We all know reading to our kids is so important from the get-go – it’s hammered into our parenting brains from the minute we get pregnant. But what about writing? More specifically, songwriting – is that just for the James Taylors, Taylor Swifts, and musically-inclined among us? Nope, it doesn’t have to be. I recently caught up with the infamous “Mr. Steve” from PBS Kids – you know, that incredibly talented musician that you might not think you know but have actually totally heard of since it’s probably the soundtrack of your LIFE if you have (or have had) toddlers.
Mr. Steve was recently in Charlotte at Discovery Place helping launch the PBS Kids 2015 Writers Contest (more deets on that fun contest below!) – he performed some of his silly ditties to an adoring crowd of toddlers up to fifth grade (my fifth grader was toe-tappin’ with the rest of ’em to his crazy “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt” rendition…but you didn’t hear that from me ;-)). He was nice enough to sit down with lil’ CSP and get grilled by a fifth grader, first grader, and journalist-turned-mom. Here’s what he had to say on the subject of getting kids to fall in love with songwriting (hint: it can all be done at the dinner table!):
1. Play with rhymes. Start young, start early, start now. Do whatever you can do to encourage kids to rhyme with you. Pick one word – it can be as crazy as the word “Tennessee” – and see if your kids can figure out a word to rhyme with it.
2. Start weaving rhymes into little stories. Once you’ve got the hang of rhyming words together (remember, they don’t have to make sense!) start coming up with a story. Play with phonemes (kids don’t need to know the fancy term – they just need to know how to do it!).
3. Pick two words and go. Bus and orchid; mouse and Canada; peanut butter and jump rope. They don’t need to make sense. Start with two and see what tale your imagination can weave.
3. Read tons of rhyming books. His favorite besides the obvious Dr. Seuss? Shel Silverstein, of course!
4. Listen to music. It doesn’t have to be 24/7 and it doesn’t have to be Chopin. A couple of his favorite kid music bands (besides his originals, of course) are the Okee Dokee Brothers, and Gustafor Yellowgold. He also loves The Weepies (not a kid band – but awesome nonetheless for songwriting.) All are great music with SMART lyrics. Love that.
Just have fun with it – start the process but let your kids take it from there.
2015 PBS Kids Writers Contest
While not specifically songwriting, we got all of the details from our friends at UNC TV and PBS Kids on this year’s big PBS Kids Writers Contest. Opened to kindergarteners through third grade, this is a national contest, BUT our friends at UNC-TV (the local station that airs PBS Kids), tell us that our local lil’ Smarty writers have placed in years past so don’t let the word “national” scare you into not entering. Entries are being accepted now and must be postmarked by March 20, 2015 to be eligible to win. Get all of the rules, details, and entry form on their web site. Good luck – make us proud, all of you future songwriters, novelists, speechwriters, and bloggers!!! 😉