early years

Fruit, nuts and British Woodland with Bangers & Smash!

This January and February, we’ve been thinking about fruit and nuts at Bangers & Smash!

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We’ve started our sessions with a new welcome song, Learn To Say Hello, during which the children have taken it in turns to clap their hands as Cathy calls out their names around the circle.

Next, the children have chosen their favourite fruits and nuts – including apple, pear, orange, lemon, walnut, cashew and pistachio – and we’ve practised clapping these as call and response word rhythms. Cathy has extended this activity to include different pitches, which has allowed us to explore sounds which are halfway between spoken and sung – a bit like a market trader calling their wares!

We’ve then learned two nursery rhymes:

  • Oranges And Lemons

  • I Had A Little Nut Tree

In the first, we’ve used handbells and chime bars to mimic the sound of church bells; in the second, we’ve passed a toy tree in a pot around the circle and the children have described what it feels like:

  • ‘The leaves are spiky’

  • ‘It’s prickly’

Moving on, we’ve listened and sung along to two songs by Canadian children’s songwriter, Raffi:

  • Apples And Bananas

  • Bananaphone

In the first, the children have experimented with different vowel sounds while in the second, Cathy has pretended that different people (Mummy, Daddy etc) are ringing on a toy phone shaped like a banana. Individual children have enjoyed ‘answering’ the phone, resulting in much hilarity.

Next, we’ve learned a short poem, The Fruit And Nut Train, and used it as an opportunity to play longer word rhythms using claves. The children have enjoyed holding their claves above their heads at the end of the poem and shouting ‘Nuts!’

In February, we’ve concentrated on fruits and nuts from the Caribbean – including mango, banana, papaya, peanut and coconut. Again, we’ve clapped these as call and response word rhythms/market calls.

This has led on to another popular song, Mama Paquita, by Steve Grocott. Cathy has brought in a sombrero and some brightly coloured scarves and the children have enjoyed trying on the sombrero, waving the scarves (particularly at the end while shouting ‘Olé!’) and marching in time to the pulse.

We’ve finished our sessions with two songs from Jamaica, both performed by local Mento bands:

  • Oh Banana

  • Peanut Vendor

It’s been lovely to see the children choosing partners (with no prompting from Cathy) and dancing in pairs. We’ve also joined hands as one big group and danced round in a circle.

British Woodland

Meanwhile, at Under the Willow, we’ve started our new 12-week project, British Woodland.

Our first sessions have been about:

  • a welcome to the woods

  • trees

  • animals on the ground

  • animals in the sky

  • animals underground

  • bugs and insects

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As well as teaching another Raffi song, Going On A Picnic, Cathy has introduced a variety of musical activities, including:

  • making the sound of leaves with shakers while dancing to Calico by Bangers & Smash Co-Founder, Sarah Allen’s band, Flook

  • singing songs about trees, including The Parts of Trees (to the tune of Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes) and If You’re Ever In The Forest (to the tune of Did You Ever See A Lassie?)

  • moving like woodland animals to Spring from Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, When The Red, Red Robin Comes Bob, Bob, Bobbing Along and I Wish I Was A Mole In The Ground

  • singing and acting out Bangers & Smash originals, Owl Babies and Flutter By, with puppets and scarves

  • inviting individual children to play and sing an ascending and descending phrase on glockenspiel and adding in words about different woodland animals and their behaviours

Children and staff are looking forward to performing some of the above for parents and carers at Under the Willow’s British Woodland Project Celebration on Wednesday 10 April 2019.

Minibeasts and more with Bangers & Smash!

What a fabulous May it's been at Bangers & Smash with plenty of sunshine bringing the minibeasts out in force!

We've started our sessions with a song we learned last month: Fingers All. This was one of the first songs Cathy and Sarah wrote together and it's wonderful to think we're still using it 30 years on! With lyrics about everything from cats and centipedes to toothbrushes and helicopters, the song encourages the children to work on their fine and gross motor skills by making small and large movements with their fingers, hands and arms as they sing.

We've gone on to learn two songs about spiders: Incey Wincey Spider and There's A Spider On The Floor. Cathy has walked a toy tarantula up the children's bodies and onto their heads and they have enjoyed squealing and giggling at the feel of the spider's legs in their hair!

Next, we've chosen individual children to lie in the middle or at the front, wrapped in colourful woven scarves from South America. Our song, A Caterpillar Crawled To The Top Of A Tree, sees the children first sleeping, then hatching into butterflies and and finally spreading their wings and flying.

We've followed this by throwing brightly coloured silk scarves into the air and catching them. The children have had fun choosing two scarves each as butterfly wings. Cathy has commented on each child's choice e.g. 'Izzy is a green and purple butterfly', 'Jamie is a yellow and orange butterfly' etc. We've then paraded round in a circle fluttering like butterflies to Bangers & Smash original, Flutter By.

Each session has finished with The Ladybugs' Picnic, a catchy song in which the children count up to 12 in sets of three:

'1 2 3... 4 5 6... 7 8 9... 10 11 12
The ladybugs came to the ladybugs' picnic'

Cathy has used the song to introduce two sounds – tapping and tooting. The children have tapped using claves during the verses and tooted using empty cardboard tubes during the middle 'solo' section. After much repetition, the children have been able to remember when to play sticks and when to play 'trumpets'. It's been amazing watching them gain vocal confidence through whispering, shouting, speaking and singing into their tubes and great to see them pick up a simple AABA (verse/verse/solo section/verse) arrangement.

Everything grows...

This April, we've been learning about things that grow at Bangers & Smash.

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We've started each session by wiggling our fingers up in the air and down on the ground before moving them onto our toes, knees, tummies, necks, faces and heads. What does this feel like?

  • 'It's tickly'

  • 'Like spiders!'

Our song, Fingers All, has allowed us to work on our dexterity and spatial awareness by stretching and clenching our fingers and hands. Next month, we'll extend this activity by introducing verses with specific finger shapes and movements – a cat stroking its whiskers, a centipede crawling on the mat – allowing us to practise our fine motor skills in a fun and creative way.

We've extended this finger play to think about the idea of roots growing down into the ground. What has roots? The children have had all sorts of ideas: a tree, a flower, grass. Inspired by the video below, we've sung My Roots Go Down with lots of wonderful actions. Both children and teachers have loved this simple, engaging song – many thanks to Professor Pamela Burnard from the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge, for pointing Cathy in its direction!

We've followed this by listening and singing along to Everything Grows by Raffi – again, with lots of actions. As the the children have become familiar with the song, they've been able to list all the things in it that grow: babies and animals, fingers and toes, a blade of grass, a red, red rose and – last but not least – mummies and daddies!

Finally, the instrumental part of our sessions has featured two traditional songs, Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary and In And Out The Dusty Bluebells.

  • In the former, we've put two 'sounds' in the middle of our circle: a set of bells and a shaker made from goats' hooves (which look and sound a bit like shells). These represent Mary's 'silver bells and cockle shells' and children have taken it in turns to choose one then the other to shake, before walking round the circle tapping the girls ('pretty maids') or boys ('pretty boys') on the head.

  • In the latter, younger children have sat in a circle playing bells while Cathy weaves 'in and out the dusty bluebells' leading one child by the hand. Older children have learned the well-known game which accompanies this song whereby one child weaves in and out during the first part of the song before tapping the shoulder of the child they end up behind and singing:

Tippy, tippy tap toe on my shoulder
Tippy, tippy tap toe on my shoulder
Tippy, tippy tap toe on my shoulder
You will be my partner

In other news, we had another successful Music in the Wildlife Garden event as guests of the Mother Goose Wildlife Garden on Saturday 29 April.

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Cathy was joined by Bangers & Smash co-founder, Sarah Allen, for an afternoon of singing and instrument-making with families and members of the local community.

The sun shone as we sang songs around the garden and made shakers out of plastic containers filled with rice and claves out of bamboo. The children really enjoyed playing their instruments along to songs old and new, including Bangers & Smash originals, Owl Babies, Tadpole and Flutter By.