The Norwegian Baby Sang – (in English, Baby Sing)
In Trondheim, I learned about a special program sponsored by churches for parents and very young babies. Siri, my hostess at Queen Maud shared her experience attending Baby Sang when her son was very young. She wondered if I might want to visit a session? Of course! Siri made arrangements for me (and my two friends who have been travelling with me) to attend the Baby Sang she had been a part of.
It was so much like a baby class in our Minnesota Early Childhood Family Education classes….(Renee, you would have LOVED this!) Babies arrived in their buggies at church …. As saw in the first picture and gather around the altar.
Parents and infants came forward and participated by sitting on mats in front of the altar. As the name implies, baby sang, there was singing. Not just light children’s songs but lullabies that were deep and meaningful
The woman leading the Baby Sang had an amazing voice and all of the parents joined in the singing but her voice could be heard above all. On the mats were some items we that we use in ECFE in Minnesota in baby classes such as light weight see-through scarves and bubbles, egg shakers used to for a back-ground rhythm and a pure tone bar. Here are are two samples of the music in Baby Sang: One sample is of the lighter music and one more somber. The babies were fascinated by both types of music.
What was so striking to me was that not only where there some familiar activities (peek-a-boo with the scarves, a song in which babies were tickled at the end, another song in which parents raised the babies up high) but some of the songs had a very different melody and pitch than tradition songs for children. In addition the parents and babies moved as a group following the leader from the front of the altar, to walking around the altar, to playing with bubbles at the communion rail and finally making a circle around the candles that are often lit in memory of a loved one.
The session ended with the babies back on the mats playing with one another and parents having coffee and good conversation. The Baby Sang leader spoke about the importance of the coffee and conversation for parents.
As I wrote about previously Parents take one year off when their child is born. That is why the barnehagen programs begin at 1 year of age. This program, Baby Sang ,serves to support parents during their leave by providing a positive experience with other parents and shared ideas about child development and learning.
The Baby Sang leader shared her philosophy in a written document (in Norwegian). The translation revealed the conceptual framework of this particular Baby Sang. I asked my high school classmate Walter Welo and his Norwegian wife, Bibbi, for help in translating the document so I could gain a better understanding.
What has become more clear to me is not all words and concepts translate well into English – and perhaps it is because the concepts and ideas are routed in culture and not entirely able to be translated. ( Thank you Walter and Bibbi for your willingness to translate this ‘on the spot’ as part of my visit with your family.) For those reading this, please note that I am sharing some of what I gleaned through the translation by Walter and Bibbi as well as connecting it to my observation. I want to learn more and hope to perhaps be able to discuss this with the Baby Sang leader who graciously allowed us to visit her class. Therefore, what is in italics indicates it is a rough translation.
What was revealed in the document through a quick translation is that: (all words in italics are translations from the document)
- Baby Sang time is like church for little ones.
- It is meant to be ministry to the babies and their parents – a way to embrace them as new members of the church family
- Through the movements, song and experiences it is intended they become familiar with church rituals
The Baby Sang leader also wrote about the fact when one plays with small babies (all of these babies were under one year of age, not yet walking) you learn words are irrelevant and visual effects, touch, and creative movements are meaningful for babies. She wrote about the importance of repetition giving children a sense of belonging and security.
Because Baby Sang is done in the church itself, it gives the experience a different dimension. (I felt this dimension very keenly as I observed.) Like a church service, Baby Sang is done with predictability. It is preparing children to participate in the rituals and routines in the church service.
About the movements around the church, it was explained that – when receiving communion, we move towards the alter, we stand and we kneel to worship God we go away with standing up in the world. In Baby Sang movements around the church are used as well. She wrote we use the room and all of our senses going here and going there, rocking the babies, swaying with the babies…through the Baby Sang movements we are connecting them to the church liturgy. In church we move in time and space with one another and we listen. The church service is created by making time and space for one another and God. It is something -that we do together. If you are not used to it it can be like a game….not knowing how to move a person becomes passive and feels foreign. (Baby Sang familiarizes both children and parents to these rituals)
When parents come to Baby Sang they get a positive experience by meeting each other think and find it is fun to do things together with their babies She described that one must completely enter Baby Sang with your heart and your mind. …This experience for the baby can be beautiful and fascinating for a child. (it was both!) We have to practice our faith to learn our faith.
I was so impressed with the music and the rituals. What a fabulous way for the church to welcome newborns and their parents. It is another way the Norwegian culture supports families starting with the very youngest.