Tuesday, November 11, 2014

I Can’t Get That Song Out of My Head!

By: Dr. Linda Carson

Earworms...not the most pleasant visual, but it’s the term often used to describe what happens when you can’t dislodge a tune from your mind. Most of us have experienced “stuck song syndrome” even when we least expect it. You hear the opening song to your child’s favorite TV show or a commercial jingle on TV early in the day and without effort, you re-hear it again in your head. You might even start to sing or hum portions of it out loud (admit it, you know all of the words to that TV show). You go back to what you should be focusing on during the normal routines of your day and before long that same song returns to your memory and you find yourself hearing it again in your head! Why does this happen and is it helpful in any way?

There has been research on earworms or stuck song syndrome, and basically we all experience this phenomenon. Familiarity is key and as a result, earworms are not unique to any genre of music, but they are unique to each person. There is just no denying that we have music memory, both short term and long term.

Can music memory be used for learning? YES! Music is a universal teaching tool used across cultures. Memory allows us to store and retrieve information, while learning allows us to make sense of it and apply it. Sometimes, for young children, singing songs that have content or messages helps them to both remember and apply the information or message. Most of us learned our ABC’s by singing the alphabet song and there are mothers who sooth their young children by singing nursery rhymes and lullabies that convey messages of love and comfort.
Music can also contain significant content themes like health and convey such topics as washing hands, brushing teeth, eating fruits and veggies, or learning our body parts and moving them. This is a powerful combination of important content with a pleasurable element of music and melody. Children’s music that passes the “pleasant to listen to” challenge, and yet contains content that complements early learning experiences that parents and teachers are also emphasizing, can be profoundly influential, especially if messages about health behaviors are embedded in pleasant songs. We try to strategically combine music and learning by including health messages in our Choosy music. Click here to listen to samples.

Bottom line…while some adults find earworms annoying, stuck song syndrome is not all bad especially for young children and their families. If children’s songs deliberately include positive, healthy content and those songs are played repetitiously, it is likely that they will go to some memory bank in our brains. If you or your child can’t stop those songs from replaying in your minds, then that means the healthy content or messages are also stuck in your brains!

Caution: earworms work with all types of music played repetitiously so be very aware of the types of music that your child is exposed to in your home and in your car.

Let’s start a discussion of stuck song syndrome here by sharing your experiences with it. What songs have you experienced as earworms? And what children’s music have you found useful and sticky?

About the Author: Linda Carson, Ed. D, is the founder and CEO of Choosy Kids, LLC, and the Ware Distinguished Professor Emerita at West Virginia University. An award winning, nationally recognized expert, Dr. Carson has devoted her career to promoting healthy preferences for young children and the adults who make decisions on their behalf. Click here to learn more about Linda.

48 comments :

  1. As a homeschooling mom, I definitely see the benefit of learning things in song or rhyme form. Not only do the kids remember it better, but they enjoy learning it. We've found this especially helpful in math, where the kids have to do a lot of memorization.

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  2. We've definitely benefited from using music in our home school lessons... especially when it comes to memorizing bible verses! My kids love learning this way!

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    1. I love when you learn by song! So much easier!

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  3. My kids learn the best when things are connected to a song.

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  4. I've never heard it referred to by a name. Earrwom. First, we have used it often to teach our daughter everything from biblical principles to her phone number. Secondly, I listen to country music. I love 80's and 90's country on a road trip. We were headed somewhere once and George Strait was cranking it out. Every song, my daughter would say, "What's this song about?" Well, they were 95% heartache, exes in Texas, and the like. So, finally, I laughed and said, "It's George Strait, kid, show some respect!" Ha.

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  5. Nursery rhymes are the best known to get "stuck", LOL. Interesting post.

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    1. Isn't it funny though that you learn them at such a young age and still remember them when you have your own children? It is very stuck!!

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  6. My brothers learned to count to 5 by sing the pumpkin song. I couldn't get it out of my head for days but he learned to count to 5 in a week times with it.

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    1. Isn't it amazing how our brains work? Something so silly as the pumpkin song but now he knows up to 5!

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  7. I taught Kindergarten and we sang songs all the time. The children loved the music and it really helped some children learn new concepts. My son absolutely loves music, so I like to sing to him whenever I can. Too bad I don't have the greatest voice! haha

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    1. My daughter tells me "mommy quiet!" When I try to sing to her and I don't have that bad of a voice!

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  8. Music is seriously what got my princess to talk!! She's speech delayed so its seriously a pain to get her to use actual words at times... But if you put music on... Or even sing things to her... She will usually respond to that lol.... Crazy how music can be that motivating to young ones ;-)

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    1. CourtneyLynne, email me at christinecox0925@gmail.com. I'd love to get your daughter a Choosy song!!

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  9. That's exactly how I remember the Bible, at camp they taught us a song.

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    1. That is a great way to remember the Bible

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  10. I get songs stuck in my head all the time. I HAVE to hear them or I keep whistling and singing them and my hubby gets annoyed. The kids have learned too When they hear me singing or whistling the same song all the time my son will say "Do you need to listen to that song mom?" lol

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    1. Hahaha don't you just hate that?! But let's remember that this can be a great thing for kids :)

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  11. Ha ha ha, the only songs I seem to get stuck in my head these days are Disney songs...particularly from Frozen...my daughter is OBSESSED! :) Very interesting info though, I'm glad I'm normal. ;)

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  12. We do a lot of learning songs that get 'stuck' in all of our heads. Lately, it has been an insect and spider counting and math song that I made up for them.

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    1. Love bug songs!! My little one totally loves itsy bitsy spider!!

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  13. My kids learn things better when it's in a song form.

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    1. I am glad you've found a great way to help them learn :)

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  14. So true. I enjoy passing songs on to the grandchildren.

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  15. For us it's the Veggies Tales songs! We make up songs to teach our kids our phone number and address too. We also make up songs to remember our months in order��

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    1. I always loved phone and address songs? Anyone remember Stick Stickly on Nickelodeon in the summer or am I aging myself?

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  16. My grandson is two years old and he loves Veggies Tales!

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  17. Great point! My daughter loves music, I need to play more educational music for her.

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    1. Check out the music on the Choosy Kids website! All educational and it gets her up and grooving!

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  18. My husband ALWAYS has songs stuck in his head! Usually ones he's embarrassed about- cartoon jingles or musicals :)

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    1. Hehe they are silly but get stuck so easily!

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  19. Thanks for sharing! This is how my daughter learned the days of the week. I need to play more educational songs for them

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    1. You can always check out Choosy Kids YouTube channel for songs! :)

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  20. Love this. And it is so true. Personally, I always get irritated with the catchy little numbers because they stay in my head for days. But at least the little one is hopefully learning. If you think about the songs we had growing up with like "I'm only a bill on Capital Hill" or even the ABC song, we can still recall those earworms today. They are embedded in our heads. Great post! I will stop hating on Doc McStuffins' "it's time for your check up" now :-)

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    1. Hahaha oh Doc! Gotta love her though and I agree. I used to love Schoolhouse Rock!!! I learned so much from their music.

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  21. I get songs stuck in my head continuously. Its often peppa pig or Dora these days. ��

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    1. And even after the kids are in bed we are still singing those songs!!

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  22. I don't have children but I did learn a new language by listening to Tagalog songs.

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  23. My son got a song in his head over the weekend and I was telling him about this post, lol. (Precisely Mine)

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    1. Hahaha I'm glad that we could help you teach him something new!

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  24. This was an interesting read! Thanks for sharing this information. My son is very peculiar about his music and he doesn't like my singing, but maybe he'd listen to recorded songs.

    Alex - Funky Jungle

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    1. It is always worth the try!! Thanks for stopping by :)

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