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!


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!

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.

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!

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!

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.