I. EARLY CHILDHOOD GAMES AND SONGS
Parents and relatives usually establish their relationship with the infant of the house in a playful way; the way they caress the child, their monologues and gestures, the way they rock the child or the pranks to surprise it become the first games aimed at getting the child’s attention, encouraging it to say its first words, helping it to move its hands and feet, and, above all, to make the child laugh with happiness. Most of those actions that the adult perform for the child are accompanied by formulas or songs.
The songs or rhymes become even more important in the games themselves that the mother or adult caring for the child play with it: Those are the games with the infant’s fingers, toes and hands; the clapping, rocking games or those that imitate the trotting of a horse.
Special mention has to be made of the lullabies, lo-kantak, to which the mother cradles her small child. Those appear at the end of the section, all of which covers the games and songs for early childhood.
The first games. Hasierako jokoak
One of the first games is the one that is played with the baby when the mother holds it in her arms. The father or sibling pops up from behind the mother’s shoulder and says to the child: “coo-coo”, imitating the cuckoo, in the same way as Peek-A-Boo in English. Then the father or sibling hides. The baby looks to try to see who has made the sound. The father or sibling that pops up behind the other should and repeats “coo-coo” and hides again straightaway. After several attempts, the child manages to identify the person, which delights it; the child will put its arms out and will be held by the person playing the game.
In another version of this same game, the adult hides their head and then looks up from time to time saying “coo-coo”. The child tries to locate the person by looking at where the voice comes from.
The same game is played with babies with the adult hiding their face with their hands or with a handkerchief while saying "coo-coo”. The child then repeats the gesture by imitating what it has seen or the child’s face is covered gently with a hand or cloth saying “coo-coo”. These versions of the game called “Kukuka” in Basque are played in all the locations surveyed.
Finger/toe games. Eriñoekin
The games described in this section are based on how the adult plays with the child’s fingers and toes, by calling them special names, allocating tasks to each of them and teaching the child to learn to remove its thumb at the end of the song.
Hand games. Eskutxoekin
Different songs and ditties accompany the first movements that the adults make with the child's hands so that it learns to move and turn them, distinguish one from another or tap its head with them.
Clapping games. Txalotxoak egiteko
Clapping, txalotxoak egin, is one of the first skills that children learn. The adult therefore claps their hands in front of the child who copies them or claps their hands holding the child’s hands while singing different ditties. Sometimes the clapping is alternated so the child taps its cheeks or those of the person who is singing.
The rocking and cradling movements with small children make them very happy and content. The adults looking after the children use those games both to calm the children down and to entertain and delight them. Therefore, they rock or swing them in their arms, place the children on their knees or also on their legs. In the last case, the adult sits down and crosses their legs and then places the child on the upper part, orkatilla, which is in the air; then holds the child by the hands to stop it falling and rocks the child to the rhythm of the song.
Trotting games. Arre-arreka
In the area surveyed, the most common songs to accompany the trotting games are " Arre borriquito” [Giddy up little donkey”] and its version in Basque “Arre, arre mandako”. Both lyrics refer to riding a donkey and the adult imitates the movement for the child. Different forms of this game can be seen.
In the most common version, played by both the men and the women of the family alike, they place the child on their knees, either sitting or standing, and sometimes astride their thighs. With the tips of their toes on the floor, they lift and lower their heels rhythmically in a movement that is similar to trotting.
In certain places, the game actually consists of differentiating between a horse's paces. Therefore, the adults repeat the names of the paces when they make them_ “Al paso, al paso, al paso” (walking – slow movements); “Al trote, al trote, al trote” (trotting – strong movements); “Al galope, al galope, al galope” (galloping – fast movements.).
This was recorded in Apellániz (A), Allo, Aoiz, Monreal, Obanos, Viana and Lezaun (N). In the last of these locations, there is a fourth, faster movement with the words: “A cuatro suelas, a cuatro suelas...” (flying along)
Another way of playing is when the adult kneels down with their hands on the floor; the child gets on the adult’s back and is carried about while they sing "Arre, Arre..:” (Giddy up).
Lullabies, lo-kantak, are extensively recorded in the existing bibliography. The most important compilers both in Basque and Spanish in the Basque Country include authors of the ilk of Azkue, the F. Donostia, Lekuona, Julen Yurre, Arellano and López de Guereñu.
The repertoire of songs offered includes ones taken from the aforementioned authors. Essentially, the selection is in keeping with the criterion of providing unpublished lullabies or collected during our field work.
They have been classified according to the main theme of the song. In any event, it should not be forgotten that the mother, or her substitute, sings any type of song to the child, changing the lyrics, if they are no lullabies as such, given their tone and melody.