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!

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?

ice and snow.jpg

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.


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!

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.


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.

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.'