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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Tuesday Tip! Use Your Voices... all of them!

New parents and teachers can sometimes be intimidated about singing or even reading aloud to children. So here's a tip that will insure you're an instant hit! Nothing tickles children's funny bones more than hearing you change your voice. They don't get to hear adults do this normally, and it's just so weird to them! So when you're reading about a mouse, make your voice very tiny. When you're singing about an itsy bitsy spider, make your voice...well, itsy bitsy! A Dinosaur song? Well, you get the idea. Exaggerate words not only when it makes sense, but randomly. Why infants and children alike find this so amusing is one of life's little mysteries.

Here's a similar idea...
Take a familiar song and sing it with the children in different voices.
Some children will have no trouble making suggestions (happy mad, sad, silly), but some children will need your help with ideas. This works best with short songs, like Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. You can also do this with a short poem or finger play. And don't forget to get your whole face involved ( a little fake crying always draws giggles, too!). The more drama the better! So just have fun with it!

These ideas work well not only in the classroom or while you're reading to your child, but when you're stuck in traffic or changing a diaper, or any other situation where you need a distraction. Everyone will be in a better mood and you'll be building those very "special" memories together!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Tuesday Tip! Fun With Old Macdonald

Want to have some fun with Old McDonald's Farm? Here's something I did with my kids when they were little, and continue to do in my concerts...

Put a bunch of your children's stuffed animals in an old pillow case and sing the song... When you get to "and on his farm he had a...," poke your head in the bag and make a sound for one of the animals. Have your child guess the animal, then bring it out and finish the song. It doesn't matter if the "animals" are animals at all. Could be trucks or other toys, or animals. The challenge is coming up with a sound! Children love this because of the element of surprise.

Now I have a pillow case-sized bag. decorated with a barn and animals. Very fancy! It's filled with farm animal puppets, so there is much drama and lots of giggles. This song always coaxes the most reluctant singers to participate, and therein lies its magic. But whether you use an old pillow case or make a fancy bag, your children will love to sing this favorite song over and over with its contents as they wonder at its contents!

This idea is great for teachers, librarians, and parents. Some songs never get old!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Tuesday Tip: Getting to Know You (for 3-6 year-olds)

Here’s a fun and easy activity based on one of my free songs of the month. It’s particularly useful now, when your young students are still getting to know each other. In this song, children will walk around the circle and pick up a shape at the end of the song. They then try to find their “friend,” the child who has the same picture on his or her shape. It’s basically a matching game-song. Children love this, and will want to do it several times. So here’s what to do:

Download my free song of the month, "Who Will Be My valentine?" at Use it to learn the melody. There is also an instrumental version of the song you can download. Print out the general instructions, but change the lyrics to:

"Who will be a friend of mine?" (instead of Valentine)

Then, instead of making pairs of hearts, make pairs of apples, or any other shape you choose. I use apples at this time of year since much of the curriculum centers around them. Follow the rest of the instructions for the song. By changing the shapes of the cards and or the pictures (or letters) on the pairs, you can easily modify this song for year-round use. And of course, when Valentine’s Day comes, you’ll be all set!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Tuesday Tip! Books that Sing

"Books that Sing" are picture books based on familiar songs, like Old Macdonald's Farm, Five Little Ducks, or The Itsy Bitsy Spider, to name a few. There are hundreds of them, and new ones being added all the time. The styles of illustrations are quite varied, which makes them appropriate for a variety of ages. Below are a few of my favorites, but the best thing to do is visit your local library and ask your children's librarian to help you find some of his or her favorites.

Why do they work? Children already know the melody, and will immediately sing along! They LOVE to look at the illustrations, and these books work magic on a restless child or group of children. I always have at least a half a dozen newer ones from the library as well as my own collection, which I use at school visits.

Here are just a few of my favorites:

Old MacDonald’s Farm, by Jessica Souhami (out of print, but can be found)
A Hunting We Will Go, by John Langstaff
If You’re Happy and You Know It, by David A. Carter
What Shall We Do When We All Go Out? illustrated by Shari Halpern
The Itsy Bitsy Spider, by Iza Trapani (many other story song books by this author)
The Farmer In the Dell, illustrated by Kathy Parkinson
Go Tell Aunt Rhody, illustrated by Aliki (many others by this illustrator)

There are also a lot of original songs in this format, and they either have the melody in the back, or include a CD of the song. My new favorite of these (which means the children's favorite!), is We All Go Travellin' By, a sing-along with Fred Penner, by Sheena Roberts and Siobhan Bell. You can find it on

If you have some favorite titles, please share them on this blog!