Singing and Language: How to Help Build Language at Home Through Song

SINGING IS AN ESSENTIAL TOOL TO PROMOTE LANGUAGE SKILLS

As a speech-language pathologist working with toddlers and children who have speech and language delays, I am constantly looking for one more tool that will help children develop their language and communication skills while having fun at the same time. I have found that singing and language are a perfect pair! I have seen how well children respond to singing and how their vocabulary and language grow through song. Singing and language development are even supported in research. It shows that signing songs with babies and toddlers enhances vocabulary, language development and helps develop literacy skills.

Whether a child is developing typically or showing delays, music can be used at any age to enhance speech and language skills. It doesn’t matter to your child if you can’t sing well as your baby will enjoy your singing and develop his language skills at the same time. You can use singing and language anywhere and anytime, building singing into all of your daily routines.

WHEN SHOULD I SING?

Any time is a good time to add singing and language into your daily routine with your baby or toddler. Take advantage of daily routines as daily routines happen regularly and can provide many opportunities for your child to hear the lyrics in the songs and see the actions over and over again.

Examples of daily routines are bath time, mealtime, getting dressed, getting in the car, cleaning up toys, etc. Using singing and language during routines can also make a less desirable routine more enjoyable for babies/toddlers.

HOW TO USE SINGING AND LANGUAGE AT HOME 

Here are some great tips for using singing and language with your child:

  • FACE YOUR CHILD – Whenever possible try to sit face to face with your child. This makes it easier for your child to make eye contact with you and see your facial expressions, words and actions in the songs.
  • SLOW DOWN – Your child will have an easier time learning the words and copying the actions when you take your time and slow down.
  • REPEAT! REPEAT! REPEAT! – Sing the song over and over again with your child. This will help him learn new words while having fun at the same time. The repetition will help him to understand the meaning of the words. Children love hearing songs over and over again.
  • PARTICIPATION – Make sure you have your baby participate – This will depend on your child’s age and stage of development. It can be as simple as eye contact, a facial expression, a sound, banging on a drum, filling in with a word and/or copying the actions.
  • PAUSE AND WAIT to give him the opportunity to participate in a predicable language routine. To help your child know when to take his turn in the song you can pause and wait during certain parts of the song. When singing with babies/toddlers, I like to pause at the end of the line of music. You can pause before you say the last word and see if they fill it in. For example, when singing “The Wheels on the Bus” you can pause before saying “town” and see if they fill in the word. I like to look expectantly and lean in while I am waiting so they know it is their turn to fill in that part of the song. If I have waited for 5-6 seconds and they have not filled it in I will fill it in for them and try again the next time. They may start to copy an action in the song before they fill in a word such as actions for “round and round”, “beep beep” and “up and down” during the “Wheels on the bus” song.

TIPS WHEN CHOOSING SONGS

  • Keep it simple and choose songs that are repetitive
  • When singing, be sure to pick songs with actions or make up some simple actions that go along with the song
  • Make up songs that involve your child’s interests or that you can sing during your daily routines
  • Put new or important words at the end of the lines in the song – this will make these words stand out, and make it easier for your child to try to sing these words
  • Be sure you let your child participate through eye contact, facial expressions, actions, sounds or word approximations and words
  • Most importantly HAVE FUN!

LIST OF SONGS TO GET YOU STARTED

  • Body parts – Head Shoulders, Knees and Toes, If you are Happy and you Know it, Where is Thumbkin
  • Animals – Going on a bear hunt, Old McDonald, Down by the Bay, Farmer in the Dell
  • Counting – Five little Ducks, Five Green and Speckled Frogs, Ants go Marching, Five Little Monkeys

Did you know? We offer a music group aimed at promoting language skills for 2-3 and 3-4 year olds! Click here to find out more about our Speech Melodies program!

Carrie Rosler is a registered Speech-Language Pathologist who has been practicing pediatric speech pathology for over 14 years. Carrie is committed to providing individualized family-centered therapy in a fun and supportive environment. Carrie has a special interest in Motor Speech Disorders and Auditory Verbal Therapy.