Most toddlers love songs, and singing songs together is a great way to teach new skills. Not only is it fun but it also teaches skills such as gross and fine motor imitation, following directions, body parts, basic concepts, new vocabulary, and the list goes on! The following are some of my favorite songs to sing with toddlers and why they are good for your child.
1 Wheels on the Bus. This song is great because it has fun hand gestures to imitate. Plus, it has so many fun sounds to imitate as well (i.e. swish-swish of the wipers and wah-wah of the babies). Imitation happens in early development and is crucial to language development. Children may start by imitating just the actions to a song and then later the words. [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S9XZX3m06cE&w=560&h=315]
2- I’m a Little Teapot. This is another excellent song that works on imitation as well as rhyming. Rhyming is a skill that helps with phonemic awareness and future reading skills. [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mdu5lLpMH_w&w=560&h=315]
3- Do As I’m Doing. I love this song because it helps kids learn how to follow directions. It also teaches concepts such as fast and slow and high and low. [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CU9qhaxPyjE&w=560&h=315]
4-Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes. Learning body parts is a great receptive language skill for young children. This song also helps with coordination. That last part of the song where you point to your “eyes, ears, mouth, and nose” is even tricky for some adults! [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZanHgPprl-0&w=560&h=315]
5-Old MacDonald Had a Farm. When kids are first learning words, some of the easiest to imitate are animal sounds (i.e. baa, moo, neigh). This song is great for working on easy to imitate sounds and words and learning which animal says which sound. [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nFX98pqzb3o&w=560&h=315]
6-Five Little Ducks. There are tons of different songs that teach children about counting but this is one of my favorites. I also like how it teaches the concept of subtraction. [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pZw9veQ76fo&w=560&h=315]
7-There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly. This song is great for teaching young kids about sequencing. Sequencing is putting events, objects, or ideas in a logical order. When singing the song, try pausing to see if the child can fill in the next part of the song. [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ApmEM9-xA2c&w=560&h=315]
8-Feelings Song. It is so important for children to understand their own emotions. This song gives names to those emotions and adds actions to help illustrate the emotions. Here is a link to the words and the actions. I couldn’t find a video of the song but here is a similar song. [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a1NIWCr0R-k&w=560&h=315]
9-Five Little Speckled Frogs. Adding instruments such as a maraca, shaker, or triangle is a fun way to teach cause-and-effect which is a pre-linguistic skill. It also helps with hand-eye coordination, developing a sense of rhythm, and encouraging imaginative play through sound effects. For this song, you can keep the rhythm of the song by shaking a maraca, use cymbals when they splash in the pool, and bells when they say the word “cool”. The possibilities are endless! [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6wM0AIb3BTE&w=560&h=315]
10-Clean-up Song. Transitions can be hard for little ones and music is a great way to help kids know what is coming next. The Clean-up Song is a perfect way to transition from one activity to another. Also try using a bedtime song to help with the difficult transition of going to bed. [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SFE0mMWbA-Y&w=560&h=315]
I hope this list was helpful and gave you some ideas of how to use music to encourage language development!
Erica is a speech language pathologist at North Lake Pediatric Speech.