Encouraging the centuries-old practice of amusing and distracting babies by bouncing them on the knee, this collection contains more than 150 traditional songs and rhymes for bouncing, including "Pop Goes the Weasel," "To Market, To Market," and "This Is the Way the Ladies Ride."
About the Author
John M. Feierabend is professor and chair of the music education division at the Hartt School of the University of Hartford in Connecticut. He lives in West Hartford, Connecticut.
What People are Saying About This
This rich collection of classic treasures that John Feieraband has gathered can easily nourish both children and their adults.--Fred Rogers, creator and host, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood
An Interview with Dr. John M. Feierabend, early childhood music education specialist and compiler of the First Steps in Music series: The Book of Bounces, The Book of Wiggles and Tickles, The Book of Tapping and Clapping, The Book of Lullabies, and The Book of Simple Songs and Circles
1. Tell us about your research interviewing grandparents and great-grandparents for this book collection. What prompted the idea?
About 20 years ago, I began interviewing people in senior citizen centers. I asked the question, "Do you remember a song or a rhyme that you would play with a baby on your lap?" Those that were over 80 could recall the most; those that were from 60 to 80 could remember some, and in asking this question to people that were from 40 to 60, those people could recall very little. When parents who are 40 and under are asked this question, they are unable to remember any. This suggests that this kind of an activity was much more common 100 years ago than it is now. I wanted to gather these songs, rhymes, and games before they were forgotten and return them to our families.
2. Do you think that changes in technology and the shift of the nuclear family have affected our knowledge of this musical repertoire?
Yes. Because of the advance of technology during the last century, parents may have felt relieved of the responsibility for sharing songs, rhymes, and games with their children. But the greatest musical benefit for children is the direct influence a parent can have while playing these songs, rhymes, and games with their child. Furthermore, during the last century, family size became much smaller. Where once there were large families with many hands to share in the education and amusement of young children, now there are few older brothers and sisters that can recall songs and rhymes to share with their little brothers and sisters, and few older brothers and sisters having babies that can model parenting behavior for their younger brothers and sisters. Several generations ago when individuals had their first child, they were experienced caregivers because of the many children in their extended family. Today's parents have very little experience with children before they have their own.
3. What do we really know about the benefits of exposing children to music at a very early age?
The neurological development of a child is most dense between the ages of one and two. Neurofiber begins to atrophy around age two in the areas of the brain where there is little or no stimulation. Unless parents are singing to their babies, bouncing them on the beat, or sharing their deep-felt feelings through songs, children are likely to lose their ability to think tunes, feel rhythms, and respond to the expressiveness of music.
4. What if the parents don't want their children to grow up to be concert pianists, or even participate in their grade school orchestra? Is music still important?
Being a musical person has very little to do with studying a musical instrument. I know many people who play instruments who are not musical. A musical person can think tunes and probably sing, can feel beat and rhythms, and is moved by music. I am hoping that sharing songs and rhymes with infants and toddlers will enable them to later become adults who will be able to:
- Sing lullabies to their own babies;
- Sing in worship services;
- Sing "Happy Birthday" to their children without their children grimacing;
- Connect with their culture and community through the songs that that community shares;
- Dance at their wedding;
- Clap their hands on beat in time with other people at a sporting event; and
- Be stirred and inspired when they hear great music
5. You write that the music in your collection, the songs of American folk culture, stimulate a child's imagination -- which has recently been linked to a child's reading comprehension ability. Do you agree there's value in encouraging a child's imagination?
The child learns in a world of play. A good children's book will:
- Be appealing to adults and children. If it only appeals to children, it is probably going to be childish not childlike. We want to find literature that is childlike. Even adults enjoy childlike experiences but do not enjoy childish experiences.
- Have a sense of make-believe. Because we want to nurture a childlike world, the child learns best in play and make-believe. Good literature will support this imaginative world.
- Still be delicious after 30 repetitions.
6. How much do we know about what babies really can hear in utero? Does it matter if parents sing to their children in the womb?
During the last trimester, the unborn child has already developed all five senses. Because the density of neurofiber is fairly sparse at this age, it's difficult to understand what the child actually perceives. But research has been done in which a microphone was inserted in utero to record sounds outside the womb, and it is astonishing the clarity with which the sound is transmitted to the unborn child. Many parents have commented that after singing a particular song frequently to their unborn child, the child, once born, responds most favorably and is calmed by that "familiar" song.
7. What do we know about a one-year-old's ability to make sense of music? How is it different at age two?
Up through about age one, children are primarily passive participants in music games. From the age of one to two, children will take a more active role, sharing the music activity with their caregiver. But as in language, where you wouldn't deprive children of hearing language during the first year just because they can't speak, you shouldn't deprive a child of hearing songs and feeling the beat and rhythm just because they can't sing and move yet. Children that benefit from a parent who sings and plays beat games with them during the first year usually develop a natural instinct for singing and moving rhythmically later.
8. What is your opinion of the Mozart-effect theory (which proposes that exposure to music will make kids smarter and learn better)?
The most positive benefit from the Mozart-effect research is that parents are making a concerted effort to provide their children with opportunities to hear classical music. This is a wonderful benefit. The research on which the Mozart effect was based was not actually research that was done with children, but with college students. And listening to Mozart had only a temporary effect. There has been no research to support the idea that listening to Mozart or any other classical composer helps develop other intelligences in children. The primary benefit of listening to Mozart in childhood is that it's likely to help these children become more musical.