Sing…Sing a Song! How Singing Builds a Strong Foundation for Language in Babies and Toddlers

sing

This spring I’ve been involved in standardizing a new test for infants and toddlers which means I’ve met some fantastic new families and their typically developing babies.

One of the prompts on the test is asking mom (or dad or grandma – whoever is the caregiver during my visit!) to sing a familiar song or nursery rhyme to the baby to gauge his or her reaction.

Over the past several weeks, I’ve heard my share of standards:

Old MacDonald, Itsy Bitsy Spider, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and Patty Cake, to name a few.

But then something unexpected happened!

In all my years as an SLP, I’ve never heard variety and creativity like I did last week!

When asked to perform this task, a grandmother beautifully sang every note of “These are a few of my favorite things” to a set of squirmy twins who both stopped (momentarily anyway!) and listened to her rich tone. Me too! I haven’t heard that one in years!!

A few days later, a 20-something mom who’s also a special educator introduced me to,

“Uptown, funk it up. Uptown, funk it up.”

As she sang those words I wasn’t sure I understood…

But it didn’t matter,

Because her 6 month old was enraptured!

When I left that eval, I couldn’t wait to find this video on youtube! Catchy song! I do love Bruno Mars!

Later that same day, I asked a dad to show me a song or game his baby liked. He sang something like…”Jump-a baby jump-a! Jump-a baby jump-a! Now you up-a!” His 9 month old anticipated the actions and then belly laughed while his dad lifted him high over his head.

This made me remember a lesson I learned when my own children were babies:

It doesn’t really matter what you sing to a young child, just sing! The truth is that most kids like all kinds of music.

Now occasionally, especially when working with toddlers with developmental delays, we will encounter a child who may not always respond so well to your attempts to sing. If a child covers his ears while you’re singing, it’s always more about her than you! Ear covering nearly always means that the child has an auditory sensitivity, not that you have a terrible voice! Chanting usually works for those kids, so channel your inner cheerleader! Rather than using your regular singing style, rhythmically chant the words to the song instead.

The benefits of singing with babies and toddlers are numerous, but the ones that intrigue me most as a pediatric speech-language pathologist are these:

1. Singing captures a young child’s attention almost better than anything else. It’s different than listening to someone talk. Novelty is what makes us all stop and zone in when something changes. This reminds me of one of my favorite tweets I saw about a year ago…”Attention is the gate keeper for learning any new skill.” I wish I could remember who posted it to give them full credit! This is a HUGE lesson! We have to get and keep a child’s attention BEFORE we can teach them anything. Singing is a great way to redirect a busy baby’s or wild toddler’s focus. When all else fails, SING!

2. Singing promotes connectedness between an adult and a child. Professionals in disciplines across the board, from medical to psychological to educational fields, recognize the importance of helping babies form strong attachments to loving parents as the foundation for a lifetime of healthy relationships. As an SLP, I can tell you that you don’t have to birth the child to experience that sense of “I get you and you get me.” The warmth that bubbles up inside when you elicit that special spark from a little one feels pretty darn good to a grown up too!

3. Singing prepares a baby’s brain to learn to understand and use words. When a baby listens to a song, especially one he hears over and over, he’s imprinting the speech sounds of his language and forming important neural pathways… in other words, he’s getting smarter and smarter!

There are oodles of other developmental benefits of music too: learning to imitate hand motions, improving fine and gross motor coordination, increasing body awareness, setting the stage for literacy, etc…

The good news is you don’t need to be able to name any of those to know that singing is a fantastic activity that all families can enjoy, even if their song choices and taste in music isn’t the same as yours!

My take-away message from the last few weeks has been to eagerly anticipate the new songs a family can teach me, rather than coming up with my own playlist for a little friend. If a family wants some ideas and guidance, I will certainly provide that, but I can’t wait to be surprised by what I might hear when I ask them to “sing whatever your baby likes.”

Until tomorrow….

Laura

————————————————————————————————-

If you’re a parent, an SLP or another professional who would like some new ideas and guidance for using music, social games, and easy, early play routines with late talking toddlers, take a look at my book Teach Me To Play WITH You.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Need some new ideas? Check out my book Teach Me To Play WITH You which is filled with over 50 different songs and finger plays and rhymes along with step-by-step instructions for helping a child learn to “do his part” during these social routines. If you’re not sure what I mean by, “do his part,” then take a look!

 

 

 

Posted in ,

Laura

Leave a Comment





Teach Me To Talk Testimonials

Happy Therapists, Teachers, Parents & Children

Dear Laura,

Thank you for your generosity in sharing so much knowledge in such a clear and enthusiastic way.

As a retired audiologist with a fabulous and language delayed grandson, I used your podcasts and outstanding publication, The Autism Workbook, to inspire and guide me over the past year.

It works!! He went from barely verbal, no gestures, didn't respond to his name etc etc to a verbal, social, curious, ready to imitate anything, fill in the blanks on familiar "set" speech, generate his own totally appropriate and mostly understandable sentences...not just short phrases anymore... full little paragraphs...about imaginary things, what he did during the day, what he wants. True communication!

You make a powerful difference in this world! ❤

With gratitude,
Diane

"Laura Mize, you are a Godsend. I don’t know how one human can have so many helpful things to say in a beautifully organized way, so often. Always amazes me when another super helpful email comes from you, and for free. With free YouTube videos and cheap CEUs. THANK YOU!!!"

Sheila, Canada

"I purchased the book on autism and have watched the #400s series podcasts. Laura Mize has been more effective in teaching autistic tendencies, than many professors, shadowing professions, and the 100s of books, articles and classes or videos, or live workshop speakers, have been at teaching effective practices for a child with ASD. Some of the many lessons she has taught, which I will now use, to be a more effective Interventionist, include but are not limited to: red flags, typical behaviors, self-stimulating behaviors, not taking away toys, rather showing child to play with toy appropriately. She gives examples of child's actions, "inappropriate," explains the reason for: why the child is engaging in these behaviors and how they can be replaced with more appropriate, effective fuctional and age-appropriate skills."

"I’m sure Laura gets these messages all the time, but I thought I’d share. I stumbled across Laura‘s "Autism or Speech Delay?" YouTube video when I really needed it. This video finally listed and explained some of the red flags my son was showing for autism. I share the link anytime a parent is questioning in my FB autism group. This mother I don’t even know said Laura's video changed her life. I know exactly how she feels because It changed families too. Thank you to everyone at Teach Me To Talk."

LINDSAY

"Good Morning Laura,
I received your book (The Autism Workbook) yesterday and it is absolutely amazing! As I evaluate young children (0-3) for developmental delays and write plans for them with their parents, there are a ton of ideas that are ready to use. Others that reinforce what I have been doing, and saying, all along. Thank you so, so much for writing this incredible book and pulling everything together in one place!"

FRANCINE IN MICHIGAN

"Thank you very much for sharing your knowledge, experience, and guidance.
I’m a parent who bought the autism workbook and it’s the only clear resource I found to make a change in my son. I’m really thankful to Ms. Laura for helping out people like us all over the world."

"Laura Mize, all I have to say is that ALL YOUR STRATEGIES WORK."

ANNE, YouTube viewer

"We have 7 SLPs in our preschool (public) program for special needs children (ages 3-5) and we use your courses, books, and techniques every day! :-) We have seen our preschoolers make such great gains!"

 

"I just received Teach Me to Play With You, and it is ALREADY WORKING! WOW!

Girl…my son is 3 years old, and he NEVER asks for something using words. We were playing “Get Your Belly” (from Teach Me to Play WITH You), and after several times, he laughed and screamed "BEWIEEE!!!"  It was a hoot. And I can't believe he said it! I have played with him like this before, but this time I took your advice and acted CRAZY!! I will act like a total lunatic if it will get him to talk to me!  Now I can give him "the look" from across the room, and he will say it. That manual is so amazingly practical, and it is a GODSEND right now! Thank you SO MUCH!”

"I wanted to send you a quick email to say thank you. I started watching your videos/podcasts about 4 months ago. My son has gone from losing words he previously used, only having about 7 words at his 2 year check up in August (assessed at a blended 10 month language level) -- to now having so many words, increased social engagement, following commands, spontaneously requesting things, and naming letters & numbers (not in order) as well as colors. We had our monthly meeting with our SLP through the state infants & toddlers program and it felt like we were just bragging the whole time, but I knew in the back of my head it was because I have been using strategies you taught me.

We still have so much work to do with our sweet boy, but I know in my heart he would not have succeeded without the education you provided. I will continue to read your emails & watch videos as we go along this journey and face challenges, but credit is due to you, Laura.

Thank you so much, endlessly."

KATIE

"I just want to tell how fortunate I feel to have found your website and you!! I became a special instructor in EI almost a year ago and I started with hardly any applicable training. I felt so lost and confused as how to help the kids I work with learn how to use words and play. Honestly, I didn't even understand the importance of play, although I always played with my kids. But, once I started to watch your podcasts and get some of your manuals I felt a weight had been lifted off my shoulders and that I could finally teach these kids and their families something of value from a real therapist and based on research!. Thank you so much for seeing the need to help other EI service providers and providing a forum to share your knowledge and years of valuable experience. I'm sure you get a lot of these emails every week if not every day, but I wanted to make I could add to those notes of gratitude!! THANK YOU again!!"

SS

"Just wanted to say a HUGE thank you for these emails and your books, I have them all and they have seriously saved and improved my sessions with my kiddos. Huge thank you."

REBECCA

"I was very frustrated with how speech therapy was going for my child. I would take him and drop him off and not hear much of anything from his therapist and teachers other than, "He had a good (or a bad!) day." Your materials were invaluable for us because I learned how to work with him on his speech. I learned how to teach him to talk and play. I learned how to pay attention to his cues and work with him to teach him to communicate. Without it, I have no doubt he still wouldn’t talk."

BRITNEY

"Hi! I just wanted to say (from an SLT perspective) how incredibly useful I am finding absolutely all of your articles, blogs and resources - I only discovered your site last month and have just received all your books which I feel I am learning more than on my entire university training course!! But also the way in which you give specific, realistic, fun, encouraging ideas for working with parents is really just fantastic, I only wish I have your site sooner! Thanks so much from the UK! Kind regards."

HANNAH

"I just wanted to reach out to say thank you for making things a little easier to manage for me this year. I made the transition from school SLP to private therapist about a year ago. While the change was welcome, it was a lot, and I was just getting my footing in the clinic when I began teletherapy full time. Your website has been a huge lifeline in helping me work with late talkers and coach their parents in an accessible but effective way, even remotely. I look forward to getting your emails each week. I am floored by the amount of valuable, free information that your website provides, and I’m looking forward to investing in your workbooks soon. A sincere thank you for all you do!"

ALLISON

"You are an inspiration! I am truly grateful for the way you put into words and writing how to do what we do as SLPs. At this time in my 13 years of practicing, I find your encouragement keeps me going. As a single mom, I find it a stretch to buy materials these days and I am so thankful for the freebies you so generously share that help me teach my families. I don’t have much time to put together lists or quick references for parents!! Much gratitude!!"

ANDREA

"I just really appreciate your courses! I have two new clinicians that I’m working with and have recommended these courses to both of them. I’ve watched quite a few and have learned so much about serving this population. To be honest, before I started implementing your strategies I was a little frustrated with the lack of progress. My skills with engaging these little ones have improved so much! Thank you so much for making these CEUs so valuable!" C, SLP