Lullabies

Lullabies belong to the instinctive nature of motherhood

– Richard Dubrill

Mom & BabyLullabies have been sung to children for centuries. Wherever you travel, women all over the world use the same tones, the same kind of pattern for singing to their babies. The sound of the lullaby mimics movement in the womb. It is a very basic song with a few words being repeated over and over.

The sound is meant to be sleep inducing and is rooted in love, tenderness and caring.

One of the earliest lullabies recorded chastises a baby for waking the house with its crying and threatens the baby with being eaten by a demon if it does not shut up right now.

An African lullaby sung in Western Africa begins with Rock, Rock, Rock and warns the baby that if it cries it could be eaten by a hyena. It is hard to believe that a lullaby with such dark undertones could be soothing to a baby.

The most popular lullaby, Rock a bye Baby, also tells of how the baby and cradle will drop from the bough of a tree. There are a couple of claims as to how the song began:

In American history, it is said that a young pilgrim boy saw a Native Indian mother suspend her baby from the branch of a tree. The wind was able to rock the cradle and put baby to sleep. The rhyme was known as “Hush a bye baby!”

In English history, a family with eight children, who lived in a massive Yew Tree that was 2000 years old, carved out a tree bough that was used as a cradle for their children.

Lullabies that are sung to a baby are a natural and effective way to bond and develop the human connection. It can be done through eye contact, loving touches and cuddling. Lullabies calm, comfort and help babies and their mothers feel secure.

The lullabies that are sung at Rhymes that Bind have changed from the traditional “Hush a bye Baby.”

Rock a Bye Baby

Rock a bye baby on the treetop,
When the wind blows the cradle will rock,
When the bough breaks the cradle will fall,
And Daddy or Mommy will catch you, cradle and all.

Another popular song is to the tune of Michael Row your Boat Ashore:

Let’s Be Quiet

Now it’s time for us to rest
Let’s be quiet
Now it’s time for us to rest
Let’s be quiet

You’ve been busy all day long
Let’s be quiet
You’ve been busy all day long
Let’s be quiet

Close your eyes for just awhile
Let’s be quiet
Close your eyes for just awhile
Let’s be quiet

(hum a verse )

Twinkle, twinkle little star

Twinkle, twinkle little star
How I wonder what you are
Up above the world so high
Like a diamond in the sky
Twinkle, twinkle little star
How I wonder what are

ABCs

ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
Now I know my ABC’s next time won’t you count with me?
Cat’s and dogs and baby sheep
When I count I fall asleep

 

Come and join us for some lullabies at one of the Rhymes that Bind programs throughout the city. Find more information about Rhymes that Bind and our Edmonton program schedule here

hashtag: #RTB_Edm

 

 

Making Sense of Babbling

Baby-babble

Playing with language is something that babies from all cultures, and from all languages, experiment with naturally. Many of the little rhymes we sing to children, remembered from our own childhoods or learned new, don’t appear to make sense. They can sound like baby babble.

Although the actual words may not make sense, using different muscles while forming new sounds is all very important to building early language skills. Understanding communication between people is also happening regardless of the noise the baby makes. When you say something to your baby, and your body language reflects an open, caring and loving feeling, your baby will respond by trying to mimic your sounds and also your body language.

Here is a rhyme that always reminds me exactly of babies babbling:

Ah ram sam sam, ah ram sam sam
Goolie goolie goolie goolie goolie
Ram sam sam

Ah ram sam sam, ah ram sam sam
Goolie goolie goolie goolie goolie
Ram sam sam

Ah raffie, ah raffie
Goolie goolie goolie goolie goolie
Ram sam sam

For actions to this rhyme, you can try patting your hands on your lap for each ram sam sam, making circle motions with your hands moving around each other for each goolie goolie, and raising your hands in the air for raffie raffie.

Those are all simple motions for small ones to copy. You can make your own movements for any rhyme, just be consistent – your baby will be following along with you.

As a Rhymes that Bind program facilitator, it is very rewarding to see children and their parents building this relationship through the earliest stages of communication. The parents not only experience it first hand, but also by witnessing the other parents and babies in the room who are enjoying the experience.

Building language is powerful and hard work. The next time you hear your baby babbling, take a moment to listen to the different sounds they are trying to recreate. Those are sounds they hear throughout the day. When your child is facing you and you are speaking to them, keep in mind the more animated you look and sound, the longer you will keep their attention. Your child adores you as much as you adore them. They love the sound of the voices they recognize most. Take the opportunity to be silly and play with sounds with your baby. Congratulate yourself for supporting and encouraging your babies’ first sounds that will eventually become their first words!

 

Find more information about Rhymes that Bind and our Edmonton program schedule here

hashtag: #RTB_Edm

 

 

 

2 Easter Egg-tivities, a Song and a Book

“See the bunnies sleeping, ‘til it’s nearly noon
Shall we awake them with a merry tune
Oh so still. Are the bunnies ill? Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh,
Wake up little bunnies, hop, hop, hop!
Wake up little bunnies, hop, hop, hop!
Wake up little bunnies, hop, hop, hop and GO!”

Usually we end this song with “stop” so our little bunnies will pretend to go back to sleep for another round of the song. For Easter, it’s only fitting that we use this song as is to start the morning or the egg hunt. If your kids are anything like mine at Easter, you probably don’t have to wake them up!

Easter for us means a family get-together, good food, and many different activities. Colouring eggs is a big part of our traditions, but we like to try something new each year – sometimes it doesn’t even involve dye!

“Mod Podge Egg” was a hit last year, providing many opportunities to talk about colours and shapes, and to just have fun.

mod-podge

Mod Podge Egg

You need:

  • Egg (boiled, or blown out if you want to keep it)
  • Tissue paper (many colours)
  • Mod Podge (a sealer – like glue, but it hardens and keeps the egg strong)
  • Paint brush

 What to do:

  1. Tear or cut up the tissue paper into different shapes and sizes.
  2. Spread Mod Podge on the egg and put tissue paper all over.
  3. Spread another layer of Mod Podge over the tissue paper on the egg, and add more tissue paper until you’re happy.
  4. Add one last layer of Mod Podge to seal it completely.

Another Easter favourite for our family is the great Easter Egg hunt. It gets more complicated every year, and sometimes we like to add a little variety to what the Easter Bunny brings.

One year we made “goldfish carrots.” The kids had so much fun pulling them out of our pretend garden.

carrots

Goldfish Carrots

You need:

  • Goldfish crackers (or something else orange)
  • Clear disposable icing bags (not cut)
  • Green ribbon

What to do:

  1. Fill the icing bag with the goldfish so the pointy end is down.
  2. Tie the ribbon around the top of the bag when you get the size of carrot you want.
  3. Hide them in a houseplant or make your own “garden”.

Finally, what is Easter without a good book? For some bunny-themed books, scroll down to Darren Hinger’s blog, “Babies Touching Books… with Bunnies.” A great Easter themed book is Duck and Goose: Here comes the Easter Bunny by Tad Hill. It’s about two little birds trying to find a hiding place so they can see the Easter Bunny. It’s perfect for bedtime the night before the big day.

There are many fun Easter activities. Does your family have Easter traditions you would like to share? We would love to hear about them!

 

Why Lullabies Work

Parents and other caregivers have been using lullabies to sooth babies and put them to sleep for generations, because, usually, they work. They are not magic spells but there are a number of things going on, when we sing lullabies, that help to soothe and comfort babies.

  1. Your beautiful voice – you might not like it, but babies are in love with the voices of their close family members. It won’t last forever, but at least for a few years your baby would rather listen to the voices of his parents, siblings, and other caregivers than anything else.
  2. Your rhythm – babies can actually hear before they are even born, and the steady rhythm of mom’s breathing and heartbeat have made a big impact on your baby. Any regular rhythm (especially ones similar to a heartbeat) will put babies at ease, perhaps reminding them of simpler times before they were born and everything became strange and new.
  3. Your excellent taste – when you sing the songs and rhymes that you like, your baby can hear it in your voice and see it in both your facial expressions and your body language. If you are happy with your repertoire, your baby will love the experience.
  4. Your love of “the classics” – babies really are not trendsetters; they tend to like hearing the same things over and over again. If you are consistent in what you sing to your baby, they will appreciate the familiarity and feel more comfortable as a result. When you want to relax, you fall back on your favourites; you don’t charge into new and unfamiliar styles, and babies are no different. Speaking of which, if you regularly sing a song to an unborn baby, they will remember the song after birth and you can bet they will be fond of it.
  5. Your expert delivery – this is not rocket science. Gentler, slower, quieter tunes are usually more relaxing than songs that are aggressive, fast, and loud. I say “usually” because if your baby is used to hearing something loud and fast, she might be soothed by that instead.

So whether you sing traditional lullabies, the latest pop favourites, or the jingle from that terrible commercial that you just cannot get out of your head, you can probably make them work for you and your baby if you keep even a few of the above in mind.

And on those nights when lullabies don’t work, when you’ve sung everything you can think of, and tried everything that you can imagine to calm them down, and they just keep screaming… that’s when you need to sing for you. Your heart will slow down to match the beat of the song. Your breathing will slow down and your body will relax. It won’t solve everything, but you will be calmer which is good for you and for your baby.

Put on a Show

“Come one, come all! The show is about to begin!”

These words echo through your backyard, inviting families of neighbourhood children to come and watch the production they’ve created. It will be a night of fun and memories as the performance unfolds.

It may sound a little daunting, but dramatic play is something kids do naturally. When they get together, they’re often making up stories and acting them out. Putting on an actual play or puppet show is just a different way to capture their creativity so everyone can enjoy it.

It can be as simple or complex as they want it to be. They can use a story or rhyme they know as the base for their play, or make one up. It could be a shadow play, puppet show, reader’s theatre (just Google it and a number of scripts will come up), or any other format they want.

They may want props — the crafty ones in the group will be excited to paint boxes or make puppets (sock and paper bag puppets are quick and easy). Costumes can also be made out of craft materials or old clothes and Halloween costumes. If it’s a night production, glow sticks and flashlights might be a good choice — a white blanket and a flashlight can create a shadow play.

Advertising a show is sometimes just as important as the performance and if they are a little entrepreneurial, they may even think to sell tickets and buy a treat for themselves afterwards.

There are many different ways a project like this can come to life. If you act as a guide instead of the director, you will be amazed at what kids come up with and they will be excited to show their families what they’ve done.

It’s a task that keeps them busy and having fun, and working with other kids in the community builds connections and helps people meet and get to know each other. How can you go wrong with that?

Family Storytelling

In family literacy, we often talk about the importance of oral storytelling. One way to support this is to encourage parents to tell children the story of their birth. This not only encourages their language development, but also creates the bond that comes from sharing experiences and memories together. It can quickly become a family tradition with children asking, “Mommy, please tell me about when I was born again.”

As a twist on this, I called my mother today to wish her a Happy 71st Birthday and realized that I had heard stories about her childhood before but never the story of when she was born.  So I asked her and we spent the next hour sharing this and many other stories about her time growing up.  This rich history and memory sharing is so valuable to all of our families.

Have you talked to your mother about the story of her birth?  I encourage you to do so.  We made many memories today during our sharing!

12 days of Holiday Books for Children

The CFL is getting ready for the holidays by compiling a list of our favorite holiday books for kids! Whether reading to a child about your own traditions, or exposing them to different ways of celebrating the holidays, reading together is a great way to have fun and get into the holiday spirit!

The 12 Days of Holiday Books:

1 ) A Porcupine in a Pine Tree– A Canadian 12 Days of Christmas, by Helaine Becker

2 ) Bear Stays up for Christmas, by Karma Wilson and Jan Brett

3 ) Happy Hanukkah Corduroy, by Don Freeman

4 ) The Polar Express, by Chris Van Allsburg

5 ) Seven Spools of Thread- A Kwanzaa Story, by Angela Shelf Medearis

6 ) How the Grinch Stole Christmas, by Dr. Seuss

7 ) A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens

8 ) The Night Before Christmas, by Clement Clarke Moore

9 ) The Latke who Couldn’t Stop Screaming, by Lemony Snicket

10 ) The Mitten, by Jan Brett

11 ) Scaredy Squirrel Prepares for Christmas, by Melanie Watt

12 ) The Little Fir Tree, by Margaret Wise Brown

What are your favorite books to read during the holidays?

Rhyming Anytime!

I have been teaching families over the past year a rhyme that I had just learned in the springtime. I love it, kids love it and parents quickly fall in love with it as soon as their wee ones utter the words tap tap tap.
It goes like this:
One little finger, one little finger, one little finger, tap tap tap
Put your fingers UP
put your fingers DOWN
Put them on your NOSE (and you repeat changing body parts)
A mom shared their version this past week, she is a mom of 2 girls that LOVE their barbies.
While driving in their vehicle she heard the girls make up their own version, it goes like this:
One little barbie, one little barbie, one little barbie, tap tap tap (as they hold up their barbies and tap them together)
Put your Barbies up
Put your Barbies down
Put them on your toes…  (repeat with a different body part)
hashtag: #RTB_Edm

Fall Rhymes

Fall brings the return of many things that fill our schedules, making life hectic once again. There is back to school, back to work, back to daycares, sports, piano lessons, etc.
Here is a favorite rhyme I share with the families in our programs. I’ve done this with my children since they were small to wind them down when they needed to get ready for bed, or even just needed some cuddle time (they still enjoyed it as they grew older and would not turn down an offer for a “treasure hunt”).
TREASURE HUNT
(Start by lying down next to your child, and gently rubbing their backs. then you trace your fingers up their spine as if they are “walking” fingers while saying)
We’re going on a treasure hunt,
X marks the spot (trace a giant X on child’s back)
Boulder here, boulder there (make a small circle on one side, then repeat on other)
Dot, dot, dot (trace 3 tiny circles across their back)
Crabs crawling up your back (now run hands up gently up their back like a walking crab)
Bubbles rolling down (roll hands and fingers down their back)
Tight squeeze (give them a hug)
Cool Breeze (gently blow on the top of their heads or on their backs)
Now you have the shivereeze ( now rub their whole backs like giving them goosebumps)
You will hear “again, again” every time!!!
 
And just for fun, here’s a Thanksgiving themed rhyme!
CHICKENS IN THE BARNYARD
(this one can be similar to Round and Round the Garden)
Chickens in the barnyard (make your fingers like the chickens running circles around your childs tummy)
Staying out of trouble
Along comes the turkey(now use pointer finger and thumb like they are creeping up to get the child)
ANDDD, Gobble Gobble Gobble!! (tickle your child while saying gobble gobble-what a turkey sounds like)
hashtag: #RTB_Edm

In The Old Days…

I have always loved when someone takes the time to tell me a story about “the old days”.  You know, the ones where people walked to school uphill both ways through 10-foot snow drifts?  It’s especially meaningful to me when the storyteller is someone from my family – it’s amazing what I learn!!

This past weekend, my family was over.  I’m not sure how it even started, but my mom started telling stories of her childhood.  She didn’t have electricity or running water until she was a teenager – and this really wasn’t that long ago!  I won’t tell you her exact age, but it was within the last 50 years.  She told me things I had never known in my thirty some years, but were so interesting to hear.

In school this past year, my son had an assignment to find out more about his heritage.  He interviewed his great grandma who told him that our family has been in Canada for over 300 years!  I had no idea and we thought that was a pretty cool thing to learn.

Oral storytelling is one of those things – with the evolution of technology and just the way families are spread out these days – that has lost its appeal and practice.  People are often scared to try it, thinking they have to be elaborate stories that are told perfectly.  What they don’t realize is that the best told stories are really about them and their family’s own experiences and are told in their own way.

Children love to hear stories about the past.  Topics like how they got their name, where they lived, what school was like for their parents or grandparents, the fact that there was a time when everyone did not carry a computer in their hands (and yes, there was a time like this – try explaining that to young kids today), really interest them and is an important way to share information.

Children also like to tell stories.  Encourage them to do it – let them tell about an experience in their own way, without any prompts.  They usually won’t tell it like you, but listen carefully to let them know how important it is so they can practice this skill.  Not only will it build their oral skills, but also help with reading, as they understand the order and “rules” of stories.

Oral storytelling needs to make a come back.  There are games that you can play that help people get comfortable telling a story out loud, by making it silly, funny and safe.  This one I did with my team at a retreat and with my kids around a campfire.

The first person starts a line of the story and ends at a point where the next person has to decide what will happen.  For example:

“I was walking down a forest path when all of a sudden…”

The next person might say:

A huge bat jumped out in front of me waving a…”

As you can imagine, the story keeps going until it becomes too silly to continue (my team says I can’t write what ours looked like – they were embarrassed).   I have to say though; my team couldn’t hold a candle to what my kids came up with!!

A little more complicated is a game where you start a rhythm that everyone does the entire time and each person takes a turn to give one word (or syllable) for each snap.  The rhythm goes:

Slap (your leg with one hand)

Slap (your other leg with the other hand)

Snap (with one hand)

Snap (with the other hand)

For example the first person would do the slaps and then on each snap say a word like “One day”.

The next person would do the slaps and say on each snap “there were”.

The next person would do the same and say “horse-s”.  And on it would go until the rhythm gets mixed up.

Both these games are great fun and practice for oral storytelling.  Have fun with it and don’t forget to pass what you know to the next generation and encourage them to do the same.