Using the nurturing qualities of songs and rhymes to support children to regulate their emotions

Research practitioner:

Senior practitioner:

Project summary:

An observational study about how the use of songs and rhymes in small groups can support 2-3 year old children to regulate their emotions.


The purpose of this project is to:

-develop a relationship between nursery and our nursery/school community (parents and musicians)

-encourage introducing musicians to the nursery

-improve the learning experience for children

-help practitioners and parents to better understand the needs of children and offer support  to help to regulate children’s emotions through songs and rhymes

-invite parents in to give expertise to enrich children’s learning to help regulate emotions


This is an important project to our Terrific Two’s group to support the appropriate strategies that can be used to calm, excite, bring joy and unity to the group using research from Fredrich Froebel.


Working in the Terrific Two’s room I have noticed that the current cohort of children have had difficulty settling into nursery. Their behaviour can often be reactive and emotional. They appear to find it difficult to focus and fully engage in their learning and play. Children also find sitting in the group very challenging. I noticed that the children’s attention span is very short and they don’t seem to be interested in taking part in group time as they feel the need to move frequently. This results in restlessness, fidgeting and wandering around the room unhappy and uninterested. We decided to ask children what they prefer to do and what makes them happy in the nursery. At the staff meeting we gathered all ideas and decided to change the traditional group time into singing time. We noticed that music, listening to it and singing spontaneously has a remarkable effect on children where they will stop what they are doing and they look and listen. Each song tells a story through actions, changing your voice or using props gets children’s attention. The variety of sounds, use of musical instruments makes the whole experience powerful. It creates endorphins, happiness , makes children dance. This is so Froebel, as you’re allowing children to be creative (freedom with guidance).

We decided that our research will be qualitative. We used practitioners interviews and observations to establish team’s knowledge in benefits of musical activities. We introduced singing time instead of group time. We significantly reduced the time quantity over quality. Together with staff children would learn the words, movements of the nursery rhyme/ song. At this point we would use simple sign along signs. We would also create a song book that will be used in the setting daily. Singing was shared with children frequently at different times of the day to observe impact and engagement. Staff took pictures and recordings and ask for children’s voices and gathered them in a floorbook. We decided to ask parents to complete a questionnaire to create connectedness and dialogue between setting and home. Long term we hope to have regular singing sessions with family members and also people from local community that would like to share their musical talents with children. Children were fully engaged in the project and shared what they’ve been doing in the house.


We found out that spontaneous singing, interaction songs, using props, song bags and musical instruments benefit the children enormously. We invited a guitar player Patryk to the nursery to play some nursery rhymes. Some children saw a real guitar for the first time in their lives. Patryk let the children strum and touch the guitar. They interacted and engaged well by dancing, singing, approaching Patryk. One of the children barred the door at the end of the session and said: ‘You’re not going. You stay’. By the end of the session I’d ask Patryk if he would come back again to which he replied he would be happy to come back and play for the kids. Children were mesmerized by the new experience of someone coming and playing live music and made positive comments to their parents. Songs and singing allowed children to express their feelings in a very joyful way. 1 particular child who has a lot of trouble with hitting, pushing, who finds life challenging benefited from the interactive experience. It replaced his negative thought with positive thought, allowing him being content and happy.

At the beginning of this project we noticed that there was a child who would cover their ears and appear distressed. I noticed the child engaged happily with certain songs. It contributed to the management of her needs. We discussed the calming effects our singing has on the child who has autism.

We need to give the children freedom with guidance , listen to them and talk to them. They learn through kindness and softness. If I’m calm children react to me being calm. We have noticed increased enthusiasm and attention because of the shorter duration of singing gatherings compared to traditional story telling. We invited parents to our singing session with children and what a successful event that was. Mums, dads, grandparents and all that came to the session absolutely loved the experience. They all shared they would come again.  Children enjoyed making their own invitations with pictures of their favourite song and chose their favourite nursery rhymes that they would like to sing. Only one parent didn’t turn up but spoke to me the very next day saying she would like to come along another time. After the session children were very content. I felt overwhelmed by it, happy and excited. Looking at the photos, videos taken by another member of staff everyone including parents were singing. The whole project affected every person, family involved. For that half an hour they could forget all the troubles and enjoy their experience with the child. 80%of the parents questioned said that they would do this at home. Our singing sessions and the reactions of the children and family members participating gave me the motivation to keep going.


This project has been successful. Through observations, planning we implemented a radical change turning group time into a singing session.

Next steps:

-continue to encourage implementing songs/rhymes to children

-encourage active participation from local community

-encourage parents to come to nursery to sing in their mother language (look at songs and rhymes from different countries)

-promote inclusion by using sign language

-encourage staff t try that approach within the whole setting

-support members of staff with EAL to learn the words of the songs/ rhymes

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?

  1. Tracey Aitken
    Tracey Aitken
    24 Mar 2024 at 10:46 am

    An inspiring read and a significant example of the connected experience of sharing music, song and rhyme especially sharing the experience with extended family members. I appreciated the value of the children’s first hand experiences of a guitar, building on their funds of knowledge to further opportunities and potential. I feel the change of practice to spontaneous singing reflects on a forward thinking approach to children’s play pedagogy and perspectives. Delighted to read of the positive influences Froebelian Principles have on change, benefiting our future generations.

    Report comment

  2. Caroline Burke
    Caroline Burke
    27 Mar 2024 at 7:26 pm

    This project sounds amazing and so relevant to the current challenges within early years. It was good to see that you notice how much the children gained from experiencing real musical instruments and how this helped to soothe and nurture the children. Keep up the great work.

    Report comment

Add a comment