Music has always had a huge presence in my home. I started singing nursery rhymes to my daughter Olivia when she was just an infant. Now as she toddles around at age 2 ½, dance parties are a daily occurrence! Not only can singing songs be a fun bonding activity for parents and children (encouraging shared attention and eye contact), but there are many ways we can use music to stimulate a child’s speech and language skills.
Incorporating body movements during song singing can encourage your child to imitate gestures. Understanding the concept of imitation is crucial for speech development. Before a child can imitate a complex movement like making sounds, he or she typically imitates gestures. If you start singing The Itsy Bitsy Spider with finger movements when your child is of a young age, you’ll most likely see him or her start to try and imitate the movements before being able to sing the words!
The Itsy Bitsy Spider from Super Simple Songs
Other songs that are perfect for pairing with gestures that your child can imitate are the classic The Wheels on the Bus or the ever popular Baby Shark.
Pause before finishing the last word of a familiar song to encourage your child to vocalize and fill in the blank. For some younger children or new talkers, this might mean leaving off a single sound. When singing Old McDonald, you say "E-I-E-I...." then pause and look expectantly at your child. This will encourage him or her to complete the line of the song with "O!". To encourage your child to speak more words, leave off a whole word from a line in a song. For example, "and on that farm he had a..." so your child can finish with a word like "cow!".
Feel free to give your child the freedom to let loose with dancing during song singing sometimes! Other times, you can use music to improve your child's listening comprehension skills. During the song If You're Happy and You Know It, children are asked to follow simple directions and identify body parts. If the song says, "clap your hands", ask your child, "where are your hands?" before they clap. Make the movements along with your child so that he or she has an example. Doing The Hokey Pokey can help your child understand the spatial concepts in and out!
If You're Happy and You Know It, by Sesame Street
So get singing and know that you are also stimulating your child's speech!
Amy Yacoub, MS, CCC-SLP | Speech Pathologist
Proud Member of The Story Box Family