When we sing with love and emotional connection with our babies and young children, they feel the emotional quality of the singing. We are intuitively teaching children to feel the music. Singing and music making involve the sharing of feelings and experiences, and the regulation of social behaviour. From the very beginning, singing is a way of communicating, offering comfort and security, as well as mutually satisfying and meaningful interactions, valuable to infant and parent alike. This kind of musical play brings parent and infant together as musical partners and helps to lay the foundation for the universals of human musical behaviour. Plato said we are moved by music and when we help children to feel the music, this is art at a very high level.
Young children love experimenting with their voice and this begins with the early calls and babbling of babies. Parents can nurture and validate these sounds by echoing their infant’s sounds through turn taking games. The infant discovers the power of communication and the sensation of using their singing voice. Whatever the infant sings, parents can echo these sounds. These echo games help to establish loving connection, listening, timing, turn taking, vocal exploration, rhythmic patterning and tuneful singing. Sing patterns using the voice to create glissandos, by sliding the voice up and down, and play singing games at bath time, bedtime – anytime. Make time for musical play with lots of facial expressions, smiling and laughing, and enjoy playing peek-a-boo games and tickle games. Create sound patterns using the voice, moving from high to low and back up to high.
If you are not sure how to sing in the appropriate key, using pitch/notes within the child’s pitch range, tune yourself in with quality sounding chime bars such as Angel resonator bells. These have the eight notes in the octave middle C to high C.
Sing scale songs. For older children sing up and down the numbers of the five note scale C – G, and the eight note scale C – C. Sing “up, up, up, up, up” (holding the fifth note to maintain attention), then “down, down, down, down, down”. For infants, sing up the five note scale from C – G using the words feet x 4, knees x 4, tummy x 4, shoulders x 4, head x 4, then back to feet, and repeat the song using it as a loving massage song with gentle, but deep pressure touch, using the palms of your hands.
Songs such as “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” can start on C. Extend the child’s pitch range by then starting this song on the note D. Start songs like “Old MacDonald” on the note F so that the low notes are not too low for the child’s voice. The young child’s vocal range is middle C-A. Encourage the higher singing voice.
We want children to experience their head voice/singing voice, rather than singing with their low, chest voice. Draw large WW shapes in the air and sing the shape. Make circular patterns in the air and sing these patterns. Make Fire Engine sounds. Sing the patterns in a child’s drawing or painting. Encourage them to sing you their drawing.
Make up three or four note patterns and copy the child’s patterns. Draw these patterns in the air, gradually drawing higher and higher so that the children sing higher and higher. Use a soft singing voice, never a shouting voice.
Sing beautiful story books such as “Brown Bear”. Repetition is the key to learning and helps children to develop a sense of timing and phrasing, an understanding of the sequencing of the story, and recognition of the overall form of the story.
Develop original musical thinking by creating songs about what you are doing. This helps children to develop skills in creating their own songs. Often a child will sing a song to support their drawing, painting, swinging, moving, or playing. We can help children to develop tuneful singing through regular use of nursery rhymes, predictable, simple folk songs, finger plays and action songs.
Sing, speak, move and play using musical form and expression. Explore steady beat through movement, song, chant and play. Play conducting games, and keep the beat using the rainbow ring to keep everyone in synchrony and to develop a sense of music community.
Use beautiful songs, dances, music games, props and musical experiences that nurture the musicality of young children. When we sing, dance, move and play musically with our children, we are laying the foundation of music for life, so that they in turn will nurture and sing to their own children.
© Julie Wylie, 3 September 2018