Winter Songs for Language and Literacy

By Hearing First Team December 16, 2015

LSL Day by Day | LSL by the season, LSL strategies, listening and spoken language, parent advice, LSL outcomes

Winter brings many great seasonal songs that can be turned into new opportunities to practice singing and promote early learning, language, literacy, and brain development. Learn how to apply LSL strategies to popular seasonal songs.

You can apply LSL strategies to singing just about anywhere: in the car, at the grocery store, making dinner, during bath time, and more.

Singing is an important early intervention activity you can do with your baby who is deaf or hard of hearing to grow their brain for listening, spoken language, and literacy. Many experts believe that singing lullabies and nursery rhymes leads to good speech and language skills and forms the foundation for reading readiness and eventual school success. Songs and rhymes help build your baby’s vocabulary and count toward the 40 million words that are important to creating a foundation for literacy. Singing also encourages the development of a voice rich in inflection, improved articulation of speech sounds, and increased memory for words. 

In listening and spoken language (LSL) intervention, you’ll practice singing, rhymes, and fingerplays (action rhymes) to help your child learn to listen and talk following a sequence of music skills or milestones. You don’t have to know a lot of songs or even have a good singing voice to be successful! Both of you will enjoy these interactions, and you’ll be growing a healthy reader in the process. 

Singing can be incorporated into many fun, winter-related routines. Here are two activities highlighting early to later developing music skills to try!


#1: Make it Easier to Listen – Find the Beat & Sing Along!

Children discover and develop an understanding of the difference between speaking and singing by listening to you sing and talk to them. Early music skills can be observed when a young listener begins “bopping” or bouncing to the beat of the song or shaking a noise maker to the beat. They may begin attempting to spontaneously “sing” by trying to match the pitch and tune before they can sing all the words in a song. 

 Humming or singing a repeating syllable from a familiar tune encourages your child to develop their singing voice in addition to their speaking voice. For example, you can repeat the syllable “ha ha ha”’ or “me, me me” to the tune of a favorite song of the season, such as “Deck the Halls.” Choose a consonant vowel syllable (also called an open syllable) to reinforce age-appropriate sound production. You can extend the listening and learning by changing how you sing: loud or quiet, low or high pitch, and fast or slow. As you sing and have fun together, your child will gain valuable skills for matching pitch, melody, or rhythm important to developing a speaking voice rich in inflection.

Sing a holiday song with the "make it easier to listen” strategy by repeating the same syllable (like “ha”) to sing the tune of the song.


#2: Keep the Serve & Return Going – Fill in the Missing Words!

Your child has a lot of songs, fingerplays, and rhymes to learn that will lay the foundation for later reading and school success. Not only are these fun for children, they are packed with important learning to encourage phonological skill awareness or sound awareness in words and improve verbal memory – all of which are critical skills for learning to read and write. 

You can help your child continue to develop their language and music skills before they’re able to sing every word in a song. You can encourage their participation and keep the serve and return going by stopping your singing, leaning in, and looking expectantly for your child to fill in the missing word or phrase. 

For example, start by singing the first line of “Jingle Bells” with a missing word: sing “Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the ____,” then stop, lean in, and look expectantly for your child to fill in the missing word. After your child sings “way,” continue singing the next line, “Oh, what fun it is to ride in a one horse open ___,” then stop, lean in, and look expectantly for your child to sing “sleigh.” 

Notice how the two missing words rhyme, which helps your child grow this skill. As your child improves their ability to provide a missing word, raise the bar and have them fill in a key phrase. For fun, you can even use a toy microphone or a leftover tube from a paper towel roll to cue your child to fill in the missing word. Or you can find bells to jingle along with the song. Before long, your child will be singing every word with you!

Use the “Keep the Serve and Return Going” strategy by singing lines of a winter song with a missing word and then pausing, leaning in, and looking expectantly for your child to fill it in.


Remember, no matter what you sing to your baby, have fun! Children naturally love to sing, which creates great opportunities for LSL learning. Whether it’s a childhood classic or a new tune that you made up on the fly, you’re helping your baby’s brain grow. 

Check out these helpful handouts:

TRY IT

Share your singing skills: record a session with you and your baby and share it on social media. It’s kind of like a digital concert!

LSL Day by Day | LSL by the season, LSL strategies, listening and spoken language, parent advice, LSL outcomes

About the Author

Hearing First Team At Hearing First, we want all children to benefit from the availability of newborn hearing screening, the advances in technology, and the early learning services in their communities. We want all children to have the opportunity to take advantage of access to sound – a critical building block for future success.