under the willow

Fruit, nuts and British Woodland with Bangers & Smash!

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


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

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

We’ve then learned two nursery rhymes:

  • Oranges And Lemons

  • I Had A Little Nut Tree

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

  • ‘The leaves are spiky’

  • ‘It’s prickly’

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

  • Apples And Bananas

  • Bananaphone

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

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

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

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

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

  • Oh Banana

  • Peanut Vendor

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

British Woodland

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

Our first sessions have been about:

  • a welcome to the woods

  • trees

  • animals on the ground

  • animals in the sky

  • animals underground

  • bugs and insects


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Celebrating Christmas and Earth Story with Bangers & Smash!

We’ve had an busy end to the Autumn term at Bangers & Smash with rehearsals, performances and an outdoor community singalong!

The Ugly Bug Ball © Walt Disney Productions

The Ugly Bug Ball © Walt Disney Productions

Christmas Shows

Preparations for Christmas began in November with Crystal Nurseries rehearsing Cathy’s version of The Ugly Bug Ball (featuring a host of songs about minibeasts) and Mother Goose – Greendale practising their Christmas Show.

Come December, parents and carers enjoyed performances in all four settings. Shows were packed to the rafters and it was wonderful to see the children (and, in some cases, staff!) dressed up in their costumes, singing their hearts out.

Check out some of the Ugly Bugs at Smart Kids Christmas Show!

Natasha makes a great ladybug!

Earth Story

Meanwhile, at Under the Willow, we brought our 10-week project, Earth Story, to a close with our final music sessions and Earth Story Project Celebration.

Our last two sessions were about:

  • Dinosaurs and prehistoric animals

  • Early man

Children enjoyed:

  • choosing a toy dinosaur and singing 10 Big Dinosaurs and Where’s The Dinosaur?

  • stomping around the room and roaring to The Prehistoric Animal Brigade

  • dancing to Walk the Dinosaur by Was Not Was

  • singing and dancing to a Nigerian welcome song, Funga Alafia


Inspired by Older Than The Stars, a beautifully illustrated picture book about the origins of the universe, our Earth Story Project Celebration brought together songs and activities from the previous 10 sessions in a performance for parents and carers on 28 November 2018.

Winter Tree Festival

We finished the term with three sessions on lights and lanterns as part of Under the Willow’s Winter Tree Festival.

In the first two sessions, we looked at how light plays a part in three seasonal festivals, Hanukkah, Diwali and Christmas, while in the last session, we sang a selection of Christmas songs, including:

  • Here We Go Round The Christmas Tree

  • Let It Snow

  • When Santa Got Stuck Up The Chimney

  • Jingle Bells

Carols in the Wildlife Garden

Our final Bangers & Smash session of 2018 brought co-founders, Cathy and Sarah, together for an afternoon of singing and Christmas wreath-making in the Mother Goose Nursery Wildlife Garden.

Despite freezing temperatures and rain, the event saw families and members of the local community join in with carols and Christmas songs while tucking into mulled wine and mince pies courtesy of wildlife gardener and host, Di Wallace.

Thanks to everyone at Mother Goose for inviting us to perform and a very Happy New Year from Bangers & Smash!

'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!