Inclusion and wellbeing

Trouble with transitions in the early years? Sing a song about it.

Plus, how to make your own song for any occasion.
January 12, 2022
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In a rush? Here’s the quick run-down.

  • This story looks at how you can use singing in early education to make your day easier. It’ll help with everything from daily transitions to diaper changes.
  • As you’ll soon see, children’s brains are hardwired to respond well to singing. We’ll dive into why that is, and all the developmental benefits that come from it.
  • At the bottom, you’ll find a handy formula that will help you cook up a cute little song for any occasion, that you can use to help direct children and steer the mood in the room.

You probably still remember the clean-up song from when you were little. Or maybe it’s a lullaby your dad used to sing to you before bedtime.

All these years later, those melodies of our earliest years are still playing up in our heads.

That suggests that when you’re working with children, it’s worth taking a moment to appreciate the power of singing.

Singing can help regulate and calm your classroom, regulate children’s moods, and set the tempo for the day. It doesn’t matter if you’re ‘good’ at singing — as we’ve explored before, that’s a wonky grown-up idea in the first place. What matters most is that you’re trying. And if you give it a whirl, you’ll soon see how a song can make every day a little easier, and a little more fun.

In early education, singing isn’t a performance — it’s a teaching tool. And in this article, we’ll take a quick look at how to use it. You’ll learn why singing resonates so well with young children, when to use it, and how you can cook up a quick song to sing for any occasion.

Ready? Let’s dive in.

Boy playing ukulele, singing with his mother and sister

Why do songs connect so well with young children?

Young children’s brains are hard-wired to enjoy music. 

That makes singing a fun activity, of course. But it also means that singing is a particularly effective way of collecting children’s attention, and to help them settle into a good mood. As a transitional tool, music works with any age group, and it connects especially well with children who might not be vocal themselves, or who are learning English as a second language.

So before we look at how you can use singing in early education, let’s take a quick look at why it works so well in the first place.

  • Singing puts children in a good mood. From infancy, children respond well to cheery, sing-song tones. It’s no secret that music helps steer our emotions — but especially for children, it gives them another tool they can use to self-regulate their own feelings.
  • Singing helps everyone focus on a shared goal. When we’re singing together, we’re learning how to collaborate. It’s a natural way to get the whole room aligned on what you’re doing, and to connect that team-working experience with lots of positive feelings.
  • Singing builds up your relationships. The cooperative, rewarding experience of singing songs helps children get closer to one another, and to you. This closer relationship brings all sorts of developmental benefits for you and your children, even when you’re not singing.

That’s why clean-up time is more fun with a soundtrack.

The big ideas

Don’t worry about whether you’re ‘good’ at singing

If you’re not a very experienced vocalist, now might be the time where you start to think, “But I can’t sing!” 

Well, don’t worry. You can. Whether you’re ready to take the main stage at the Vienna State Opera is entirely beside the point.

I’ve explored before how children think about singing in a different way than us grown-ups. For them, singing is a form of creative play. They just don’t think about it in the critical sense of being ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ which is what keeps lots of us adults from singing.

So in case you’re feeling sing-shy, here are a couple points to keep in mind:

  • Singing is play, not performance. Children aren’t going to judge or critique your singing voice. What matters is that you’re doing it — not how you’re doing it.
  • Don’t say you’re a ‘bad’ singer. First of all, there’s no such thing. But even if there was, voicing that hesitation out loud is what plants that idea in children, which doesn’t help anyone.
  • Start by playing with your voice. If you don’t feel ready to tackle a whole song, you can start with little vocal exercises that will help you bring out that playful aspect of singing.

You can read the full story, and get all the best tips, right here.

Three key moments for song in early education

When you think about singing as a teaching tool, it’s easy to see its use reaches way beyond singalongs. 

That is to say, singing shouldn’t exist in the bubble of a designated ‘music time.’ Rather, you should weave it into your daily routines, and think about the ways that a little shared song can give a boost to the things you’re already doing each day. Having consistency is important — it gives children a sense of routine and predictability, which can be very calming and helps them self-regulate.

But what does “weaving it into your daily routines” really look like?

Here are three ways you can make more use of singing during your day:

  • During daily transitions. Whether you’re cleaning up after some loose parts play or suiting up for a romp outdoors, singing a song about the transition can help children adjust to the change, and know what’s coming next.
  • When you want to get everyone’s attention.  If you’d like to bring on a bit of calm, or collect everybody’s focus, a song is the perfect tool. Singing naturally joins children together — and by the end, you’ll all be settled and focused on the same thing.
  • During care routines. Especially when feeding, cleaning or diapering younger children, it can help to have a little song to go along with your routine. Sharing that helps make the moment more personal for the children, and that one-on-one moment  builds up your relationship together.

Girl playing ukelele

How to make your own song for any occasion

So, we’ve talked a lot about singing all day long. But what if you don’t know what to sing?

Well, that’s no problem. Here are three simple steps to cooking up a song for any occasion.

  1. Start with a song you know. This could be the chorus from the pop song that’s stuck in your head, or you could also pick a classic nursery rhyme. It’s just so you’ve got a template to use, to give you a bit of structure and a catchy rhythm. For this example, I’ll be using the chorus from Glen Campbell’s 1975 country classic, Rhinestone Cowboy.
  2. Come up with two sentences that rhyme. Let’s say we’re trying to get everybody settled down after outside play, and focused for a story. Here’s what I would sing to the chorus of Rhinestone Cowboy:
    ~ Now we’re coming in-side!
    ~ Nice and warm, on the floor, where we’ll meet for storytiiime.
  3. Clap to a simple beat, and sing your two sentences. This is the simple bit — clapping a rhythm draws children’s attention, and invites them to join in. Then, just sing your brand-new song to the beat. 

You might play around with the tempo, or add a few more lines if you feel like it. But two lines of rhyming song are an easy starting point that you can put into practice whenever you like. 

With these two rhyming lines, you’ve got a solid start to bringing more singing into your classroom, and enjoying all the developmental benefits that come with it.

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Please note: here at Famly we love sharing creative activities for you to try with the children at your setting, but you know them best. Take the time to consider adaptions you might need to make so these activities are accessible and developmentally appropriate for the children you work with. Just as you ordinarily would, conduct risk assessments for your children and your setting before undertaking new activities, and ensure you and your staff are following your own health and safety guidelines.

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