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Lady Lullaby Blog

Lullabies for babies, grown-ups and everyone in between!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Rapping the Poetry of Love

I like the phrase “The Lullaby Instinct” to describe the way parents in every culture, and in every era, instinctively hum and coo and sing to their babies. If we take that a little farther and add words, but not necessarily a melody, what do we have?

That’s right---rap and hip-hop. And you thought these were new genres?

The basics of hip-hop are rhymes and rhythm. Really clever rhymes  when it’s good, and really strong rhythm. These are the same ingredients that make up nursery rhymes, although the subject matter is usually different. But those elements are what babies, kids, teenagers, and adults--in other words, the human species--respond to instinctively.

This isn't just my observation. The University of Cambridge’s professor Morag Styles is a professor of children’s poetry. “Children’s responses to poetry are innate, instinctive, natural—maybe it starts in the womb, with the mother’s heartbeat? Children are hard-wired to musical language . . .

“Even when we tell young children stories, they demand exact re-telling's and repetitions with the same cadences, rhythms, pauses, and tones they heard the time before. This early sharing of musical language is often physical too: bumping toddlers up and down on our knees and often ending with kisses. Early poetry is about the expression of love.”

And don’t think that poetry for your baby needs to be either great literature or the latest hit. The basics of rhythm and rhyme and emotions are timeless. Try out these lines from Woody Guthrie—don’t worry about a tune, just say the words in rhythm--while rocking or bouncing, or changing a diaper:

Jiggle, jiggle, jiggle, jiggle
Tickle, tickle, tickle, tickle,
Little sack of sugar, I could eat you up
Jiggle, jiggle, jiggle, jiggle,
Pickle, pickle, pickle, pickle
Little sack of sugar I could eat you up.

Listen  to Little Sugar Little Saka Sugar by Woody Guthrie here:

So go ahead and jiggle and tickle and do it to a beat, and your baby will know that what you’re saying is: “I love you.”

Next week: poetry from the baby’s point of view!

Sweet Dreams,

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