If I don’t sing Twinkle, twinkle little star at Rhymetime, someone small always comes up to me at the end and asks me to put that right. These children know that repetition is good, and we adults sometimes forget this.
Coming together and singing the same songs, week after week (and again at home) makes these songs part of us all. When we sing the songs we know, we feel safe and loved, and it gives our little ones a chance to shine. When you are very small, predictability is a good thing. When you hear You are my Sunshine you can go off and get your coat, wave goodbye and put your money in the pot. You know what is happening, and you are safe, so you can relax and enjoy yourself.
Of course, with each rendition of Wind the bobbin up our child also learns a little more: first the tune, then the actions and words. I get such a thrill from watching the children master Heads, shoulders, knees and toes, first slowly, a little behind, and then faster and faster, singing as they go. Oh, the sheer pleasure of accomplishing this new skill!
Repetition is a brilliant way to practise speech patterns too. When I lived in Italy as a student, I would trudge the streets of Siena mumbling to myself, mimicking the exclamations and conversational gambits of the people around me in an attempt to make my accent less English. This did, of course, make me appear somewhat eccentric (has anything changed?!) but practising these intonations, or the music of the language, gave me confidence when it came to speaking Italian. Singing is a far easier way of practising. In fact some children can’t talk well enough to communicate but can sing a song clearly. They’ve made the first step, and singing it with you again and again is the best practice there is.
So we sing these songs week after week to create a safe, predictable place where we can master the songs, singing them again and again. And if I slip in a new tune here and there, we can cope with that.