Parents can use this wonderful form of expression to develop many aspects of their child’s growth.
The first thought to dispel from your mind is that you have to have a wonderful voice to sing to your child. You don’t have to be a fabulous singer for your child to enjoy and learn from singing with you. You also don’t have to have a lengthy repertoire of songs to choose from to make your little one listen. Open up any Mother Goose story book and you will have songs and tunes for days on end.
The most obvious way of sharing music with your child is to sing to them and with them. If you know familiar children’s favorites, these usually go over well with small children. It is also a big hit to make up your own words to familiar tunes. For example, I change the words to “Lavender’s Blue, Dilly, Dilly” to “Oh, I love you, my sweet Lilly” for my youngest daughter Lillian. We’ve also used the tune of “Edelweiss” to serenade our older daughter “Isabelle, Isabelle, Mommy/Daddy loves you forever.”
Another way to share music with your child is to sit and listen to styles of music you enjoy. Exposing your child to various types of music will allow him to experience all sorts of new sounds and feelings. While you listen to the music, ask your child to move about or dance. Just watch and marvel as she moves her body with the rhythm and style.
Sharing finger plays with your child is a fun and educational way to pass the time while waiting anywhere. Finger plays such as “Itsy Bitsy Spider,” “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” and “Pat-a-Cake” are a few of the many childhood favorites.
Also, while you listen to music, talk about the different types of musical instruments you hear. If you have a musical instrument in the house (either adult or child-versions, or even homemade) use them to make music of your own with your child.
When you sing, listen to music, or do finger plays with your children, you are not only sharing quality time and having fun, but also developing the following skills: language, logic, aesthetic appreciation, reasoning, vocabulary, repetition, rhyming, listening, creativity, thinking, self-esteem, rhythm, free thinking, fine motor, gross motor, self-expression, social awareness, cooperation, individuality, hand-to-eye coordination, number recognition, letter recognition, body part recognition and more.
Allow your child to get creative with the songs that you sing together. You can get your child to really use those brain cells to make the songs more interesting. For example, we all know the hand movements to “The Itsy Bitsy Spider.” But how can your child adapt the hand movements and tone of voice to do “The Great Big Spider?” Or how about the “The Black Hairy Spider?”
Throughout the day you have many chances to share music and sing with your children. You might even find that you reduce your stress by using music at these times. You can even use certain songs as cues and help for your children at certain times of the day (just like the notorious “Clean Up” song that is sung by everyone’s favorite purple dinosaur at clean up time).
Great opportunities to sing with your children:
Getting ready in the morning
In the car
In the kitchen
Getting ready for bed
Any transition time
Waiting times anywhere
Times of stress for parent or child
Times child needs comfort
Sharing with your child is a good time for bonding and building of self-esteem. Singing with your child tells him:
“You are important to me.”
“I like spending time with you.”
“Being silly and creative is fun.”
“What you say is important.”
“You have good ideas.”
“I hear you.”
“I love you.”
Okay, so now you are inspired to sing on the way home with your child tonight. But you’re at a loss of “kiddy songs.” Here are a few old favorites to help you on your way. So sing, laugh and be happy. And along the way, your child will be even better for it.
“Mary Had a Little Lamb”
“The Alphabet Song”
“If You’re Happy and You Know It”
“The Itsy Bitsy Spider”
“I’m a Little Teapot”
“The Name Game”
“This Old Man”