Fun with music

Very much like dancing, Trudy enjoys music.

She is very responsive to anything that has a tune, which could be a jingle on the radio or a mobile phone ringtone.  Music can often be the thing that helps her understand that something is about to happen or forget the tantrum she is in!

Song signifiers

I use these because they are used by my colleagues at work and I have seen how effective they can be.  They are little tunes that lots of parents might do instinctively, such as ‘this is the way we brush our teeth…’ to the tune of “here we go around the Mulberry bush”.  I started doing this with Patrick and Trudy and it is just the right amount of time recommended by dentists to brush their teeth!  If anything, it will remind for how long the brush should be in their mouths!

They need to be age and stage appropriate, but they can help a child transition through the day and reduce those moments of frustration when a parent just picks them up and puts them in the car without giving them the time to understand that they are going home.  It doesn’t always happen smoothly but I sign the word and have a little song for most transitions in the day such as nappy changing, nursery, home or mealtimes.  These are also the principles of Sing and Sign.

Here is a little note from one of my fantastic colleagues, Louisa:

Why is music so important? 

Music is a means of communication and interaction in the same way that we use spoken language. 

Early musical development includes a structural understanding through which music “makes sense” through the predictability of melody, chords and structure. The development of language possesses very similar features to that of music.  

For example, the use of imitation is an important structural factor not only in music but also in the development of early language skills. 

Music is also extremely important as it is present in many day-to-day non-musical contexts, occurring as part of other activities. 

 Music is present in daily interactions and communication and is often heard as a composite form of communication inextricably linked to words Ockelford, A. 2015 

 In addition to the similarities between early musical development and the development of language, music can also be seen to generate an emotional response, even in infants. 

 All sounds and the relationships between them can potentially cause or enable an emotional response Ockelford, A. 2015 

 How do I use music to interact with my child? 

 The focus when using music to communicate should always be on the quality of the interaction between the caregiver and the child. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t had musical training and it doesn’t matter if you think you can’t sing! The most important factor is that you are using sound to respond to your child.  


Mirroring is an extremely important approach when interacting musically with your child. If your child vocalises, immediately copy the sound back to them so they can hear that you are listening and responding to them. This allows the child to be heard and acknowledged. 

This is very important. There are studies that show that infants brought up in orphanages who are not responded to in this way demonstrate a difficulties with developing language skills and an overall failure to thrive 

 This Call and Response” technique encourages vocalising and development of language. A child who is responded to in this type of intensive interaction will begin to realise that his voice has a purpose and that he is being listened to and responded to. 

Turn Taking 

Using percussion instruments is a great way to develop turn taking skills with your child. Just a simple tambourine activity can be developed to include turn taking and also enables the child to explore changes in volume or speed.  

 “Mummy’s turn to shake the tambourine”  

“Sarah’s turn to shake the tambourine” 

 “Mummy’s turn to shake the tambourine loud, quiet, fast, slow etc… 

 This introduces the concept of turn taking whilst also increasing the child’s receptive language with the words “shake”,  “loud/quiet”, “fast/slow”  and also “wait” (whilst waiting for their turn) 

Song Signifiers 

A song signifier is a short song to represent a regular daily activity or a period of transition. For example, the following song is used to indicate the end of an activity and can then help the child prepare for transition to another task. 

To the melody of  Super Trooper 

Playgroup is finished,  

Playgroup is finished 

Now it’s time to stop 

Now it’s time to stop 

Now it’s time to stop 

Song signifiers can be used for brushing teeth, finishing an activity, saying hello, saying goodbye etc. 

When creating a song to be used as a signifier you can use an existing melody or simply make one up, ensuring that it is short and repetitive. 

Song signifiers can also be linked to movement. For example singing the words “up up up” on a high note when your child lifts his arms up and then singing “down down down” when he lowers his arms. This can be very motivating for children and can also assist with physiotherapy work. 

The most important factor to remember is that you do not need to be a trained musician to interact with your child through music! Singing with your child and responding to their vocalising with your own voice is such an important skill and one that doesn’t require any formal training, yet it can make such a valuable difference. 

Parents who consciously engage with their babbling infants can accelerate their childrens vocalising and language learning Ockelford, A. 2015 

Louisa Maddison, BMus, LTCL, PGCE, QTVI

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