Freeing The Voice Through Play

To free the voice is to free the person – Kristin Linklater, Master  Freeing Voice Teacher

Since my casts of Jungle Book Kids and The Witches, have their shows this week, I’ve been thinking a lot about Baloo’s advice to Mowgli. “Go ahead, give me a big bear growl…Right from your toes. GRRRRRRRRRRRAAAAAAAAAAAAAA.” (there are actually 62 “A”s in our script, but you get the idea.)  This lovable bear is showing Mowgli how to get brave – through his voice. 

The day of the performances we do a vocal warm-up, run through the sticky parts, and I talk to them about how to turn their fear into excitement.  I will always hope that I did enough to prepare them for the moment when they step on stage.

I also hope they can be heard.

There are countless challenges to being a kid:  I sometimes think that the real world is filled with mini “shows” for them.  Like Shakespeare said best, “All the world’s a stage.” Maybe it’s a playdate in an unfamiliar home, the first day of a new camp, visiting a grandparent in the hospital, a birthday party where they don’t know the guests.  Naturally, kids resort to babytalk, shy voices or general timidity.  The unknown is scary and our voices are the purest mirror for that.

It is a chicken and egg thing:  Feel brave and you’ll speak confidently.  Speak confidently and you’ll feel brave.  Which comes first?

Here are some Baloo-like ways I love to encourage courage through the voice: Tongue Twisters are super fun in the car, walking to school, or around the table.  When kids get mastery over their vocal dexterity that is a big confidence booster.  Watch this video to see Nathaniel work on Flash Message and my inability to say Toy Boat.  Also there’s a sneak peak at cast of The Witches warming up!   Kids also love inventing their own tongue twister.  This is a  great way to play together and play with language.     

Here are my favorite short tongue twisters to practice with your kids and get a few laughs in too:
Toy Boat
Flash Message
Selfish Shellfish
Unique New York, You Know You Need Unique New York
A proper copper coffee pot
Which wristwatches are Swiss wristwatches
The sixth’s six sheik’s son slept
How can a clam cram in a clean cream can?

Play with Gibberish –  Kids often worry that they aren’t going to say the right thing and that can make them quiet.  Use gibberish to unlock the feelings behind their words.  They will get great sound out that they they might not have if they were also worried about what they are saying!  Play this gibberish improv game: 1) set up different funny scenarios for two or three kids (for example: a shark at the dentist, an exercise class for toddlers, a birthday clown trying to get hired). Have another person be the “clapper” and clap to change the scene from English into gibberish and then back again.  You’ll be surprised how much more sound pours out when they aren’t worried about saying the right words.

Do Mirror Sound – Remember when you reflected your baby’s babble because your pediatrician told you to? This game is like that, but for big kids.  It is also like the actual mirror game – but with sound! Partners face each other and one person makes sound (not real words) while the other is the reflection. The sound should be non-stop.  Explore speaking high, low, fast, slow. Help your child explore parts of their voice they didn’t know existed! They will also practice listening which is a huge part of speaking!  A third person can call out “switch” and then the roles reverse with no stop to the sound!   Take it up a notch by playing different music in the background to cue different ways of vocalizing.  Classical, metal, and country music can inspire new and funny ways of mirroring speech!  Kids will get a great vocal work-out and will have cool mirroring-bonding time with you.

Singing is great practice for having a confident voice. Play “Name that Tune” or  have a karaoke-jam-session to your children’s favorite songs.  Play around with the lyrics for Down By The Bay or add onto classic folk songs like She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain or The Farmer in the Dell for fun language-boosting at the same time.  I would argue that the Zimbabwe proverb:  “If you can speak, you can sing” also works in reverse.

freeing voice play
  1. If you are in Brooklyn this week and want to see those jungle characters and witches in action – making lots of great sound on stage, reserve your tickets!
  2. Have fun making noises with your kids, and chime in to tell me your favorite ways to practise getting their big voices bravely out into the world!  I’ll see you next week in the newsletter.
  3. Warmly, Jocelyn  

Learn More Games to Inspire Purposeful Play