09 August 2011

Creating with Kids: Singing Together

Welcome to the August Carnival of Natural Parenting: Creating With Kids
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared how they make messes and masterpieces with children. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

We are on the cusp of blossoming intelligible language, and I have been working diligently to provide as much vocabulous fodder for my sponge of a son. We read books of all sorts, I tell him stories that are somewhat ad libbed, I talk to him about the haps as we walk and coexist, I encourage conversation to which he happily obliges with babbling coherence, and we sing all of the time. So far, Niko knows how to hold a book and turn pages, pointing to pictures and squealing with delight; he is most responsive to song, though. I'd like to share how we get creative with music in our household, from dancing to creating impromptu paradies and mash-ups of some of my favorite songs (and some of what I think are his...).

I'll preface this post with a statement: Nikola is going to be in entertainment. I know, I know, he's only 11.25 months old... How can I know this? 1. He's a Leo. 2. He's a ham. 3. He loves singing. 4. He loves dancing. 5. He loves simultaneously singing and dancing. 6. He's a Leo.

First, we'll discuss how to choose and/or create music to jam to. Second, we'll discuss and run through some awesome dance moves.

The first and most important ingredient is music. Music is awesome for children, no matter how small or how old. While listening to Beethoven might not make your little Einstein understand the Theory of Relativity by age 3, it is a great resource for teaching timing, tones, rhythm, intonation, vocabulary, and relaxation. It can even help you bond with your child, whether you sing to him or her at bedtime or throw a fun dance party. Furthermore, there is evidence that overall children with higher exposure to music and those who are able to play instruments have higher intelligence quotients than their non-musically-inclined friends.

So what kind of music do babies and children like? It's safe to say that they like whatever you like! Did you know that babies in utero can hear music through the womb? It's never too early to introduce some good tunes! It's great, too, because babies are not picky and won't mind your quirky taste in music. I spent most of my pregnancy listening to some great bass-y rap music, mixed with David Bowie, Dubstep, and soothing soundtracks of background music (ie. Air's Virgin Suicide tracks). They seem to love even more when you sing to them because your voice travels much more clearly due to the fluid dynamics and nature of sound waves.

I've found that Niko loves everything. He loves bopping to Ke$ha, Lady Gaga (although we're not listening to Miss Gaga currently), songs from Yo Gabba Gabba, sultry Bowie, and reggae & dancehall. Some of my favorites to listen to with him are albums from the Rock-a-Bye Baby series and the infinitely awesome Life Aquatic Studio Sessions by Seu Jorge, essentially a collection of acoustic Bowie covers, soulfully sung in beautiful Portuguese. He also like silly songs that Mom makes up.

How do you make up a song? Easy! Even the most musically uninclined can ad lib with ease!

1. Choose a familiar tune, whether it be Twinkle, Twinkle or Rebel, Rebel
2. Encorporate your child's/dog's/S.O.'s/familiar face's name
3. Spin a tale and include activities you are doing, have done recently, or will do soon. A good tale always has a beginning, a pre-climax middle, a climactic middle, and an end, including a protagonist, antagonist, some conflict, and a happy ending.
4. Include kind words, as well as some everyday objects your child comes in contact with regularly. Song is a great way to share vocabulary!
5. Have fun! You're not being judged (unless another adult hears you... and even then, do they have the cajones to impromptu open mic it in the kitchen? Didn't think so...)
6. If all else fails, scat (no, not *that* scat...), like "Do-doooo-doo-do-doobie-do" or "Shoobie-do-wop-a-doodlie-doo-doo-doooooo"
7. Leave a familiar part of the song in if you'd like - like the chorus or a recurrent phrase. Make the song familiar but unique!

Here's an example of the type of songs I put together...
(to the tune of... Bob Marley's Three Little Birds)

Don't worry/about a thing/cause every little thing/gon be alright
Singin don't worry/about a thing/cause every little thing/gon be alright
Woke up this morning/with my smiling son/got a full diaper/and needs a new one
Stinky baby/he made a poo-poo/and I'll change it/because I love you
Singin' don't worry/about a thing/cause every little thing/gon be alright
Singin' don't worry/about a thing/cause every little thing/gon be alright
We'll get some breakfast/some Berry Kix/cause my baby/He loves those things!
Have some mi-ilk/and a banana, too/and take a nap/then another poo-poo
Don't worry/about a thing/cause Mama's gonna change/your stinky poo
I said don't worry/about a thing/cause Mama is here/and I love you!

(Okay, truthfully, we sing about poo and stinky babies a lot...)

There's absolutely no right or wrong way to put together a song, and even though you might not have Lil Wayne's ability to think on the fly, sometimes those quirky, awkward pauses where you have to think of a word provide a grasping point for your child to listen to what you are saying or just giggle at your pause. The best part is that, eventually, your child will begin singing along with you, and at some point, will even be able to create original lyrics to use!

What goes better with song than dance? (Except maybe instrumentals, but you know...) Niko has recently picked up the ability to shake it to beat, whether he hears a good bass line on the radio or he likes the flow that I'm spitting. There are plenty of easy and fun dance moves to get the rhythm going and to take off from! Here are so examples of dances Niko loves to employ...

The "Arms-Out-Head-Shake"
The "Bootie Baby Boogie"
The "Little Mister"
The "Jersey Turnpike"
(Maybe I should cut his time watching Jersey Shore...)
All in all, music is great for kids! Even if you just have it on in the background, exposure in all of its different facets is integral and enriching! Remember to include music in your repertoire of development-building tools, and you'll surely be pleased with the results!

What inventive activities do you employ to give your kids a creative edge? Share in the comments or on the FaceBook.
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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
  • Family Draw Time Art ShowKate Wicker shares art (and inspiration!) from her family's cherished tradition of family draw time.
  • The Rules of Creativity: Learning to Create with the "Non-Creative" — Zoe at Give an Earthly shares how she learned to accept her "non-creative" child and claims that anyone, child or adult, can be creative given the right handling and environment.
  • Creating With Kids: 4 Ways That Work For Us — See how Kristin at Intrepid Murmurings nurtures creativity with her kids through craft projects, outdoor creative play, celebrating the creative process, and setting up "little spaces of beauty."
  • Creating memories, not things — Mrs. Green from Little Green Blog reflects on life with a ten year old and how 'creating together' has evolved from 'things' to memories.
  • The Gift of Creation — It may be hot, but Kellie at Our Mindful Life is already thinking about winter.
  • Hidden Talents — Sylvia at MaMammalia describes how providing the opportunity for creativity sometimes means learning to look for hidden talents in unusual places.
  • Creating Joy — CatholicMommy at Working to be Worthy shares how she and her one year-old son create joy for their community.
  • How to do Crafts with Kids — Gaby from Tmuffin guest posts at Natural Parents Network and describes how to keep things simple when doing crafts with kids for magical (easy-to-clean, and tantrum-free) results.
  • Sugar & Spice & Baking on the Kitchen Floor — Carrie at Love Notes Mama enjoys making a mess in the kitchen with her daughter.
  • Young Scientist Makes Purple Potion — Hannah at Wild Parenting loves being a lab assistant for the young scientist in her life.
  • Making a butterfly house — Lauren at Hobo Mama demonstrates the proper way to build a wooden butterfly house with a preschooler.
  • Nurturing Creativity — Amyables at Toddler In Tow shares the enjoyment she feels in nurturing the creativity of her children.
  • Home School Music - Sparking A New Generation Of Musicians — Based on her musical background, Chante at My Natural Motherhood Journey talks about how she creates with and teaches music to her children.
  • Creating (im)perfectly TogetherMudpiemama shares some of the highlights of a summer spent building everything from ships to hoops but most of a lesson on letting go of perfection.
  • Family Soccer Kick Around — When her children wanted to play soccer, Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children helped organize something that would work for her family.
  • Creating Memories Together on Skype — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now tells how you can create memories online with adult children or anyone who lives in another city or country.


  1. You are SO clever! That song is incredibly cute - you need to record it :) We've done songs like that before too, and you're right - diapers and poo are great fodder for impromptu songs. Thanks so much for sharing!

  2. I love the way you write! This post had me cracking up. :)

    I'm so glad I'm not the only one who sings about poo all day. My mom (who's coming to visit today — squee!) was the one who taught me all about making up impromptu, silly lyrics, and now I'm embarrassing/charming my own son with my inherited ability. It really is so fun to sing your own songs! Thanks for sharing.

  3. Great tutorial! We listen to music almost every morning... Peter is slowly building a collection of music that ranges from reggae to Mozart and has learned how to turn on the stereo by himself. :-) I sing to him a lot throughout the day, too. So far, no dance moves, though. :-)

  4. Hear hear! Stinky babies, diapers and poop are classic themes in musical improv 'round here, too. My dad inspired me as a kid by singing songs like "Everywhere I Go I See Dog Hair" (obviously the bane of his daily existence).
    We also sing about things we would never *actually* do, like "There's a baby in the oven, let her out!" (sung to the tune of "There's A Hole In The Middle Of The Sea").
    Each of our little ladies has at least one original tune/theme song, each having very sing-sing-able names. And parodies/modified lyrics are an important part of our daily lives, with shmoopy little pet-names sprinkled in as musical, jokey love-notes between hubs and myself.
    To quote Marina from The Fresh Beats, "You can't go wrong when you put it in a song."

  5. I loved this post...very clever! I also enjoy making up songs to sing to my son. Music is such a wonderful way to communicate and share emotion. It's an important part of our everyday. Oh, and the dancing photos are too cute. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Is he a Leo? I'm not quite sure...

    Both of mine are soo into music too, especially Heidi and I just love watching them! It's so awesome that you are nurturing his love of music right now because it really is universal communication! I'm right there with you in making up songs, too, and I think that teaches so many great things about how we can play around with language. You are such a great mother! :)

  7. Thank you for the great memories! My mom didn't make up songs, so I haven't done a lot of that, but she did punctuate our world with tunes from musicals which is something that I have continued to do. When I was an older kid I thought it was a bit corny, but never stopped (sometimes secretly) loving it.

    I'll have to give the made-up songs a try!

  8. Ah yes! I'm married to a Leo and my daughter has Leo rising; I SO know what you mean LOL! (my husband used to be on the stage with a band) I used to sing to my daughter and play the piano to her in vitro and whenever she was stressed as a babe we would put music on or sing and it was like instant magic, calming and soothing and stresses away. It sounds like a lot of fun in your household - thanks for sharing!