Introducing Mother Songs into the Nursery Environment

Research practitioner:

Senior practitioner:

Project summary:

An observational study of 3-5 year olds to find out what impact Mother Songs have on children’s emotional wellbeing.


The Covid-19 pandemic forced singing to be stopped in nursery. During this time the joy of singing has been lost and so we introduced Mother Songs once the COVID restrictions of learning pods began to ease and singing was allowed again. We introduced these in a meaningful way to positively impact the children’s engagement in group opportunities and develop meaningful relationships. Mother songs were Froebel’s way of engaging mothers to build relationships and introduce new language to children. This resonated with Dyke (2020) view that “music can help practitioners to be in tune with children which will in turn, build strong and healthy relationships”. While we researched the impact on cross curricular development including literacy skills, emotional wellbeing was the main focus when considering the impact. Initially we focussed on one key group of children and shared this project with their parents. Children were exposed to new vocabulary and used songs as a way of communicating how they were feeling. One of the original songs were used by children today – “Pat a Cake”, which we used, plus some songs we felt relevant to the children of our nursery today.




Children have shown great resilience in many aspects of their development throughout the pandemic with regards to their attitude to learning and making friendships after transitioning out of lockdown. Moving forward we need to ensure children have the capacity to understand and manage emotions and allow for positive relationships to be formed with peers and adults. We audited the everyday experiences that the children were engaged in and found there to be few opportunities for singing in groups. We initially gathered views of the staff and children prior to starting the project to ensure we could have baseline data to launch the project and effectively track progress. Questionnaires were handed out to staff which focused on their knowledge of mother songs and the benefits of these, with the view to give a second questionnaire out at the end to see how knowledge had developed and would allow Mother Songs to become an integral part of the nursery day, provided by knowledgeable practitioners who encourage this daily. We decided to use the Leuven’s scale to track the progress in children’s emotional wellbeing and involvement throughout each session and the children were given the opportunity to give their opinions about the sessions at the end of each one.


Observations. We decided that we would observe each session. The manager would ensure she would sit out of sight from the children whilst observing to allow the group to engage with the practitioner with no distractions. The practitioner would have song prop cards ready to give the children choices of songs they would like to sing and let the children lead the course of the session from how many songs they chose, to how each song would lead to conversations with the practitioners skilful questioning.

Focus Group. Group time happens before lunch every day and children have the choice if they want to participate or not, so we used this time for the project as it was with a familiar adult and their group peers. We used a voting system with the children at the end of each session to indicate how they enjoyed the session and the manager noted down any comments made in conversation with the practitioner to inform progress and success of each session.

When singing “You Are My Sunshine” – one child said, “My mummy sings this to be at bedtime – it makes me feel warm and safe.” We felt this captured how well one song can impact a child’s wellbeing.


We found that most children were willing to participate from the very beginning with 2 children opting to observe the first couple of sessions before willingly joining in. The songs were a mix of unknown ones that the children were keen to learn and were excited to learn the actions and some more familiar songs they could immediately join in with. Children’s physical development was promoted throughout with the use of the finger songs and whole body movement songs.

Through observations, we found the more familiar songs sparked interesting conversations with the children and that they enjoyed sharing their ideas and feelings with the group. When singing “Here we Go round the Mulberry Bush” – a child then spoke about their morning routine and how it was so important to brush their teeth, which began a lengthy conversations around importance of oral hygiene, dentist visits and healthy eating.  We spoke about emotions and how certain situations made us feel which was reflected in the songs that we sang together. This led to whole group discussions around relationships, home life and interests and developed turn taking and language development. 100% of the children’s votes indicated that they enjoyed the sessions. Only 40% of children engaged in conversations around feelings and emotions at the first session but this raised to 90% by the final session as children’s confidence developed. This was supported by practitioner’s engagement and encouragement to participation throughout each session. We observed a marked improvement in the children’s willingness to participate and share their feelings from the beginning to the end of project – an area that we seek to further develop.

We used the Leuven’s scale to record levels of engagement and wellbeing throughout each session and found that every child increased levels of both categories as the sessions progressed. It was noted that the children who appeared very shy at the beginning developed a sense of belonging in the group and as their confidence developed, they were singing louder, asking for particular songs and voting without being prompted at the end as they knew the expectations of the sessions as the project progressed.

Positive parental feedback was received. Parents said that the children were singing the songs in the house and were keen to teach their parents/carers the new songs and actions learned which then naturally led into conversations about the nursery day. We sent a copy of the prompt cards used in the sessions to each family to help encourage this at home.  All of this had a positive impact on the children’s wellbeing and developed a sense of unity between nursery and home life as the relationships between nursery and their families were working together to help the needs of the children. This reflects Tovey (2020) idea that “unity is a view of ‘the whole child’; that all aspects of a child’s life – thoughts, feelings, actions, and relationships – are interrelated”.

New questions that the research highlighted included that trainee staff hadn’t gained the joy of singing with children in groups in their training so far and there was work needed to build on their knowledge of the purpose, importance and confidence of singing aloud in a busy room for the enjoyment of the children. The parent/carers knowledge of songs was also highlighted. Some had very limited knowledge of nursery rhymes and were keen to learn them so that could sing along with their children and some even suggested new songs for us to try as favourites in their households.


This research has shown that Mother Songs really do still add value to the children’s nursery day. Singing is not only a fun, joyous pastime – but an opportunity that develops children learning in many aspects of the curriculum. Moving forward, children will be encouraged to create their own songs and introduce their own favourite songs into the mother song sessions.

This parental engagement opportunity highlighted how not only does singing positively impact on the children – but on the adults too. We plan to do parental workshops and home link packs to continue to develop this project. We also plan to roll out this project across all groups within the nursery, so there will be staff training opportunities to ensure we can manage this effectively.

[Mother Songs] involve others, as a community and they gently support children as they move from reflection on real experiences they has, to representing those experiences in a literal way through using hands and fingers symbolically to increasingly abstract representations of experiences” (Bruce, 2021, P91)

Research implications

To be completed

Practitioner enquiry

To be completed

Leadership learning

To be completed

Author and role

To be completed

Comments from other network members

What did you appreciate about this research? What forward-looking questions did it raise for you?

Add a comment