This week on The Preschool Podcast, we are very excited to welcome Nancy Kopman! Nancy Kopman is an Educational Children’s Music Specialist, Recording Artist, and Performer. Nancy Kopman has been creating, testing, developing, recording, and performing her short, catchy, educational songs for children 0-10 for over 20 years. Nancy’s work is celebrated worldwide by educators, therapists, family program directors, parents, and caregivers. Her music is used in schools, daycares, Montessori environments, libraries, camps, internet radio, and other children’s environments.
Her mission is to create and use song structures, instruments, harmonies, and chord progressions/resolutions that appeal to both children and adults, so they can grow together at their different stages of life. She hopes her music can become your family or classroom’s “childhood soundtrack”!
We discuss how everyone from grandparents, babysitters, caregivers, educators, and directors can use music to promote learning in children. Music is repetitive, easy to use, and pick up with patterns to support early learning and growth. It is also a great way to connect with children.
Music can produce feelings of relaxation and can assist with self-regulation just by turning it on.Nancy Kopman
As an educator, if you follow patterns of children responding favorably to music, you can help them create a point of reference that they can refer back to when they are feeling overstimulated. A great example of this is Nancy’s song Breath In and Breath Out. It is a great resource for children to learn healthy breathing habits.
When children are relaxed, they are sponges for what we show them, and music is a perfect example of this.
In addition to playing music during leisure time, you can help reinforce the meaning behind the words by practicing songs over and over and bringing meaning to the words.
Patterns in songs can repeat and the words can be changed to encourage new learning. Music develops body and spatial awareness along with language development. It is so important for children to use music in every part of their day as language development involves repetition and music brings that to the table.
Music is also an important way for children to recognize cues that a change is coming in their routine. Songs with meaningful lyrics allow children to process new experiences that become part of their routine. We can rely on songs to help children understand transitions in the day such as cleaning up, bedtime, morning routine, etc.
Nancy’s Recommend Resource
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“Do you remember that song, “Breathe In, Breathe Out?” Would you like to hum that with me right now? Or can we sing that together?” And you just start singing the lyrics to the song so that it’s applicable to the moment, but you’re referring back to something that they’ve already absorbed from when they were relaxed and the feelings weren’t so intense.
Nancy, welcome to the Preschool Podcast!
Thank you so much for having me, Ron. I’m happy to be here!
We’re happy to have on the show with us today Nancy Kopman. She’s an educational children’s music specialist, recording artist and performer right here in Toronto, Canada, where I am as well. So, great to have a local guest on the Podcast with us today. And Nancy, let’s start off learning a little bit about you and your background.
Yeah, so I am an early-childhood educator. I specialize in educational songs for children that help them remember information and help them grow and develop self-regulation techniques and strategies. My songs are used by educators, parents, caregivers, anybody who really works with children on a on a regular basis.
My songs are used for helping children understand and recognize transitions in their schedule and their routine. It’s hard to encapsulate everything that my songs do because over the years I’ve always found new things for my songs to be able to cover, in terms of helping children navigate their world. So, basically anything that has to do with early-childhood learning and development and growth, my songs are there to help them along the way, as well as their grown-ups.
Cool. And how often do you find that childcare programs – or maybe parents at home, as well – are using these kinds of techniques? And are you seeing any trend there, in terms of folks using music more for these purposes?
Yeah, oh, definitely. So, when I when I first started out, I actually had no intentions of becoming as widely recognized as I am now. Years and years ago, I was using my songs just for my own use as a teacher. I taught different ages of children and at various schools and daycares and early learning centers. And my songs were designed for me to be able to facilitate their learning at the different ages because I would get infants and toddlers and preschool-age children and kindergarten-age children, even older than kindergarten age children who would come to my classroom. And I would have an active, action-focused music and movement program ready for them.
And so as I went along – because I love writing children’s songs and it just comes so easily – my songs started becoming so well-liked by the children that they would sing them in their other classes. And then their teachers would come to me and ask me if I would record my music for them so that they could use it, which led to me eventually professionally recording my music with producers and coming out with my six albums.
And because of the ease with which I could share my music across the world because of Facebook and Instagram and social platforms like those, and eventually YouTube with my videos, people who worked in all kinds of capacities with children – speech and language pathologists, occupational therapists, child psychologists, parents, grandparents, babysitters, caregivers, people who owned daycares – started finding out about my music. And it really started to spread very organically and very quickly.
And yeah, so that’s really how my music started to become well-known and used, because of the ease with which I was able to share my music across the oceans with people who live so far away. I have people in Singapore and Africa and Asia and all over the place who use my music in different capacities. And it’s so easy to use it because it’s repetitive and it’s predictable and there are patterns. And anybody can really pick it up easily and use it in all kinds of different areas that support early learning and growth.
Very cool. And let’s talk a little bit more on specifics. Can you talk about any examples, whether that be experiences you’ve had or certain specific songs or music where that’s been used by an educator or in a childcare type setting for self-regulation or reassuring children?
Well, I’ve had so many people tell me so many different stories of how they’ve used my songs, specifically in that capacity. I can offer an example of a parent whose son was identified as being on the Autism spectrum. And she is an opera singer herself and whenever she would practice her music for a performance, her son would cry because he didn’t want to hear her sing. And she found it very difficult.
And then she found my music and started playing it for him. And he started responding very favorably to the patterns and the formulas in my songs. And one day she started singing one of my… I would identify the song that she indicated she was using as a self-regulation song because it’s a slower paced, calming song. And she started to sing it and he started to sing it along with her.
And it was a real “A-ha!” moment for her that instead of singing the songs that she was practicing, she was having more success connecting with him on a musical level with this one song. And then from there, he started to respond favorably to other songs of mine. And then she wrote to me to let me know about it. She actually sent me a video, which I shared on my Facebook page a few years ago.
And that kind of thing really validates the work that I put into constructing my songs, especially my self-regulation songs. I come from a background that is very heavily influenced by psychologists and therapists. And one of the things I’ve learned is that music can produce feelings of relaxation and it can enhance and assist in creating an ambience of relaxation and self-regulation just by turning it on.
And if you follow certain patterns that children respond to favorably and you repeatedly expose children to those songs, those patterns, you can actually help them create the point of reference so that later on, when they are in a situation where they’re finding themselves feeling overwhelmed or overstimulated, that they have this ingrained, prepared sense of, “I can overcome this if I just refer myself back to this song that taught me how to breathe or taught me how to slow down my thoughts and think through one thing at a time.”
So, besides that story with that one mother, I’ve heard from psychologists and from teachers therapists, other types of therapists, who work with children on regulating their emotions that my song, “Breathe In, Breathe Out” from my album Shadow has been very helpful in helping them establish this sense of, “Here’s how you slow down and breathe. And this is all you have to think about when you’re trying to regulate yourself.” And it really does work. The simpler the song, with the more complex the intention, the more successful it seems to be, if that makes any sense.
Yeah, that’s interesting. And is it only when that music or song is played? Or is there also scenarios where the child kind of memorizes the song and can sort of sing that or hum that to themselves and that also helps with self-regulation?
Yeah, that’s a great point. So, I always tell parents that there is no piece of music that’s going to magically fix a problem in the moment. The goal has to be that you lay down a foundation – with everything, not just with music or with your strategies in terms of helping yourself regulate when you have intense emotions. You have to lay down a foundation of music that becomes a reference point.
So with that I mean, when you’re traveling in your car or when your child is playing independently and is relaxed and enjoying themselves and playing with blocks or drawing or doing what they find comforting and relaxing, you play the music in the background. Because when children’s minds are relaxed, they’re like sponges for whatever you give them. So, when the music is playing, their minds just absorb the music that’s playing, especially if you play it again the next time they’re in a similar situation.
And then in the future, when they have a moment where they need that point of reference, the adult can remind them, “I can see you’re feeling overwhelmed; I can see you’re feeling frustrated; I can see you’re feeling angry; I can see you’re feeling sad,” and use those terms to help them develop the language, to identify the feelings that they have.
And then say, “Do you remember that song, “Breathe In, Breathe Out”? Would you like to hum that with the right now or can we sing that together?” And you just start singing the lyrics to the song so that it’s applicable to the moment, but you’re referring back to something that they’ve already absorbed from when they were relaxed and the feelings weren’t so intense. So for me, that’s always been the most successful strategy with introducing a song into a child’s consciousness that will help them in the future in an applicable situation.
Interesting. And is there certain tactics or ways to help children to learn songs or lyrics in the songs more easily?
Yeah, I find that in addition to playing the music just during their leisure time, because children are very good at absorbing lyrics and music when they’re at peace, when they’re enjoying themselves, when they’re feeling relaxed. But another way that you can help reinforce the meaning behind the words is to use, for example, videos like the ones in my YouTube playlist. I have a Follow Nancy playlist on my YouTube channel. My YouTube channel is called Music With Nancy and I have a bunch of different playlists there with transitional songs, self-regulation songs, songs that help build a positive inner voice, for example.
And then I have this one playlist of videos that are called Follow Nancy. And these are very simple videos: it’s just me with my green background. And I play one of my songs and I do the actions to the song and the words are going across the screen for pre-readers or readers. And the more you practice it, the more you bring meaning to the words. And the more you bring meaning to the words, the more those words get ingrained in your consciousness or even sub-consciousness. And the more you can refer back to them and use them when you need them.
That makes a lot of sense. And then what about for the really early ages, like infants? Is there ways that parents can use music at that early age already for things like regulation?
One hundred percent. One of the things people often ask me is, “How do you know that babies are understanding what you’re even singing or doing?” And anybody who works with babies or knows babies really well can tell you that there are so many obvious signs that babies are recognizing what you’re teaching them, what you have taught them, what you’re reintroducing and reinforcing with them.
So, my songs that I typically use or recommend for people who are working with infants are the ones with the more simple language structure, like “Pat, Pat, Pat, for example. That’s from my album Wonderful You. And this song is designed specifically for infants during tummy time, which is something many infants don’t like. Some infants like it, but many of them don’t like it because it’s a new position and it’s exercising new muscles and it’s not as relaxing as lying on their back, for some babies.
And so one of the reasons I developed the song was because we know how important tummy time is for our neck and torso and arm and head muscle development. And so we put them lying in their tummy position. And you put your hand on their back and you start playing the music that has very happy, easy types of instruments that are incorporated into the musical structure that babies seem to respond well to, like bells, glockenspiel, xylophone, that type of sound. Babies like that sound. So, it gets their attention.
And then you put your hand on their back and you start the actions, “Pat pat pat, pat pat pat, pat pat pat pat, just like that.” And then they start recognizing the pattern which interests them. And the pattern repeats but you change the words very slightly as you move through the song so they’re developing language understanding. And as you move your hands around their body to squeeze their feet or fingers in your hair or tickle-tickle-tickle, they start to recognize those words the more you sing the song.
And the next time you come back to the song and sing it again, that recognition will be there. You’ll be reinforcing it. So, it’s developing body awareness, spatial awareness and language receptive language skills as well. So, that’s one example of a song that I would recommend that people use with babies. And I have a few others, as well.
Yeah, that’s cool. And I guess one of the things that strikes me in our conversation is just that I know, at least from my own personal experience, both as a parent and with HiMama, that childcare programs use music in a lot of cases quite well to support their programing and things like transitions and self-regulation and routines and whatnot. But I don’t think many parents do. And it seems like it’s, for lack of a better explanation, really not an easy win, but something that can really help support parents at home. And my sense is, even with how accessible it is, lots of parents, I guess, just probably aren’t aware of how much music and songs can help with a lot of the things we’re doing at home.
Yeah, I agree with you, especially if people who aren’t as inclined to rely on music as someone who is more inclined to use music, if everybody has different levels of appreciation of music. But it is so important for babies and children to use music and every part of their day because the key to them understanding and developing language is repetition,. And music lends itself so well to repetition, pattern recognition, anticipating changes in the formulas in music.
But with respect to transition songs, it’s such an important and useful and successful way in helping children recognize cues and that change is coming in their routine. Everybody is so fixated on routine with sleeping patterns and going to school and lunch and breakfast and dinner routines. But the changes in our routines require special attention. And if you have a song to help them understand what’s going on, with lyrics that explain what’s going on, it brings meaning to what they’re doing. So again, songs with meaningful lyrics really help children assign meaning to words and process these brand new experiences and changes that become part of their routine. And it’s a reference point for future transition.
So, I have songs like, “I’m Washing My Hands”. And the song is an upbeat, kind of boppy song that is not only designed for them to play or sing while they’re washing their hands. The duration of the song is the amount of time that’s typically recommended by healthcare professionals that you should be paying attention to washing your hands, instead of just turning the water on, putting a little bit of soap on, wash-wash-wash, turn it off and run away.
If you want to thoroughly wash your hands, you have to wash each finger with soap and with water, which are part of the lyrics. “I wash each finger with soap and with water.” And “I’m Washing My Hands”, that song lasts for… I can’t remember the exact duration of the song. But the amount of time that the song takes to wash your hands is going to ensure that they’re washing thoroughly while they’re focusing on the lyrics and the patterns in the song.
Same with the “Brush Your Teeth” song that I have, which is from my album Shadow. The song teaches them to go around and around, inside and outside their teeth. “We go around and around, inside and outside / Round and around, inside and outside.” And that pattern gets really stuck in your head. And parents actually call me or they write to me and tell me that they’re singing the songs themselves while they’re brushing their teeth because it’s catchy.
And also with tidying up, I have a tidy-up song. And it doesn’t just say, “It’s time to tidy up, it’s time to tidy up. Hi ho, the dario, it’s time to tidy up.” It’s about, “Collect the things you were using and put them where they belong,” or “Collect the things you re using and please put them away. It’s time to tidy up.” So, it talks about what you’re supposed to be doing while you’re tidying up, instead of just using words like “tidy up”, which don’t really mean that much to children yet before they’ve learned the meaning behind the words.
I have a line-up song that teachers use that reminds kids that everybody has a place in the line. You get in the front, the middle and the end and stand in front or stand behind somebody. That’s how you make a line, instead of focusing on who’s first in line because that can be pretty distracting, as all teachers who have ever attempted to line children up know.
I have calendar songs, weather songs, the days of the week, the months of the year, even songs for waking up and going to sleep for caregivers to use at home. Because waking up time can be difficult. But if you have a little song to get their brains clearing the cobwebs of sleep out of their minds, that can be really helpful and get their brains up and moving before they even get up and moving.
The same with going to sleep – you want a song that’s going to be calm and relaxing and kind of lull them into that state of relaxation before they go to sleep. So, transitional songs can be so important that we can actually start to rely on them just to help children understand what’s happening next.
I’m definitely going to be trying out some of these tomorrow. We’ve used some music at bedtime, which is probably the most common, would be my guess, for parents out there, especially with young kids. But, for example, I’m definitely skeptical of our children and their hand-washing. It’s definitely more the five-second version than the five-minute version. So, that’s a good one. And certainly the transition to getting them out the door for school is another one. So, I’m definitely going to be checking that out tomorrow.
Before we wrap up, a couple other quick questions. So, one is just around your membership program. So, it sounds like you have a membership program for educators. Can you just talk briefly about what that includes and how our audience can access that?
Yeah, and thank you for the opportunity to share the membership with your audience. So, I developed this membership. This has been a work in progress for years. And I’m finally in a place where I have my friends and my fans in one place. So, for those of you who don’t know about Patreon, Patreon is a website that is used primarily by creators – so, artists and musicians are very easy to find there. And you can follow and support your favorite artists and musician there. There are famous musicians there; there are musicians who are just starting out; same with artists.
And this is a place where people who recognize the value in your work and want to be a part of your intimate community where you provide exclusive content only for your most dedicated followers can go and choose a tier. So, for my membership, there are three different tiers you can join just to get my weekly ideas. Every Monday, I put a post up that has one of my songs and a bunch of different music-focused activities that you can easily incorporate into your early-learning environment.
And I like to call myself the “lazy music teacher” because I’m very, very big on low-to-no prep because we all know everybody who knows young children knows that sometimes you just need something up your sleeve that you can pull out of nowhere and say, “Okay, we’re going to do this now,” and they love it. So, I share all of my best music and movement quick ideas every Monday. And so there’s a tier where you can just join for that. That’s called Nancy’s Support.
And then there’s a second tier called Nancy’s Friends. And that tier is for people who just want to come to my live weekly classes on Fridays. So every Friday, I do a live class. It’s a 30-minute music and movement interactive class. And you can comment on the sidebar while I’m teaching the class. And I go through all kinds of different activities that are action-focused; I sing a lot of my well-known songs, we change the lyrics; I show you instruments; we do experiments; we do musical art projects.
And then at the end of the class each week, I have what’s called the Goodbye Guest. And that’s where one of my friends or my fans is called up on the screen with me and we sing my “Goodbye Goodbye” song and we do the actions together. And that’s always a lot of fun to see my little friends face-to-face and their families. And so that’s the Nancy’s Friends Tier.
And then the top tier is everything that I’ve mentioned already. So, you get the resources, you get the access to the class and you also get an exclusive, weekly video called a Song Snack where I go through one of my songs very slowly and I talk about all the different aspects of the song and we go through the actions together. And then at the end, we go through the whole song together with everything we’ve learned. So, it’s like a lesson within a lesson in that one song, in that Song Snack. That’s every Wednesday, that goes up.
And then there are other perks, as well. I have a song train that I post every Tuesday. And that’s four of my YouTube videos in a row with no ads and no interruptions. And on Thursdays, I share a personal story about my music or the background of one of my songs or something that somebody has sent in to me. Every week it’s something different, and that’s my Thursday Share.
And then every month we have a Zoom [online video conferencing] get-together, which I call Zoom Intel, where we can all talk to each other and share stories. And I sing some songs with them when we can all see each other. So, that’s really fun. And that community is growing and I’m very happy to hear from the parents in there that they really love what I’m providing there. And it’s a really wonderful, warm, inclusive and supportive community.
So, you can find that on Patreon. Yeah, that’s www.Patreon.com/NancyKopman.
Great, and Nancy, before we wrap up, for our listeners and their own professional development growth, any other resources you’d like to share with them that would be helpful for them to check out?
Sure. So, I have a colleague here in Toronto whose name is Tali Kellerstein. She is a highly respected speech and language pathologist. And she’s a clinical speech and language pathologist here in Toronto. And she’s created the most amazing resource that I have just fallen in love with. And I incorporate a lot of her sound building and muscle building exercises into many of my songs, I have for years. And we’ve been colleagues for years.
Her work is so special. She is so talented and she just came out with a big, beautiful, colorful speech development book called Party Animals! [A Wild Collection Of Speech Sound Poems]. Her website is www.TheSpeakBoutique.com. The book is so fun to read and so fun to listen to for any child. It helps adults guide healthy language development. It has beautiful illustrations by a local illustrator named Elise Conlin. It’s enjoyable for a variety of ages, from three-years-old to adults.
And it’s unique for a children’s book because we don’t often think about or teach how speech sounds are made, even though we can’t really imagine life without speech. We don’t really necessarily have the skills to slow down and isolate everything the way a speech and language pathologist can.
And this book is part of a product line that she has that highlights communication. She has something called What’s The Story? Cards that has more than 100 cards that encourage children to practice story creation and narration. And it can also be used for description and compare-and-contrast activities. Her resources are all from her own incredibly imaginative, creative brain. I love her work so much and I try to spread it around as much as I can. So, I’ll take this opportunity to plug her book and her website because I just love her work so much.
Wonderful. And Nancy, is the best place for people to find you on www.NancyKopman.com?
Yep, that’s where you’ll find everything from my membership site to my videos and my songs, my albums. You’ll find everything you need to know there. And you can also contact me through my website, www.NancyKopman.com.
Wonderful. Well, there you have it, folks. Check it out, www.NancyKopman.com. Some excellent resources related to music and song to regulate, guide and reassure children. Really great having you on the show today, Nancy. It’s been great to hear some of your thoughts around music and children and some practical tactics to use that in the classroom and at home, as well.
I’m so happy to have been able to speak with you today, Ron. Thank you so much for having me. And I hope my music helps children of the parents and caregivers and teachers who are listening to really find their way through life in a musical, happy way!