Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Singing With Children; Slow and Steady Wins the Race!

As we are all racing around trying to get a million things done, it's easy to forget the magic that can occur when we sing a simple song with our children. Young children are learning at an astounding pace, and the research tells us that the number of words a child knows upon entering kindergarten (vocabulary) is a leading indicator not only of later success in reading, but in graduating from high school! Songs are an incredible way for them to increase both their vocabulary, and their understanding of language. Melodies break words into syllables (phonemic awareness) and are packed with words we don't use every day (like curds and whey and water spout!). They have built-in patterns and repetition, building memory and increasing retention.   That's why it's so important songs are sung slowly enough that that children can hear the words, and then be able to sing along. Think about it. When you're having a conversation with a child, he is listening and you are talking. But when you sing, you are experiencing language together. It's an amazing thing! Of course children are just learning about all this language business, and as they begin to understand they can make sounds that are actual words, many children love to hear themselves sing every single syllable. It's all too easy for us as adults to sing so fast that our children can't keep up, and so are unable to participate. The first few years I sang with young two-year-olds, I (and the other teachers) didn't question the fact the the children weren't singing along. After all, they were only two! At some point I realized they needed time to process what I was singing, and what a huge part repetition played in that, as well as slow, deliberate singing. All you really have to do is take your cue from your child! Finger plays (like The Isty Bisty Spider) are a great way to pace your singing, as you will naturally slow down in order for your child to do the motions.

Just watching and being aware of your child's attempt to join you can "regulate" your speed. Slowing down your singing will allow your child to hear the syllables in the words, as well as their context and sentence structure, and give them the ability to sing along. Those little vocal muscles have to work harder than yours to keep up!

One more note...
We all have our favorite music to listen to, and my two young grandchildren love to dance to upbeat music just like all kids do But I intentionally also play simple children's music that has a melody and simple accompaniment so again, they can hear and replicate the words. My daughter validated this when she called me after a car trip with the kids and said, "Mother- your recording (Little Songs For Little Me) is brilliant!" Her son was trying very hard to sing along with every word, because he could. She had been playing faster music, and realized singing along at that pace wasn't even an option for him.  I made that recording twenty-five years ago, when I had just begun singing with children. I learned by watching them. And that's why I sang slowly. They taught me that, and pretty much everything else I've learned about singing with young children over the last thirty years.

So slow it down and enjoy the ride (and the song!). 

The Grand Experiment

Hello Friends!

After a short break in blog postings after the end of the fundraiser, it's time to get back in the saddle. As you know or can imagine, the fundraiser took most of my time, taking away from the time I could spend on the actual project. And now it's  time to take stock and access the project so far. The main goal, of course, was to raise funds to build the website which will be free to access and use. But there were some unintended benefits apart from the money raised, and as it turns out, they are every bit as important.

1. I connected with new families and reconnected with people I haven't seen or talked to in years- or even decades; people that are very important to me. For that I'm so grateful.

2. The fundraiser forced me to define and promote the project. I'm realizing now, that without it, I'm not sure how I would have gotten the word out. So that was invaluable.

3. Comments posted on the Indiegogo site and by people I met promoting it reaffirmed the need and hunger for this project. It reaffirmed this is the right place and the right time.

So even though as the fundraiser was going I felt I was neglecting the project, I see it inadvertently laid the groundwork I; we;  will need for success. And here's why the project will be successful:
Though there are many websites that have information on early learning and music, there are none that have the combination of resources all in one place for anyone to use; and none that include the unique live pilot project we are undertaking. No matter how much impact the pilot project has in the community, it will be hugely successful for providing a roadmap to other communities from the smallest detail to the general plan. So nothing we do here will be wasted. Every link in the community chain that runs from child to teacher to home to grandparent to church to far-flung family members will be documented in a way that has never been done. And you. the reader, will have this gift for the taking. So keep posted, join in, and take it all!

Here are 3 things you can do today to become part of the Sing With Our Kids Movement!

1. Join the mailing list at SingWithOurKids.com so you don't miss any website content or event!
2. Tell everyone you know about the project, and encourage teachers to use the website materials
3. Sing with your kids! Take those moments during the day when you're together, whether changing a diaper, riding in the car, pushing a stroller, at bathtime.... and just sing!