Kind Mind
Sing Me A Story

Sing Me A Story

In every workshop I offer for early childhood educators and children’s librarians, I invite folks to sing several extended vowel sounds together. 


Inevitably, someone yawns.


I don’t see this as an insult. On the contrary! It’s a visible display that the parasympathetic reflex is being stirred through singing and proves the point I’m trying to make.


Singing is one of several activities (like deep breathing, humming, and cold exposure) that activate the vagus nerve, a lace-like nerve structure that connects our brain stem to our vital organs and is responsible, among many jobs, for bringing our autonomic nervous system back into a state of regulation after being triggered into a fight or flight, or sympathetic, response. which is responsible for breathing, digestion, and heart rate. 



Experiencing a tough goodbye with a parent at drop-off, having a beloved toy snatched by a friend, or being surprised or over-stimulated by loud noises are all moments that can send a young child into a fight or flight response.


Singing a song together, especially repeating the same song to mark a moment like hello or goodbye, acts as a focus point, ritual, and soothing tool, and helps bring out bodies into a state of regulation. In a state of regulation, a human’s ears turn to middle frequencies (where the human voice lies - we can listen better), we become more expressive, our digestion is activated, and our heart rate and pressure decrease. This is also called the “rest and digest” state. 


A state of regulation is the only state in which we can learn.


Singing also invites each voice into a collective, promoting a sense of belonging. If you’ve ever sung in a group you might know the thrill and delight of hearing your voice become part of a collective, something bigger than yourself.


By singing, we can help children achieve the condition from which they can listen and learn, in addition to loads of research that supports singing as a fundamental way to promote healthy cognitive, emotional, linguistic, physical, social, and emotional development.


Singing is also free, accessible, and culturally relevant to all humans. You can help children regulate their nervous systems by:

  1. Using the same songs to say hello, goodbye, for transitions and certain tasks. 
  2. Inviting children to mimic a tone that you’re humming. Use a simple bee puppet to help build a story about the bee and children hum every time the bee moves. (Note - make sure to sing high enough for little vocal chords to match you). 
  3. Being brave and not judging your singing! Because young students just want to sing along. 


This week, visit Emilia’s website and feel inspired to use more music in your class. Notice what happens and how the children respond. 

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