Inventing songs with toddlers

Mar 24, 2016

Singing songs is a great way to boost toddler language skills because it engages little children in a fun interaction and encourages them to listen out for and enjoy the sounds of words. Inventing new songs extends this. It helps fill your toddler’s day with words, and makes songs directly relevant to their experience. The language-learning potential from that is huge! This post gives quick tips for inventing songs your little one will love.

inventing songs

It doesn’t matter if you’re musical or not, your toddler will get pleasure from your singing. Personally, I am a terrible singer, and definitely no songwriter, but so far my little ones have never complained. Actually, they’re probably the only people who will ever enjoy my singing, so I may as well make the most of it!

I got into the habit early of improvising simple songs to accompany our actions, especially repetitive ones like going down the stairs (we live in a third-floor apartment) or cleaning up. I use familiar tunes like ‘The farmer’s in the dell’ and ‘Frère Jacques’. I describe what we’re doing, and what we’ve just done or what we’re going to do, e.g.

(To ‘The farmer’s in the dell’)

We’re going down the stairs,

We’re going down the stairs,

We’re going down the stairs,

We’re going to the playground

So we’re going down the stairs.


(To ‘Frère Jacques’)

Sweeping, sweeping, sweeping, sweeping,

Clean the floor.

Tidy up the toys, tidy up the toys.

It’s all done. It’s all done.

Clearly, I’m won’t be giving Bob Dylan a run for his money, but my little ones pay attention to these songs and learn words and phrases from them all the time.

Improvised songs can teach new vocabulary. Singing to the tune of ‘Frère Jacques’ is good for this as it encourages a lot of repetition. Songs can also model grammar points, such as how to use –ing at the end of verbs like ‘going’ or ‘sweeping’.

Try to remember your songs and use them again. Encourage your toddler to join in. If they request that you sing, ask them to sing too. Help them to move gradually from listening, to singing with you, to singing independently.

The next step comes when toddlers start to make up their own songs. I remember being so excited when my older son started to do this when he was nearly three. It became a fun game for him, and I think anything that makes words fun is fantastic.

That’s especially true for a late-talker. A language delay or disorder shows that a toddler finds words hard, which means they might not get as much pleasure from them as other children do. Anything that increases the fun-factor in using words boosts language skills for these children. Remember to applaud your little one’s songs!

Songs deepen our relationship with language. Learning to make up their own songs seems to me a great skill for toddlers to learn. They learn about the way words sound and how you can fit them together. They tune in to rhythm. Tricky grammatical points can flow more easily with a melody. Best of all, making up songs gives little ones a chance to have fun with words and take pleasure in how they use them.

Give it a go and get improvising with your tot, whenever you can!

If you enjoyed this post, please use the buttons to share on Facebook or Pinterest. For more ideas to encourage your child’s language skills, check out my book: Word Boosting: A practical guide to encouraging your toddler’s language skills, with 365+ easy playtime activities.

singing bird square

This post is shared at Practical Mondays, Sharing Saturdays, Let Kids Be Kids, A Little Bird Told Me and Mommy Monday Blog Hop.


  1. Meg
    March 28, 2016

    I love singing with and to my little boys. For the past several months, my three-year-old has been requesting that I make up songs about the books we read every night before bed. A lot of them are really ridiculous, but he LOVES it so much. A few of them have even become favorites that we sing over and over.

    • Kathleen
      March 29, 2016

      What a lovely idea to make up songs about the stories you read – kids are so creative!

  2. Let kids be kids
    April 5, 2016

    Singing is great for little ones to learn language. I did this with my kids, but my husband was better at it than me.
    Thanks for sharing with #LetKidsBeKids

    • Kathleen
      April 7, 2016

      I know the feeling – my husband’s a better singer, plus Hebrew has loads of really great children’s songs that my kids love. I’m enjoying it while we can because any day now my oldest will probably realise I can’t carry a tune!


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