Pop Music vs Nursery Rhymes?

  • by Valerie

    Tuesday, 12 November, 2013 - 14:28

How important is Pop Music in your practice?

The recently published report 'Engaging hard to reach parents in early years music-making' found that popular music is often ignored in early years music provision.

In September, Sumi Hollingworth also published an interesting blog that highlighted some key issues around pop music.

This subject came up again yesterday, when I noticed that some papers (here is an example from the Daily Mail) picked up on a survey that asked parents about the use of pop music for young children. I was intrigued by the way this was reported on, but thought it was interesting to read that singing pop songs to their children was more common amongst the participating parents, than singing nursery rhymes.

One point made is an obvious one: Pop music is more present and therefore the mums and dads feel more confident singing those songs.

This brings me to the question of how pop music is used in early years music-making? If it isn't used, how could it be used?

What are your thoughts? Have you been using Pop Music with Under 5s? Why? Why not?


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111 reads


Kate_MB's picture

Excellent point which I think we all need to take note of. Perhaps we should be singing pop songs at circle time instead of Wind the Bobbin?

Valerie's picture

Maybe it is just about adding some pop songs, rather than replacing nursery rhymes? Nursery Rhymes have a place (do they?), especially if children are enjoying them and are engaging with them. But maybe there is a role for music and early years practitioners to find out what pop songs children enjoy and engage with at home... My son enjoys 'The Wheels on the Bus' just as much as he enjoys songs by James Brown or Prince I sing with him!

Kate_MB's picture

We are using the nursery teddy who is going on a musical journey at Battle Hill to do just this, have a look here...

It seems to be working well, and the nursery practitioners keep it up when I am not in the setting. It's been a great way to find out what the children enjoy at home and out and about.

I'm glad your son is enjoying a wide range of excellent music!

Carol Reid's picture

Thanks for this Kate - can't wait to read about the next stop on Billy's journey :-)

Kate_MB's picture

HIya Carol! Billy's Musical Journey has gone down really well and staff seem to be keeping it up too. They have made a display in the nursery and the child who has taken the teddy home talks about it at group time with the other children and staff. Magic!

Kate_MB's picture

I was once working in a stay and play in an informal way. I was set up in an area with instruments engaging with whoever came to join in. One mum came to join in with her toddler and baby. She explained how she sang 'hey, sexy baby, ooh ah' to her baby. This was challenging! I was very light-hearted, but made the point that it felt a bit weird and inappropriate for me to sing 'sexy baby' to her baby, so I was going to sing 'hey, lovely baby' instead. Anyone had a similar experience?

Nicola Burke's picture

I recently carried out some research into the use of recorded music in EY settings and had very interesting data indeed. There are some strong views out there about pop music being inappropriate for young ears and this relates to Kate’s comment about the parent singing ‘hey, sexy baby, ooh ah’ to her baby. There is some obvious pop music out there which is inappropriate (Eminem & Pink explicit material immediately springs to mind) but there is a VAST amount of pop music which, in my opinion is fine for children to hear and join in with and is generally what they are surrounded by in their everyday environments. Like Valerie, my 2 year old daughter loves singing nursery rhymes like ‘See the sleeping bunnies’ as much as she enjoys singing along to Jessie J and Elbow at the top of her voice. I don’t think that nursery rhymes need replacing, I do think that they have a place and they teach children material which they often enjoy and engage with (animals, transport etc.) but I do think that EY music needs to be shaken up a little and should be embracing the musical cultures that young children are surrounded by and involved in. Myself and practitioners that I work with at a nursery in Birmingham sent out questionnaires to parents to find out what their children listen to & what they like singing at home so that we can include the music in the setting. I also use a wide range of recorded music (including pop music) in my work so that it offers an opportunity for children to listen to all styles. It is odd, music is so accessible and there seems to be very little attention given to listening to music in settings. My research involved practitioners as opposed to parents and I feel that I would have very different data if my research had focused upon parents views as opposed to practitioner’s views.

Kate_MB's picture

Nicola, this is so interesting, where can we read more of your research? I think it would be of huge benefit to all of us.

I agree that we need to take more account of children's wider musical lives. I actually find that EY practitioners are often better at this than music leaders. Not sure what anyone else's experience is?

Do let us know where we can read more about this work Nichola.


Carol Reid's picture

I agree with Kate, Nicola - this is a great post. Will take a look on academia.edu but was wondering if we could publish the full research on the Youth Music Network too?

Nicola Burke's picture

Hi Kate

I have just uploaded my research to academia.edu so you can download it from there if you want. It is 16,000 words so you may want to have a glance!