We all know making music with our children can be fun. But did you know that songs can also be a powerful addition to your parenting tool kit? This month on the blog, I’m getting really practical, by teaching you some sweet, simple songs you can use to actually make parenting easier. The songs I’ll share in these posts are like magic spells. Used at the right moment, and in the right way, they have the power to…
- Get your child involved in household chores
- Smoothly move your child through transitions
- Open up spaces for presence and gratitude in your day
- Send a weary child to sleep
- Spell a squirrely little one through waits in dentist’s office, plane rides, etc.
- Support your own self-care
Neat, right? So without further ado, here’s . . .
Part I: Songs for Little Helpers
It’s not easy to get the housework done, especially with little ones in tow. Have you ever struggled to keep up with housekeeping because it feels like your toddler just keeps needing your attention? I know I have. Fortunately, there’s an easier way!
The great secret to getting housework done while your children are with you is to involve them as much a possible in the work. It may seem daunting at first, but with a little forethought, you’ll soon find that most of the things we do around the house can easily accommodate a few extra small helping hands. In fact, most housekeeping task are a lot friendlier to children’s involvement than what a lot of us do in our work live outside the home. For many of us, taking care of the home may be one of the main areas of life where we work with our hands, rather than interacting with a computer or screen.
Remember that for little ones, there is no distinction between work and play. It is all connected for them– just another way to be present with you, and present to their own sensory experience of the world. For inspiration, here are a few tasks that children can easily help with:
- Folding laundry
- Washing dishes
- Chopping vegetables (using a butter knife, or other child friendly knife)
- Tearing up lettuce
- Putting snacks in compartments in a snack box
- Mixing, stirring, scooping
- Cleaning the shower
- Setting the table
- Filling water glasses
- Weeding the garden
- Vacuuming, sweeping, washing
- Putting together a bouquet for the table
- Setting a new candle in the candle holder
- And so much more.
But wait, you say… I thought this was about singing. What does all this have to do with music?
A lot, actually. Children learn best through imitation. When you model working with presence, intention, and lightness of heart, your children will follow. And there’s no sweeter invitation to join you than softly singing as you work.
Think of your work song as a signal. When you sing, you draw your child’s attention to what we’re doing now. You don’t need to announce the song or the activity. Just start working, sing as you work, and watch your child take notice.
Generally, with time, it gets easier and easier, as children come to expect chores as regular activities. In my own family, I usually have only to sing a line or so of the usual song we use for something, and one or both of my children come running. My four year old son prefers tasks related to food prep. My nearly two year old daughter is indiscriminate. Whatever the activity, as soon as she hears the song, she drops what she’s doing and runs over, often crying out “Peregrine help! Peregrine help!”
Your child may not want to participate every time, of course. Mine don’t. And that’s okay. I love knowing that regardless of whether they participate in a given moment, singing helps them be included in the mood of loving, diligent work. Furthermore, I know they’re learning. They’re learning how to do the same tasks I do, with the same care. They’re learning how I feel about the work I’m doing.
Perhaps most importantly, though, they’re learning that home is a place where people sing, sometimes, while they work. And a home like that is a wonderful place to be a child. Working together, being together, sharing the load… Whatever you’re going through, simply going through it together. This is the stuff strong, close families are made of. Why not let your own voices be the soundtrack to this journey together?
So I’m about to share these videos, but before I do, one caveat… The little one in this video is my nineteen month old. You’ll notice she’s staring at the camera. Because we’re generally a media free family, she almost never gets to see my laptop open, so she’s understandably curious about it. I have to confess that I feel ambivalent about having my daughter with me in these videos, because I don’t want her to become prematurely self conscious in the way cameras can inspire.
However, as a working mother who is also primary caregiver for my children, so far this is the only way I’ve found to consistently produce video content! So for now, I’m embracing this compromise.
Ok… enough talking!
Here are this week’s songs for little helpers.
Setting the Table: Polly Put the Kettle On
“Polly, put the kettle on, we’ll all have tea”
Meal Preparation: Chop Chop Choppity Chop
“Chop, chop, choppity chop Cut off the bottom and cut off the top Whatever’s left, we’ll put in the pot Chop, chop, choppity chop”
Drying Dishes: This is the Way…
“This is the way we dry the dishes, dry the dishes, dry the dishes. This is the way we dry the dishes So early in the morning.”
Well, thanks for watching! I hope you find something of value here. And stay tuned… In next week’s post, I’ll go more deeply into the philosophy behind using songs in the place of verbal directives. We’ll talk about learning through imitation, and other insights from a Waldorf Kindergarten. And I’ll offer more ways for busy parents to harness the power of song.
In love and Music,
If you enjoyed this post, here are a few ways to go deeper:
If you’re in the SF Bay Area, we warmly invite you to join us in person!
Meadowlark Music Class, my weekly music class for children and caregivers, meets W, TH, and F mornings at indoor and outdoor locations around San Francisco.
Or learn more about Waldorf education through my my outdoor Waldorf parent child class, Apple Star, which meets Tuesday mornings in Glen Canyon.
Wherever you live, you can download our latest album. It’s free / pay what you want!