What are some early childhood songs

Out: WWD 2002, issue 76, pp. 15-17

How songs and rhymes promote children's linguistic development

Sabine Hirler

"Bake, bake cakes, the baker has called" - who does not know these simple songs and knee riders for the very little ones. Where does this elementary fascination of babies, toddlers and children well into elementary school age with play songs and rhythmic rhymes come from?

Speech and voice have two functions. On the one hand, the child expresses their individual state of mind with their voice (e.g. the crying of toddlers and babies). On the other hand, people and objects become concepts through language that enable the child to express themselves and, in addition to motor activity, to make the world their own through linguistic communication. This complex process of acting - understanding - speaking and thinking is the basis of intelligence development and is heavily dependent on the interactive communication of the social environment - but to a certain extent also on genetic structures.

Through active linguistic communication with their social environment, children learn the interplay of linguistic components, which, however, differ depending on the culture. Because the language acquisition of the mother tongue depends on the respective cultural area with its characteristic sounds, even in the field of onomatopoeia. Children from around the age of twelve lose the ability to distinguish sounds that differ from their mother tongue. You carry out a genetically programmed "language learning program", so to speak, in which you can concentrate on practical implementation - speaking your mother tongue - in the months that follow.

The promotion of language development through songs

Singing with children is synonymous with emotional affection. Parents who sing with their children are telling their child more of their personality and authentic emotions than if they were just talking to them. By singing together, adults move to the age-appropriate emotional level of children. Of course, this has a very positive effect on the emotional bond between parents / educator and child. The infant, toddler and kindergarten child are picked up from their level of development with songs and appropriate movements and draw out the amount of sensory stimuli that they can process.

For this reason, singing is of fundamental importance, especially for babies and toddlers. Lullabies, for example, have an important influence on the development of children in addition to their calming effect through singing, touching or rocking movements, as singing promotes the interaction between the two halves of the brain.

Children as young as two can sing. In other words, they invent melodies based on their emotional and mental state. Many parents observe that their toddler sings freely invented melodies for "hours". The lyrics of the singing seem to us mostly as "meaningless". However, as a result, the child develops many characteristics, some of which are becoming increasingly important, especially in our day and age: creativity, imagination, hearing oneself, living with the music in their own imaginary world, developing their sense of language, expanding their vocabulary, better pronunciation, etc. In the course of their second year of life, toddlers are able to sing along to simple melodies.

Onomatopoeia and the resulting sound symbolism (onomatopoeia) of small children is the first attempt to divide the world into categories (e.g. "woof-woof" is perhaps every animal with four legs and fur). The playful use of onomatopoeia in toddlerhood is the reason for the affinity of children to speak and sing phenomenological noises and sounds in songs and rhymes through onomatopoeia.

On the following song: The "Tsch-Tsch-Eisenbahn" is the sound of a steam locomotive in the onomatopoeic focus. Although these locomotives are only used on special occasions in the environment, they are a popular play item in all generations of kindergarten children. The reason lies in the combination of movement, sound and steam that the kids like to imitate.

The "Tsch-Tsch-Eisenbahn"

Reprinted with the kind permission of Aktive Musik Verlagsgesellschaft from the book "Weiche Tatze - Schmusekatze" by Sabine Hirler. Text and music: Sabine Hirler.

It is, however, a fallacy to assume that the good linguistic example of the media on television, radio and sound carriers would make a decisive contribution to the language acquisition of children. The processes that enable the child to receive new information and to link it with existing knowledge in their respective situation only come from communicative interaction. In linguistic communication with children, the respective caregiver usually reacts intuitively with the right content, through repetition and positive feedback.

Songs can contribute a lot to understanding and conceptualizing the environment. In the following "Song of Colors" the children can recognize their own terminology and bring their own ideas into the group situation.

The song of the colors

Reprinted with the kind permission of Aktive Musik Verlagsgesellschaft from the book "Weiche Tatze - Schmusekatze" by Sabine Hirler. Text and music: Sabine Hirler.

For example: my hat, my fire truck, the red light, the heart.

For example: the canary, the post bus, the banana, the lemon.

For example: my tractor, the police car, a cucumber.

By the time they start school, children learn an average of 13,000 words. With the associated cognitive maturation process, the children are now able to learn old and new words with their corresponding symbolic transposition in writing.

In psychology it is generally recognized that language and thinking are very closely related and influence the development of intelligence. Nonetheless, language is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for the construction of logical operations. It is important for educators in the pre-school sector to recognize that the child's thinking only develops through doing (keyword: the researching child, co-construction) and that language, so to speak, represents the symbolic condensation of this doing. At the same time, language has the function of social control, for example during interactions during a game.

Language promotion through rhymes in finger and hand gesture games

Due to the upright gait of the human being, through the differentiated use of the fingers, the fine motor skills of the hands and, in parallel, the differentiated function of the vocal cords developed. It is not without reason that the language center in the brain is right next to the center of the motor skills of the hands.

The thumb, however, takes up a large part of the motor skills center of the hand. This is no coincidence, because with the thumb we are able to grasp and understand. And this understanding is in turn directly related to the development of intelligence. If we observe infants and toddlers, we are amazed to see the intensity and persistence with which they understand, touch, feel and taste their environment in the truest sense of the word. But it is not without reason that there are finger games for children that are only performed with the thumb in order to promote the thumb's motor skills. Many children's games are the result of an intuitive understanding of what helps the child in their development.

The following practical example "Jenny and Pit" is in the tradition of "Himpelchen und Pimpelchen", and it is very important to accompany the rhythmic language with the corresponding rhythmic movements of the forearms. This creates a miniature theater that fascinates the children with its authenticity in the implementation of language and movement.

"Jenny and Pit"

(Hold your fists next to each other at chest height and stretch your thumbs straight up.)

Through the fascination of play songs and rhymes in connection with gross and fine motor skills, the educator is offered an educationally valuable "tool" that is deeply rooted in the tradition of the kindergarten (Fröbel) and that the children love to play to this day. It is worth taking care of these "tools" because children enjoy it and at the same time, through the interplay of music, language and movement, it promotes motor skills, language and perception.


All practical examples of this article are taken from the song book "Soft paw - cuddly cat. Rhythmic-musical songs, rhymes and imaginative games" (Igel-Records / Aktive Musik, Dortmund, 1999), for which there is a sound carrier with variably usable children's dances.


Hirler, S./Penz, E .: Rhythmic games "Hand and foot, they can dance"; Verlag Kallmeyer, Seelze / Velber, 1995

Hirler, S./Penz, E .: Rhythmic game stories "With all senses through the world"; Verlag Kallmeyer, Seelze / Velber, 1997 - CD "Rhythmic Game Stories"

Hirler, S .: Children need music, games and dance; Ökotopia Verlag, Münster, 1998 - CD "Children need music, games and dance"

Hirler, S .: Promotion of perception through rhythm and music; Herder Verlag, Freiburg, 1999

Hirler, S .: Soft paw - cuddly cat; Igel-Records / Active Music, Dortmund, 1999 - CD and MC "Soft paw - cuddly cat", rhythmic-musical songs, rhymes and imaginative games

Hirler, S .: hammering, typing, extinguishing fire - play activities around the professional world; Ökotopia Verlag, Münster, 2001 - CD "Hammering, Typing, Fire Extinguishing"; Audio CD with interesting stories, songs and rhymes about the professional world

Hirler, S .: How does the moon dance? - Experience fantastic stories with music and dance; Verlag Kallmeyer, Seelze / Velber, 2002


Sabine Hirler is a rhythm teacher, music pedagogue (guitar, recorder) and a successful specialist book and children's song writer. She teaches groups of children (3 to 13 years) and mentally handicapped children and adults. She also works as a lecturer for rhythm and music in curative and special education and has been training teachers and therapists for many years.

Anyone interested in seminars and events with the author Sabine Hirler can contact her in writing or by e-mail or find out more on her extensive website http://www.sabinehirler.de. Detailed information on current courses, seminars, photos, listening and reading examples from books and sound carriers can be found on the homepage.


Sabine Hirler
Rhythm in education and therapy
Bahnhofstrasse 3
D-65589 Hadamar
Tel./Fax: 06433/815440
Email: [email protected]
Internet: http://www.sabinehirler.de