My 11 year old doesn't understand why we even have it. My 8 year old is just annoyed by it. My 6 year old L.O.V.E.S to sing it at the top of her lungs. My 2 year-old stops crying and claps when I turn it on.
What is it?
Each of the kids, depending on their age, has a different, and very strong opinion. And it is a reaction shared by other their same age.
What is it about "the wheels on the bus" and "if you are happy and you know it", that elicits such a strong reaction? As parents I think we understand why it is annoying to the older children because we share that annoyance. We may also share their amazement at why it works to calm toddlers and their slightly older siblings. There is a reason why these song have survived for generations.
First of all, to be a good children's song, it needs to have one of the following features and the best have more than one:
Rhyming - Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
Years ago when we didn't spend all our time driving in cars, we used to snuggle up an read the kids rhymes. Rhymes are so good for their language development! Rhymes give kids the ability to anticipate the next word. It is as though they are clued into what is going to happen next. It also gives them the beginnings of pre-literacy skills as they begin to identify like sounds and words that have similar endings. Sometimes the kids can sing just the last part of each stanza - they are thinking the whole time about what comes next. When it rhymes they have the clue they need to recall the next words.
Repetition - The Wheels on the Bus
For children, who all have a problem storing memories, things with repetition are amazingly entertaining. Short versus that change just one word or aspect are delightful. The children can remember the tune and the order for the words, and then just change certain words for each verse. For example, The people go up and down (again and again and again), the driver goes sh sh sh, the wheels go round and round.
Hand motions - If You are Happy and You Know It
Children at this age are constantly moving and they should be. They are growing so quickly and any additional motion is good! Hand motions are great because they require the kids to do something challenging at this age. They have to think about the words, music, and motions all at the same time. They have to multitask and integrate different tasks. And just think, these kids who are often struggling just to put on foot in front of another or jump with two feet!
Simple story - The Itsy Bitsy Spider
For a toddler, attention span is not one of their best features. That makes it easy to redirect them when they are in headed towards trouble (thankfully), and it makes it hard for them to follow more complicated story lines. Next time you are listening to grown up music, listen to the lyrics. Half the time the lyrics make no sense to us as adults. We have a wonderful vocabulary, but generally we don't have a clue what the lyrics mean. Simple lyrics, where there is just one verse, or where the verses are very similar helps the children to follow a story and it makes sense to them.
A child singing it. It can be any song but the Wee Sing people and Kids Bop are making a killing.
I have NO CLUE why it makes a difference to have things sung by a child, but it seems to make a difference. I know that is a cop out, but I don't have the answers to everything.
Having kid music for the little ones really does help them. It engages their brains in wonderful ways and helps with their language development as well as their memory. Setting things like math (or even the days of the week) to music can help kids process that information better. Think of the number of kids who learned their basic body parts through the "Head, Shoulder, Knees & Toes" song. Some people are visual learners, other auditory, other tactile. Some people process things much better if it is sung.
Okay you say, but the rest of us in the family can go a little crazy listening to it all day!
First, I remind my older children that their sister has been in the car for X no. of minutes just so they can go to school, piano, soccer, gymnastic, play-dates whatever. If she doesn't get to sit at home and play right now, then they need to deal with the tunes. They need to 'offer up their suffering' out of love for their sister.
Secondly, I play as much of it when they are OUT of the car as I can. For instance in the morning, they choose on the way to school, little Anna "chooses" on the way home.
Third, I remind them that her music is better than hearing her scream.
Fourth, I try to cycle through the toddler CD's every few weeks so that I don't go crazy.
Lastly, when I can't take it any more, we each take turns choosing a song, or we just have some quiet time in the car because really, they don't need to hear the music ALL day. Sometimes their little brains need break too!
Thanks for stopping by and thinking with me!