When selecting a song or nursery rhyme to sing, select one that uses repetitive lines or phrases. The repetitions serve as excellent language models and provide a context to then allow your child to experiment with using them in the song via her own vocalizations. Her language input may be in many forms and all of them should be valued or accepted. It could be full, accurate words or they may be silly sounds or approximations—these are all great ways to have her “sing” along. First, select a song, then provide predictable breaks in the melody and allow your child to fill in the next word or few words without you singing along. By offering these small breaks in predictable increments, your child will encounter many opportunities to sing. This will promote her ability to generate and use language more independently.
Here’s an easy example, let’s say Old MacDonald is a family favorite song. You already sing it all the time. Next time you sing the song, pause for the animal names to allow your child the opportunity to say the animal she would like to sing about. You’ll want to pause to a good 3-5 seconds and wait. It will feel like a long time at first but you will need to provide ample time for her to chime in. You can start line by line or go for the whole song at once—it’s up to you.
You can sing:
“Old Mac Donald had a farm, ________ (“EIEIO”) and on that farm he had a ________ ( animal-pig, horse, sheep, cow, etc.) EIEIO! With a ________ (Oink, Oink) here and a ________ (Oink, Oink) there. Here a ________ (Oink), there a ________ (Oink), everywhere a ________ (Oink, Oink) . Old Mac Donald had a farm ________ ( EIEIO)”
You can sing:
Twinkle, Twinkle little ________ (star). How I wonder what you ________ (are). Up above the word so ________ (high). Like a ________ (diamond) in the sky. Twinkle, Twinkle little ________ (star). How I wonder what you ________ (are).
If your child is not yet vocalizing, you can use words and gestures together to help promote her participation. Using ASL vocabulary words along with spoken words is another great way to promote language. Visit www.aslforslps.com for resources on signs. Trying singing and signing the key words.