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'Funga Alafia': a welcome song from Nigeria!

We’ve had another great October at Bangers & Smash, singing songs from Africa and the Caribbean in celebration of Black History Month!

Iya and the Kuumba Kids

Iya and the Kuumba Kids

We’ve started each session with a name song from South Africa, Haya Ma, in which the children say their names and clap four times. It’s been lovely seeing even the youngest babies and toddlers recognise and respond to this simple song.

Moving on, we’ve looked at The Skin You Live In, a beautifully illustrated book which uses sumptuous language and imagery to celebrate skin colour:

  • your coffee and cream skin, your warm cocoa dream skin, your chocolate chip, double dip, sundae supreme skin

  • your marshmallow treat skin, your spun sugar sweet skin, your cherry topped, candy dropped, frosting complete skin

  • your butterscotch gold skin, your lemon tart bold skin, your mountain high, apple pie, cookie dough rolled skin

Children have looked at their own and their friends' skin and Cathy has talked about how people with brown and black skin come from the continent of Africa and live all over the world.

Our main song, Funga Alafia, comes from West Africa. There are many versions of this song but Cathy has chosen one by Iya and the Kuumba Kids with lyrics about Nigeria:

Funga alafia, ashe, ashe
Funga alafia, ashe, ashe

It’s a welcome song from Nigeria
Bringing peace and love to everyone
Grab a welcome if you please
I have nothing up my sleeves!

Children have had fun playing along to Funga Alafia with instruments from Drums for Schools’ fantastic Nursery Rhythm Kit. The kit contains a variety of instruments from around the world, including claves, agogos, shakers, scrapers, chime bars and drums.

Cathy has also asked black staff members to share songs from their childhoods and heritages.

Big thanks to the following:

  • Kemi for Labe Igi Orombo, a Nigerian song in Yoruba about playing under an orange tree

  • Tolu for Bata Mi A Dun Ko Ko Ka, a Nigerian song in Yoruba about the benefits of study, and Aiku, Ajé, Isegun, Ojo ru, Ojo bo, Eti, Abameta, a song about the days of the week

  • Juliet for O Kereke, a Nigerian song in Igbo in which the children sit opposite each other in a line with their legs outstretched and bounce a rolled-up cloth from one end to the other

  • Jane for Kedu Onye Ga Abu Ojim, a Nigerian song in Igbo about finding a friend

  • Sarah and Trianna for Kye Kye Kule, a West African call and response song

  • Vinette for Evenin' Time, a song by Jamaican poet, folklorist, writer and educator, Louise Bennett

  • Israel and Vinette for Go Down Emmanuel Road, a Jamaican song about passing stones around a circle, and Mango Time, a song about eschewing coffee in favour of mango juice

  • Marcia for Brown Girl In The Ring, a Jamaican song about dancing

In addition, both children and staff have enjoyed singing and dancing to two songs about beans, Jumping Beans and Nzama, Nzama (a Malawian song), before getting on down to Blame It On The Boogie by Michael Jackson.

Earth Story – the beginning of life

At new Bangers & Smash nursery, Under the Willow, we’ve continued our 10-week project, Earth Story, during which we are learning about the origins of the Earth and its inhabitants.

Our next four sessions have been about:

  • the elements: earth, fire, water, air

  • simple life forms

  • fossils, rocks and minerals

  • volcanoes

Children have enjoyed:

  • waving scarves and moving to Feux D’Artifice by Debussy and Vltava by Smetana while thinking about fire and water

  • creating their own bacterium from scrunched-up newspaper and wriggling along the floor to Nautilus by B Bumble & the Stingers

  • singing Let’s Dig, Dig, Dig, a song about finding fossils, rocks and minerals, and My Roots Go Down, a song by Sarah Pirtle, which Cathy has adapted to be about mountains and volcanoes

There are many versions of this last song but here’s Bangers & Smash’s favourite!

Under the Willow INSET and Project Celebration

Cathy also ran a successful INSET session at Under the Willow on Wednesday 24 October 2018.

With a variety of activities designed to explore teachers’ voices and vocal range, the session looked at:

  • building confidence in singing and leading songs

  • finding ways to reinforce songs from music sessions during the rest of the school day

Cathy, staff and children are working towards Under the Willow’s upcoming Earth Story Project Celebration and are looking forward to sharing songs and stories about the earth with parents and carers on Wednesday 28 November 2018.

Carols in the Wildlife Garden

Cathy (guitar/voice) and Sarah (flute/accordion) are delighted to have been invited to sing and play Christmas songs in the Mother Goose Nursery Wildlife Garden from 12-4pm on Saturday 15 December 2018.

As well as mulled drinks and mince pies, there’ll be wreath-making and, of course, the chance to sing your hearts out with Bangers & Smash.

Carols in the Wildlife Garden is a FREE family event so please bring your little ones along and join in the fun!

Riding on an elephant with Bangers & Smash!

It’s been an exciting September at Bangers & Smash with a series of music sessions inspired by Cathy’s Summer trip to Asia!

The children have enjoyed looking at this family of Indian elephants and guessing which is the daddy, which is the mummy and which the baby elephant!

The children have enjoyed looking at this family of Indian elephants and guessing which is the daddy, which is the mummy and which the baby elephant!

Taking elephants as our main theme, we’ve looked at:

Cathy has asked the children:

  • What does an elephant look like?

  • What does it sound like?

We’ve listened to a recording of elephants in the jungle and copied the sounds they make. Cathy has passed round a bicycle horn and we’ve talked about how the sound that comes out of an elephant’s trunk is similar to the sound that comes out of a trumpet.

We’ve followed this by listening to a recording of a short poem, An Elephant Goes Like This And That, and repeating the poem with actions.

Our main song has been Bangers & Smash original, Riding On An Elephant, in which the children intersperse short sung phrases with percussion breaks.

In the first session, Cathy has prepared the children by asking them to tap their knees, stamp their feet and bang on the floor in the gaps while in subsequent sessions, the children have played on junk drums made out of recycled plastic and cardboard containers.

Each session has included the opportunity to rehearse and then perform the song with children learning when to play and when to stop through Cathy’s use of simple hand signals.

Following on from this, Cathy has shown the children an Indonesian statuette of the Hindu elephant god, Ganesh, and invited individual children to the front to try on a T-shirt with a picture of Ganesh.

We’ve passed round a gangsa (a type of metallophone used mainly in Balinese and Javanese Gamelan music) and children have taken it in turns to play.

A gangsa

A gangsa

Returning to Lenny Leopard’s Jungle Dance, Cathy has asked the children to look at a picture of a snake:

  • What part of the elephant does the snake look like?

  • How does it move?

We’ve listened to two tracks from an album of traditional Thai music:

  • In the first – a recording of a Thai flute or khlui – we’ve put our arms in front of our faces and moved them like elephants’ trunks

  • In the second – a recording of a Thai ensemble or piphat – we’ve moved round the room on our hands and knees, waving our arms like trunks, spraying each other with (pretend) water and trumpeting like elephants

In addition, Cathy has brought in Indonesian sarungs and udengs (a type of headcloth worn by men) and invited individual children to dress up as elephant riders.

We’ve finished each session by marching to music, including:

  • The Liberty Bell

  • Colonel Hathi’s March (from The Jungle Book)

Earth Story – the origins of the Earth

At new Bangers & Smash nursery, Under the Willow, we’ve started our 10-week project, Earth Story, during which we are learning about the origins of the Earth and its inhabitants.

Our first three sessions have been about:

  • the Earth

  • the Solar System

  • the Big Bang

As well as teaching two songs by Canadian children’s songwriter, RaffiBig Beautiful Planet and One Light, One Sun – Cathy has introduced a variety of musical activities, including:

  • rolling a globe to different children while singing a name song

  • marching round the sun waving yellow scarves and playing bells

  • tapping the names of the planets with claves

  • playing a Big Bang on a djembe

  • dancing to Walking On Sunshine by Katrina & the Waves

Both children and staff have enjoyed vocalising, physicalising, dramatising and creating musical responses to this exciting theme!

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!

Feeling the rhythm with Bangers & Smash!

Following on from April's sessions on keeping the pulse, we've been feeling the rhythm this May at Bangers & Smash!

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Continuing our mouse theme, we've sung and played to songs and nursery rhymes about mice, including:

  • Hickory Dickory Dock

  • I Want To Be A Little Mouse

  • Pussy Cat, Pussy Cat

  • Three Blind Mice

Building on last month's work of tapping a steady pulse on claves while singing, we've practised tapping in time with the words of each song, using our listening and fine motor skills to match the sounds we make with our voices to the rhythms we make with our claves.

In Three Blind Mice, we've used an updated version of the words:

Three blind mice, three blind mice
See how they run, see how they run
They all were chased by the farmer's cat
They ran and hid in an old straw hat
Did you ever see such a thing as that
As three blind mice?

Younger children have enjoyed hiding three different mice in a straw hat: a finger puppet, a mouse shaker and a mouse toy that wobbles from side to side.

Moving on to our Tick Tock Clock song, we've isolated three repeating rhythms and played them on junk drums made out of recycled plastic containers:

  • Tick tock tick tock (crotchets – four to a bar)

  • Ticka tocka ticka tocka (quavers – eight to a bar)

  • Ticka tocka ticka tocka ticka tocka ticka tocka (semiquavers – sixteen to a bar)

Older children have split into two groups with one group playing the first rhythm and the other the second. Once established, Cathy has asked a member of staff to add in a slow, steady pulse:

  • Tick – tock – (minims – two to a bar)

We've finished each session by listening and moving to a children's song from 1965: A Windmill In Old Amsterdam by Ronnie Hilton.

The children have had fun pretending to be little mice clog-dancing while chanting a repeating rhythm: 'Clip clippity clop on the stair'.

Next month, we'll be bringing pulse and rhythm together as we work on finding the groove while singing songs about the sea!

Keeping the pulse with Bangers & Smash!

This April, we've been learning about keeping the pulse at Bangers & Smash!

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We've started off by tapping our hearts and saying 'boom, boom, boom'. What's this? A heart beat. A heart is like a big pump that pushes blood around our bodies. It pumps steadily, making a beat or pulse. Can we make a pulse on our knees? Our heads? Our tummies? Where else might we make a pulse?

Over the sessions, we've developed this idea to ask what happens to our hearts when we run? When we sleep? This has allowed us to investigate the idea of speed and Cathy has invited individual children to the front to play pulses of different speeds so everyone can join in.

Continuing March's pet theme, we've sung Hickory Dickory Dock with our pet mouse, building on last month's work by (i) adding in more verses and actions; (ii) inviting children to the front to lead; (iii) tapping the pulse on our knees and on claves. By singing and tapping 'tick tock, tick tock, tick tock' at the end of each verse, children have been able to make the connection between a pulse and a ticking clock and this has led into a new song, Tick Tock Clock, in which children play tick tocks of different speeds on claves.

Other pet songs we've sung while creating a pulse include:

  • I Want To Be A Little Mouse
  • Pussy Cat, Pussy Cat
  • One Mouse / Cat / Rabbit On A Trampoline

In the first two songs, we've explored 12/8 time, which gives a lilting feel, while in the last song, we've bounced our pets on a cloth in 4/4 time, which gives a straight or marching feel.

Moving on from this, we've marched in 4/4 time to The Grand Old Duke Of York – physicalising the pulse and feeling it throughout our bodies from the ground up – and danced to Hoots, Man! by Lord Rockingham's XI. Cathy has introduced a Scottish mouse and the children have enjoyed joining in with key phrases, 'Och aye!' and 'Hoots, Man, there's a moose loose aboot this hoose!'

Music in the Wildlife Garden

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On Saturday 28 April, Cathy and Sarah were delighted to welcome families and members of the local community to Bangers & Smash's Music in the Wildlife Garden event at the Mother Goose Wildlife Garden.

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Although it was a cold and windy day, over 80 people turned up to make drums and claves from recycled and natural materials and to sing songs about wildlife.

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Cathy premiered two new songs – Wildflowers In The Grass and Dig Your Spade In – and parents and children enjoyed playing along to these as well as Bangers & Smash originals, Owl Babies, Tadpole, Flutter By and Hey, Stop Shaking Your Tail! on junk percussion.

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Gardener, Di Wallace, was on hand with info about the wildlife garden and its inhabitants and, when it got too cold, visitors were able to warm up with tea, coffee and homemade biscuits in the shed.

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All in all, it was a fabulous event and we look forward to more of the same next year!

Hey, Stop Shaking Your Tail!

We've kept things nice and simple at Bangers & Smash this March with a series of sessions on the theme of pets!

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Cathy has brought in a bag full of soft toys and introduced a new pet each week:

  • a dog
  • a cat
  • a mouse
  • a rabbit

Children and staff have enjoyed singing hello to the pets and talking about their own pets at home.

We've learned songs and nursery rhymes about dogs, cats, mice and rabbits, including:

  • How Much Is That Doggy In The Window?
  • Pussy Cat, Pussy Cat, Where Have You Been?
  • Hickory Dickory Dock
  • Little Peter Rabbit Had A Fly Upon His Nose

We've also sung and danced to two new tracks:

  • What's New, Pussycat? by Tom Jones: The children have picked up the lyrics really quickly and have enjoyed spreading their arms wide and singing What's New, Pussycat? Woah, woah wo-o-o-oh at the tops of their voices!
  • Hey, Stop Shaking Your Tail! by Bangers & Smash: Cathy has used puppets to mime a dog and a cat shaking their tails, paws and ears. The children have loved shaking their own tails, paws and ears and running away as the dog tries to lick their faces!

In the final week, we've celebrated Easter with a series of songs and activities based on rabbits, chickens and eggs:

  • We've gathered around a cloth with silver stars and moons on it and sung Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star
  • We've bounced our toy rabbit on the cloth while singing two new songs, The Easter Bunny's Feet go Hop, Hop, Hop and What Shall We Do With An Easter Bunny?
  • We've sung Chick, Chick, Chicken and taken it in turns to play some egg shakers and cluck like chickens

STOP PRESS!! STOP PRESS!! STOP PRESS!! STOP PRESS!! 

Don't miss Bangers & Smash's singing and instrument-making session at the Mother Goose Wildlife Garden in Denmark Hill!

Cathy and Sarah will join wildlife gardener, Di Wallace, from 1-5pm on Saturday 28 April for this FREE session for families and members of the local community, part-sponsored by Southwark Council.

We'll be showcasing new songs about wildlife and gardening as well as making drums and claves from recycled and natural materials so do come along and bring your littl'uns!

For more information, please click here.

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!

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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.

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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!

The Land of Ice and Snow

Happy New Year from Bangers & Smash and what better way to celebrate than with a magical journey to the Land of Ice and Snow?

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Cathy has hit the ground running this January with a series of sessions at Bangers & Smash regular nurseries on the subject of all things cold and frosty!

Starting off by warming up our fingers and hands, we've sung the finger rhyme, Tommy Thumb, with babies and toddlers, who have enjoyed putting their hands behind their backs and bringing them out to wave first 'Tommy Thumb', then 'Peter Pointer', 'Toby Tall', 'Ruby Ring', 'Baby Small' and 'Fingers All' in the air.

Older children have enjoyed clapping, tapping and stamping their way through This Is The Way We Clap Our Hands to the tune of Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush and more confident children have been able to suggest their own actions such as pointing toes, tapping heads etc.

Once warmed up, children and staff have mimed putting on coats, scarves, boots, gloves and hats ready to begin their journey.

Cathy has set the scene with a series of lycra games, during which we've listened to Swan Lake by Tchaikovsky and Winter by Vivaldi (many thanks to Jesus at Mother Goose – Greendale for this suggestion!) while bouncing various snow-themed items on a cloth, including a giant snowflake and a number of soft toy animals (Arctic hare, polar bear, reindeer, snowy owl etc). All the children have loved this activity which combines listening and appreciation with working together to make sure the bounced items don't fall off. There's also the opportunity to bounce in time with the music and to respond to dynamics (so that, for example, when the music is loud we bounce the items higher/more vigorously and when it is quiet, we bounce them lower/more softly).

Next, we've learned a simple call and response song about reindeer in preparation for travelling by sleigh to the Land of Ice and Snow. In the song, Cathy sings a line and children and staff sing it back to her. Each line has its own action as the reindeer get ready to pull the sleigh. In the final line, everyone picks up a set of bells and sets off in a circle, jingling and riding along to Sleigh Ride by Aretha Franklin.

On arrival, it's time to meet Jack Frost with his icy fingers, spiky hair and long nose. Cathy has created an igloo out of a cloth draped over two chairs and chosen individual children to dress up in a white smock and hide inside with a bell. Other children listen out for the bell while singing Bangers & Smash original, Jack Frost. On the last line, Here I am in my igloo!, Jack Frost jumps out to great applause. It's been fabulous watching the children gain the confidence to have a go at hiding in the igloo and lovely to see them wait the length of the song, quietly ringing their bell to let us know they're still inside.

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Our final activity has involved working with tuned percussion (handbells, chime bars etc). We've played along to another Bangers & Smash song, It's Snowing Outside, and practised a simple rhythm over the words, Snow falls plip plop, plip plop, plip plop. Even quite young children have been able to play in time, once they've become familiar with the rhythm. As well as making a pretty, delicate sound, the bells and chime bars are an introduction to the worlds of pitch and timbre. Playing them freely has allowed the children to experiment with contributing to an overall soundscape and to experience the pleasure that comes from improvising in a group.

Getting ready for Christmas with Bangers & Smash

As always, November and December have been incredibly busy months as children and staff at regular Bangers & Smash nurseries prepare for Christmas shows.

Image © Anton Pieck

Image © Anton Pieck

We've had scripts to write, songs to learn, costumes to sort out and rehearsals to organise – and it's all been brilliant fun!

Crystal Nurseries put on three wonderful performances of Bangers & Smash original show, Christmas at the Toyshop, in Peckham, Nunhead and Lewisham. All shows were a huge hit, the highlight being a performance by Goslings Day Nursery at Hollydale Primary School in Nunhead. This was a first for Goslings as not only did the children travel by coach to the school but they also performed onstage to a hall packed to the rafters with family and friends!

Staff and children at all three nurseries enjoyed rehearsing and performing the shows and special thanks go to Devina and Natasha at Smart Kids Nursery who dressed up in tutus to join the Dancing Dolls in a ballet/nu-disco dance mash-up!

Meanwhile, at Mother Goose Nursery Greendale, staff and children began rehearsing for their Christmas show way back in October! Written and directed by new manager, Laura, the show featured songs celebrating Christmas and Hanukkah. The children enjoyed dressing up as Christmas puddings, Christmas trees, snowmen, stars, angels, shepherds, kings, a donkey and, of course, Mary and Joseph. Two packed performances were enjoyed by parents and families, the highlight being watching Joseph fall asleep on Mary's shoulder during the Nativity scene!

Mulled drinks and mince pies in the Wildlife Garden before the Mother Goose Christmas Show

Mulled drinks and mince pies in the Wildlife Garden before the Mother Goose Christmas Show

A couple of weeks later, Cathy visited the nursery again to lead Carols in the Wildlife Garden. This free event for families and the local community featured carol singing and Christmas wreath-making as visitors enjoyed mulled drinks round the fire pit and delicious homemade cakes courtesy of wildlife gardener and host, Di. Cathy will be back in the Wildlife Garden this Spring with a Bangers & Smash singing and instrument-making session so watch this space for details.

We rounded off December with a children's party for former pupil and longtime Bangers & Smash fan, R------, in East Dulwich. He and his friends enjoyed a magical Christmas adventure with snow, jingle bells, dancing around the Christmas tree and, of course, lots of singing!

All in all, it's been a fantastic 2017 – Bangers and Smash's 30th anniversary! A very Happy New Year to everyone – parents, children, staff and management – and here's to another magnificent year of creative music-making in 2018!

'Bata Mi A Dun Ko Ko Ka': singing songs from Africa and the Caribbean

What a fabulous October we've had at Bangers & Smash singing songs from Africa and the Caribbean in celebration of Black History Month!

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We've started our sessions with a song we learned last month: Fingers Like To Wiggle Waggle. This month, we've chosen a different body part to wiggle waggle each week and the children have had fun wiggling their toes, bottoms and noses.

We've also continued singing the Dipidu song, concentrating on the second line in which the children insert their own names in place of 'dipidu'. As part of this activity, Cathy has passed an African shaker around the circle and encouraged the children to shake it and say their names. Older children have been able to shake once for each syllable of their name (for example, Femi would shake twice [Fe-mi] and Annabel three times [Ann-a-bel]) while younger children have practised playing the shaker freestyle while saying their names at the same time. This allows the children to work on their fine motor skills while linking movement to sound and, in the case of the older children, rhythm – a great introduction to the art of multi-tasking!

Cathy has gone on to introduce the theme of Black History Month by asking the children to stroke their skin:

'What does it feel like?'

  • 'My skin feels soft'

  • 'I like to stroke my hand'

What colour is it?'

  • 'My skin is brown like chocolate ice cream'

  • 'My skin is pink and white like strawberry milkshake'

Cathy has talked about how people with brown and black skin come from the continent of Africa and now live all over the world. She has asked the children to tap word rhythms based on the names of vegetables and fruit from Africa and the Caribbean (plantain, cassava, butternut squash / ackee, banana, pomegranate). With the help of Drums for Schools' fantastic Nursery Rhythm Kit (read Cathy's review on the Music Education UK website here), the children have been able to tap, bang, shake and scrape their way through a variety of world music instruments, including hand drums, agogo bells, tiktoks, frog scrapers and more!

Cathy has gone on to ask if black staff members would like to share songs from their childhoods and heritages and, as always, they have come up trumps with a wonderful selection of songs from Africa and the Caribbean.

Special thanks to the following:

  • Vinette for Evenin' Time, a song by Jamaican poet, folklorist, writer and educator, Louise Bennett

  • Israel for Mango Time, a Jamaican folk song about making the best of the mango crop

  • Sharon for two popular Jamaican songs, Banana Boat Song and Jamaican Farewell

  • Tolu and Taiwo for Bata Mi A Dun Ko Ko Ka, a Nigerian song in Yoruba about the benefits of study ('If I study hard, I will wear high heels')

  • Juliet for O Kereke, a Nigerian song in Igbo in which the children sit in a line with their legs outstretched and bounce a rolled-up cloth from one end to the other

  • Jane for Kedu Onye Ga Abu Ojim, a Nigerian song and circle dance in Igbo about finding a friend

  • Nkechi for Onye Ga Agba Agwu, a Nigerian song and circle dance in Igbo about dancing

  • Ann-Marie for A Te Wa, a Sierra Leonean song and circle dance in Creole about dancing

In addition, both children and staff have enjoyed dancing to two more Jamaican songs in the Mento tradition:

  • Peanut Vendor by the Kew Park Mento Band

  • Slide Mongoose by the Blue Glaze Mento Band

And finally, since we're dancing, we hope you enjoy this video of Oliver Mobeli from Central African Republic!

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!

Summer, Summer, Summertime... time to sit back and unwind!

This July, we've been unwinding with some songs about Summertime at Bangers & Smash!

Starting each session with a nursery rhyme about a little crab, we've hooked our thumbs together and made our middle, ring and little fingers into the crab's legs and our index fingers into his eyes on stalks. The children have enjoyed making the crab play hide and seek as well as discussing what might happen if he nipped them with his claws. They've also been pondering why children have to go to school when crabs get to play in rock pools all day long!

Cathy has brought in a selection of straw hats and the children have taken it in turns to stand at the front and sing The Sun Has Got His Hat On while shaking a set of bells. Over time, some children have developed the confidence to punch the bells in the air at the end of the song with a big 'hey!'

Next, Cathy has asked the children to describe the sound the bells make:

  • jingle
  • ting a ling
  • ding ding

What is making the sound?

  • 'There's a little ball inside and it's hitting the metal'
  • 'I can see the little ball!'
  • 'I can hear the little ball!'

Cathy has then introduced a selection of instruments which are either made of metal or have metal parts and asked the children to listen to and describe the sounds they make:

  • a bicycle horn (beep beep)
  • some cymbals (crash)
  • a handbell (ding a ling)
  • a triangle (ting ting)
  • a tambourine (jingle)

Are the sounds long or short? What happens if you touch the metal part of the instrument? Does the sound change?

In the final week, Cathy has added some everyday objects and asked the children whether we could also make music with them:

  • a set of keys
  • two spoons

Most children have answered no until Cathy has begun to tap the spoons together, whereupon they've found themselves moving their bodies to the rhythm – watch out for impromptu music sessions during mealtimes!

Having laid all the metal instruments and objects on the floor, Cathy has then invited the children to come and choose an instrument by singing a gentle repeating line using the third, fifth and sixth notes of a major scale:

     5      5      3          5      5      3          5      5      3      6   5    5    3
'Come and choose, come and choose, come and choose an instrument.'

This has given the children a great opportunity to learn about turn-taking. Not everyone has ended up with their first choice and they've had to work out the best way to get over this hurdle – perhaps by playing one instrument for a while and then swapping with a friend, perhaps by accepting that the instrument they had their eye on is sadly no longer available!

This has also allowed us to think about the way we handle instruments – how we choose them, how we hold and play them, how we know when to play and when to keep quiet and – last but not least – how we put them away! During our Tidy Up song, the children place their instruments back in Cathy's basket and the child who can do this the most gently gets a special mention at the end.

Finally, we've danced with a partner to DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince's Summertime and joined in with the chorus:

'Summer, Summer, Summertime... time to sit back and unwind!'

What a great way to end the academic year at Bangers and Smash – Cathy and the team wish you all a happy Summer holiday and look forward to seeing you again in September!

Down on the farm with Bangers & Smash!

This June, we’ve been down on the farm with Bangers & Smash!

We’ve started each session with a nursery rhyme about four animals: a kitten, a dog, a hen and a duck. The children have enjoyed mimicking the sound each animal makes as Cathy lines four soft toys up in a row before the song starts. As the children have become familiar with the words, they’ve been able to sing and make the animal sounds (miaow, woof, cluck, quack) in the correct place. Some of the older children have had fun playing a game where they swap the sounds around so that, for example, when Cathy points to the dog, they make the sound of a hen etc.

We’ve followed this with the well-known finger rhyme, Five Little Ducks. Once the children have become familiar with the actions, we’ve developed the song by introducing a Mummy duck, a Daddy duck and five baby ducks (again, using soft toys) and experimenting with the high, middle and low parts of our voices by trying out ‘quacks’ in different duck voices.

Next, we’ve looked at a book, Noisy Farm. The children have been able to associate the sounds made by pressing a series of buttons with (i) the pictures on the buttons and (ii) the photographs in the book. Each week, the children have taken it in turns to choose a button. Some have gone for the nearest one (we’ve heard a lot of mooing as the cow button is the most accessible at the bottom!) while others have spent time considering which animal they would like to hear. Cathy has encouraged the children to join in with each animal sound and, by listening carefully, we’ve been able to make the sounds of a noisy farmyard.

We’ve followed this with two songs about horses, Horsey Horsey and Giddy Up, I'm A Cowboy – the first slow, the second fast. In both, one child has led the others round in a circle while 'riding' a toy horse. As well as singing the songs, we’ve made the sound of the horse neighing and of his hooves as he trots and canters round the room. We've also learned how to throw a lasso which has come in handy during our next piece of music, Hoe Down from Rodeo by Aaron Copland. During a lively rendition by the New York Philharmonic, the children have galloped, reared up and even attempted some jumps!

Finally, everyone has chosen an instrument from Cathy's percussion basket to play during Old Macdonald Had A Farm. Cathy has placed all the toy animals in a row and the children have decided which animal to sing about when. From babies to pre-schoolers to staff, everyone has enjoyed performing this timeless classic – a definite hit!

Everything grows...

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

music in the wildlife garden.jpg

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.

IMG_0201.jpg

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.

People who help us

This March, we've been thinking about people who help us at Bangers & Smash.

Image   ©  Emergency Times

Image © Emergency Times

This popular theme allows us to develop our knowledge and understanding of the world through singing, moving, playing and listening to songs about people and communities.

We've started each session with an action song, Tall Shops, which has helped us develop our gross motor skills with lots of stretching, swinging and bending. We've followed this with another action song – this time developing our fine motor skills by joining in with hand and finger actions to Raffi's Corner Grocery Store. It's been lovely watching the children get to know these songs so well that they request them at the start of each session and join in with all the actions and words.

Thinking about people who help us in shops, we've acted out the work of a supermarket checkout assistant, scanning the shopping (beep, beep) as it comes along the conveyor belt (zhuuuuzh), packing it in bags (rustle, rustle) and pressing the buttons on the till (beep, beep, beep!).

We've popped next door to the cobbler's to get our shoes mended and to the baker's to buy muffins and buns:

  • In the cobbler's, we've used single claves to tap our shoes while singing Cobbler, Cobbler, Mend My Shoe.

  • In the baker's, we've used two claves to tap a pulse as we sing and march to The Muffin Man.

  • We've also acted out Five Currant Buns In The Baker's Shop as five children (currant buns) line up beside the baker while others take it in turns to buy a bun and take it away. The children are able to visualise the act of subtraction as the line of buns gradually reduces from five to one; they also pay the baker a penny a bun, allowing them to role-play using money.

All the above activities, including tapping a pulse, link to the Mathematics area of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) curriculum.

Thinking about people who help us in an emergency, we've enjoyed making the sounds of ambulance, fire engine and police sirens in Call, Call The Ambulance by Bangers & Smash co-founder, Cathy Clethero. With older children, we've been able to take this concept further by splitting into groups and choosing one sound per group. Children have taken it in turns to act as conductor, signalling to each group when to start, when to stop and when to make their sounds all together.

Finally, thinking about people who help us at nursery, we've used percussion to perform the song, I Am The Music Teacher. Children have again split into groups (bells, shakers, claves) and taken it in turns to play their instruments, coming together at the end to 'play in the band':

I am the music teacher, I come from far away and I can play
What can you play? I play in the band!
All together-gether now, together now, together now
All together-gether now, all together now!

Plunging into the sea with Bangers & Smash!

After a cold, wet January learning about the water cycle, we've plunged straight into the sea this February at Bangers & Smash!

Starting each session with Baby Beluga by Raffi, we've listened to and imitated the sound of a beluga whale swimming with its mummy. The children have enjoyed learning actions to this beautiful song and repeating them every week.

We've also looked at the ocean drum, a large, flat drum containing ball bearings, which makes the sound of waves. The children have taken it in turns to tip the drum from side to side and to watch the ball bearings roll slowly over the fish and crabs pictured inside.

ocean drum.jpg

The main part of our sessions has been devoted to songs about the sea. We've used a large blue cloth to represent water and stretched it out so that everyone can hold on to the edge. We've created ripples by moving the cloth gently and waves by lifting it up and down. We've also bounced brightly coloured fish and sea creatures on the cloth and had fun making sure they don't fall off! Teachers and children have shared songs they know about the sea and we've repeated these each week.

Some of the songs we've sung are:

  • A Sailor Went To Sea, Sea, Sea
  • 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, Once I Caught A Fish Alive
  • You Shall Have A Fishy On A Little Dishy
  • The Big Ship Sails On The Alley, Alley-Oh

With this last song, the children have loved hiding under the cloth during the final verse ('We all dip our heads in the deep blue sea') while the teachers waft it over their heads.

Happy New Year from Bangers & Smash!

What a busy month December has been at Bangers & Smash with Christmas Shows at four of our regular nurseries!

While we sang traditional Christmas songs and carols to accompany our Nativity at Mother Goose – Greendale, we opted for something more modern at Crystal Nurseries with an original show written by Bangers & Smash co-founder, Cathy Clethero.

Winter Wonderland saw the children make snowmen and snowgirls, dance with the rockin' robins and meet Santa and his reindeer on Christmas morning before going back indoors for some turkey and Christmas pudding.

Meanwhile, children and staff at Le Nid enjoyed dressing up in Santa hats to sing festive songs such as When Santa Got Stuck Up the Chimney and Santa Claus is Coming to Town as well as dancing to Rockin' Robin by The Jacksons and All I Want for Christmas is You by Mariah Carey.

Cathy was also invited to lead the singing at Mother Goose Nursery Wildlife Garden's annual Carols in the Wildlife Garden event on Saturday 17 December. While families and members of the local community enjoyed mulled wine, mince pies and wreath-making, Cathy played a selection of Christmas songs – from classic carols such as The Holly & the Ivy and Deck the Halls to more modern tunes like Let It Snow, Santa Baby and Jingle Bell Rock. To see what a good time was had by all, check out the pictures below!

Singing and wreath-making at the same time!

Singing and wreath-making at the same time!

How do you keep those fingers warm, Cathy?!

How do you keep those fingers warm, Cathy?!

This gentlemen joined in with a beautiful tenor!

This gentlemen joined in with a beautiful tenor!

Cathy and the Bangers & Smash team would like to wish you all a very Happy New Year!

Migration and hibernation take us from Autumn into Winter

This November, as the weather gets colder and the festive season looms, we've been rehearsing our Christmas shows in some regular Bangers & Smash nurseries while thinking about Autumn and Winter in others.

Starting with the finger rhyme, Five Little Leaves, we've looked at how the trees lose their leaves as the wind blows through the town – brrr!

What do the animals do when it gets cold?

  • The hedgehog burrows his way under some dead leaves and goes to sleep in our song, Sleep, Little Hedgehog. While some children like to curl up like hedgehogs, others enjoy shouting 'Wake up!' to remind their friends that Spring is on its way

How about the birds?

  • Some migrate to warmer climes as demonstrated in Fly, Little Bird, a gentle song in a minor key in which the children flap their wings and fly away till Spring
  • Others wait out the freezing weather with help from us in the form of bird seed, hanging feeders, fat balls and stale bread. In the song, Feed The Birds, from the film, Mary Poppins, the children take it in turns to purchase some (pretend) bird seed for 'Tuppence a bag' and put it into their friends' upturned mouths as they chorus, 'Tweet, tweet!'

Rounding off these sessions on seasonal migration and hibernation, both children and staff have loved flapping their wings and shaking their tailfeathers to The Jacksons' ever-popular Rockin' Robin!

Celebrating Black History Month with Bangers & Smash!

We always look forward to October at Bangers & Smash because it's Black History Month!

This year, we've had a blast singing and sharing songs and stories from Africa and the Caribbean while thinking about The Skin You Live In. This beautifully illustrated book uses sumptuous language and imagery to celebrate skin colour:

  • your coffee and cream skin, your warm cocoa dream skin, your chocolate chip, double dip, sundae supreme skin
  • your marshmallow treat skin, your spun sugar sweet skin, your cherry topped, candy dropped, frosting complete skin
  • your butterscotch gold skin, your lemon tart bold skin, your mountain high, apple pie, cookie dough rolled skin

The children have enjoyed looking at their own and their friends' skin while singing and dancing to Brown Girl in the Ring in a circle.

Black staff members at regular Bangers & Smash nurseries have shared songs and stories from their childhoods and heritages.

Thanks to the following:

  • Vinette and Israel for Go Down Emmanuel Road, a Jamaican song about passing stones around a circle
  • Elizabeth for Nzama, a Malawian song about some tasty beans
  • Ronke and Yemi for Labe Igi Orombo, a Nigerian song in the Yoruba language about playing under an orange tree
  • Juliet and Nkechi for O Kereke, a Nigerian song in the Igbo language about passing stones around a circle
  • Elizabeth for Benyi Ni Biti, a Ghanaian song about a man who plays a drum

Thanks also to Drums for Schools for their wonderful Nursery Rhythm Kit which we've used to accompany all the above songs throughout the month. The children have loved choosing their own instruments and using them to keep a pulse and join in with simple repeating rhythms.

We've also enjoyed dancing to Get Up, Edina by Desmond Dekker and Young, Gifted & Black by Bob & Marcia.

Israel said:

'Cathy has shown so much interest during Black History Month. She has done her research and got music from Africa and Jamaica. Cathy has raised an awareness to brown and chocolate skin children, how talented and beautiful they are.'