When I did my Steiner Waldorf training a few things jumped out at me very strongly in the kindergarten years; one was the use of oral storytelling long before the written word was introduced, and the other was the use of songs and rhymes throughout the journey of the day and circle of the year.
I believe that using rhymes and songs is central in working with early years and key stage 1 children. It has a powerful and important place in education and outdoor nature connection work, and I wanted to share some of my reflections on why I feel that is the case.
Why use songs and rhymes with young children
There are many benefits, but first and foremost it is highly enjoyable for children and creates a feeling of fun, and learning is more effortless when you are having fun.
Singing together helps to foster a wonderful feeling of community and connection, with its associated benefits socially and to well being.
Using songs and rhymes helps children to foster a love for music and helps them develop their primary skills in music making, such as learning about rhythm and beat. The songs and rhymes can be combined with actions, movement and dance, to enable children to embody this sense of rhythm and gain physical benefits too.
Songs and rhymes help to boost children's language and literacy skills and communication. It helps expand their vocabulary and the playfulness of songs and rhymes helps to foster a love of language.
There is evidence that singing uses both sides of the brain - logical and creative, helping to develop important brain connections. It nurtures children's creativity and at the same time there is also a deep connection between music and mathematics. Many patterns in music obey mathematical rules and concepts such as counting are incorporated into many songs in the early years.
Songs and rhymes and nature connection
The songs and rhymes can be chosen to reflect the seasons, habitats and weather. This has many benefits; it can help deepen their awareness of what is happening around them; it can educate them about the natural world and help them develop a deeper understanding of the cycles and natural processes; and it can nurture a sense of connection, wonder and reverence for the natural world.
For example, I created the song below, as a way to explore the different sounds that we might hear in the woodland on an Autumn/winters day.
Using songs can be used to create a structure and rhythm to your sessions. A particular song can be used when you begin your outdoor adventure and when you end it, so that the song naturally creates a safe, reassuring pattern. This can also cultivates a sense of something magical and special about to happen.
It is helpful to have a specific song to signal different activities, for example when it is time to have a snack, or help tidy up. The children will know what is expected of them, and over time will begin to naturally respond and begin the task that is being signaled.
Songs and rhymes can be chosen on cold days which have a high level of movement and activity and this can help the children move and keep warm.
The exploration of musicality can also be extended in a forest school sessions by introducing home made instruments made from natural materials.
Repetition, repetition, repetition........
Children love to revisit the same songs and rhymes over and over. This can have a soothing, reassuring affect, as well as helping them to master the words, movements and gestures, so that they can fully join in and participate. Repetition is fundamental in helping to embed the benefits of songs and rhymes.
Just have a go...
Children do not need adults that are perfects singers. They don't mind if you forget a line.. It just models them that you don't have to be perfect, and that the most important thing is to have the confidence to have a go and have some fun together.