Sarah Mayhew-Craddock is a Mum About Town

The wheels on the bus must be pretty bald by now – they’ve been going round and round for a long time with no talk of a new set of tyres.

However, in a world where communication is key, yet The National Literacy Trust is concerned by the growing number of young children with inadequate language and communication skills, they need to keep on the road.

Linguistics experts are declaring that singing to one’s littley can have a profound effect on their development, particularly their speech and language skills, so it would seem that it’s time to tune in and tune up.

Fortunately, not only is singing enjoyable, useful in lulling littlies to sleep, and handy in making car journeys pass quicker, it also releases endorphins that make one feel more energised and uplifted, strengthens the immune system, and notably improves mood. Well it does according to research by scientists at the University of Frankfurt in Germany.

Add to that claims by Sally Goddard Blythe, a consultant in neuro-developmental education and director of the Institute for Neuro-Physiological Psychology, that singing is also enormously beneficial in avoiding language problems developing in later life.

In her book, The Genius of Natural Childhood, Blythe states that too much emphasis is placed on reading, writing and numeracy in the early years, and not enough on the benefits of singing. She explains how singing to littlies before they learn to speak is “... an essential precursor to later educational success and emotional wellbeing” and that listening to song and, later, singing along uses and develops both sides of the brain.

Brace yourselves, as Blythe says that: “Babies are particularly responsive when the music comes directly from the parent.

“Singing along with a parent is for the development of reciprocal communication.”

So what to sing to or with your littley? Is there music out there that won’t drive any older siblings or mum and dad mad? The good news is, yes there is, some really good music in fact, and many of the musicians who make this music live locally so perhaps it’s time to fill your Christmas stockings full of songs this Yuletide.

A firm favourite in Oxfordshire is the witty and wonderful “indie-pop genius” who is Nick Cope.

He has just released his fourth album The Pirate’s Breakfast (my other half is a big fan of track three The Baby’s Done Poo! while my favourites are Why Is The Sky Blue and The Story Of The Very Silly Dog, both on Cope’s third album). The songs are playful, infectiously funny and can be learnt and enjoyed live at the host of family music sessions that Cope runs around the county. At the other end of the scale (no pun intended), harmonious folk singer Jackie Oates caresses every ear with her new album Lullabies which brings together traditional lullabies, sleep songs and songs for children from the English folk cannon and beyond (including a little-known Beatles cover).

Lullabies is a tender album to curl up to, with some of the kinds of songs that I can imagine my grandchildren singing to their grandchildren – it really is breathtakingly beautiful.

Spanning many musical styles from gypsy folk to Cuban percussion we’re also really enjoying listening to Macamu at the moment.

With a clear lust for life Macamu sing original songs about everything from sneezing to magical toys who dance the tango and forms a great little-person-friendly introduction to different instruments and world music sounds (One Step, Two Step has been my ear-worm for the past week). From further afield music that will get the entire family tapping their toes include songs from Mrs H and the Sing-along Band and David Gibb.

Families with older children might particularly enjoy the album No Time To Lose by Mrs H and the Sing-along Band as there are lots of lovely songs to dance along to on it.

Equally, David Gibb’s album Letters Through Your Door is a fun and exciting album packed full of catchy original songs whilst also drawing on traditional children’s song from across the world.

Themes on Gibb’s album span the everyday to the surreal; so whether your littley is looking for a dragon in their bedroom, is dreaming about swimming in the sea, or simply waiting for the postman to arrive, there’s something in this album for everyone!

In short, music really is magic, and to quote Roald Dahl: “Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”

So dig deep and conjure up your own magic musical repertoire this Christmas.

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