It’s pretty easy to find songs for 1-3 year olds when your rich driving concept or theme is farming practices but what are the best songs and the best music activities to go with those songs? In our preschool music lesson ‘Baa! Moo! Oink! there is no doubting that the all-time favourite is ‘Old MacDonald Had a Farm‘ and I’m going to go out on a limb and say that I think toddlers actually feel quite powerful when they can sing something. And they can sing the phrase ‘ee-i-ee-i-o’. It’s known as a vocable – a voiced sound that has no specific meaning, others being ‘lu-la’, ‘a-ha’ or ‘whee!’ Now this particular vocable, ‘ee-i-ee-i-o’ happens to consist of only the vowels ‘e’ and ‘i’ and those sounds are easy for young children’ mouths to form – hence the gusto with which they join in at every opportunity. It’s a great song for speech and language development. There are endless repetitions available and the only words that change are the names of the animal and their sounds.
We use this song as our rhythm instruments activity and represent the ducks, sheep, chicks and cows with castanets, bells, shaker eggs and drums. Adults may occasionally tire of these ageless song but the little tackers relish them and stay interested through all of the twelve repetitions. I play each verse three times so if you multiply that by four instruments -yep, we do sing Old MacDonald twelve times! It’s strange to tell but the older I get the more tolerant I become of endless repetitions of traditional children’s songs. Why? Because I see time and again the benefits gained by the children. For a few minutes at a time they actually know how life goes- they can repeat a chunk of culture – they can share it with others of all ages. It’s actually doubly pleasurable because this chunk of culture is set to music – music that stimulates the feel-good chemicals in their ever-busy brains. Language, sociability, musicality all this plus cultural capital and a little animal husbandry- it’s perfect song for toddlers and preschoolers.