Music Matters

I love ending each week of LEAP with our super fun LEAP song (all the writing credit goes to Stacey M!) because it's a great way to wrap up the class in a predictable and fun way for the kids. They know that the song is coming, and as they learn the song better and better each week, they get excited to join in with the group and sing along.

Not only are sing along songs fun for toddlers, but they are also important tools for early childhood development. Singing with rhymes, rhythms and steady beats helps kids to recognize patterns and sequences and to lay foundations for early literacy. Music helps develop listening skills as well, from understanding similarities and differences in the sounds of letters and words to identifying sounds in their environments. Music also has a range of other well-being benefits, which often extend to older kids and adults as well, from calming and focusing the mind to inspiring creativity and socialization. Gari Stein's book 'The More We Get Together: Nurturing Relationships through Music, Play, Books and Art' is a great resource for additional information, and you can find an excerpt from the book discussing the benefits of music here.

So continue to join in during the LEAP song at the end of class, and keep on singing outside of class with the help of the lyrics below!

LEAP Goodbye Song (to the tune of The Ants go Marching)

Goodbye my friends,

It was so fun

At LEAP, At LEAP

Goodbye my friends,

It was so fun

At LEAP, At LEAP

We made great art,

We’re getting smart

We picked up rocks,

We played in a box,

It was so fun at LEAP at the Zoo      


-Becky Lyons

Music Matters

One of my favorite aspects of teaching early childhood programs is the music. Every LEAP session includes a music station which has simple instruments such as tambourines, maracas, bells, and rattles provided for the kids’ experimentation and exploration. Children are naturally musical. They will often start humming a tune or tapping their foot to a beat on their own. Music is an incredibly important tool for child development in myriad areas including intellectual, social and emotional, motor, and language. It helps the body and the mind work together. Listening to music can contribute to these benefits, but making music has the biggest impact. Playing music and singing with others can help children learn cooperation, sharing, and compromise.  Music can also help establish early literacy skills by helping children understand and recognize patterns and sequences.

I love gathering everyone together at the end of each session and singing the LEAP goodbye song, and I am always pleasantly surprised by how many little voices I hear singing all the words. It’s nice to have a structured time at the end of class that we all spend together, and the kids are comfortable and confident knowing class will always end with the song. I wrote the goodbye song to be easy to learn, have rhyming words, repetition, and a familiar tune. We also encourage the kids to clap or tap along to the beat not only because this makes the experience more hands-on and multi-sensory, but because learning to keep a beat is another pre-literacy skill. Kids who can keep a beat are more likely to be good readers later on.  How cool, right?

So keep making music and singing outside of class. Now, you can even practice the LEAP song with the lyrics below!

LEAP Goodbye Song (to the tune of The Ants Go Marching)

Goodbye my friends, 

It was so fun

At LEAP, at LEAP

Goodbye my friends,

It was so fun 

At LEAP, at LEAP

We made great art, 

We're getting smart,

We picked up rocks, 

We played in a box

It was so fun

At LEAP at the Zoo


-Stacey Martin

Guest Post: Bringing play into the everyday

A few weeks ago my 3-year-old daughter, B, and I attended LEAP for the first time.  It was AWESOME! I was so impressed with the activities we participated in.  Exploring pumpkin guts, reading books in a box, using clothespins, painting with vegetables, musical instruments, blocks and more!

As a former classroom preschool teacher and a current homeschooling mama, I could see the learning value of each station we experienced at LEAP.  And it was clear how these activities were engaging and fun for both my kiddo and the others in attendance.   

Despite this knowledge, it can be a challenge to take our daily play activities from ordinary to AWESOME in my life as a mom.  I've been thinking about this, and what the barriers to awesome are, all week.  In my reflections, I've realized that time, mess and noise are most often holding me back.

Bring play into the everyday  

I think it’s safe to say that anyone with young children feels their days are full and busy.  Simply taking care of daily tasks with a little helper along for the ride can feel overwhelming!  But the daily tasks must happen. 

Moving forward, I’m looking for more opportunities to integrate awesome activities into our daily routine.  My daughter is easing out of naps and into “quiet time.”  Building a fort to read books in, using felt pieces, even sensory bin experiences could all be part of this daily down time.  We cook at least once a day every day; she could easily be doing process-based art at our kitchen counter as I prep food.  In the past, she’s enjoyed “painting” butter onto rolls, a great example of how this might work.  I am actively reviewing our daily routine and considering where activities that B enjoys can fit into our day. 

But the mess!

While we were at LEAP, one of my daughter’s favorite activities was the vegetable painting.  Large sheets of paper, difficult to hold veggies, messy paint - what could go wrong?  While I’m sometimes hesitant to do these types of activities at home, I can’t help but admit that my daughter had an amazing sensory experience, used fine motor skills while manipulating the vegetables in different ways and explored the properties of the liquid paint as she tried various ways of applying it to the paper.  This is all good stuff. 

Maybe I should find a way to include messy “painting” in our routine?  My hope is to do so in a way that minimizes the clean up part of the process. 

Potential for mess: 1. Child, 2. Surroundings, 3. Supplies. 

Choose carefully and eliminate 1 or 2 clean up issues and you’re on the way to a manageable project.  LEAP veggie painting is actually a good place to start.  Maybe the ends of carrots, celery & peppers that were destined for the trash (or compost!) can have one more go at usefulness before being swept into the trash bin.  And, maybe, if this painting happens in the kitchen as I’m prepping dinner anyway, paint drips can be wiped up with my food splatters to save one pass of the sponge? I might also sometimes coordinate messy projects – paint, shaving cream, bubbles, whatever - with bath time or water play to ease clean up.  Who needs specialized bath toys when you can wash paint brushes in the tub?

And the noise….

In regards to noise, I realized with some reflection that it’s all about timing.  Instruments – like those set out at LEAP - offer our children a chance for creative expression, enhance hand-eye coordination and introduce scientific concepts of sound.  They can also ruin an important phone call and induce headache in parents.

As a preschool teacher, instruments were a “special” toy that was available often, but not every day. 20+ kids and a marching band was sometimes just too much.  Even with only one kid, instruments can still be an earful.  However, my daughter loves them and I recognize their many benefits.  At our house, we often start the day with a dance party.  It’s usually too early to make phone calls and we’re all fresh from a (hopefully) good night’s sleep.  As I prepare breakfast and empty the dishwasher, I put on some music and watch my daughter dance and play as I sip coffee or tea.  Eventually, I join her.  Maybe for you, dinner prep or evening clean-up is the perfect time for some musical exploration.  Do what works for your family!   

I am so glad I had the opportunity to participate in LEAP.   The fun we had while at Lincoln Park Zoo continues as we look for ways to incorporate some of the engaging activities into our daily life!

Katie Gnau is a professional educator, parent and teacher to her 3-year-old daughter.  She blogs at teachertourguide.com