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Creating Musical Family Traditions

Updated: Nov 29, 2018

By Chelsea Johnson, Music Therapist

As a music therapist, I have helped people of all ages to communicate, express, move, and heal through the making of music. As a parent, I have seen how early exposure to singing and music-making accelerated my daughter’s language development, motor skills, literacy, and self-expression.

I have often said that I came into this world singing and never stopped. Although I believe that the impulse to sing and create is spiraling through my DNA, I also know that my parents had a lot to do with my love for and connection to music. We had an organ in our home, and I can remember my dad playing “Baby Elephant Walk” and “Maple Leaf Rag” while my sister and I danced until our feet were buzzing.

Music was always on center stage with my family at the holidays, whether we were singing carols around the piano, or singing in the car as we traveled to my grandparents’ homes on Christmas Eve. For many of us, music is the heart of the holiday season.

Studies have shown the effectiveness of music therapy for enhancing pre-reading and writing in preschool aged children and the field of music therapy continues to demonstrate music as key to the developing child.

Aside from what research tells us, the true secret of music is simply the joy we take in making it, and the felt connection between two or more people making music together. Kahlil Gibran once said that “the secret in singing is found between the vibration of the singer’s voice and the throb in the hearer’s heart.” When you share in music with your child, whether it is through singing, dancing, or playing instruments, you are meeting him or her in that joyful place that exists between the vibration and the heart.

“The secret in singing is found between the vibration of the singer’s voice and the throb in the hearer’s heart.” Kahlil Gibran

During this holiday season, I encourage you to find ways to share music with your child. Teach them about your family heritage, culture, and beliefs through the songs that you grew up with. Listen to them together. Sing them together. Make up silly hand motions that go with the lyrics, and if your child is old enough, let him or her make the motions!

Here are some simple songs to get you started:

  • Snowflake Dance (tune: “Frere Jacques”)

*You can sing this one with your baby or with your older child. Making whirling, twirling motions in the air with your hands is a fun movement for your infant to track with his/her eyes!

Dance like snowflakes, Dance like snowflakes

In the air, In the air

Whirling, Twirling snowflakes, Whirling, Twirling snowflakes

Here and there, Here and there

  • Jingle Bells - if you happen to have some jingle bells to ring while you sing together, even better!

  • Dreidel Song - the repetitive chorus of this song makes it perfect for our littlest ones to sing along.

  • Must Be Santa - this is a delightful song that builds upon itself in each verse, testing your child’s memory! It’s a great one, too, to make up or follow hand motions!

My daughter is seven now, and she loves music! Like me, she came into the world singing and hasn’t stopped. Music is a beautiful aspect of our relationship, and I hope it will always be a connecting thread for us. I am excited to revisit our favorite holiday songs this year, and learn new ones together too! I hope you find joy through sharing music with your young ones this holiday.

About Chelsea Johnson, MS, MT-BC

Chelsea Johnson is a Board Certified Music Therapist, and works with The Children’s Healing Institute as Program Coordinator of the innovative TEACUP Preemie Program®.  Chelsea is also a Licensed Massage Therapist, Reiki Master, and Breastfeeding Counselor. Palm Beach County, Florida


  • Dena Register, (2001). The Effects of an Early Intervention Music Curriculum on Prereading/Writing. Journal of Music Therapy, Volume 38, Issue 3(1), 239–248,

  • Jayne M. Standley Jane E. Hughes (1997). Evaluation of An Early Intervention Music Curriculum for Enhancing Prereading/Writing Skills. Music Therapy Perspectives, Volume 15, Issue 2 (1) 79–86.

  • American Music Therapy Association

  • Preschool Winter Songs and Music:

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