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Chatterbox Challenge 2012: Developing communication through singing


Kate Freeman, I CAN Communication Advisor, has written a blog for Chatterbox Challenge 2012, with tips for parents on developing children’s communication skills through singing and building this into everyday activities.

Kate says:

Nursery rhymes and songs have been sung for hundreds of years to entertain children, distract them or soothe them to sleep.  Singing to your baby or child also helps to develop their speech and language – from learning to pay attention and developing an enjoyment for listening to understanding about rhyme and developing prediction.

Even if you are not at all musical, singing can be a regular part of everyday routine – songs can be built around regular activities eg. In the bath (to the tune of “here we go round the Mulberry bush”), you could sing “This is the way we wash your face, wash your face, wash your face…..”.  Your child may well look forward to this as it becomes part of your routine and more predictable. It will also teach vocabulary as they will see the link between the action and the word as well as the part of the body.

Rhythm and rhyme are very important underlying skills for later literacy development.  If your child knows that “wall” rhymes with “fall” from the “Humpty Dumpty “ rhyme, they will find it easier to learn that if you change the first letter of a word, it can make a new one.

Singing can be used at any time of the day and you can even have a special song that goes with each everyday activity.  Adapting nursery rhymes or songs from the chart is quite easy and, as children get older they are quite likely to join in.

Songs that go particularly well with everyday activities are:

  • When dressing – “Heads, shoulders, knees and toes”
  • When out walking or in the car – “The wheels on the bus go round and round”
  • In the bath – “Row, row, row your boat gently down the stream”
  • Brushing teeth or hair – “This is the way we brush your hair”
  • Changing nappies – “Round and round the garden”
  • Putting on socks and shoes – “This little piggy goes to market”
  • Playing together –  “Horsey, horsey don’t you stop” or “Pat a cake”

For words to some of these rhymes and lots more, visit www.rhymes.org.uk, or www.nurseryrhymes4u.com.

Below is a list of the kind of songs that your baby/child is more likely to enjoy at different stages of language development.

Language level (and approximate age) Type of songs that are appropriate How singing can help
Before first words and not able to sit on their own (0-6 months) Songs which encourage your baby to look at you, or that you can help them move their hands to. Encourages your baby to look at you and listen to your voice.  Encourages attention to words and is an ideal bonding opportunity
Before first words and sitting alone (6-12 months) Songs that your child can copy the actions from and songs that make him/ her laugh “Round and round the garden”; “Row , row row, your boat”.  “this is the way the lady rides” ; “here sits the lord mayor” Encourages enjoyment in communication.  Helps link words with actions and starts to develop vocabulary
Using single words or joining two words together Songs that your child can copy words from, especially those which have an exciting end; action songs eg “This is the way we….”, Encourages the linking of words
Using more than two words in sentences Action songs with slightly more complicated words, phrases “Wind the bobbin up”; “one, two, three , four five, once I caught as fish alive” Develops narrative skills and extends sentences
In the year before formal schooling Songs that develop counting skills or that your child could sing on their own “The wheels on the bus” Teaches independence and develops confidence
Reception / Year 1 Counting songs eg. “five little speckled frogs”, “ten green bottles”, “Five little men in a flying saucer” Teaches vocabulary and concepts such as counting