MUSIC IS A SPECIAL LANGUAGE THAT often expresses feelings more intimately than words. Babies are biologically primed to search for and to stare intently at the face of a teacher who is gently crooning. Tiny infants coo with long, drawn-out, often high-pitched vowels. By 1 year of age, they babble strings of syllables in varying tones and practice singsong melodies in their cribs, such as "Ooo, Eee, Aaah." In response to a baby's vocalizing, use some of the baby's tones. You may get a delighted look that seems to say, "My teacher wants to sing along with me!"

Singing is also a special technique that builds trust in toddlers and gives them pleasure. By age 2, many toddlers can not only hum along with familiar melodies but even chime in with a few garbled words. Hearing their names sung over and over in made-up songs helps to calm and reassure them and strengthens the connection between you and your toddlers.

Music With Infants

Find time every day to sing songs with your babies during routines. Sing about what you are doing-diapering, rocking, settling the baby on a play mat. Sing as you label each little finger you are cleaning up after lunch. Exaggerate your tones as you sing. A made-up song, such as, "See my sweet, sweet BAAABY!" sung with delight as you diaper a baby attracts her attention and builds emotionally positive bonds.

Sing to Soothe Infants

Crooning in empathic tones provides the emotionally soothing bandage a baby needs when he has tumbled and bumped himself. You can comfort a fussy, teething baby with a funny song such as "Old MacDonald Had a Farm." Exaggerate the animal sounds in each stanza of the song to distract the baby from his teething woes. Your singing reassures him that you are that special person he can count on when he feels tired or upset.

Sing Babies to Steep

Infants drift into sleep more easily with lullabies. For very young babies, croon two notes: "Ah, ah, baby." With older infants, choose song such as "Mockingbird" ("Hush little Baby/Don't say a word...").

Music in Motion

Rub the baby's tummy in a circle and sing about going ,round and 'round. Sing the words for your motions as you gently move an infant's limbs in and out or up and down. Pat a baby's back tenderly to send the message that he is lovable. Dance slowly to soothing music while holding the baby in your arms.

Music With Toddlers

Singing enhances a child's feelings of camaraderie with other children. Try simple group songs: "Good morning little yellow bird, yellow bird, yellow bird. Good morning little yellow bird. Who are you?" Smile happily and point to a different toddler each time. Toddlers respond with "My name is...." in a singsong tone. The children learn one another's names and feel pride in knowing the words that go with the music.

Add to the Pleasure

A basket of simple musical instruments increases toddlers' enjoyment of music as a special "together time." Toddlers enjoy making their own music with wrist bells, maracas, and small tambourines as well as playing them along with familiar tunes.

When you make music and sing with toddlers, keep in mind that even though they may have heard certain tunes over and over again since they were infants, you'll want to keep giving them the continuity of pleasure that favorite melodies provide.

Naptime Tunes

Ballads such as "Summertime (and the livin' is easy)" help toddlers settle down at naptime. Research shows that music, whether a lullaby or other gentle song, encourages sleep. Also, music that includes the toddlers' names eases the transition to wake-up time.

Sing for Cooperation

Toddlers who are going through their "no" stage cooperate more easily to a singsong cheerful melody. You can make up songs for activities you want toddlers to participate in such as, "Time to get ready for lunch. Now it's yummy lunchtime!" These tunes help toddlers feel better about complying with routines and transitions.

Make music your special way of increasing harmony and feelings of closeness with the children in your program.