Early Years’ Songs: 10 Reasons to use them with your 3 – 6 year olds
Early Years’ songs are a fabulous learning resource because singing can be such a powerful way to learn!
This article briefly lists 10 of the most important reasons for encouraging singing with 3 – 6 year olds.
What are some of the characteristics of high-quality Early Years’ songs?
High quality Early Years’ songs are repetitive and predictable. They should always have a steady underlying beat. The melody line should be quite simple. It also needs to sit within the vocal range of a young child – roughly between the middle C on a piano, to the higher C, which is 8 (white) notes above. So once all these aspects are in place, you’re ready to start singing!
The songs often naturally include temporal space (in order to allow the children time to react musically with movement, actions or sometimes words). For example, the melody has gaps that the children can fill in themselves. They also have strong boundaries and plenty of repetition of both the melody and the words. As a result, the songs are highly structured.
Children need to become very familiar with the songs they sing. Then they become confident to respond creatively, independently and imaginatively. Songs (and rhymes as well), chosen wisely, are such a rich source of learning during early childhood.
Why are songs such a fabulous resource to use with 3 – 6 year olds?
There are countless ways in which songs and singing support Early Years’ development. Just for starters, here is a brief list of 10 ways in which they encourage growth. (Each of these aspects deserves more explanation. Look out for our following blogs which discuss each of these points in more depth).
Songs encourage social participation
Young children are just at the start of learning about ‘how to behave’ within social contexts. As a result, they need to learn about sharing and turn-taking. Singing as part of a group fosters feelings of belonging and ‘togetherness’ in each child and consequently they begin to feel more included in the group setting. Simply put, they start to make friends more easily with each other.
Songs can promote inclusivity, diversity and equity
There are three important ways in which Early Years’ songs can provide such an excellent opportunity for community teaching and learning. Firstly, by being inclusive in their approach, and secondly, by respecting musical diversity in the range of chosen songs. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, songs provide us with the opportunity to ensure our approach includes equity for all participants in the group.
Well-chosen songs can instantly appeal to all the children of a group. This is even if they have varying learning needs, such as SEND or EAL profiles.
Songs are a great way of consolidating, supporting and extending learning.
All of us are unique. We have our own stories, influences and experiences. Often children have very different stories to each other. That is why it is so important to include songs written in a wide range of musical styles. And also, from a diverse range of sources (cultural, geographical and historical).
The songs we use need to reflect the experiences of the children we meet.
While every child in a group is singing together, there is time to support one or two individual children with particular aspects of their learning each time the song is sung. This is such a nurturing and respectful way of delivering Early Years’ songs.
Songs develop confidence
Singing in a group develops independent actions which contribute to growing self confidence. In other words, even though the children are singing together, they are each continuing to develop individually.
Songs help early learners to build self-esteem in a number of ways. Firstly, they develop language, which allows the children to express themselves more clearly. Secondly, they encourage children to interact with each other, which builds their levels of confidence. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly they are simply a fun activity for all.
Often songs will have actions, for example – such as clapping hands together. Alternatively, they may have movements – walking to the steady beat – which all the children love to do. They will repeat these actions many times during a song, and as they do so, both their physical control and internal timing improves.
In conclusion, the children themselves begin to see the rapid progress they are making to some of their skills, and this then feeds into encouraging them to sing even more!
Songs increase communication skills
Obviously, every time we sing a song, we are exercising our vocal muscles! It’s just something we tend not to think about!
This process helps to develop our voices which are all uniquely individual. The sound of our voice contributes to how we form our sense of identity. By singing words, phrases and melodic lines, we are encouraging, nurturing and developing each child’s vocal qualities.
Songs enhance physical development
We have already touched on some of the physical aspects of singing in the previous points. But because singing involves so many aspects of bodily control, it deserves its own section too!
Singing encourages deep breathing. Children often tend to use shallow breathing, which isn’t so good at exercising and developing the lungs. By learning to take enough breath to last for a phrase (or line) of a song, the children are learning to control their breathing.
From this comes slower breathing, which calms the mind. It also allows the body to begin to precisely coordinate actions to the steady beat of the song.
There are many more physical advantages to singing. These will be discussed in more depth in a subsequent article.
Songs provide intellectual support
Although with singing there are a lot of external signals going on, there are a huge number of internal benefits too!
Regular singing stimulates and enhances areas such as auditory skills (listening with concentration and responding appropriately), language, numeracy and memory skills.
Singing is such a useful way to teach so many different concepts about absolutely anything!
Songs contribute positively to mental health and wellbeing
Singing often makes us feel better about ourselves and the world around us.
Singing offers us the psychological tools we need to calm down and destress. And, most importantly, to just feel happy together!
Songs model educational development
Learning through song is such a valuable, but often overlooked, asset.
Songs provide a really strong repetitive structure. So the children practise the same actions and meanings over and over again. Because the learning is tightly structured within each song, early learners get to understand song ‘patterns’ very quickly.
They soon begin to anticipate what is coming next in a song. They look forward to these moments whether that’s through actions, words or silence! The joy they get from waiting to jump, or fall, or freeze, is always infectious!
Songs boost musicality
The more regularly 3 – 6 year olds sing, the more they develop their abilities to respond accurately to a steady beat. They also become better at listening. As a result, this ‘listening with concentration’ feeds into every other aspect of their lives.
Songs unleash creativity, imagination and wonder!
Once children become familiar with a song or rhyme, they start to play with it. As a result, they start to take ‘ownership’ of the song and make it their own.
This ‘song-play’ can take a variety of forms; Firstly, they may add extra notes or rhythms. Then, they may change the words. After that, they might choose to lengthen or shorten the song-structure. Alternatively, they may decide to leave gaps of silence (where they are thinking the songs in their minds). Or they may make countless other adaptations.
All these reactions demonstrate creative responses. These responses come from an in-depth familiarity of the song, which in itself demonstrates a growing confidence in what each child can now ‘do’ with the song.
At this stage, the song becomes a creative soundscape. It is now a launching pad for so many other original ideas. Now that the children know the song so well, they start to experiment with it by, for example, changing some of the words, actions, or rhythms.
These developments bring wonder to all who experience them! The children gain so much pleasure from ‘playing’ with the songs!
And the adults find it wonderful to witness the magical mysteries of learning through song!
Why not give songs a try?