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Twinkle, Twinkle Your Way Through History: Music Memory Tricks for Your Kids

Music Memory Tricks: Turning Facts into Songs

What child doesn’t know Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star? Or Ring Around the Rosy or Three Blind Mice? Certain songs tend to get passed down from one generation to the next, whether by popularity or sentiment. Either way, those songs represent both our personal history as well as a larger historical narrative. Many of us remember learning Three Blind Mice. And we could never forget the parent or sibling who sang Twinkle, Twinkle with us every time we asked!

Why Music is a Powerful Memory-Boosting Tool

In truth, songs evoke remembrance. In a recent blog entitled Why Music Is a Powerful Memory-Boosting Tool, Annie Murphy Paul of The Business Insider says, “Humans have been remembering through rhyme and song for ages.” Most songs tend to be some kind of oral tradition set to tune, some tale of lost love given a bit of southern twang, or some vivid recollection of heroic valor. Even Ring Around the Rosy with its catchy melody and accompanying game carries a dark reminder of the Black Death. Though most children are unaware, the song nevertheless lays the groundwork for a historical lesson on the effects of The Fall and God’s gracious redemption.

Setting facts to a familiar—or even a made up—tune is a great way to teach our kids history. Is there an event from the American Revolution they can’t seem to wrap their head around? Set it to music! Do your students constantly mix up the inventions of Benjamin Franklin with those of Alexander Graham Bell? Create a little jig! Do the flurry of dates from the first Continental Congress to the actual founding of the U.S cause your child’s head to spin? Sit down with your kids. Work through the facts together. Then come up with a creative ditty that will never leave you guessing what day the Declaration of Independence was actually signed!

Start Listening

If your younger student is just beginning to learn the Presidents of the United States, set the list of those who served in our nation’s highest office to a familiar tune such as Ten Little Indians.

  • Presidents 10 Little Indians:

If your student is older and thinks Ten Little Indians is a little below them, try turning the list presidents into a jig or a rap.

  • 44 Presidents Rap:

If your child is a bit precocious or you want them to learn more than just a list, try adding some historical background to the string of people or facts.

  • Professional American Presidents:

  • First Five Presidents:

When in doubt, use RHYME! We remember rhymes far more easily than even familiar tunes or songs with a beat. But if you combine rhyme, familiarity, and beat, your student is sure to learn and have a great time making music in the process!

  • 50 states rhyme:

The world of history is open to any parent and child willing to have a little fun, dance a little jig, and play a little tune. You do not have to be musically inclined. You don’t have to own an instrument. Just use a familiar song and your imagination–and have fun learning!