Exploring bird sounds with children

“What does a bird say?”  A lot more than tweet, or chirp.   Most children only consider one sound, but an observant child with more experience in bird sounds might ask, “What kind of bird?” 

bird singingFun vocal play with different bird sounds can open up the world of birds, and sounds, with your child, and can have so many wonderful developmental benefits.    

These are just a few: 

  •  Active Listening is practiced as they focus just on the sound of the bird – listening well enough to imitate it effectively.  This helps them practice “shutting out” other background noises from their attention. 
  • Trying to imitate the sounds helps them explore how units of sound (phonemes) are put together in unique ways, which leads to better articulation and eventually better reading skills  See an excellent article:  On The Path to Reading
  • Watching real birds, or using pictures of birds, and talking about them in detail during the vocal play helps them to make connections cognitively.  Discussions might include questions that will help them discover the characteristics that are similar to all birds, as well as discussing the characteristics that make them different.  Listening and imitating the different sounds they make is an important part of that process. 
  • Children with these experiences are often more observant when watching birds.  And these focused observing skills can easy generalize to many other areas of life.
With children just starting to make sounds, many parents are already helping their child differentiate between a song bird and a duck, and maybe even an owl.  Three choices are perfect for the early learners, and these can often be found in nature, and in pictures or small toys.   Just be sure to verbally discuss the characteristics that make them all belong to the bird family.  Make sure they make the correct connections with just ONE sound, then PLAY around with these sounds, ie:
 
Song BirdTweet – tweedle-eet , tweet-eet-eet-eet-eet – tweedle-eedle-eet (remember the 50s song “Rocking Robin”), toooo-weet, toodle-oodle-oodle…
Duck
Quaaaaack – Quack like mama duck, a daddy, a baby (peep)
OwlWho-Whoot, Too-hoot, Whoo-whoo-oo-whoooooo, Too whooooo, or even a SHRIEK

Once they have made this cognitive connection, and can easily imitate these birds, it is time to add to their birding vocabulary – new birds, and new sounds.  Depending on their interest, add only 1 – 2 birds at a time until they become comfortable with them.   In the following paragraphs, I introduce some of the ways we explore birds in age specific ways during our Kindermusik classes.   You can glean a lot from these ideas and use them at home.   And to get the full experience, join us for a class! 

 
With our Babies in the Kindermusik Village FEATHERS semester, we have fun making bird sounds while moving the babies in a way that complements that particular bird sound.   Adding movement is another excellent way to help solidify the learning that occurs, at any age.  Here are two examples:
Cuckoo bird

Cuckoo bird

 
 
Cuckoo:   Cu – ckoo  (high to low sounds)  SO, we move up and down along with the pitch
ChickadeeChick-a-dee-dee-dee  (high -med-low-low-low).   In this case, we move side to side in time with the rhythm of the sound.
 
With the Toddlers in the Our Time and Adventures programs, we do a LOT of echo play, as this an excellent method for developing language skills and vocabulary.   There are several birds that are great at echo play, like the parrot or the cockatiel, or even the Mockingbird  that we have around here.   It is fun to let the child act like a parrot or use a parrot puppet to copy words or simple phrases, or original parrot sounds, or sounds that a parrot might hear.
  
Parrot:  Squawk – Pretty Bird – Polly wants a cracker – Hello – meow   (parrots also whistle, but age-wise, children are not ready for that until sometime after they are 4 or 5 years old.) 
 
If you want to watch an amazing bird who has an enormous vocabulary, check out the video I included in the following blog posting:  Amazing Bird encourages Vocal Play.
 
With the Preschoolers in the Kindermusik Imagine That!  SEE WHAT I SAW semester, the students are introduced to pictures and recorded sounds of 4 different birds, and we discuss how they look different, and how they sound different from each other, and imitate the sounds of 4 different song birds.  We further explore birds through songs and movement activities.  Every year, their favorite bird to imitate is the Pigeon, as we have a fun song and game with counting Pigeons “Three Blue Pigeons”.
 
Pigeons:  Coooo, Cooo   and make a warbling sound with your tongue while saying it.
 
With the Elementary students in Kindermusik for the Young Child, we also actively listen, and imitate – but then we transfer the bird sounds into rhythms that we learn to write.  For example: 
 
Cu-ckoo can be rhythmically written as   “ta-ta-sh-sh”  or 2 quarter notes and 2 rests.
 
Robin:  Cheerio  – written as “ti-ti ta”  or 2 eighth notes & a quarter note.
 
Isn’t it fascinating how exploring birds and their sounds with your child can lead to so many learning experiences – and it doesn’t cost a THING ! 
 
Just yesterday at the BIRTHDAY BASH at Explorations V Children’s Museum here in Lakeland, they introduced their  BORN LEARNING TRAIL…”an activity trail turning everyday moments into learning opportunities!”
 
I had the privilege of drawing attention to the Talk, Listen, and Sing exhibit on the trail, and had a wonderful time exploring 10 different bird sounds with children of all ages.   If you get a chance, check out that exhibit – I am donating a “FEATHERS” book (from the Village program) that shows pictures of many different birds, including word art with the sounds they make.   A few you might not think of:
Kookaburra:  “HA – ha-ha-ha-ha”  With accent on first sound.
Bluebird:  “Tru-ly,  Tru-ly”  rising to a high pitch on ‘ly”
 
Have fun talking about the birds, listening to and imitating the bird sounds, and singing any songs you might know about birds. 
 
What songs do YOU know about birds ?  
What book would you recommend that can help explore different birds with their sounds!
What websites are appropriate for children to listen to and learn about birds? 
Advertisements