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Repetition in language, song, and body movements - Fingerplays

By Maureen Penko

With fall well underway, our children have been registered in various indoor activities for the start of the fall winter season. Fall is a wonderful time of the year! We watch nature's colours change from orange reds to burgundy; we hear sounds of geese honking, and we see and hear the pecking of birds on the leaves as animals prepare their homes for winter. Fall signals weather change and the cool breezes. The rustling of the leaves and the piles are inviting for children to jump into. The corn maze and pumpkin patches give our children an opportunity to explore the outdoors and learn. Draw attention to all that fall brings, including listening to the sounds and increasing children's experiences with new vocabulary.

In this issue I want to focus on the importance of repetition in learning, language music, and movement.

Here is what we know:

When a baby is born their brain cells reach out, and make neural connections with each new experience stimulated by their environment. These connections are called synapses. As synapses are stimulated over and over, these connections become "hardwired". During early childhood, the brain undergoes extensive growth. Connections that are regularly used will be kept and those that are not will be "pruned'. As parents, you play an important role in the exposure that your child repeatedly experiences in their everyday learning environments.

Toddlers love actions. As I watch my 13-month-old granddaughter, I see her repeatedly banging her hands-on surfaces to experience the action and the sound. She does this repeatedly and checks in to reference her mother as if to say "See what I can do'. That banging can be transferred to a counter, door, drum and to two items together such as blocks. While the banging takes place, we copy that action and add words tap tap or boom boom.

The same learning experience occurs when we do fingerplays with our children. We start to combine repetitive movements with words. Let's start with "the itsy bitsy spider goes up the water spout, down came the rain and ..' Now what happens when we add music? The melody makes it interesting and adds another element, we call sound. The child is engaged, and tries to copy as we repeatedly use melody, movement and lyrics.

Research into music and movement for children over the last 10 years has indicated positive effects on a young child's development. Beat, rhythm and tempo stimulate young minds, encouraging pattern recognition and†auditory discrimination. Auditory discrimination is when the brain can differentiate between sounds and is the basis of speech development.

Music ignites all areas of child development and skills for school readiness, including intellectual, social-emotional, motor, language, and overall literacy. It helps the body and the mind work together. Exposing children to music during early development helps them learn the sounds and meanings of words.

The benefits of music and movement for children under 5 years include helping them with:

  • Their cognitive growth: How they think, explore and work things through.

  • The development of problem-solving skills, like logic, reasoning and sequencing.

  • Self-expression: How they communicate feelings, ideas and thoughts through music, movement or playing an instrument.

  • The development of physical skills like hand-eye coordination, spatial awareness and balance.

  • Social skills like cooperation, taking turns and sharing the music experience of learning how to dance and play instruments with others.

  • The regulation of their emotions by learning to calm down, relax and control their feelings.

Repetition allows a child to practice sounds and create words. Let's look at how everyday repetitive activities can help a child learn colours.

1. A colour-coded cleaning game

Give your child a basket and encourage them to find all their blue toys first. When they finish, have them report back to you. Show your child where to put them. Then, ask them to find a different colour. Repeat until your child has put all their toys away. This fun game combines learning colours and is suitable for older toddlers and preschoolers. You can prompt their help with putting their toys away with questions like, 'Can you find me your blue toys?'

We certainly can't forget how much we love to hear a story book read over and over again such as "Going On A Bear Hunt, going to find a big one ..." How about trying some new reads? This one is a flap book so colourful and the words repetitive with rhyme.

A lift and flap book
Do Cats Moo? By Salina Moo
Do cats moo?
Do cats chow?
All I know is
Cats go .. lift up the flap MEOW

Another interesting read which is repetitive and promotes movement using of prepositions is Early Bird by Toni Tuly. Here's an excerpt:

Early bird likes to wake up Early
She stands as tall as she can
Then early bird gets going ACROSS the grass.

Remember that repetition, music, language can become a set of learning tools. Repetition helps with building memory, copying skills, speech sounds, language and language concepts.

Think about incorporating these tools when preparing for Halloween, and most of all make it fun. Join your child in rehearsal and dress up in preparing for fall and Halloween with a great story, Five Little Pumpkins by†Dan Yaccarino. You and your toddler will love this poem.

Maureen Penko
Speech -Language Pathologist


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