A recent study has shown that a quarter of parents never sing with their children, which we think is very surprising.
Signing (and dancing) with your child brings with it many psychological and neurological benefits. We’ve teamed up with Developmental Psychologist Dr Sam Wass (from Channel 4’s Secret Life of a Four Year Old), to bring you 10 Top Tips to engage your child with music:
1) Let your child choose the music!
Research suggests that children learn best in situations where they are allowed to make their own choices. The more control that a child has over a situation, the better they learn. As adults, we have to spend so much time telling our children what to do. But choosing the music is a great opportunity to let the child be in charge, for a change!
2) Don’t worry if your child wants to listen to the same song, over and over again.
Almost everyone can remember, when they were young as a child, having the urge to listen to the same song, over and over again. If your child wants to do this – go along with it! There is actually a reason, in brain terms, why children want to do this. This is because, when we are born, our brains are wired very chaotically – as we get older, the right connections gradually start to form. Listening to the same song again and again may help create some kind of stability in the brain, which can help more stable, and better organised, patterns of wiring to develop.
3) Make sure your child plays a staring role in the music!
Children love things that feel relevant to them. Try replacing particular words in the song with their name. They will love that!
4) Sing along with your child.
We learn by watching, and imitating, others. Singing along to music with your child will mean that they will copy your singing, and learn from you. You don’t have to try to teach them – just let rip and they will follow!
5) Dance with your child.
Research suggests that even babies, who have never been taught, still naturally move and sway to music. It’s often hard to stop children dancing to music they love. This can be a great opportunity to be silly, and to have fun, with your child – to show them that you are capable of having fun too, and not just telling them what to do all of the time! It’s also worth, as a game, trying to copy your child’s movement patterns as they dance. This can help them to gain self-awareness of how they move when they dance, which helps them to gain motor skills.
6) Use music to regulate your child’s mood.
When we listen to fast-paced music, our heart naturally beats faster. When we listen to slow-paced music, our heart slows down. This is why we put on fast music in the morning, when we want to wake up, and sing slow-paced lullabies to children when we want them to sleep. Don’t be scared to use music to help to change your child’s mood when you want to.
There’s another thing that’s important, too, here - which is that children (some in particular) naturally yo-yo in terms of their mood – they are often either really up and excited, or sad. Putting on music with a regular beat (in a car journey, say) can help your child stay in a constant mood, and help avoid upsets during a long car journey. And quickly putting on a track just as they’re starting to get upset is often the best way of helping them to calm down.
7) Use particular songs at particular times of day.
Children love familiarity, and children’s body rhythms respond to different types of music. Singing a particular, calming song every night at bedtime can help a child feel safe, and relaxed. Similarly, it can help to use songs to mark particular times of day – such as using a particular song to get dressed to. Using music in this way, particularly if it is done regularly, can help children to learn sequences of actions by pairing them with particular songs.
8) Play songs with a strong narrative.
Playing songs with a strong narrative can encourage children to listen to songs all the way through – which is a great way of encouraging them to concentrate for longer periods. And it also provides a story for you to discuss, and to talk about with your child afterwards.
9) Listen to the language in songs.
Sometimes, just try reciting just the lyrics to a song, without the accompanying melody. This can be a great way to teach children about metre in spoken language, and rhyme.
10) Let your child listen to music alone, as well as with others.
Sharing music with your child can be fantastic fun, but it’s also a good idea to let a child listen to music on their own, sometimes, too. Some children, particularly those growing up in houses with lots of brothers and sisters, get very little ‘me’ time, when they can sit and think on their own. Try investing in some headphones for your child, dusting off an old iPod, filling it up with music, and making it your child’s own. They will love that!
By Dr Sam Wass, Investigator Scientist at the Medical Research Council Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit in Cambridge. Dr Sam Wass is supporting Nick Jr.’s nationwide Sing-Along Summer Tour which gives budding young singers the chance sing on national TV.
For more information visit nickjr.co.uk/singalongsummer