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Why Action Songs are Important for Toddlers

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When you become a parent, your playlist begins to change. Your Spotify Wrapped will likely show more Laurie Berkner than Nirvana and for good reason: music is a key learning tool for young children. 

Action songs—like “I’m a Little Teapot” or “Hop Little Bunnies”—are one of our favorite types of music for young children. Their nursery rhyme style combines music and movement, often directing them to do different actions, and helps them begin to use their minds and their bodies together. 

“There are so many benefits to using action songs in the classroom and at home,” McKinze Hamman, Head Teacher at Vivvi, explains. “Using these songs can strengthen language as the children are directly tying words to movements and learning to channel high energy in a positive manner.”

Action songs require your toddler to listen, follow directions, and take an active role in what’s happening. Children sing, move, perform actions, and develop new ideas. This type of music also helps increase your child’s language skills, vocabulary, word understanding—and so much more. 

Developmental Benefits of Action Songs

Think about how often music is used in your own life: to regulate emotions, to help process feelings, maybe even classically as a training tool. Music is just as essential in toddlers’ development.

Your child benefits in so many ways by being exposed to music alone. Exposure to music from a young age can actually change your child’s brain, according to UNICEF.

Exposing your child to music can:

  • Improve moods and empower young children by reducing stress levels.
  • Stimulate the formation of brain chemicals such as dopamine and oxytocin. When these are released, children are encouraged to share toys, empathize and trust others.
  • Boost concentration skills and productivity.
  • Improve learning.
  • Develop spatial intelligence, laying the ground for an interest in mathematics, engineering, computer science, and architecture. 
  • Improve vocabulary and creativity. 

Action songs take that developmental learning even further, according to the BBC. Rhyming helps children start to predict what words might come next—and memorize them, which is a major foundation in the understanding and speaking of a language.

Action Songs can:

  • Improve gross and fine motor skills
  • Improve coordination
  • Improve memorization
  • Help with language development
  • Build community and bonding by singing and performing together

Action Songs in the Classroom

From classroom routines to getting the attention of a room full of toddlers, our Vivvi teachers use action songs throughout the day—starting with circle time.

During circle time, our teachers use action songs to engage children in the group, getting them all settled into the same team.

Action songs are also a cornerstone of our movement time at Vivvi.

“The types of movements they are doing will exercise their gross and fine motor skills—and dancing and moving is fun!” McKinze said. “Not only do children enjoy this type of ‘work’, but using music or even just a sing-song tone activates both sides of the brain, which not only maximizes learning but can improve memory and overall cognitive function.”

We even harness the power of action songs as attention-getters when littles become dysregulated and teeter on bouncing off the walls.

How Action Songs Work

One of our favorite examples of an action song-to-the-rescue is “Hop Little Bunnies”. It’s a classic toddler number Head Teacher McKinze loves when she needs to refocus energy.

“In the classroom, we use it as a regular part of our gross motor time, but also if I notice the kids are getting a little wiggly and we are veering towards chaos—it can quickly happen with a group of toddlers—I can just start singing the song on my own and it automatically refocuses the children and positively channels all that big energy into something fun and safe,” she said.

“Hop Little Bunnies” hits tons of developmental marks for toddlers and preschoolers. It starts by requiring children to lie down and calm their bodies, while also being patient and listening for their cue to hop, hop, hop.

See the bunnies sleeping till it’s nearly noon
Shall we wake them with a merry tune?
They’re so still, are they ill?
Wake up little bunnies!
Hop little bunnies, hop, hop, hop
Hop, hop, hop – Hop, hop, hop
Hop little bunnies, hop, hop, hop
Hop, hop, hop…

Action Songs at Home

For young children, the learning does not stop when they leave school. Their little sponge brains soak up information around the clock and action songs are a great assist.

Just like in the classroom, action songs are a great way to perform routines, learn, and redirect and refocus energy at home.

“If you are establishing routines or even trying just trying to get out the door, you can use a tune from a song you know and add your own lyrics, like “first our socks, then our shoes, so we can go outside, to the store, get in the stroller, etc.,” McKenze said. “This gives the child verbal reminders and physical actions to do while engaging both sides of the brain. This helps avoid struggles with simple routines.”

Vivvi’s Favorite Action Songs

There’s no dearth of toddler action songs. We’ve rounded up a list of a dozen tried and true favorites for the classroom and home (aside from “Hop Little Bunnies”, of course):

  • Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes
  • Wheels on the Bus
  • Shake your Sillies Out
  • Little Red Wagon
  • Twinkle, Twinkle
  • Itsy Bitsy Spider
  • I’m a Little Teapot
  • Hokey Pokey
  • Going on a Bear Hunt
  • Open, Shut Them
  • Five Speckled Frogs
  • Baby Shark

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