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!

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!


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


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.

'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!

Photo by {artist}/{collectionName} / Getty Images

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!