Monday, 13 May 2013

Singing bags

What's your favourite nursery rhyme? Do you remember one in particular from your childhood? 

Everybody loves music, right?

Babies and toddlers are no exception!  Nursery rhymes are fun and interactive and so many skills are learned and developed by singing them to, with, or at your little ones!  Go to any playgroup and there is usually a singing part.   It's important: music stimulates different neurones in the brain to speech alone.  It helps children tune in to the different pitches which relate to speech sounds and intonation of words.  It encourages your littlie to learn the important social skills, and listening skills they will later put into good use when they become competent communicators... Bet you didn't realise all of that... it's true, even if you are out of tune!!

Favourite songs

Some babies and special children may not have developed the shared attention skills they need to be able to follow what they can hear.  Maybe you've been working on listening (see my previous posts on tuning in for speech, Listen as you walk and Stop look listen) and are ready for the next stage.

Work out which songs your child likes and responds to; a smile, a pause, a stillness, or a laugh.  Those will be the ones to use to create a shared activity by then finding corresponding toys.

He's not interested

So, what can we do when the children do not seem to be listening and their attention leads them elsewhere? It may be that your special little one has a developmental delay, or a specific disorder.  In that case, how do you help them to understand that what you are singing is different from the song before, or that it has specific meaning and the words link to real life things?

Bag it up...

So, based on what my 19month old likes, I picked a monkey for "5 little monkeys jumping on the bed" a rabbit for "hop little bunnies", a fish for "1, 2, 3, 4, 5", a teapot for "I'm a little teapot", and a farmer for "Old Macdonald".  All very popular here in the UK!  I nearly ended up with half the toy box, but remembered my own advice and stuck to just a few (also I didn't have a big enough bag!).  

Next, find a bag, pop them in, and take turns pulling out the toy with your littlie. This will straight away turn the objects into a game, just with the anticipation of wondering what will be pulled out - amazing, no extra preparation needed! 

If your littlie starts to look at you, or the toy you're holding, then you've achieved 'shared attention', one of the very important pre-verbal skills, so well done!  

If your littlie grabs the bag from you and rummages for the toy representing their fave song, you have achieved communication, so doubly well done!!

I've used this activity with children who find it really difficult to do Makaton signing, or make a clear choice.  They very soon recognise the bag and that it means singing time, and can get quite excited! As the child recognises what each toy represents, we can move on to introducing pictures or symbols and ultimately set up choice boards.  You can also stick with one song and pull out e.g. different animals for each verse of "Old Macdonald".  

Have any of you used objects or toys in this way or similar? I'd love to hear from you! Please leave a comment below, join the discussions on my facebook page, or email me...

Thanks for stopping by!



  1. We use picture symbols. We started with a couple and gradually introduced more. Its great when you are tired of singing the same one and in need,of something different but my child still felt in control of the choosing as she was the one taking it out of the bag.

  2. Thank you for taking the time to read my blog and write comments. Symbols are great too. I'm hoping to write a bit more about symbol use soon, would love to hear from you then... I definitely think starting small and increasing gradually can develop attention and other skills too.