February Friendship #7: Kids Can Be Friends with Music and Singing

Kids can be friends with music and singing. Is music part of your child’s day? Food is nutrition for bodies, and music is nutrition for brains. This excerpt is from an earlier post on the importance of music for children:

Wow, is there ever a lot of research on music for learning and brain development. A study from Germany’s University of Munster found that music in early childhood can actually enlarge parts of the brain and in the book, “This is Your Brain on Music, Daniel Levitin writes: “Music   enhances or changes certain neural circuits.”

importance of singing to kidsTo include music for your child, you do not have to have a great voice or play a musical instrument. Nearing his 90th birthday, Dick Van Dyke (Bert in Mary Poppins) advises, “Everyone should dance. And everyone should sing. People say, ‘Well, I can’t sing.’ Everybody can sing. That you do it badly is no reason not to sing.” When parents sing, kids listen with their hearts.

You don’t only have to sing known songs. Make up your own to fit a situation using familiar tunes, for example, instead of ants go marching, kids can go marching to the car, hurrah, hurrah. Singing is a great way to get kids’ attention so instead of saying something for the zillionth time, sing it! Songs are a way to remind kids without nagging. Kids know what to do when they hear the tidy-up song, or Raffi’s Brush Your Teeth. There are plenty of children’s bands and performers as well as other types of music for listening and singing along.

importance of music for kidsLife itself is based on rhythm: our heartbeats and breathing. Have you ever rocked a little one to sleep? That’s rhythm too. And have you noticed how kids will drum on anything? Again, rhythm. Tap the rhythm to a song with your child, clap hands, play finger games like Patty-cake. Set out the pots and pans and a wooden spoon. When you can’t stand the noise anymore, switch for something quieter like a thick phone book or mouse pad.

Besides singing, for some more music fun play favorite tunes and dance. Both music and movement encourage connections in the brain needed for math and language. Music has a system and wave patterns. Notes go up and down. So do numbers. There’s rhythm and spaces. Language has that too.

dancing outside in fall leavesMusic encourages careful listening and stretches memory. When we sing together we listen and watch others and pay close attention to social clues. We join together through our voices.

Instead of only being a play-of-the-day, could music be a play-of-the-month? Kids can be friends with music and singing for a lifetime. What are some ways to include music for your child?


Music, Songs, and Children’s Voices

Music, songs, and children’s voices are very much a part of Christmas so go ahead and do what the Grinch so hated: sing, sing, sing, sing. Even babies sing.

children's concertThere are lots of adult choirs entertaining at this time of year, but just this week, I heard kids singing at a school concert, in the shopping mall on the weekend, and for a seniors’ luncheon. Kids in kindergarten, preschool, and daycare have been practicing Christmas songs for weeks .We may have heard the songs gazillions of times, but to kids they are still new.

One of the easier songs for young kids to sing at Christmas time is Jingle Bells. The two words ‘jingle bells’ are repeated over and over and the ‘Hey’ is fun to sing even a few extra times. Santa Claus and Rudolph are familiar to kids and they like to sing about them. Frosty the Snowman has lots of verses but kids enjoy dancing around to the thumpity thump thumps. We Wish You A Merry Christmas is short, repetitive, and rhythmic. Not only can kids sing along, but they can also shake bells and tap on a container for a drum. Pots and pans and other things in the kitchen are not just good for cooking, but for playing along with a song.

Please don’t let concerns about your voice not being good enough stop you from singing with your kids. Singing together is another way of being together and many of us would give anything to hear the voice of a much loved and missed relative or friend just one more time. In the video below, a big family, with people of all ages sing together. Watch the baby’s whole arm taps in time with the music.

For all of us, music, songs, and children’s voices are a special note of the season. Words, notes, and harmonies weave a spell that will endure for decades and connect us to family, friends, and strangers around the world. Many of the songs we hear have been enjoyed by people for hundreds of years and there are versions in dozens of languages. They have become associated with all the excitement and magic. What songs are favorites for your family?

Art Fun: Musical Activities For Kids

Sometimes parents are reluctant to include musical activities for kids because they don’t think they sing well, know enough, or might do something wrong. These issues may hold them back from sharing wonderful experiences with kids. Do you have any of these concerns? Would you be surprised to learn that it’s okay if you don’t have a great voice or don’t play an instrument? Yes, you can still share musical activities with kids. While children need a variety of musical activities to build important brain pathways, they also need to create memories of a sound they will remember in their hearts—the voice of a parent.

musical activities for kidsOne of the first musical activities for parents and caregivers is to sing to children, especially lullabies.  Even simple songs are very complex. Did you know that brains need to coordinate about 100 muscles in order to sing? Plus, minds need to remember words and tunes.

In the video below it’s possible to see what happens during singing. Professor Johnson from the Beckman Institute sings “If I Only Had A Brain.” This only shows the body not the brain activity. If singing doesn’t come easy for you, it’s no wonder, because it’s really pretty complicated! Adults often share songs they remember from their childhoods like Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, The Eensey Weensy (or Itsy Bitsy) Spider, The Wheels on the Bus, The Bear Went Over the Mountain, and others. There are versions for these in dozens and dozens of languages. Do you have some favorites?

musical activities for kidsIf you are hesitant to sing, choose a song that is very familiar. For well-known and popular songs, you can probably find the tunes on line and sing along to the music. Try using different sounds to your voice, such as singing in a little bug’s voice, a monster’s big, deep voice, a witch’s voice, or an animal’s voice. Once you have tried singing in a great variety of silly, strange voices, your own normal one will sound much better. For fun, sing in a ghost’s voice—that’s one that doesn’t make any noise at all, only the mouth moves. After all, if we can’t see a ghost, we can’t hear one either.

Besides singing regular songs, make up ones for what you and your child are doing. Use tunes like Here We Go ‘Round the Mulberry Bush and change the words: This is the way that we wash a face, or Here we go to the grocery store, etc. Instead of telling kids for the zillionth time to get ready to go, you could try singing We’ve got to hurry or we’ll be late. Sometimes, the change of tactic is quite effective.

When it comes to singing with kids, they listen with their hearts as well as their ears. What songs can you and your child sing today?

What Makes Childhood Magical? Part 11: Singing

Sitting around a campfire and singing makes for magical moments and memories, but families can create that magic anytime. That includes lullabies, silly songs, songs to help when scared or sad, action songs, and more. Plus, songs can happen anywhere. Just in case you think songs are ordinary, here’s some proof. One is a video … Continue reading What Makes Childhood Magical? Part 11: Singing

Goodbye Winter, Hello Springtime Song For Fun & Learning

The weather here was so sunny and warm, it felt like time to sing. So we did, with a simple song that celebrates spring and warm weather. Did you know that singing is more than fun? It supports many aspects of early learning, kindergarten readiness, and life skills. But first here’s the song, to the … Continue reading Goodbye Winter, Hello Springtime Song For Fun & Learning

Campfire Songs Boost Kindergarten Readiness

Sitting around the campfire and singing is a favorite activity at camps for kids but families can do it too for great fun and memories plus it boosts kindergarten readiness. Music has a powerful impact on children’s early development because it stimulates connections in the brain and singing is part of music. Following is a … Continue reading Campfire Songs Boost Kindergarten Readiness

Kindergarten Readiness – Christmas Songs and Music

With all the Christmas music playing everywhere, we may as well take advantage of it, have fun, and encourage some kindergarten readiness and learning. New research is showing the profound impact that music is having on children, even before birth. Hearing music encourages the creation of pathways and connections needed to learn language. After birth, … Continue reading Kindergarten Readiness – Christmas Songs and Music

Kindergarten Readiness: Halloween Learning & Fun – Singing

Counting today, there are just 10 days left before Halloween to sing some simple songs for learning, fun and to help develop your child’s kindergarten readiness. These two songs can have as many verses as you can think of so kids can sing them over and over and over. Just what you want to hear–not. … Continue reading Kindergarten Readiness: Halloween Learning & Fun – Singing

Some Handy Ideas for Kindergarten Readiness: Singing

Another handy idea for encouraging your child’s kindergarten readiness is singing. A hand song that is loved by kids is, of course, The Hokey Pokey: You put your right hand in, you put your right hand out… Do you know the song If You’re Happy and You Know It? The first verse goes: If you’re … Continue reading Some Handy Ideas for Kindergarten Readiness: Singing

Kindergarten Readiness Rocks! Rockstar Fun and Learning

Kindergarten readiness is really rocking. Singing is fun for kids and it is a great learning activity. It supports learning and readiness in several ways: promotes language fluency and acquiring new words stimulates brain connections and development for patterns exercises remembering skills for words, tune, patterns, etc. helps for learning math by using a system … Continue reading Kindergarten Readiness Rocks! Rockstar Fun and Learning