You Can SING with Kids!
I’ve encountered many children like Karl and it’s been my pleasure to watch many of them grow to anticipate and actively participate in song time. It took some practice, but as I prayed about it and gained experience, God helped me learn to SING so that more kids wanted to join in.
You can learn to SING too! I know some of you are thinking, “I’ve tried to sing, I just can’t do it!” And that may have been true then, but you also didn’t have a cheesy rhyming acronym before that could help you remember how to do it. Read on and be inspired to SING!
Start strong by introducing the song in an interesting way. If you ask a group of children, “Who wants to sing a song?” most of them will say, “Not me!” But if you capture their attention with something interesting like a picture, skit, or short story that relates to the song, their eyes and ears will be focused on you as you begin to sing. For instance, one of my favorite songs is “Christ Redeemed Us.” Instead of saying “Who wants to sing about redemption?” I show a picture of a dog and tell a short story about a little boy who bought back his puppy after it got lost. This helps children begin to understand what the song is about and captures their attention. Then I introduce the tune and any motions that go with the song by simply saying something like, “This reminds me of a song! Stand up and see if you can keep up with me while I sing it for you!” Now comes the real test—you actually have to sing the song! Even if you introduced the song with pony rides and free cotton candy, their interest level will grind to a halt if you act bored during the song. They are watching you to see if the song is really worth singing so sing it out with a smile and lots of enthusiasm—start strong!
INTERPRET THE SONG
My young son once asked me, “How can Jesus be perfect if He pinches people underwater?” I was perplexed until I finally figured out he had heard the song “Victory in Jesus” and misinterpreted the words “He plunged (pinched) me to victory beneath the cleansing flood (underwater).” Like my son, most children may not readily understand what a song means unless you explain it to them. I’m not saying you need to define every single word in the song (“Boys and girls, the word ‘and’ is a conjunction that connects words or phrases together.”), but please take the time to interpret words or concepts they may not understand. For instance, the words saved and holy or phrases like “this little light of mine” can be confusing for children. Interpreting the song for children helps them know what it means and prepares them to see how it applies to their lives.
They are watching you to see if the song is really worth singing so sing it out with a smile and lots of enthusiasm—start strong!
NUDGE THEM ALONG
When I was a kid, my older sister sometimes sang a song about visiting a local grocery store. That song has been stuck in my head off and on for over twenty years. (Thanks a lot, sis!) Music sticks with you for a long time! So make sure you’re using music with a solid message that will nudge children closer to God. Don’t assume that the children will automatically understand how the message of the song impacts their lives. Why should they bother to learn and sing it if there’s nothing in it for them? Nudge them along by suggesting ways the truth of the song applies to their life and encourage them to use the song to remember that truth and act on it. The most natural time to do this is right after you’ve interpreted any unfamiliar words or concepts in the song. You might say something like, “This song reminds you that God loves you. When you feel sad or afraid, you can sing this song to remind yourself God says He loves you.” Nudging them along equips them to actually use the truth of the song in real life. Several months ago I taught my preschool Sunday school class a song about praying when you feel sad or angry. “You can sing this song when you feel sad or mad.” I told them “It can remind you to talk with God about how you feel.” My very own three year old princess is part of that class and several weeks later I was telling her a funny story about a sad donkey. Her face lit up and she said, “He needs to sing this song!” and began to sing the same song I had taught several weeks earlier. Even little kids can understand how to apply the truth of music with a message to their lives if we nudge them along.
GAMES AREN’T WRONG
For more than a decade I’ve been asking kids like Karl why they don’t want to sing and their most common response by far has been, “It’s boring. I’d rather play games.” At first I was frustrated. After all, this was supposed to be song time, not game time. But the more I thought about it, the more sense it made. It’s not wrong to play games while singing songs. So I began playing more games while we were singing songs and suddenly kids like Karl were excited about songs! Coincidence? I think not! Planning ahead might stretch you, but you can do it! Say it with me, “Games aren’t wrong!” You don’t have to play a game every time you sing, but it’s a great way to keep the kids engaged, especially when you’re singing songs they already know quite well. Here are some of my favorite kid-tested, kid-approved song-time games for kids.
Mystery Motions—I usually teach simple motions to go along with every song we sing. Once the children know the song well, I sometimes I tell them that I have chosen one “Mystery Motion” that I’m going to change on purpose. They have to watch closely as they sing along and see if they can figure out which song motion was different.
DON’T Follow the Leader—When you’re singing something the children know very well, ask if they think they know it better than you. Then challenge them to prove it by singing the song and doing the correct motions while you lead the song and do the wrong motions. You can even have an older child or adult helper act as the judge by gently tapping kids or teachers who mess up. Anyone who is tapped out by the judge must freeze in place while they continue singing along with the rest of the group for the remainder of the song.
Animal Actions—Use a bag of “mystery animals” to create interest and decide how the song will be sung. Put some toy animals in a bag (pictures or even word-strips could also work). Before you begin a song, let a child choose an animal to determine how the song will be sung. If it’s a whale, the loudest animal on earth, sing really loud. If it’s a frog or rabbit, have them hop in place while they sing along. You can even pause during the song to let a different child pick an animal and continue the song with that animal’s action. Use your imagination and have fun!
Balloon Bop—Have the kids work together to keep several balloons in the air while they sing. If a balloon touches the ground, pause the song and have everyone freeze in place while you briefly explain what some of the words in the song mean. Then start the music back up and keep on singing.
Maybe you think one of these games won’t work well for your group—that’s fine, pick a different one or even invent your own. Remember, games aren’t wrong! In fact, I have found they are often the key to engaging kids who refuse to participate in song time. So give it a try—you’ve got this!
Will you begin the first step right now and start strong by asking God for grace to SING with enthusiasm the next time you teach a song?
Now you’re ready to SING!
Interpret the song
Nudge them along
Games aren’t wrong
You probably know a kid like Karl who would benefit from some of these ideas. Will you begin the first step right now and start strong by asking God for grace to SING with enthusiasm the next time you teach a song? If you need song ideas, you can find visual aids, CDs, and music downloads at CEFpress.com. Child Evangelism Fellowship® even produces music videos for kids! (The kids in my Sunday school class liked CEF’s memory verse song for James 1:5 so much that they watched it eleven times in a row!) Visit our U-Nite Youtube channel to find fun music videos for kids! There are also lots of other ministries that produce fantastic songs and music videos. You may need to do some research, planning, and practicing; but don’t let that hold you back. Kids like Karl are waiting for you to get out there and SING!
Now you’re ready to SING!
If you need song ideas, you can find visual aids, CDs, and music downloads at CEF Press.