Transcript: The Benefits of Singing to Your Little One and Why It Is So Important
This is a text transcript from The First Time Mum’s Chat podcast. The episode is called The Benefits of Singing to Your Little One and Why It Is So Important and you can click on the link to view the full episode page, listen to the episode and view the show notes.
Helen Thompson: Introducing your little one to the world of music is something I’ve always been a big believer in and something I regularly did during my childcare career to help calm and relax the children in my care. Singing to your child is an excellent bonding activity and there’s no need to be put off if like me, you are no Celine Dion.
Your kids just want to hear you as you are, and they don’t care what you sound like. In this episode, I’m talking with Alison Newman, who is a singer, songwriter, and mom to two boys. Alison works in early childhood in a kindergarten, so it was fantastic to compare our experiences of working with kids and introducing music to them in that setting.
Alison shares some great tips and insights and you’ll hear her talk about how singing to your little one does amazing things to their brain, how singing can expose your little one to words they may not have heard, since it differs from everyday conversation and how singing can help calm your baby’s nervous system if they are not settling and much, much more.
Hi Alison, and welcome to First Time Mum’s Chat. It’s great to have you here and I can’t wait to talk all about the wonderful world of singing and what a great tool it can be for parents to use in their communication with their little one. Can you start by telling us a bit about you and your background?
Alison Newman: Yeah, sure, so thank you for having me, Helen, I really appreciate you having me on. Yeah, so I’ve been a singer since I was a child. I’ve been singing my whole life. My sister and I have done a lot of work together in a duo (my sister’s about two and a half years younger than me). So just always loved music. My family always had music on. I was really inspired by ABBA and the Beatles and my dad used to play a lot of country and western music, so I sort of credit that for teaching me how to improvise and how to change my voice in certain settings because I have quite a low voice and naturally I’m an alto but to sing along in the same key as the country and western men was too low, but to sing an octave higher was too high. So I learned to sort of harmonize to be able to sing along.
So I just picked up things along the way. I’ve had formal lessons for many years, but most of my singing is quite intuitive. I can play a couple of instruments, but not that well, just well enough to sort of bash out chords for my songwriting and I’ve worked in early childhood education the last 10 years. I’ve worked in a long daycare setting for 9 years and I’ve been now working in the kindergarten setting. So still as an early childhood educator, but in more of a preparation for school setting.
Yeah, so I love the way that music can transition between so many different settings. In early childhood, music is such a massive part of children’s lives and is a wonderful way to build relationships and communicate and all that sort of stuff and yeah, I just find that it’s just a part of our daily life. Yeah, it’s really wonderful.
Helen Thompson: Yeah, cause it inspires us in so many different ways for children. I come from a childcare background as well, and as you may know, I also teach baby massage and I love having music when I’m doing that because in singing and communicating and talking to the children through voice and through music, one of the things I say to mums when I’m singing to them with baby massage is, you don’t have to be a good singer.
I mean, I know you’re trained in it and you’re a good singer, but to say to mums look, don’t worry if you don’t sing very well because babies still love hearing your voice and it doesn’t matter if you don’t sing well, they just appreciate you communicating with them in that way because they learn different things. They learn vocabulary, they learn language, they learn so much through our expressions and what we do and I think that’s where I’m inspired by music, because I think so many moms don’t involve music in their daily life.
Alison Newman: I think being afraid to make a fool of yourself is a really big thing. When you say about being able to sing properly, when I sing at work with the kids, I don’t sing in my proper trained voice. I sing like anybody else would sing, almost like your talking voice and some people often tease me or they’ll say, oh, why don’t you sing properly?
It’s because I don’t wanna feel like I’m performing to the kids. It’s just about the enjoyment that we get and I used to take my youngest son who’s now 7, but when he was younger, we used to go to swimming lessons, and when the moms were in the pool, bounce him around and sing songs and a couple of my friends were there and they’re like, you’re not singing properly. I’m like, I’m not going to sing like I’m on stage while I’m playing with my baby in the pool. So, even me, that is a proper trained singer, I don’t sound fantastic when I sing with the kids. So you don’t have to be worried what you sound like. Kids, like you said, they just wanna hear you.
Becoming childlike and having that playfulness and that not being afraid to make a fool of yourself is something that is hard to get over, but if you can do it, the relationship that you’ll build with your child and especially if you work with children, being like that is imperative. You cannot work in childcare and not be like that.
So I think for parents it can be really tricky, but kids just want you as you are. They’re not gonna judge you, they don’t care what you sound like, they just wanna build those bonds and those relationships. Like you touched on, singing and language, it’s so important. A lot of the children that come through aren’t able to speak. What we’d say in the norms of being able to pronounce their Ts and their Vs and their Ds and a lot of that comes from parents just simply not talking to their children face to face, speaking to children and the children seeing you, sound out and make those shapes with your mouth.
So just speaking to your child is just so important to start with. Then when you add in that singing all the amazing things that fire off in their brain, the neurons, are just going crazy cuz they’re getting this amazing feedback into them. Not only does it teach those communication skills, but it’s the nuances of conversation and rhythm. So, even if you’re reading a story you might put on a bit of a singsong voice because then you are showing your child that language can be so many other things.
Helen Thompson: Yeah, I remember when we first spoke, you were telling us that you had a child who was still learning language and learning how to communicate and you and your colleagues started singing and then one day he started singing back and I thought that was so wonderful.
Alison Newman: It’s incredible. Yeah, I call them play school songs. So they’re basically little ditties, little rhymes. You’ve got a tune that you can make up any words you like to. So the one we did for him was, “Up, up, up the steps, up the steps we go. Up, up, up the steps, up the steps we go”, and we just repeat that whenever we’d had a moment where we were changing his nappy, he was going up the steps. Outside we’ve got the play area and he’s walking up the steps to go to the slide and yeah, one day he started singing it back to us and everybody just went, oh my gosh. It was just this incredible moment and I overheard him taking himself up the steps to the slide and he was singing that as he went up the steps with no one else around him and it was like, oh, this is amazing.
We used that same little song for washing hands. “Wash, wash, wash your hands, wash your hands today, wash, wash, wash your hands, wash the germs away. You just make up anything and it’s just that familiarity, the repetitiveness, that’s something else that helps because as we know, babies really thrive on that. Being able to anticipate what’s coming next. It makes them feel safe and secure and builds that attachment. So, yeah and you noticed when I sang then, I’m not singing properly. It doesn’t have to be something amazing.
Helen Thompson: No, I agree it doesn’t, and that’s exactly what I wanted to communicate with you about.
Alison Newman: So we’ve talked about the communication. We know that it’s really important for babies to make that secure attachment to one adult first, which is usually the mother, and then they can build attachments with others as they go through. So that talking to, but the singing to is really good at helping to build that attachment and that bond and yeah, that predictability is a really important thing.
The nuance of language that we’ve spoken about, the rhythm. So even if you’re reading a book I love The Very Cranky Bear. Just the way that that book rolls through the rhythm. I just love it and whenever we get it out, the kids love it and it’s just a really, really good book. That is a top one for, for that sort of rhythm. And it helps to build familiarity with new words, because often when we are singing we might use words that we don’t use in our general day to day conversation. So that’s another little plus that they’re hearing words that they may not have heard and it helps to hold attention. So if you’ve got a baby who’s a little unsettled, you’ll calm that nervous system either way. They’ll switch off from whatever is troubling them and they’ll focus on you and that’s a really good thing too.
Helen Thompson: Yeah, I notice that when we do baby massage. Yes, it’s lovely, they do connect when you sing to them in that respect.
Alison Newman: And you just have to look at the way that babies and children look at you when you are singing. They’re just so engaged with you and it’s almost like this wonder of, oh, what is this, this is amazing. It’s quite incredible to watch and I really, I really like that. The fact that it’s just playful and fun, it helps you relax as a mother. You know, sometimes it’s really hard for little people and sometimes if you can just get into a bit more of a playful mode and singing can help that, that can help you to relax as well and maybe not take things so seriously.
That’s something I learned with my second child actually, not to take things so seriously and as the kids get older, adding in actions is really great too because that helps to build, fine and growth motor skills and it adds that extra element of challenge to be able to put two things together, being able to sing, being able to do your actions. It also is massive for building connections. You can always tell, and I’m sure you’ll probably agree, you can tell the children that have been sung to at home when they come into a daycare setting because you put music on and straight away they’re up, they’re boogying, moving their body, they know the actions and that can help build relationships between children as well. So they’re bonding over that shared common knowledge and commonability. So there’s just so many great things to it, you know and it’s so accessible. Like we said, you don’t need to sing in a certain way, you don’t need to get out, the latest and greatest songs or buy DVDs or whatever. It’s as simple as as your own voice and your own interaction, and I think that’s more important to a child to see their parent or their caregiver providing that rather than, here go have the iPad and and listen to some music.
Helen Thompson: Oh, absolutely, definitely and seeing you and you mentioned before about older children doing the actions, but with younger kids, you can still do the actions because they’ll still learn how to do it. With babies obviously you are sort of doing it with them. I do a lot of, crossing the midline when I’m working with baby massage and I make up songs as I go. They’re never the same ones. Each class I do they’re never the same but I always say to the parents, look, I’m just making this up as I go and that’s exactly what you do.
This is your left hand and we’re gonna cross the right and you just make a little song about it and they learn so much by that and when you do it when they’re young as you say, they’ll be more inspired when they’re older. They may not be great singers. They may not want to sing, they may not wanna dance, but you are giving them that opportunity to be inspired and learn through music and voice, which I think is valuable as we’ve said, and it’s a communication as well.
Alison Newman: Yeah, and music and dance and that they’re a whole world unto their own, so if you do grow up and you do go into these worlds, at least you’ve had that grounding. Like you said, you’re inspired and, and they are amazing worlds to be part of. If you go into a musical world, there’s just so many things, so positive about being involved in music as an adult as well. Trying to incorporate it in just everyday actions I think is really a great way of doing it.
If your child’s building up with some blocks I’ll often go, “build ’em up, build ’em up, build ’em, build ’em up, up, up”. Just these little songs that you’ve seen on Play School. Pretty much any situation that you’ve got going on at home, whether you are washing the dishes or getting dressed or something, there’s some little ditty song that Play School has sung about, you know.
“Put on your hat ….”
Helen Thompson: Or even with sunscreen as well. Cause some kids hate putting on sunscreen and you can make a little song about it, and when you’re putting their hat on, as you say, “this is the way we leave a hat on”, and you encourage ’em to and you say, we’ve put our hat on for the sun. There’s so many things you can do to encourage them to, if they hear that, they think, oh, it’s actually quite nice to have my hat on, if I put my hat on, somebody will sing to me, that kind of thing.
Alison Newman: And I think too, using music in the periods where you’re transitioning between different things is really easy. Yeah we find the children that we have at kindy, they anticipate, they know when the bell goes, we’re all going to gather together and we’re gonna sing something and this anticipation of, oh, what are we gonna sing today and who’s gonna lead us and it becomes this really shared sort of excitement and taking it back as simply as you said about when you’re doing your massage and you’re changing your hands going this way, and swapping over, that change doesn’t become a scary thing because you’re supported through that with the music and you’re feeling quite relaxed. So I think that’s a massive thing using it for transitions is really useful. Yeah.
Helen Thompson: It’s very beneficial cuz I’ve actually noticed that when I was working in childcare, how if you want a child to tidy up for instance, or if you want a child to calm down, particularly a tidy up song, you can just put on this particular song and they know that that song is tidying up. When you sit down with them, you go through it, you say, right, we’re gonna choose a song to help us to tidy up and you give them a little choice and then they get to know that that song, oh, it’s tidy up time, let’s tidy up and they get inspired to tidy up because listening to music while they’re doing it.
Alison Newman: Yeah, it’s no different to us when we’ve gotta do the house cleaning and we put them in the background just to help us get through because it’s one of those things we’ve gotta do and no one particularly loves it. I don’t, anyway.
Helen Thompson: Well, no, I’m not one of the ones that like it either.
Alison Newman: But that’s the thing, isn’t it and that familiarity, again, we’ve got a song at kindy for packing up, we be the kindy train and the kindy train, choof, choof, choofs along and then it stops. And then we pack up whatever we stopped at and it’s always fun to see who’s gonna be the leader of the train and just, yeah, something really simple as that.
Helen Thompson: Yeah, I agree. It is such a fun thing to do and all kids should be gently encouraged to music. I think it’s a very valuable thing. Something I was thinking about it while we were talking. You know how some mums put on music when they’re pregnant and they sort of dance when they’re pregnant and put music to the baby’s tummy. I think that’s a good thing as well because you’re encouraging your baby to music when you’re pregnant.
Alison Newman: Yeah, absolutely that is so good and even if you can sing to them as well when they’re in the womb, that is massive because we know that the babies start learning language while they’re in the womb, we know that and then they recognize people’s voices. So yeah, by adding in that music, the singing, the movement yeah it’s only gonna enhance it. It’s really good to be able to do that if you can.
Helen Thompson: And I think it’s fun too because if you are feeling, gosh, you just want to get this baby out because you’re just so huge and you just suddenly think, God, I want this baby out and if you sing, it encourages them to move around inside. You can feel them kicking and having fun.
Alison Newman: Yeah, well the thing with anything movement or singing related is you get these endorphins released into the bloodstream that make you feel good. So, it’s no wonder we love dancing, if we’re feeling a bit down, put some music on. So it’s really no different for our little people.
Helen Thompson: Absolutely not, I entirely agree with you. Have you done any meditation type music?
Alison Newman: Yeah. Well my sister and I and her husband, we’ve done an album of, we call it music for meditation. We called it Alemjo, she’s Emma and John. So Alemjo, so it’s not the most creative name and we were asked, oh, seven years ago, it was the day before I had my second child, we put on a show with a yoga teacher here in Mount Gambia. She approached us a few months before and she wanted to do a chakra balancing class. So for those who aren’t familiar, the chakras points through the midline of the body, starting from the crown and on your forehead, your throat, your heart, your solar plexus, your hips, and your base.
So that’s like your tailbone and they’re all different colors and they all sort of align with or coincide with feelings, emotions, so there’s sort of two sides to the chakra. So I use the analogy of the throat chakra, which is blue. Sometimes if your throat chakra is out of whack, you might speak too much, but you also mightn’t speak enough so it goes sort of both ways and she asked us to put together some music for this class, which we did and we did about, oh, so after probably about four tracks after as well and you can find all of these on Spotify and iTunes and all that sort of stuff and that’s really great for obviously relaxation meditation.
A lot of people I know have used it for babies. There are a couple of tracks where we use a singing bowl. It’s like a morter and pestle. I don’t know how this will come through the microphone, but it makes like a vibrational sound, or you can just hit it one time and it’ll go. In a couple of songs there are some dings, so if babies are asleep, when they hear that ding, they might sort of stare. I dunno if they do or they don’t I’d just like to put that out there.
They’re not too loud. Yeah, so that’s a project that we’ve done in the past and we’re hoping to do some more of that as well. Life gets busy, so that’s one of the things we haven’t gotten back to. But yeah, my sister and I, we sing and chant throughout the tracks. We played some shakers, a little bit of percussion, the singing bowl, and Emma’s husband does all the instrumental and keyboard and he does a lot of looping.
So that’s been really fun and as a soloist, I’ve released my first album of original stuff. It’s called Heart Songs, that was in 2019 and it’s really quite a folky album. I don’t quite know how to describe it. There’s a bit of blues on there, bit of rock, there’s some ballads, some sort of traditional folk, all sorts of different bits and bobs really. Right now I’m working on my next album, which is coming out next year, hopefully next year, as it’s taking so long. I’m actually working with my production teams in Spain and Argentina.
Everything virtually which is really fun because I don’t have to leave my home. I don’t have to travel anywhere. The town that I live in doesn’t really have any resources for recording at the moment. People come and go and there’s no one here now, so I’d have to go to Melbourne or Adelaide, which is just a bit much of a commitment, you know, when you’ve got a young family and financially. So basically doing a track at a time, and it’s a very different album. They’re calling it sort of a dark pop, so it’s quite heavy compared to the other album, and it’s all about my experience with postnatal depression, which I had with both of my boys.
It’s called Wolf, like the big bad Wolf, and I think there’s gonna be six or seven tracks and each track is sort of an exploration of any experience that I had within that journey of postnatal depression and it, it’s gonna run chronologically from when it first happened. The first track’s called things are about to get dark. So it’s a bit of a preamble to what’s coming up and each track moves through and the last track will be sort of not everything’s fine again because, after an experience like that you never quite go back to normal, but, that’s sort of the premise of the album. We’ve done four tracks, so hopefully next year we’ll get it all finished and that’ll be available on all the streaming platforms as well.
Helen Thompson: I think that’ll be excellent for mums because not everybody goes through post postnatal depression, but a lot of people do and having music to help you get through that is so valuable.
Alison Newman: Yeah absolutely. So I’m hoping that it’ll start some conversations, cuz I know it’s an uncomfortable topic and not everybody feels comfortable reaching out for help or talking about things like that so yeah, I’m really passionate about sharing my own journey and my story just so that it can help others basically. So that’s where it I’m coming from with it. Yeah. And also it’s helped me work through a lot of things too in the process.
Helen Thompson: Yes, I bet it has. Well, thank you. I definitely gonna put those all in the show notes cuz I know we didn’t talk about the postnatal depression side, but having that as something that parents can go to as an inspiration I think it all links in with music.
Alison Newman: Yeah. And if anyone’s interested I also do a podcast called The Art of Being a Mum. I interview mums who are artists and creatives about the challenges and the joys as well that they’ve had and experienced while trying to keep creating while being a mum and that’s been going for about a year and a half and it’s really fun. It comes out every Friday and yeah, that’s on all the streaming platforms as well.
Helen Thompson: I’ve actually listened to your podcast and I thought it was very inspirational. I highly recommend moms to listen to it because it’s a very good podcast.
Alison Newman: Yeah. Thank you. Appreciate. Yeah, it’s good fun. I’m learning a lot and making some really great connections around the world. So yeah, it’s really fun.
Helen Thompson: Yes, you do when you do podcasts. Thank you Allison for being on the podcast. I’ve really enjoyed talking to you all about music and having the connection with childcare.
Alison Newman: Yeah, thank you it’s been my pleasure. Thanks so much and all the mums listening, just throw away your inhibitions and sing and have a great time.
Helen Thompson: Wow. Alison shared some great tips and I hope we’ve motivated you to put aside any nerves or inhibitions and sing to your little one. You’ve got so much to gain and it can closen your bond with them as well. I’ve included links in the show notes to Alison’s, The Art of Being a Mum Podcast, as well as her website and her meditation and other music, which she spoke about during the episode. I highly recommend checking them out and listening to her podcast, which I know you’ll enjoy. I’ve included links to these in the show notes, which can be accessed at MyBabyMassage.net/podcast/099.