Three reasons why I love – yes, love – children’s music

espanolita bilingual parenting bilingualism children's music

(Photo via Hillary Boles, Flickr CC)

If you’re new to the blog you may not know that I’m raising my almost 18-month old daughter, E., in my non-native language of Spanish. 

Although I’m bilingual, I have had to work to learn and use what I call the language of mother en español. And, to help me I’ve relied on children’s music in Spanish.

Now, you talk to any parent and they’ll roll their eyes and drop their head at the words “children’s music.” Look, I get it. High-pitched voices. Repetitive lyrics. Over-the-top-cheerful melodies. Sometimes you just want some grown up music.

But, in this crazy adventure of bilingual parenting I have grown to love (good quality) children’s music. Not because the music is superior or because the lyrics are ingenious. No, because children’s music is an excellent language learning tool.

Here’s how:

1. It provides cultural knowledge – 

My husband, D., grew up Madrid, Spain. I didn’t. Rosa Leon? David, el Gnomo? Miliki y Los Payasos? Dartacan y los Tres Mosqueperros? No clue. Well, not until now!

Since part of bilingual parenting is imparting two cultures, and since ours is a Spanish-only home, I have had to scour YouTube for Spanish nanas (lullabies) since the day little E. was born. I want her to grow up with both the Spanish language and the Spanish culture. Yet, Los Cinco Lobitos and El Patio de mi Casa aren’t just for her. They’re for my cultural knowledge, too.

Most mothers (and, dads) look to their own childhood and parents for direction on how to raise their own children (or, for things to avoid). And, while I can draw on my upbringing for guidance on to how to impart moral and educational values to my children, I have to look to other sources for the cultural knowledge I want to give them. That’s one of the reasons I love children’s music.

espanolita bilingual parenting bilingualism children's music

(Photo via Casa de América, Flickr CC)

2. Music is a great language learning device – 

I wrote about this point in a previous blog post. Just ask any language teacher, or really any teacher for that matter. They will tell you that music and language go hand-in-hand. Music is an excellent way to memorize words and information. Why else do we teach our children the ABCs through song? Or, why do so many parents sign their young children up for Music Together classes? Because music is not only good for the soul, it’s good for our language development, both for children’s and for adults’, like me, who are learning (yes, I’m still learning) a second language.

Sure, there are days when I wish with all my heart I didn’t have the words of El Arca de Noé running a loop through my head. But, it’s because of that simple child’s song that I learned what a topo (mole, the animal) is. I will never, never forget it now.

espanolita bilingual parenting bilingualism children's music

(Photo via H is for Home, Flickr CC)

3. Music encourages original language output – 

When I’m too tired to provide Spanish input to E., or really when I’m too tired to make any original and coherent thought, I just burst out in song. “Tengo una vaca lechera. No es una vaca cualquiera. Me da leche merengada. Ay, qué vaca tan salada….” If for no other reason than to give me a bolt of energy when 4 p.m. rolls around.

But, I’ll take it one step further: the simple, catchy melodies of children’s music not only help its listeners to remember the lyrics, but they also prompt the brain to produce new and original language. For example, I’ve used the melody to E.’s favorite lullaby, Los Cinco Lobitos, to compose a song of love, a song to eat dinner, and a song to brush our teeth. D. has borrowed the tune to a song from his childhood to sing about cooking and going to bed.

Although I entitled this post “three reasons….,” I can’t end here without mentioning a fourth reason why I love children’s music. It cultivates a love for music in my daughter. One of the strongest memories I have from my own childhood is of the classical music my mother always had playing in the car, in the kitchen, and in our playroom. I attribute this exposure to my later learning the piano. And, now as an adult, I can’t imagine my daily routine without music, and that includes Los Cinco Lobitos.

Interested in learning more about the connection between music and language? Check out some of these articles:

Do you use music to facilitate your children’s language learning? What is some of your favorite music for kids? I’d love to hear from you!

4 thoughts on “Three reasons why I love – yes, love – children’s music

  1. Oh yes, raising our children trilingual children’s music has been fun and educational, and raised good chats about contents, culture and different ways to think in different languages l. Also, visiting a nursery rhymes group has given us English speaking friends with kids the same age too. I always remember my daughters surprise when she realised other children could speak dad’s language too.

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