Singing and Language Development
You know those gurgles and screeches your baby started making early on? Those sounds, and vocal play sound a bit more like singing, than talking. In many ways, language is a kind of song. It’s true that singing promotes language development in the budding brain.
Singing to your baby can help develop early language and literacy skills, such as auditory discrimination, phonological awareness, vocabulary development, and auditory memory.
Babies’ brains are wired to learn language. “Infants listen first to sounds of language and only later to its meaning,” says Anthony Brandt. One of the first components of language babies learn is auditory discrimination. This is the ability to differentiate sounds in their native tongue. Hearing songs sung again and again can help build this skill.
Many of the classics that we sing to our children, rhyme! Rhyming is another form of auditory discrimination, but it is also the building block skill for phonological awareness. These skills help to promote literacy and are the precursors to reading success. Studies show that rhyming is something that can be taught early, and children as young as 3 years are able to generate rhyming words. Songs are loaded with rhymes and alliteration. So singing early on can help wire your baby’s brain to be attuned to literacy skills sooner.
Singing also targets many of the ways your child learns new words. The repetition of words and verses can help children acquire new vocabulary and new concepts. It can provide an excellent language model for your child as they hear the construction of phrases and sentences and start to understand the syntax of our language.
For your pre-schooler, auditory memory (hearing information, processing it, retaining it, and then later recalling it) is a crucial academic skill that can be improved upon with activities. Singing is one of them. Songs that build on each verse, like, The Green Grass Grows All Around, can really challenge those memory skills.
Remember that as a parent, the BEST way to engage your child is to be dynamic. So change the way you sing a song, by singing it faster, or slower, or in a different voice. My inner camp counselor is humming Boom Chicka Boom as we speak.
Check out this list of songs for ideas:
- Itsy Bitsy Spider
- Wheels on the Bus
- Row Row Row Your Boat
- Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes
- If You’re Happy and You Know It
- Do Your Ears Hang Low
- Where is Thumbkin
- Down By the Bay
- Going on a Bear Hunt
- Baby Bumble Bee
- Farmer in the Dell
- Five Little Ducks
- Five Green Speckled Frogs
- Five Little Monkeys
- Ants Go Marching
Looking for more songs? Raffi’s Singable Song Collection is another great resource.