Keep a Song in Your Heart
By Jean Feldman, Ph.D.

When I grew up, we didn't have television, computers, or videos. I was left to my imagination and my little record player. I can remember sitting for hours on the floor or our dining room with my red and yellow records singing, "I'm a Little Teapot" and "Pop Goes the Weasel." My mother didn't realize it at the time, but that was one of the best activities for stimulation my brain and developing my literacy skills. She just knew it entertained my and made me happy.

The world has changed a great deal over the past fifty years, but children today are very similar to the little girl I once was. They LOVE music! Forget the research about improving mental abilities, self-confidence, social skills, and physical coordination - music is FUN! There's nothing like a good song to put a smile on a child's face. There's nothing more rewarding then to see their eyes dance and say, "Do it again!" And there is nothing you can say or "teach" a child that will stay in their heart like a song.

But nobody sings anymore! There is a whole generation of children who do not know nursery rhymes or traditional tunes. You and I have the responsibility and privilege of passing on our musical heritage and putting music back into children's lives. The good news is you don't have to be a musician or opera star to do this. You don't even need a CD or a full orchestra. Just open your mouth and SING! Your smile and enthusiasm will make up for any lost notes. Sing in the morning, sing when you clean up, sing during transitions, and sing to teach children skills you are working on.

Start with one song at a time. Sing slowly and clearly several times, encouraging the children to join in. Make a list of the songs as you teach them on poster board. (It's a good idea to add picture clues, too.) Then if you have a few extra minutes, let the children choose their favorites from the song chart. Add movements to the songs to engage children's interest, and really "ham it up" with exaggerated facial expressions and sounds. What a captive audience you will have! (Send home copies of the songs in newsletters so parents can enjoy them with their children at home.)

Here are some favorite songs you can sing with your children. If you aren't familiar with the tune, ask a mentor teachers or family member to help you. Look in your own memory bank for songs you remember from school, camp, or scouts. Share them! Keep them alive! You're children will be delighted!

  • Skip to My Lou
  • If You're Happy
  • Frere Jacques
  • Shortenin' Bread
  • Muffin Man
  • Mulberry Bush
  • Bingo
  • Row Your Boat
  • Lassie and Laddie
  • Found a Peanut
  • Humpty Dumpty
  • Itsy Bitsy Spider
  • Hickory Dickory Dock
  • Old Macdonald
  • Twinkle Little Star
  • Ring Around Rosie
  • London Bridge
  • Mary Had Little Lamb
  • She'll Be Coming Round the Mountain
  • I've Been Working on the Railroad
  • Yankee Doodle
  • You are My Sunshine
  • This Old Man
  • Farmer in the Dell
  • Three Blind Mice
  • It's Raining
  • Wheels on the Bus
  • The Bear Went Over the Mountain
  • A Tisket a Tasket
  • My Bonnie
  • Hush Little Baby
  • My Darlin' Clementine

Think of these songs as special "gifts" your children can keep in their hearts and open again and again in all their lives. Someone once said, "People sing because they are happy, and they are happy because they sing!" Come on! Get happy and SING!

Jean Feldman, Ph.D., has been a teacher in the Atlanta area for 30 years. She serves on the advisory board of several organizations, presents to professional groups across the country, and is the author of A Survival Guide for Preschool Teachers, Indoor and Outdoor Games and Activities, Science Surprises, Transition Time, Self-Esteem Activities for Young Children, and Wonderful Rooms Where Children Can Bloom.