Singing in the early years

Kate Maines-Beasley's top tips

Health benefits:

When you sing, your brain releases serotonin, your happy chemical, so singing makes us feel good
Singing also increases blood flow and lung capacity
Some studies suggest that singing can increase levels of immunoglobin A which helps to strengthen your immune system and reduces risk of infection
When combined with movement or dance, singing can improves fitness and help to combat obesity
Singing can help to improve posture

Learning benefits:

Children love to sing, and when children are having fun they learn more
Singing with a child can empower them to be better learners in all other areas of their lives
It is easier to remember and retain information if it is put into a song
Singing to and with a child is one of the best ways to support them to learn new language
Singing helps children to develop a sense of beat which can also support language development
Singing improves all areas of communication; listening, body language, turn-taking, language, speech, gesture, respect for others and the self
Singing can support all areas of learning and development, as you can sing a song about absolutely anything
It costs nothing! We all have a voice and need no special tools or books to enjoy it

Social and emotional benefits:

Singing is a fantastic tool to express and vent emotion
Singing fosters individuality and improves self-esteem
Singing as part of a group promotes the ego-centric child to think about others and what others are interested in
A child singing as part of a group learns how to work with other people and have fun being part of the team
It helps with turn-taking and self-discipline as well as understanding other cultures and difference
Singing can also help to tackle racism and bullying

Children are born singing. They sing before they talk. Singing is a natural language for a lot of younger children, and they are fluent in it.
Check out this toddler singing the wheels on the bus. What do you notice about his singing?
I noticed that he sang this much slower than most adults would sing it, and that his movements were as important as the singing. It felt like his arms were propelling him through the song.

smile and enjoy

Show you enjoy singing and have fun.

This will engage your child for longer and make it more likely they will join in with you.

You also make a better sound when you smile.

slow down

Younger children’s brains need time to process new information.

In the north east we speak fast, and this fast pace often gets taken into our singing.

Listen out for your child singing a song to themselves. It is likely that they sing it much slower than you would as an adult.

Slowing right down makes it easier for your child to join in.

don’t pressure a child to sing, they will when they are ready

Do not worry if your child does not sing.

Their brains are processing such a lot of information as they watch and listen to you.

They will join in when they are ready.

repeat and repeat

When this video was taken, I had been singing along to this musical toy for a while. What you see and hear here, is about the tenth time around. Watch closely to see the differences between the first time and the second time around. Can you see how much more the girl is able to join in with the second time? Which words does she attempt? I am using Makaton signing which she is copying.

 

It’s essential to repeat songs to give children’s brains time to process the information, and work out if they
know the song you are singing
like it
would like to join in with you

Sing songs at least twice through, more if possible.

It is far better to choose one song with repeated sections and spend ten minutes enjoying making up new words, than it is to rattle through a song bag and sing ten different songs once each.

I like ‘little green frog’ and ‘in the ring‘  as they both have repeated sections with  ‘la, la, la’  in.

I am also using ‘in the ring’ a lot at the moment, and notice the two and three years olds will join in with the ‘la, la, la, la, la , la’ section first before any other parts of the song.

Your child will not get bored repeating the same songs unless you do!

sing clearly (enunciate)

Do your best to sing words clearly as this makes it easier for your child to copy you.

face-to-face with eye contact

Enjoy special bonding time with your child, by facing your child and looking into their eyes. Eye contact is one of the most basic elements of communication and singing to your child whilst holding their eye contact is an excellent way to support their early communication skills.

sing all day not just at song time

Your voice is your very own musical instruments and you carry it with you at all times. Use it! You can sing about anything, at any time, anywhere.

sing about what is happening now and next to support with routines

Take any simple tune and make it be your song about: brushing teeth, getting ready, eating dinner, bath time, any regular routines. London Bridge works well.

Try singing  ‘Time for us to…..’ and insert whatever you are doing, then simply repeat and repeat. This supports your child in their comprehension of an instruction and connecting language to a physical object or action.

incorporate actions, body language and gesture

Take a look at this boy’s response to Miss Polly Had a Dolly. He shows us his comprehension through body language and gesture, which comes before speech.

Movement is one of a child’s first languages

Body language makes up a huge part of our day-to-day communication with others.

Younger children must be enabled to explore their own body language and how to express themselves through this silent language.

Incorporate simple actions, or use Makaton to support your singing.

Your child may join in with the gestures or actions before they sing, and this should be valued as much as their verbal communication.