The Itsy Bitsy Ear worm (Or, Get these Damn baby songs out of my head!)

Do you find yourself singing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” in the shower? Are you running out of animals to appear on Old McDonald’s farm? Do you know at least 7 songs that are sung to the tune of “Frere Jacques”?

Welcome to life with a small child! Or perhaps you are a music teacher? In which case, you have been dealing with the particular brand of torture that comes with listening to repetitive, catchy songs for hours on end. If you are both a new parent, and a music teacher, like myself, then you are uniquely qualified for dealing with the music that will now be the soundtrack of your life. I have been unknowingly preparing for this for a decade.

First, let me say that, as a music teacher, I love the focus on music for young babies. There are lots of classes for babies in Toronto, and having attended a few, they are wonderful. The babies and toddlers love them and there are so many benefits for your child when they have music, rhythm and movement in their lives. I won’t go into those now, because if you have found your way to this blog, I will assume you can Google.

When your baby arrives, you may find yourself frantically trying to remember/learn appropriate kids songs only to rue the day you learned about those damn wheels on the bus because it WILL NOT get out of your head. And now your baby LOVES it and will not be soothed without hearing about the workings of that damn bus.

The really catchy kids songs will haunt your every waking hour. You will hear them as you go to sleep at night, as you drive, as you play with your baby and even as a background tune to your adult conversations. You will break into song in public, even if you used to be shy about singing. It’s like you are in a weird cult. Seriously, try going into any place parents hang out and singing the first line of any kids song. They will join in without thinking. The songs have brainwashed them, and they will brainwash you too.

As I said, this is not new to me. I have been hearing “Jingle Bells” and “Twinkle Twinkle” on repeat for the past 10 years at work. Except I often walk around humming the viola part or the 2nd clarinet part. Think one song is bad? Try it in 6 part harmony. I try to skip over these in the method books sometimes, but the students never let me get away with this. Every year, I hear “Jingle Bells” approximately 500 times. Do not try to avoid the tunes, as this will not work. Resistance is futile.

So, what do I do to avoid going crazy? Well, honestly, that ship has sailed. But there are a few things I do to avoid these cutesy ear worms:

Make up your own song or sing the tune with your own words. Make it as silly as possible. I have learned that you take the power away from that catchy evil tune when you make fun of it. You hear that “Twinkle Twinkle”? You don’t own me, you twinkly bastard! I know you are the same as the Alphabet song, you unoriginal jerk.

Learn as many songs as you can to add to the rotation. Trying to avoid catchy kids songs by learning more catchy kids songs seems wrong, but I swear it works. If you have a larger repetoire of music to choose from, you have something else to sing when you get tired of a song. If you know 3 kids songs, you are stuck. Plus, the more songs you know, the longer you can entertain your baby. (Okay, I just sang “Twinkle Twinkle” 34 times. That must have been like 2 hours. Nope. 2.5 minutes. Damn short kids songs…)

Go to a baby music group or Early Years Drop in so you can sing with other people. You are not alone, dear parent. It can feel that way though, if you don’t leave the house. Staying inside is what the songs want you to do. Don’t give them the satisfaction. Plus, there is something nice about being in a room with other sleep deprived parents and singing together. If you all start dressing the same however, get out. That is a cult for sure.

Don’t just listen to kids music! I am a big believer in exposing kids to a variety of music. My baby hears everything from opera to rock to bluegrass. Why just stick to kids songs? Watch the lyrics, if that concerns you (it should, in my opinion), but who says a baby won’t appreciate the Beatles?

Good luck, brave parents! Just remember, they won’t always want to hear these songs. You have only a few more years before they are done with kids music and onto the next Justin Beiber. (Or whoever the kids are listening to now.) Then you will really miss that stupid Itsy Bitsy spider.

Photo credit: Joybot via Visualhunt / CC BY-SA



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