When her son was born about three and a half years ago, Elmira’s Rachel Babor had an idea. She wanted to sing him meaningful songs, and songs about nature, but she had trouble finding any.
“I started looking for meaningful nature songs for children instead of just the usual Old McDonald and Skinamarinky Dink, and the Itsy Bitsy Spider. They’re classics that definitely deserve their heart, but looking for good quality words and morals within songs is really hard to find. There’s a lot of mediocre music out there and stuff that just doesn’t have any meaning.”
That being the case, Babor began compiling the kind of songs she wanted to sing to her kids.
“I started finding artists that I liked, and then creating a few of my own songs. I wasn’t sure how Mini Mushroom would fully come out – at one point before COVID I thought maybe it would be at my house around the campfire pit.
“Then this past winter, it dawned on me that I should just try for it. And my kids are not going to be this young and want to hear these songs all the time for that long either. So I’m just going to go for it, and I’d like to do it in a forest.”
She called up the Woolwich administration office in January to ask if she needed a permit to run a program in a public park and when staff heard about the idea, they instantly liked it. Babor says the township staff asked her to partner with them on the idea, “on the spot.”
The first session took place in April.
“We were able to run a full session that was six weeks long,” said Marie Malcolm, the community programs and inclusion coordinator. “She reached out to us, the Township of Woolwich, asking about if there’s any programming around music and nature, and we haven’t explored that option before. We worked in collaboration with her to get this program up and running.”
“What was really cool is we got to watch the forest change because we started on Earth Day, which is April 22. And then we watched the forest grow and come to life through spring which was really neat,” said Babor.
The program is designed for both kids and parents to participate together and to move around throughout, says Babor.
“The program itself is designed for caregivers, or adults to be with their child and sing songs in nature. And instead of being in a more structured setting where your child has to sit with you, or stay in one spot, which I find very stressful as a parent because my children, I think most children, but especially mine, don’t thrive in that situation.
“We move around constantly. So we’ll start in a spot and sing a song and then we’ll go look at the water and we’ll sing a song. And then we’ll go into the forest and we’ll be on a log and sing a song. So I incorporated the landscape in with the song.”
Babor has been a professional performer and entertained onstage for children for more than a decade. She graduated from the Randolph Academy for the Performing Arts in Toronto, and has worked on cruise ships and for Drayton Entertainment, among other pursuits.
“It’s been interesting to watch both adults as well as kids get really comfortable with being outside more. And then the kids come to know our little route that we take, and what song we sing where. They know what’s coming in, they anticipate it and they get excited and they love it. That part has been really special to watch,” she said.
“Singing with your kids sticks with them forever. I think we can all recall a lot of the words and the songs that we sang as kids. It doesn’t need to be perfect. It doesn’t have to be in-tune. It doesn’t have to be some ideal. Take the time to sing songs because it seems to really stick with them. And then be picky about the songs you’re singing and make sure that there’s some meaning within it. If you can get outside and sing and use those two things together, it’s like magic that happens.”