Thursday, September 11, 2014

Kids' Song Flash Cards

For more than half of my life, I spent ten days (or more!) of every summer working at Two Sentinels Camp.

I first started going there when I was really young, around age eight (although I can't remember off the top of my head and I'm too lazy to do the math right now to figure it out for sure).  For a number of years, I was a camper; once I was old enough, I went through the One Step Beyond program (think counselor-in-training), and then I volunteered as a counselor for many years.  Camp was one of the highlights of my year, every year; the place felt like a second home to me, and all of my fellow staff members were my *real* family.  I haven't been there in a few years, due to a combination of moving out of state and then having a baby, but I am counting down the years until my son is old enough to be a camper.  Camp family, I will return someday!

Anyway, one of my favorite staff positions was Program Director, which meant I played a major part in planning and implementing all-camp activities.  (For the record, every time I was working as Program I was always working with someone else; it's a huge job for just one person!)  It also meant I got to do a lot of singing.  Lots and lots of singing.  Aside from planning (and usually leading) two big campfires during the session, we sang before meals (when the food wasn't quite ready yet), after meals, and sometimes during meals.  We also went serenading several nights during the session, which meant that, right around bedtime for most of the campers, we would wander around camp and stop at strategic locations, where we'd sing a handful of slow, quiet, pretty songs before moving on again.  Serenading the campers to sleep.  Honestly, serenading was one of my very favorite activities at camp.

Suffice to say, I know a lot of songs.  A.  Lot.  I've always loved camp songs, and I made it a mission to memorize them all.  No, really.  I used to write the lyrics down in my journals.  I remember pestering my sister endlessly one year in the weeks following camp, because she knew the words to a cool song and I did not.  (For the record, it was "The Billboard Song," and I certainly know the words now, although I don't remember if she was the one who taught them to me or not.)  I spent a long and obsessive amount of time compiling a songbook of all of the songs we regularly sing at camp.

And yet, it was still pretty common for me to get in front of people, ready to lead a song, and find myself drawing a blank.  What to sing?  What haven't we sung lately?  I know so many songs; why can't I think of any now?????

Nowadays, most of my singing is directed towards my toddler.  He has quite literally grown up on camp songs.  We sing faster, silly songs during the day, and I serenade him to sleep at night with the quiet ones.  He asks for songs sometimes; lately, he's wanted me to sing him banana songs and train songs.  Sometimes we look through some of his picture books--the kinds with random pictures of animals or natural things or such--and I sing him songs whenever I see something I know a song about.  Kookaburra?  Squirrel?  Polar bear?  Camel? It definitely helps to have pictures to jog my memory.

And sometimes he just wants me to sing.  Not about anything in particular, he just wants singing.  Every time I finish a song, he chimes in with "More singing!"  (I am reminded of that episode of "The Simpsons" in which the children get a nanny called Shary Bobbins.  Sing us a song, Shary Bobbins!  I've been singing you songs all day.  I'm not a bloody jukebox.)  So I'll sing him a few, and then find myself facing a familiar problem:  I can't think of any more.  I know so many songs, but my mind still blanks out sometimes.

Thus, my idea for song flashcards was born.

And since all babies love to sing, I thought I'd share the idea!

1.  Compile a list of songs I know all of the words to, which can easily be represented by a single image.  These can be classic baby lullabies, cultural songs, camp songs, or whatever you'd like.  A few examples from my collection:
  • stars = Twinkle, Twinkle
  • spider = Itsy Bitsy Spider
  • boat = Row, Row, Row Your Boat
  • hippo = What Can Make a Hippopotamus Smile?
  • mountain = Comin' Round the Mountain -or- I Love the Mountains
  • pajamas = Pink Pajamas
  • sun = You Are My Sunshine
  • clam = Gooey Duck

2.  Find images to match your songs.  I spent some time using Google image search to find cute clipart to use on my cards.  You could cut out pictures from magazines or old, trashed children's books.  If you're artistic, you could draw your own pictures.

3.  Make the flash cards.  I formatted my pictures in Open Office (because I don't believe in having Microsoft Office) and printed them out in color.  Then, after trimming them down, I had them laminated, because I'm fancy like that (and to make them slightly more durable).  Each one is double-sided.  You could just as easily tape your pictures to index cards, or print them out on card stock.

4.  Get singing!  My little guy loves looking through the pictures; sometimes he asks me to sing songs at random, and other times I can tell he's looking for a particular picture, presumably because he wants me to sing a particular song. 

Happy singing!  :)

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