It’s a beautiful Saturday morning and once again my little three year old is serenading us with her joyous singing. She appears to be singing a combination of several songs at once with lyrics covering everything from knocking on doors and having haircuts to the events of last week (audio example at bottom of post).
It’s not the first time that I’ve made this observation but it’s now clearer than ever; children are natural born songwriters. They don’t need formal training, they don’t need writing skills and they don’t even need to know how to play an instrument. As a matter of fact, they write songs in the same way that most professionals do; they copy most of their ideas from other songs and change enough to make it sound original.
The Magic 7
Songwriting is one of my passions and it is something that more people should take part in. After all, it’s loads of fun!
So how do you take advantage of the fact that children are natural born songwriters? Well I’ve compiled a short list of ideas that you can use to encourage the natural songwriting skills of your child (or yourself if you like!)
1. Space and Time
Life is busy and too cluttered for most of us. We live organised and structured lives that can all too often squeeze out all the opportunity to just sit around, get bored and be driven to use our imagination instead of staring at a screen.
Turn off devices! Turn off the TV! Let your kids absorb the silence and then watch as they create. If the stimulus is not forced in front of them then there is a high chance that they will create their own stimuli. Give it a try!
Monkey hear, monkey do. Or something like that. Kids are brilliant at imitating and copying what they hear and see. They’ll take what they’ve heard and mix it all up. That’s songwriting!
Read books with your child, play them music, learn an instrument with them or just have a bit of a play around with an instrument while they’re with you. They’ll be drawn to it and want to take over.
3. Record it
This has to be my favourite part. Children absolutely love hearing themselves on a recording. It doesn’t have to be video. Just audio will suffice.
If your child has broken out into some impromptu singing, get out your phone and use it to discreetly record your child. Show them once they’ve finished and chances are that they’ll want to hear it again and then go for another round of improvised songwriting.
4. Write it down
Write down what your child has sung and show them what they’ve created or if they’re able, they can write it down themselves. I’d recommend recording their ideas first so that the writing process doesn’t interfere with the creation process. After all, writing is primarily for recording keeping. The creating happens within the mind, not on the paper.
It's good to keep a record of their creations (written or recorded) and look back over them in a few years time. It’s important that they realise that they have natural songwriting abilities. If you don’t have a record of this then they may forget they ever possessed these abilities.
5. Use Technology
As mentioned in step number 3, you can use simple technology to record your child (or yourself) singing. If you want you can take things a step further with these helpful programs.
Finale Notepad – Not quite for young kids but if you want to mess around with notes on a stave then this is a great way to do just that. The software is free and is an excellent stepping stone to some much more powerful (and expensive) notation systems.
You can also check out some these music games in a previous post. Most of these games have elements of song writing/composing.
6. Learn an Instrument
You don’t have to be good. You just have to try. The mere fact that you are trying will spark the interest of your child and you’ll find it hard to get some practice without them wanting to join in. It can be slightly annoying but relish the moment! One day it will pass.
7. Learn some chords
Having some basic skills on guitar or piano can work wonders for songwriting. Most pop songs only use three chords so if you can master the chords C, F and G on piano or D, G and A on guitar, then you’ll popping out songs in no time. If you need help figuring out how to play chords then you can easily find some instructional videos on Youtube.
With these 7 helpful hints I’m hoping to see a surge in tiny little songwriters in the not too distant future. It's time to get song writing!
Let us know if you have a little song writer at home. What creations does your child come up with?
Here's a little audio sample of the beautiful creations of my 3 year old.
1. Do your research
If you’re going to spend some money on entertainment for your child’s party then you’ll also want to spend some time making sure you get the right deal. It may be obvious but think about what your child likes and what they don’t like. If your child has a phobia of clowns then you may want to steer clear of these funny folk.
It's important that you also check each entertainer's legal details such as current Working With Children Check and Public Liability Insurance.
2. Know what you’re paying for… What am I paying for?
When hiring entertainment, you are paying for more than just the hour or so that an entertainer will be at your party. The entertainer needs to cover expenses such as travel, insurance, advertising, equipment, and the time spent rehearsing to hold a group of children’s attention for an hour or so.
All of these things add up so don’t be surprised that you may spend hundreds of dollars for what looks like an hour of work.
BUT! You don’t want to be surprised by hidden charges. Some entertainers and companies will charge a one-off payment while others have a base rate and then charge extra for things like travel, amount of children, extra entertainers and any nasty damages that might occur.
Moral of the story is… Get a quote and check all the details before paying.
3. Food Glorious Food!
Everybody loves food. That’s a no brainer. And children not only love food, but if they haven’t eaten, you’ll run the risk of having a group of flaked out, irrational, miserable, party-poopers.
Plan your party around meal times and make sure that the children have eaten before trying to hand them over to a magician or pinning a tail on a donkey.
4. What’s the Time Mr Wolf?
Timing is crucial. Get it wrong and you’ll be curling into the fetal position while the tired tykes run riot. This is more important for children under the age of 6 but let’s face it, nobody functions well when tired.
The best times of day for kids are early in the morning and after food. This usually falls into the 9:30am-11:00am bracket. The next best time is around the 1:00pm mark after a nap and food.
5. Location, Location, Location
There are many factors to consider here. If you’re outside then you don’t have to vacuum the grass, unless that floats your boat of course. Or maybe you don’t want to spend hours looking at weather predictions so you’ll plan for the inside option.
Whether you choose inside or outside here a few pointers to consider for making the entertainment work.
Save a space for the entertainer. If they need to set up equipment then make sure that they can do this without being bombarded by children or tripping over scooters and knee high chairs.
If the entertainment involves speaking or music then inside will work better on most occasions. If hosting inside is not an option then try to reduce any background noise outside and hopefully the entertainer has either a loud voice or a P.A system.
The entertainer should be prepared for all scenarios but you don’t want to set them up for disaster.
6. Let the Entertainer do their job
You’re paying the entertainer to make things a bit easier for you by amusing the children and keeping them occupied. If you’ve planned well, have chosen a good time and have fed the kids then you might have some time to chat to friends or perhaps even relax and enjoy some entertainment yourself.
Also, don’t feel like you have to help the entertainer setup and pack up. Your paying them to do that so go and enjoy yourself.
7. Don’t Over Do It
Everybody wants the best for their child but children also want the best for their parents (they realise this when they’re older).
Be reasonable and don’t pack too much stuff in. A party that is short and sweet and has the kids smiling as they walk out the door is ideal. A four-hour marathon that involves several party games, face painting, trivia, jumping castle, a banquet fit for kings and queens followed by an hour of crying and fighting as kids lose the plot… is probably not ideal. But it does happen.
You’ll be exhausted after an hour or two and so will the kids, so keep it short.
And if you are having entertainment then don’t put on everything at once. You don’t want to waste your money by passing a parcel or bringing out the cake while your entertainer has just started.
8. It’s all about me!
Hopefully your entertainer will be the centre of attention at some stage. If they’re good, then they will also make the birthday girl or boy feel very special too.
Some children may not like the idea that that they are not getting all the attention and that some clown is getting all the laughs at their party. Who can blame them? Some adults don’t like that either.
This scenario is best avoided by talking to your child before the party. Let them know that they are special and loved and that someone will be coming who will be a lot of fun for everyone. Every child is different so tactics will vary but it is important that the birthday child knows that they may need to share toys, friends and stage time.
*This article was first published on a blog for Melody Shakers.
Author: David Thurlow
Fun Stuff for Kids (The Blog) is all about providing parents, teachers and child carers with helpful hints, educational articles and fun ideas that children will love.
David Thurlow is an educator, entertainer, musician, husband, father and casual blogger