Pulse and rhythm – finding the groove with Bangers & Smash!

We’ve had an excellent end to the Summer term at Bangers & Smash this June and July with six sessions on finding the groove!

Children have looked at a picture of a nautilus and used their hands and bodies to create tentacles and big eyes staring out of a shell

Children have looked at a picture of a nautilus and used their hands and bodies to create tentacles and big eyes staring out of a shell

Thinking about our work on keeping the pulse and feeling the rhythm in April and May, we’ve brought the two together to try out simple repeating rhythms over a steady pulse.

We’ve started each session by naming children one by one around the circle as part of our regular hello song. Cathy has asked each child to break the sound of their name into separate syllables and to clap once for each syllable (Kay-lee, Jon-a-than, A-bu-ba-kar etc). This task is all about physicalising sound and is complex because it involves matching action to speech.

As the children have become more familiar with the task, Cathy has extended it by asking them to add in an extra phrase ­– ‘cha, cha, cha’ – after their names (‘Meg-an cha cha cha’ etc). This grounds the task in 4/4 time and leads – with lots of practice – to the children being able to say their names and the 'cha cha cha' phrase one after the other without gaps. This is an important development because it creates a piece of simple percussive music – word rhythms spoken and clapped over a shared pulse that is ‘felt’ rather than played.

Moving on, Cathy has introduced an ocean drum and invited individual children to the front to play it. We’ve looked at the back of the drum, which has a picture of sea creatures on it, and Cathy has taught the children a song about a little crab.

Using a piece of blue cloth to represent the sea, we’ve then sung a number of sea-based songs including:

  • Row, Row, Row Your Boat

  • A Sailor Went To Sea, Sea, Sea

  • Bobby Shaftoe

  • Down There Under The Sea

In this last song, the children have bounced different sea creatures on the cloth and Cathy has asked them to find short phrases to describe the creatures and to play these phrases on claves (‘scary shark’, ‘tiny octopus’ etc). Cathy has introduced a slow, steady pulse by repeating the word, ‘whale’, and the children have practised playing their phrases over this pulse. With some groups, it’s been possible to take this one step further by splitting the children into two sections with one half playing the phrases and the other half playing the pulse.

The children have also learned Baby Beluga by Canadian children’s songwriter, Raffi, and this has proved to be immensely popular – with teachers reporting hearing children singing it around the nursery and in the garden.

Other activities have included:

  • singing 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 while counting laminated fish

  • making a (pretend) fish stew and eating it while singing and swaying to You Shall Have A Fishy On A Little Dishy

  • creating a circle dance to The Big Ship Sailed On The Alley, Alley Oh

We’ve finished each session with some dancing and Cathy has chosen two very different songs, both with distinctive grooves:

  • Nautilus by B Bumble and the Stingers

  • Dancing With The Captain by Paul Nicholas

In the first, children have looked at a picture of a nautilus and used their hands and bodies to create tentacles and big eyes staring out of a shell as they move along the ocean bed. In the second, children and staff have performed jaunty nautical actions and had fun disco-dancing! 

New nursery for Bangers & Smash

In other news, Bangers & Smash was delighted to run a taster session for Under the Willow Nursery in Dulwich in May. Following this, Cathy was asked to provide musical support for the nursery's upcoming performance for parents in June, rehearsing a selection of songs about Australia, including:

  • I’m A Kangaroo

  • El Senor Koala

  • Dig Like A Wombat

  • Once There Was A Lizard

  • I Had A Little Turtle

  • Baby Shark

The performance was a great success with Head of Nursery, Mandy, commenting, 'We have lots of happy parents and the children are still singing this morning! Your input was so much appreciated and we are looking forward to building this relationship.'

We are delighted to welcome Under the Willow to our roster and looking forward to starting regular music sessions at the nursery next term.

Summer break

Bangers & Smash is now taking a break and music sessions will start again in September. We hope you have a wonderful Summer and wish all the children moving on to ‘big school’ the best of luck – we’ll miss you very much!

Visiting China with Bangers & Smash!

With this year’s Chinese New Year celebrations slap-bang in the middle of February, Bangers & Smash has dedicated the whole month's music sessions to the theme of China!


Cathy has started each session by passing a Chinese artefact around the circle. Children have been able to look at and handle a rattle drum (below), a fan, a set of windchimes and a miniature warhorse. We've talked about each artefact and the children have observed that the fan is 'to cool us down’ and the warhorse has ‘armour and a spike on his saddle’. They've blown on the windchimes and discussed what sound they make ('quiet', 'gentle') and what they're made of ('metal', 'gold'). We've also looked at pictures of children dressed up for Chinese New Year and discussed what colours they are wearing ('red and gold').

A Chinese rattle drum

Next, we've rolled a miniature globe towards individual children and practised singing their names. With practice, some children have been able to find China on the globe and show it to their friends. We've gone on to look at a map and discuss where China is in relation to the UK. How would we get there? How long might it take?

Moving on, we've sung the nursery rhyme, Horsey, Horsey, while passing a soft toy horse around the circle so everyone can have a cuddle. We've listened to a piece of Chinese music called Training The Horses and joined in on claves; first, playing a steady pulse then varying the speed to show the horse walking, trotting and galloping. We've also danced with red and yellow scarves.

To celebrate Chinese New Year, we've learned a new song, Chinese New Year Is Here Again, and practised eating (pretend) Chinese food with (real) bowls, spoons and chopsticks. The children have enjoyed choosing different kinds of food – rice, chicken, noodles – and singing, ‘This is the way we eat our rice, eat our rice, eat our rice' etc. We've followed this with another new song, Plant Rice, in which the children have taken it in turns to dress up in Chinese hats and come to the front to demonstrate planting, growing, picking, cooking and eating rice.


In our final session, we've listened and danced to a piece of Chinese music called Birdsong while pretending to be little birds looking for worms in the snow. The children have loved flapping their wings, shaking their tails and pecking at the ground while tweeting like birds to the sound of the dizi (Chinese flute).

All in all, this month's celebration of China and Chinese culture has brought a much-needed injection of colour and vibrancy to a cold and wintry February. Roll on next year!

When a dinosaur's feeling hungry!

We've had a great start to the new academic year at Bangers & Smash with songs and musical activities on the theme of dinosaurs!

Image © GIPHY

Image © GIPHY

We've started each session with a song about fingers, which has allowed us to work on our fine motor skills via a series of small movements. In Fingers Like To Wiggle Waggle, we've practised wiggling and waggling our fingers up in the air, down on the ground and out to each side. At the end of the song, we've extended this activity by making our fingers into claws. What animal might we be? Does he have a tail? Big jaws? Sharp teeth? How does he move? What does he sound like?

Cathy has then introduced a green soft toy dinosaur called 'Dippy' and the children have had fun taking it in turns to give him a cuddle and sing a good day song to him. Dipidu is an African song (some sources say it's from Ghana, others Uganda) which starts in 3/4 time and moves into 4/4 time. Cathy has concentrated on the first line of the song ('Good day, good day to you, good day, oh dipidu') in the first two sessions and introduced the second line (in which the children insert their own names in place of 'dipidu') in the last two sessions. This has the advantage of firmly embedding the first two lines of the song (in 3/4 time) so that they become familiar. Cathy will then go on to introduce the second part of the song (in 4/4 time) over the rest of the term.

At this point, the session has split with Cathy teaching different songs and activities to the babies/toddlers and preschoolers:

  • Babies and toddlers have taken it in turns to play a homemade dinosaur shaker. We've taken Dippy for a walk on a black cloth with stars and moons on it and bounced him up and down while singing a simple counting song, One Little, Two Little, Three Little Dinosaurs, as well as two more dinosaur songs, Colour Me, I'm A Dinosaur and What Shall We Do With A Grumpy Dinosaur? We've finished each session by holding the cloth above the children's heads while singing, Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.

  • Preschoolers have learned a song about a hungry dinosaur, When A Dinosaur's Feeling Hungry. Each week, the dinosaur has gone to a different place looking for food: first, the forest – where he finds leaves and twigs; second, the garden – where he finds flowers and soil; and third, the kitchen – where he finds peas and mouldy cheese! Some children have been able to go out into their nursery's garden and look for 'food' for the dinosaur to eat; others have taken it in turns to take Dippy to different parts of the room, which we have designated forest, garden, kitchen etc. In all cases, Cathy has asked the children to decide which food Dippy likes to eat ('mmm!') and which he doesn't like ('eurgh!').

Cathy has finished each session by inviting everyone to dance to Everybody Walk The Dinosaur by Was Not Was. The children have enjoyed joining in with specific moves ('Open the door, get on the floor, everybody walk the dinosaur') and phrases ('Boom, boom, acka lacka lacka boom') as well as stomping around in a circle, roaring like T Rexes!