Monday, October 21

Encouraging Speech with Songs, Rhymes & Puppets

In place of a Tot School lesson post this week, I want to share a little bit about the importance of music for your little one. Children LOVE music. When I taught first grade, I never had complaints from the kids when I decided to turn on the CD player. I used music to make cleaning up centers more enjoyable and I played classical music while they had journal time and right after they came back from P.E. (so they could calm down, of course). It was my go-to method for perking up a child and putting a pep in their step.

How can music help children learn language? Music is especially powerful for connecting and communicating. It can be incorporated throughout the day and help to bring language to life for your little learner. I don't claim to have any musical talents, whether it be an instrument or vocal. The good news is your child will enjoy the music and singing no matter what skills you have or don't have.

The music you choose doesn't have to be just children's songs (because I know how much you love having the "Wheels on the Bus" song stuck in your head). Classical music is great to have in the background as you and your child play, while you're cooking dinner, or during nap time. You can also play popular music...with child-friendly lyrics of course. Remember, you're trying to help them learn language, so play songs you're not afraid they'll suddenly repeat out in public one day.

While children love listening to music, they also enjoy making music. Instruments can be bought and just as easily made or improvised at home. Paper towel or toilet paper rolls with dried rice and beans, pots and pans, tupperware containers of different sizes turned over, coins in a bag, and the list goes on!

Make sure to include movement with the songs and rhymes as well. This can be a part of your everyday routine. Anything that you normally do with your child can always be put into song or turned into a rhyme. If you're going into the kitchen together to get a snack or something to drink, try hopping or skipping or marching instead. I'm not one to brag, but I consider myself quite talented at plugging words into the tune of a song that already exists. Do my songs always rhyme or fit into the tune perfectly? No, but that's not important. For example, I might plug some words into the "Hi, Ho" song of the seven dwarfs while marching to get a drink.

Hi, ho! Hi, ho! It's off to the fridge we go!
We play all day and get thirsty,
Hi, ho! Hi, ho! Hi, ho...

or maybe a little Wizard of Oz jingle while going to eat a meal...

We're off to go to the kitchen
The wonderful kitchen of mom!
Because, because, because, because, BECAUSE
Just think of the wonderful food she's made!

What else about music helps children with communication? You can teach about taking turns! It's helpful for children to learn that they don't just take turns when playing with their toys, but also when communicating. With music, you can get an interaction going and keep it going. It takes a little time, but once your child has heard a song enough times, they'll begin playing a part in completing the rhymes and initiating the singing. Over time, you can pause before finishing a line of a song or rhyme and wait for your child to finish (or make the hand motions for the next part).

To help your child take turns and also learn new words, remember these 4 things:
  1. Less is more. Shorter songs with familiar words are far better than longer songs with words your child might have trouble understanding. Also, don't hesitate to adjust words in songs so that your child better understands a song (for an example, see song #3 below).
  2. Emphasize important words. Sing them louder or slower or pause before singing the important word. "Twinkle, twinkle little....staaaar."
  3. Slow and steady. Sing at a pace that will allow your child to pick up on the words in the song. 
  4. Action! There's a reason so many children's songs naturally give way to movement. These visual representations help the child learn what a word means, invite the child to interact, and give the child a way to request a song when he/she cannot yet communicate verbally. For example, when Little Man wants to do "Ring Around the Rosie", he'll hold out both of his arms and start pulling me around in a circle. 
In addition to tip #4, you can also provide choice cards for songs. By holding up 2 pictures that each represent a song and reciting the name of the song as you hold up the corresponding picture, you can let your child choose which song (s)he wants to sing. 

For your convenience, I've created this small set of 8 picture cards from the 10 songs I listed below. I drew the cards myself so the pictures aren't clipart perfect, but I'm letting you use the cards for free so you can't beat that! I also didn't label which song each picture represents, but I think the pictures are pretty self-explantory ;-)

Set of 8 Song Choice Cards (black and white)
Set of 8 Song Choice Cards (colored)

1. "Humpty Dumpty"

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall. (Sit your child up on your knees.)
Humpty Dumpty had a great (Pause and wait..) ... fall!
(Bring your knees down quickly.)
All the king's horses and all the king's men
Couldn't put Humpty together again.

2. "Row, Row, Row Your Boat"

(Sit across from your child and join both hands, then rock back and forth as you sing the song.)
Row, row, row your boat
Gently down the stream.
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily
Life is but a dream.

3. "Head and Tummy" (a slight variation of Head and Shoulders)

Head and tummy
Knees and toes, knees and toes
Head and tummy
Knees and toes, knees and toes
Eyes and ears and mouth and nose.
Head and tummy
Knees and toes, knees and toes!

Point to the parts of the body as you sing the words.

4. "This Is the Way We Wash Our Face"
(Sing to the tune of "Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush")

This is the way we wash our face, wash our face, wash our face.
(Sing as you're washing your child's face)
This is the way we wash our face, so early in the morning
(or "before we go to bed")

You can change the words to this tune depending on the activity that you're doing (...brush your teeth, ...put on shoes, ...pick up toys, etc.) 

5. "If You're Happy and You Know It"

If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands. (clap, clap)
If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands. (clap, clap)
If you're happy and you know it, and you really want to show it,
If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands. (clap, clap)

Other verses:
...stomp your feet (stomp, stomp)
...spin in a circle (turn in place)
...shout "hooray!" (throw one or both hands in the air)
... do all 4! (do all the movements consecutively)

6. "Itsy, Bitsy Spider"

The itsy, bitsy spider climbed up the water spout.
(Make your fingers like a spider crawling up higher and higher)
Down came the rain and washed the spider out.
(Pull your hands apart and wiggle your fingers and you bring your hands down like rain falling)
Out came the sun and dried up all the rain.
(Put arms in a circle above your head to show the sun)
And the itsy, bitsy spider climbed up the spout again.
(Make your fingers like a spider crawling up higher and higher again)

7. "Old MacDonald Had a Farm"

Old MacDonald had a farm
Ee-eye, ee-eye, oh!
And on his farm he had a sheep
Ee-eye, ee-eye, oh!
With a baa, baa here
And a baa, baa there
Here a baa, there a baa
Everywhere a baa, baa
Old MacDonald had a farm
Ee-eye, ee-eye, oh!

Repeat with any other animals you choose. I recommend using puppets for this song. I use  from IKEA. You could also make an Old MacDonald refrigerator magnet game.

8. "Sleeping Bunnies"
(Child and parent like on floor with eyes closed, or just the child lies down with parent close by)

See the sleeping bunnies
Sleeping till it's noon
Come  and help us wake them
With this happy tune.
Oh, so still. Are they ill?
(Pause and wait)

Wake up, little bunnies and hop, hop, hop. (Jump up and hop)
Wake up, little bunnies and hop, hop, hop.
Wake up, little bunnies and stop, stop, stop. (Stop jumping)

9.  "Five Green and Speckled Frogs"

Five green and speckled frogs
Sitting on a speckled log (sit at a designated spot)
Eating some most delicious bugs..."Yum, yum!" (rub belly)
One jumped into the pool (jump into an imaginary pool)
Where it was nice and cool
Now there are four green, speckled frogs... "Ribbit, ribbit!"

(repeat for 4, 3, 2, 1)

Another option is using this story tube to get children involved in the song.

10. "The Wheels on the Bus"

The wheels on the bus go round and round, (roll one fist around the other)
Round and round, round and round.
The wheels on the bus go round and round,
All through the town.

The people on the bus go up and down...(sit your child on your knees and bump him/her up and down)
The door on the bus goes open and shut... (start with palms of hands together and then open and shut them)
The horn on the bus goes "Beep beep beep!" (Pretend you're honking a horn)
The babies on the bus go "Wah, wah, wah!" (Pretend to cry)
The mommies on the bus go "Sh, sh, sh!" (Put your finger to your lips)
The wipers on the bus go "Swish, swish, swish!" (make your hands go side to side like windshield wipers)

I hope you've found this post helpful and informative. I'd love to hear from you as well! How do you incorporate music into your child's day-to-day routine? Has anyone used music, rhymes, and puppets as a form of speech therapy? Does anyone have any additional tips they'd like to share?

As always, I'd love for you to follow along!
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  1. Found you at We Do Fun Here blog hop; I enjoyed reading this & can relate! My kids all love music, and the older ones will join in along with the little ones of the house. What fun to see the older children singing songs to, and with the younger children. :) ~~Caroline @ Anchored In His Grace

    1. Thanks so much for reading Caroline! That's so sweet that your older kids join in. I'm sure that makes the younger ones love it all the more :-)


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