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Turning up the Volume for Language Development
Have you ever wondered how children are able to remember and recite the lyrics to their favourite childhood songs, sometimes before they are producing sentences and engaging in conversation? The catchy melodies and repetitive verses inherent in childhood songs make participating in sing-song with other children and adults an effective avenue for learning language.
Here are some ways in which songs can help to promote growth in various areas of communication:
- Social interaction by way of turn-taking within songs;
- Imitation of both lyrics and associated song gestures;
- Exposure to new vocabulary and grammatical concepts;
- Development of language memory for various word types (e.g., numbers, colours, seasons, etc.);
- Improved understanding of how to combine words;
- Learning about sequencing and storytelling;
- Exposure to reading-related concepts such as rhymes and syllables;
- Increased listening skills and attention to words;
- Imaginative language expression within songs that allow for changes in lyrics and production of novel verses.
Here are some ways to encourage language development during sing-song activities:
- Ensure you are sitting face-to-face with your child to optimize opportunities for eye-contact and social interaction;
- Pair the lyrics of the song with easy-to-follow gestures (e.g., hand waving, clapping, foot stomping), in order to encourage the use of gestures and provide an additional way for your child to participate in the song;
- Pair lyrics and gestures with facial expressions that reflect the feelings and meaning of the song;
- Once your child is familiar with the song lyrics, start some of the familiar phrases in the song and pause before key words to allow your child an opportunity to produce some words independently (e.g., “Twinkle, twinkle, little ____”);
- Slow-down your singing to give your child an opportunity to listen closely to all of the words;
- Emphasize key words and new vocabulary;
- Repeat favourite songs often to encourage better retention of the lyrics;
- During songs that allow for imagination and creation of new lyrics, help your child to think of creative ways to adapt the lyrics to expand their vocabulary and language expression.
Singing with your child is a fun and interactive way to expand their expressive language skills, listening skills, and pre-reading skills. Introducing songs into daily activities and routines can help to make these tasks more exciting for you and your child. Happy singing!