The power of music is undeniable. Music can soothe and calm, it can distract children during stressful or difficult moments, and it can also be exciting and stimulating and make kids want to dance! Toddlers enjoy music in a variety of ways, including moving to the rhythm, dancing, beating a drum, doing some of the actions, and even singing the words of familiar songs.Through songs, children learn about themselves and the world around them. Help your children feel comfortable singing, and give them a varied repertoire of beautiful songs that they can keep on singing for the rest of their lives. Self-expression through singing affords a child deep satisfaction and contentment.
It doesn’t matter what you sing or whether or not you can even carry a tune – your toddler will enjoy this time connecting with you!
Here are some simple tips to help make singing a learning experience for your toddler that will promote his communication and social skills:
- Sing about what catches your child’s interest: Whether it’s a “made-up” song or a well-known children’s tune, follow your child’s lead and sing something that encourages your child to participate with you.
- Be face to face: This allows your child to make eye contact with you, and learn from your facial expression, actions, and words.
- Sing slowly: This helps your child hear the words and learn the actions.
- Create opportunities for your child to participate: This will depend on your child’s age, stage of development, and interests. He could bang on a drum (or bang a wooden spoon on a kitchen pot!). He might enjoy doing some of the actions during the song. Or he may try to sing a few key words during the song. As children approach their third birthday, they will likely be able to sing many or all of the words of favourite, familiar songs.
- Pause and Wait: Once you know how your child might participate during the song, you can help him to do so by pausing and waiting during key moments in the song. A good place to pause and wait is at the end of the line of music. You can pause before you say the last word and see if your child can fill it in. For example, when singing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”, you might pause before saying “are” (“how I wonder what you…..”). If you wait and look expectantly at your child, he may try to say “are”. If not, you can fill it in for him after you have waited a long time. Maybe he’ll try next time.
- Help your toddler perform the actions in the song: If he can’t do it on his own, help your child do the actions in a song. You can take your child’s hands and help him do an action. However, if your child resists this or doesn’t enjoy it, do the action yourself and let your child participate in his own way.
- Substitute: For children who can sing many of the words in a song, try substituting a silly or different word in the song to catch your child’s attention. For example, you could sing “Old MacDonald had a zoo…”. If your child plays along, he can help you think of different zoo animals to insert in the song (eg. “and at his zoo he had a zebra…”).
- Repeat the song: Don’t be afraid to sing a song over and over again, if this is what your child wants. Young children often have favourite songs that they never tire of! This repetition helps them learn the lyrics and understand what the words mean.
- Use actions and facial expressions to help your child understand: Some children’s songs have complicated lyrics or new vocabulary for your child. To ensure your toddler understands what these words mean, use actions and facial expression when you sing to help clarify the meaning. You can also try to incorporate these new words into everyday life, to expose your child further to these words and help build understanding. For example, if your child enjoys the song “London Bridge” and “bridge” is a new word for your child, you could try building bridges out of blocks or Lego to reinforce the concept.
There are a few ways of enjoying music with your toddler. One way is to sing well-known children’s songs, like “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” or “Old MacDonald Had a Farm”. But another way to share music is to make up a song especially for your child.
Do you have a favorite song (familiar or made up) that you sing with your precious angel? Let us know in the comments below!