Whistle (Or Sing) While You Work

It’s amazing how music can make a dull, boring or repetitive task seem quicker and a lot more fun. When your children are little, it often seems that chores mount and passing the time more pleasantly with music can really help everyone’s state-of-mind. Besides that, it’s a life-saver for long drives in the car.

As an ethnomusicologist (a fancy word for people who study how music relates to culture) I’ve found work songs in every culture around the planet, so that tells me that something good is happening when music is combined with the mundane tasks of the day. A friend of mine from India once told me about a favorite song from her youth, always sung while her grandmother churned butter. Guess what? The beat of the song worked perfectly with the movement needed to turn the cream to butter, an endlessly drab task if not accompanied by song. Not only did the song make great butter, but it made some incredibly sweet memories of family and home for the children who shared that household.

If you’ve “whistled while you’ve worked” or tried out a work song lately, you’ve probably noticed that you get you into the groove of what you are doing, you start breathing in time and moving along with the song or the task. At a certain point, a little bit of magic happens and you end up having a lot more fun at whatever is going on. Maybe it isn’t exactly an aerobic workout, but it can clear the cobwebs in your brain while you’re cleaning the clutter in your house. And that’s a win/win for any household with young children.

What songs work? Start with whatever songs you like. If you’re mopping the floor, you can think of a classic work tune like: “Jump down, turn around, pick a bale of cotton… “Jump down, turn around, pick a bale of hay”… You can fold your laundry to “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes”, and a toddler can accompany you by trying to keep up with the body parts as you go. What songs have you been enjoying lately or what songs do you remember fondly from your childhood? You might be surprised at how good your voice sounds by the time you’ve sung the chorus of that favorite old song eight or nine times. And it’s always a joy when your kids are clapping along, adding to the verses of the songs or joining in on the choruses.

Endless drives? What about a rousing version of BINGO – but you can add your own verses. For instance, instead of the farm with the dog named BINGO, you can try something like:

I have a brother that I love and
And Alex is his name-o
A L E and X
And Alex is his name-o

I have a friend that lives nearby
Rebecca is her name-o
Rebecca is her name-o

Okay, some names take a little work to fit in, but it’s a great way of singing a song to your child about his or her world. And the song turns to a fun game or wordplay, instead of just a repetition of words.

And if you don’t feel like singing, you put on some “work music”. Just pick a song with a good upbeat tempo to coordinate with your activities or to pass the time as you work. You can also do what some parents enjoy –they put on certain work music and everyone needs to be busy helping while the songs are playing. One mom I know plays a game with her kids that they love. When her husband is coming home from work, she puts on a recording on the classical music song “Flight of the Bumblebee”. During the song, the kids have to be “bumblebees” seeing how much they can do to clean-up, put things back in their proper places or make things neat – obviously with age appropriate chores. Of course, when Dad shows up, he makes a big deal about how the kids have helped and both parents enjoy a neater, more organized house without the pain and suffering that usually accompanies the phrase…. “Aw, c’mon guys – let’s clean this house up!”

Ah; once again, music saves the day! Or at least brings a smile to an otherwise tiresome task!


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