Music is a great way to enhance development in young children. Anyone can use music, whether they are parents, daycare providers, teachers, or therapists. One aspect of singing that is important with young children is vocal play. Vocal play can be used from infancy through preschool.
With babies, engaging in vocal play is very validating to them. Think of “motherese” and the natural lilting way that your voice changes when you speak lovingly to a baby. This is a natural way of speaking that enhances development. If they make noises at you, imitate them back. Make your noises sound like questions and answers. Have a “conversation” with them. It’s never too early to teach them how to have a real conversation someday. Don’t worry about feeling silly, babies love this!
With toddlers, you can play imitation games to work on listening and speech skills. For example, play a sort of my turn/your turn game with singing. Sing something easy like “la la”, using the first two pitches of “Ring around the Rosy”. You may need to tell them, “You sing: la la” Once they understand the game, use different word sounds, like “bee bo”, “da da”, “mi ma”, etc. Add different pitches and words for a fun vocal play game. You can also help toddlers feel validated as communicators by imitating the sounds or pitches that they initiate. Try using vocal play while riding in the car, waiting for dinner, or changing a diaper.
With preschool-aged children, use silly songs with rhymes to explore language. Songs like, “Down by the Bay” provide opportunities to learn about rhyming words. Kids can suggest animals, and you can help them come up with rhymes, even if they’re silly nonsense words. This kind of vocal play contributes to language and literacy development.
Enjoy singing with your child in a new way-try vocal play!