Prep: 1 Minute / Activity Time: 10-20 Minutes

The way we use our voices can make people feel certain things. Even when a word is a “happy” word, like the word “sunshine,” if it’s spoken in a quiet, sad way, it can evoke a gloomy feeling. For this activity, your child will learn that the way things are said can change how they feel and sometimes what those words mean.

  • paper
  • pen, pencil or marker

Step 1: Ask your child to tell you some words or sentences she hears you say every day (e.g., “Time to get dressed.” or “I love you.”). Write these things down on a piece of paper, saying the words aloud as you write them. He may be prompted to say many things you say; limit the list to three to four things for now.    

Step 2: Talk about how the way words are said can change how they feel and what they mean. The book Yesterday I Had the Blues is full of sentences that can be said in ways that really deepen their emotional impact. One such sentence, “The kind of blues make you wanna just    turn     down      the      volume,” can be read slowly, and more quietly, as it approaches the end. Read the sentence that way to your child, then read it as if there were no changes to the pace or the volume. Talk about the differences in how it feels.

Step 3: Apply the same voice changes to the things you’ve written down that he hears you say. For example, if he often hears you say, “I love you,” ask him how it sounds to him. Talk to him about how you can make those same words feel full of excitement, “I LOVE YOU!” or feel safe and soothing, “I love you.” Emphasize different words to change the focus of the sentence. Ask your child how he feels when you say things a certain way.

Step 4: Do this with the rest of the things you say. Talk to your child about the things he often says and how you can tell that the way he says things, like “Mom,” can have very different feelings and meanings.

Step 5: Explain that the way you use your voice is powerful and even magical! Whether at home, school or anywhere, people are affected by how you use your voice – not just the words you say.

If your child has trouble coming up with things you say, offer a few suggestions. You might just use his name as a word that you say often and show him that by saying his name in different ways that it can mean different things and generate different feelings.

Voice magic is not our only magic! We also use facial expressions and body movements to express how we feel and what we think. With your child, come up with facial expressions and body movements, like a serious expression or hands on hips, to accompany things that you say. As another example, show that when you read the sentence, “The kind of blues make you wanna just   turn     down     the      volume,” you can use voice magic combined with body movement magic, like slouching or sinking closer to the ground, to express deep sadness.