My niece’s five-year-old daughter exclaims, “Aunt Marci! Let’s play this game.” She claps her hands together, then claps her hands on mine. Repeat. Again and again. And over and over.
We sing “With a knick knack, paddy whack. . . ” We enjoy the repetitive rhythm, the silly words, and laughing together. “Now what shall we sing?” I ask.
“How about ‘Praise to the Man’?” she replies.
I smile, and instead of the nonsense words of the last song, we sing “traitors and tyrants now fight him in vain.” These words may have no more meaning to her five-year-old mind, but the feeling is different. The Spirit is present. And I know the Spirit will take this childhood-ingrained song and reveal layers and layers of meaning throughout her lifetime.
Particularly in nursery, it’s tempting to stick with secular toddler activity songs. There’s nothing wrong with those songs. But children can learn “I am a Child of God” as easily as they can learn “Wheels on the Bus.” They can learn to gesture towards heaven, which is sign language for God, as easily as they can learn motions for “Itsy Bitsy Spider.” When I’m in nursery, I like to keep the sacred/secular proportion of songs in about the same balance as in Junior Primary — largely inspiring Primary songs that invite the Spirit, with a little splash of “Hinges” and “Do As I’m Doing” for wiggles as needed.
Yes, dear child, death cannot conquer the hero again. God bless those music leaders and parents who taught you this truth.