“Like so many of us who work with children in the church, we discover that music is where our relationship with God is nourished.”
Expert Advice on Singing with Children
In 2013, Brook Packard wrote a series of articles for Building Faith about singing with children. She shared wisdom from her many years of experience as an educator, musician, and Christian formation leader. These articles are rich with practical tips, overall advice, and ways to keep the joy of singing alive. If you or anyone you know works with children, these articles are must reads!
Singing with Young Children
Brook describes the joy of singing with children, and the research which shows that children can learn singing techniques at a very young age. She then goes on to offer practical advice.
Excerpt: "Children cannot audiate – literally hear –what they cannot sing. If you are teaching children a song in a range intended for an adult voice, you will be frustrated and the children will get the wrong message about their participation.
So, keep it simple. Don’t pull out your big grown-up voice, but enjoy accessing a headier, gentler sound when teaching with children. Head voice and chest voice are functions of laryngeal tilt, but we don’t need to have extensive technical knowledge to discern when we’re pressuring or muscling up our voices instead of allowing that easy production to flow." Read the full article.
More Tips on Teaching Children a Song
Brook gives advice about body alignment, encouraging strong singing, and "enough with the louder police." Her pointers about selecting musical pieces are especially valuable.
Excerpt: "When choosing music for children’s chapels and Sunday school there are long-standing traditions on which to draw. Spirituals, folk songs, simple choir songs, fragments of hymns – contemporary or traditional. Paperless is better than reading – once a song is memorized a child will carry its message for a lifetime." Read the full article.
Warming up Children's Voices
Brook shares a series of specific exercises that are fun, easy to teach/learn, and prepare children for singing. She explains that you will find a "world of difference" between singing with children after warming up vs. not warming up at all. Her exercises are fun because they incorporate stories, body movement, and even animal sounds.
Excerpt: "Pigeon coos, kitten mews, and puppy whines. One of my favorites is to put the warm up in the context of a story: We hear a sad baby owl in a tree. We call out to it in a similar, gentle voice. The baby owl hoots back to say it’s lonely. We reach up high, gently take the baby owl and let it rest on the palm of our hands and have a conversation in hoots and coos. Then we open our palms and let the baby owl fly away. The children are engrossed in a story like this, natural, age-appropriate sounds flow." Read the full article.
Brook Packard is a musician, singer, writer, and educator. Her most current project is all about sleep and children. She is the author of When the Bishop Comes to Visit , Desert Island Bible Study and "The Calendar Song," a liturgical resource for learning the Church year through song. For free resources that support children's ministries, visit Brook at www.thecalendarsong.com.
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