Ringató: How Music is Bringing Families Together in Hungary

Ringato music session in Hungary
Category: Bookbug

Last month, I took part in a study trip to Hungary to learn about the Kodaly approach to music education in the early years. We had the opportunity to visit kindergarten (age 3-7) classrooms and a traditional folk music school, and also to watch a parent and baby group similar to a Bookbug Session. The trip was very exciting and I loved watching music and early years in action. The highlight for me was watching the parents and children take part in the Ringató session.

Ringató is a form of early music education, and the sessions are also seen as providing spiritual nourishment for toddlers

The focus of the Ringató sessions is to provide quality musical experiences for families. Ringató is a form of early music education, and the sessions are also seen as providing spiritual nourishment for toddlers. Within Ringató, there is also a strong focus on the use of traditional folk songs.

When we arrived at the session, the first thing that I noticed was that there weren’t any props set out. I’m used to setting up my Bookbug Session with puppets, a few books and some Lycra, so the lack of props struck me as unusual. Chairs were set out in a circle, but parents and children would sit on the floor. Each family received a warm welcome and the leader sat on the floor chatting to parents and children before the session started.

The session was all in Hungarian, which meant that instead of singing along and getting caught up in the songs and rhymes, I was able just to sit back and observe. What I noticed was how often the same melodies and songs were used, but at different points in the session. This was a lovely way to include repetition, both repeating songs and rhymes immediately but also coming back to them at different times.

The session included many of the same activities that we include in our Bookbug Sessions. There were knee-bouncing games, tickling games, action and activity songs and rhymes. Although the focus throughout was singing with parents and children, at the end of the session families also listened to a short piece of violin music, played live. This is to foster a love of music and an appreciation of live music for children. 

Observing this session let me see it's possible to keep engagement without any additional resources

Although the focus of a Ringató session is music education and helping to foster musical capability, the primary focus of the session is very similar to that of a Bookbug Session – to encourage and support families to spend time singing and rhyming together. Much like a Bookbug Session, the leader chose activities to encourage this interaction and engagement.

Watching this session gave me time to reflect on my own practice as a Bookbug Session leader. The biggest lesson I learned was to slow down my Bookbug Sessions. I think there's a tendency to keep the energy levels so high that we don’t take a minute to pause during our sessions – exhausting for both leaders and families! Observing this session let me see it's possible to keep the engagement without any additional resources. This really did keep the focus on the parent and child engagement – a pure joy to watch.