Music at home

Singing songs in rounds – a fun way to introduce harmony to your children

What is harmony?

In the dictionary, the term harmony is defined as

The combination of simultaneously sounded musical notes to produce a pleasing affect.

Any piece of music has a melody – a main line within the music that you can identify as the main tune of the piece. And that melody can be separated out to be played by itself. A composer will add in other lines of music, other notes or phrases around the melody line, that make the music more interesting. These extra lines of music can make the piece more interesting, more beautiful, give it more depth.

If you have looked at TikTok, even in passing, recently you will probably have noticed that a lot of people are taking part in a harmony building challenge based on the Mika song Grace Kelly. People taking part in this challenge start singing the different lines of harmony from the song, adding one layer at a time until they end with the main melody of the song. Here’s one example:

https://vm.tiktok.com/ZM845dBTv/

When you are just starting out singing in harmony achieving something like the harmony building in the Grace Kelly song can be quite difficult. There are lots of different tunes to learn to sing, and it is hard to learn how to hear the different parts and continue singing your own tune without becoming distracted.

Well, learning to sing songs in rounds can help to start you off on learning to sing in harmony.

What are songs in rounds?

Rounds are simple songs, often songs you already know very well. They are short and repetitive, and they use just one melody. Everyone singing a round will sing exactly the same thing, so there is just one tune to learn. Hurrah!

To make it into a round you need more than one person (it can be as many people as you like), and one person will start singing the song and the next person to join in will start singing the exact same song as the first person reaches the end of a phrase, or line of the song.

So how do I do this?

To demonstrate how to sing in a round, I will use a very simple song, Row, Row, Row Your Boat. Firstly you need to learn the tune for the song:

So, the first person will start singing the words

Row, row, row your boat

Person 2 will start singing at the end of this first phrase with exactly the same words and melody. Both people will continue singing to the end of the song. If we wrote down what they were singing and when, it might look a bit like this:

It might sound a bit like this:

And you can add in more people, singing the same melody and words, as many as you like. You can keep going with the song as long as you like. It is entirely up to you. Your singing doesn’t have to be perfect (as you can tell from my excerpt), you don’t have to be entirely in sync with each other. The only thing that matters is that you have a go, and enjoy yourselves singing together!

I have given you one option as to where, but in this piece there are actually up to 4 places that people can join into the round. It might sound a bit like this:

Give me some examples

So, what songs can you sing as a round? Obviously Row, Row, Row Your Boat as you can see from the examples above. But there are some other really simple children’s songs you can try as well.

London’s Burning
Frere Jacques

Kookaburra Sits In The Old Gum Tree, The Farmer In The Dell and Three Blind Mice work very well too; and there are lots of other songs that lend themselves to being sung in rounds, but give these ones a go with your family first. You will be feeling like the Von Trapp family in no time at all!

If you have got to the end of this blog post, thank you very much for reading and I hope you have enjoyed, or got something out of this post! If you have enjoyed what you have read, and would be interested in supporting me to keep this blog running, I would be absolutely delighted if you would consider buying me a coffee using the following link: Buy Me A Coffee Thank you!!

Music at home

I have joined TikTok

Hello!

Well I have thinking about this for a little while, and have finally set up a TikTok account. I plan to use it to share things like:

  • Ideas for music-themed toys and products
  • Short videos on how to use musical instruments, especially percussion instruments for your music box
  • Ideas on music games you can play with your children
  • Ideas on musical things you can to do to help your little one’s development

And I am sure I will come up with lots of other ideas as time goes on.

For my first TikTok, I have made an acoustic guitar from Nanoblocks. Check it out here.

If you have got to the end of this blog post, thank you very much for reading and I hope you have enjoyed, or got something out of this post! If you have enjoyed what you have read, and would be interested in supporting me to keep this blog running, I would be absolutely delighted if you would consider buying me a coffee using the following link: Buy Me A Coffee Thank you!!

Music at home

A big hello from me!

Hello. How are you? September, to me, is more about new beginnings and feels more like the start of a new year than January. Obviously we have the start of a new term in schools, and my two have recently started their new academic year. Many of the jobs I have had have started in September. When I worked in the theatre, it was always the start of a new season in September that ran until the following summer. And it’s my birthday in September. This year is quite a big year for our family as my eldest has just moved up into the Junior School part of his school, and my youngest has just started Reception and is now in school 5 days a week!

So I thought I might start off the new school year, and the new blog year (if that is even a thing!), by introducing myself to newer readers.

Family Life

I’m Jhodi. I live in Birmingham in the UK, which is where I grew up. I live with my husband and two children who, at the date of writing this post, are aged 4 and 7. The children keep me on my toes, and I am really enjoying seeing their personalities and their individual interests growing as time goes on. Both of my children love music – which is not really surprising given what I do, and that both my husband and I love music and listen to a lot of music at home. In the last year, of course, the children have spent a lot more time at home than they usually would, and my son especially had extended periods doing his school work at home. At times last year, he struggled a lot with being at home, away from his friends, and he found music to be really helpful to help him with this feeling of struggling with things. We had tried to start learning piano with him when he was younger, and tried learning to play ukulele together without much success the year before, but he started playing piano again in early 2021, and has really taken to it this time round. My daughter, at just 4, loves singing and dancing, and messing about on the piano. Like I did with her brother, I am going to start trying to teach her to play this year. We will see if she enjoys it or not. As her brother gets time playing the piano with me regularly, she is quite keen on the idea and getting her own time playing together at the moment.

Music Education and first career

I am a flute player and singer who studied music at University many years ago. Whilst at University I of course studied performance and played in orchestras and sang in choirs. I also developed an interest in music psychology, in how musical ability develops in children, how people react psychologically to music, and the therapeutic benefits that music can provide, especially to people who may otherwise struggle to communicate. After University I worked Front of House in arts venues. I got to work in some fantastic venues in the Midlands and London, including Birmingham Symphony Hall, The Birmingham Rep Theatre, The Royal Shakespeare Company in both Stratford and London and The Royal Albert Hall. I got to know audiences, and how to work with people and manage people.

A bit of a change

In my 30s I made a little detour training to become a solicitor and spent the best part of a decade working in medical negligence law. Although this may sound like a huge departure, it wasn’t really. I was still working with people and resolving disputes, but on a far more formal (and serious) basis. I left the law when I had my son. I did not feel that I could give as much as I wanted both to being a solicitor and being a mum, and so was a stay at home mum for a few years while my son was small and then I had my daughter.

Back to music

Like many other mums I took a few classes with my children, and the one both the children and I enjoyed the most and got most out of was a music class we went to each week (I ended up teaching with this organisation for just over a year before the pandemic hit). We went to a number of music events together, including some concerts for children, the Just So Festival one year (I would love to go back when the children are a bit older, well my daughter at least as I think my son would now really enjoy it) and to the musical picnics at Birmingham Symphony Hall regularly.

I mentioned above that I got a job as a class teacher or class leader with the music classes that I had attended with both of my children. So I lead music classes for babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers and their carers. This was such a lovely job, watching babies grow in confidence, and watching their faces light up with the activities we all did together. Sadly, just over a year after I started this job the pandemic hit, and so I stopped teaching these classes, and decided to spend more time working on this blog – well that and there may have been quite a bit of time where the children were at home trying to do their school work.

When I’m not writing about or thinking about music, or looking after the children, I love crafting away with crochet, sewing and recently I have discovered making things out of resin. I try baking with the children and each year we have our own Bake Off competition following along with the programmes bakes (mostly – the odd weeks like medieval week or German bread week we give a miss). We work in teams, me and my son against my husband and daughter. My son appoints himself as the main judge, and I do find that the scoring for each week’s bakes seems to be quite generous in my team’s favour. No idea why!

Music at home

It’s Oh So Quiet

A quick little post from me this morning.

My children have gone back to nursery/school this morning and the house is so very quiet without them! There have been times over this last 3 months when I have longed for some time alone, a break from the amazing amount of noise they can make, a little freedom to do the things I needed to do. Now I have it, for however long it lasts and who knows how long that will be, and I feel a little lost in the silence. No fights to referee, no bumps to kiss better, no one squiggling about on my lap, no one to cajole and plead with to do their school work, pleeeasse!

3 pieces of music popped into my head as I was doing the vacuuming (I may be trying to slightly reclaim the house for a bit) and I wanted to share them with you today:

It’s Oh So Quiet- Bjork

This song from Bjork that was released in the mid 1990s was one of my favourites way back when. It’s about falling in love of course, but the lyrics are so apt. And the music is so apt for how I feel at the moment as well. It is oh so very quiet here, and when the children return this afternoon they will arrive in a burst of shouts and singing and fighting until bedtime.

The Sound of Silence – Simon & Garfunkel

I’m going for literal this morning, just because of the shock of the quiet house after 3 months of almost continual noise. So of course one of the songs that popped into my head this morning had to be Simon & Garfunkel’s The Sound of Silence

4’ 33’– John Cage

4 minutes 33 by John Cage is apiece of experimental music. It was composed for any combination of instruments with the score telling the musicians not to play their instruments at all throughout the 3 movement piece that lasts under 5 minutes. It is a piece of music that aims to challenge what we know of as music- is music a melody, is it a collection of notes, is it the absence of sound, can music be found in the sounds around us in the absence of distractions.

Homemade Instruments · Music at home

Making a DIY hand drum

We made these drums just before half term (which was last week here in Birmingham, UK) on a Saturday morning. I was trying to tempt the children away from the iPad and using screens, and hadn’t yet got them out of their pyjamas – well it’s not like we had anywhere to go to! This was a nice activity that kept them busy for about 20 minutes, decorating and sticking stuff onto their paper and cardboard. As I wanted nice, clean cardboard circles for the drums, I did prepare the circles in advance, but if you are not too bothered about them being exact, it would be great fine motor (pre-writing) scissor skills practice for your children. If I had just my 5 year old with me, I may have been tempted to get him to cut the shapes out for this activity himself.

So, what do you need to make this drum?

  • Some cardboard
  • Some paper
  • A compass, or something round to draw around, we used a roll of masking tape
  • Scissors
  • A pencil
  • A couple of beads
  • Some yarn or string (only a very small amount)
  • Pens, washi tape, stickers, anything you want to use to decorate your drum
  • 1 straw for each drum
  • Glue. We used Pritt stick, but you could use PVA glue, or even hot glue if you are not doing this alongside your children. Mine were helping with the assembly of the drums so I wanted to use something they could both easily use by themselves
  • Hot glue gun (optional)

First of all, I drew around my masking tape roll. You need 2 of these for each drum you make. I made 4 circles because I was making 2 drums, one for each of the children. I then cut out 4 same size circles out of paper.

Once I had my circles all ready, I called the children in to help me put them together. My son had decided he had had enough of helping mummy making these instruments, and definitely did not want to be doing this. He really wanted to be playing on the iPad to be honest and I had said no, so he wasn’t best pleased with me at that moment in time. However, as soon as he saw glue and pens out and realised I was asking him to make something fun he changed his mind.

The children used Pritt Stick to stick the paper circles onto the cardboard circles. My son used felt pens to draw a star on either side of his drum, and my daughter used washi tape to decorate her circles. Interestingly, when we started making things with washi tape astound christmas my daughter, who was 2 at the time, would peel off as much tape as she could and stick it mostly to the table, rather than the paper or card we were using. I noticed with this task that she was much more purposeful with putting the right size tape onto the paper and trying to smooth it flat. She was starting to make much more conscious design decisions than haphazardly placing the tape as she had done only a few months earlier.

While the children were decorating their drums I cut 2 pieces of yarn. I cut about 4 inches. The yarn or string needs to be around 2 inches or more longer than the diameter of your cardboard circle. It will lie across your circle, so that there are 2 lengths of yarn either side that are roughly the same length. This is easiest illustrated with a picture I think!

The children chose 2 beads each, and we threaded them onto each side of the yarn.

Next we got a straw, 1 for each drum and flattened the top of it and folded it over slightly. This is the end of the straw that will be sandwiched between the 2 halves of the drum.

To make up each drum, we took 2 circles, liberally glued one half (I used hot glue, so didn’t let the children do this, so the drum would hold together better) and placed the yarn onto the glued circle together with the flattened and folded straw.

I then placed the other half on top, covering the first circle. Then as our beads kept trying to escape from the yarn (thicker yarn or beads with smaller holes, or even better knot tying would possibly resolve this!), I tried to put a little blob of hot glue on either end of the yarn to keep the bead from escaping. I did not do a very good job with this, and got in a bit of a mess with it!

To play the drum, your children (or you) will need to hold the straw in between their palms with the cardboard at the top. They with then twirl the straw around in their palms so that the beads hit the cardboard and make a noise. It is another nice, quiet instrument, but lots of fun. My children have had it out several time since making it. I mentioned above that I didn’t do a great job first time with the hot glue on the end of the yarn – so much so that one of the beads flew off the yarn the first time, so be generous with the glue if you are using it, or tie several really large knots in the yarn/string!!

Music at home

Music and Mental Health (and a little bit of lockdown

I am writing this on the 9th week of the UK lockdown from the Covid-19 pandemic. It is my family’s 10th week of being at home as my daughter had a cold the week before it all began, so we self-isolated from then. If you had told me this time last year that we would be at home 99.99% of the time for 10 weeks I would not have believed you, and at the start of all of this I was quite horrified at the thought that this would continue as long as it has. But here we are!

I think everyone’s mental health is taking a bit of a battering at the moment. This situation is not easy for anyone. We are very lucky in so many ways. My husband is still working so we are not panicked about money – although he does not have as much work as he did before this all started. I have been furloughed from my job so am not working, so don’t have the problems of balancing work and the children that many people have. My children are of an age that I am not actually worried about the effect of a time away from school will have on their education, and we are lucky that my husband and I have both taught so can help them with their school work, when that old adage of familiarity breeding contempt is not at play (it is EVERY DAY!) We are so lucky so have a nice little garden that we can use every day. While we do not have a massive house, we have enough room to house 4 of us. We are all largely getting on. We are very lucky.

However, even for us it is not easy. My children are nearly 6 (in 2 weeks), and 3. They are lively, and despite our best efforts my son in particular is not quite getting enough stimulation. Our school have been setting plenty of work – more than we can do. For my son (the 5 year old) it has been very hard to concentrate at home. His sister does not have any school work (of course not, she is 3), and it always looks as though she has the more fun option of playing. He cannot get on with any of the school work on his own and without adult encouragement to do it, with the exception of maths which is lovely and easy – but not challenging him at the moment – and has to be cajoled into doing anything. We are doing the bare minimum of the work set by the school with him really, far less than he is capable of and that he does at school and even that can take hours to complete. Thankfully we have plenty of things to do at home and both my husband and I come up with a lot of things we can do with both children.

My daughter feels that my son gets more attention than her because we are helping him with school work and she has to wait for attention at times. She is 3, she does not understand why she can’t have our attention much more than she does. We have also been trying to potty train her thinking that we were at home so why not? It feels like no progress is being made with that. She has good days and bad days, and we cannot escape the accidents and the enormous piles of washing we have to do. It is dispiriting.

My husband has the pressure of having to keep working to feed us and pay our mortgage. He falls through all the cracks of the financial help available. He is getting less work than he used to, and he also has the pressure that he relieves me from being with the children for a couple of hours every day so I can have a break and do something else.

Before all of this started I had almost completed one year of being back at work leading music classes for babies/toddlers and their carers, and 3-4 years olds. I loved teaching them. While I have not yet been told that my job no longer exists, I cannot see how I can keep it once the furlough scheme has ended. I am sure my boss wants to keep us all on, but I just don’t see how she can.

The children are bloody hard work, being with them all the time. And they are our saving grace as well. They keep us busy. We are absolutely not bored. But we are very tired, and my god life can be frustrating with two small children!

There is a lot of pressure on everyone at the moment. I don’t think anyone is having an easy ride, and everyone’s struggles are the same and very different. We did not have a good day today. School work was incredibly slow, both children burst into tears a lot when we didn’t give them what they wanted (chocolate largely), and my daughter had 3 accidents in quick succession. I tried to rescue the day by taking some painting outside in the garden, which lasted for all of 5 minutes during which time my daughter threw paper all over the garden (the wind had caught one piece and she thought it was funny so wanted to recreate it), my son decided to try painting the flowers while I was collecting up the paper, and they while I was cleaning everything up they both tipped entire washing up bowl of water all over the Tuff Tray and garden. They were soaked, I was soaked and everything I had already cleared up was now covered in painty water!

So when the dust settled my husband took them out to the park for an hour while I stayed home waiting for our shopping. I put on my guilty pleasure music quite loud and sang away. Helped enormously I can tell you. Music has a profound effect on mental health. The other day on my instagram I shared the following quote from opera singer and neuroscientist Indre Viskontas:

Listening to music lets us work through our emotions in a safe environment and walk away if the feelings get too intense.

The quote goes on to say:

[Music] provides a lens through which we can examine our lives.

I think this is so important and relevant right now. We can’t use many of our usual outlets – we can’t drop the children off at their grandparents to have a well deserved break from them and them from us (it cuts both ways!). We can’t go to the gym or the pub or see friends to let off steam. But we could put some music on, and I always find that my guilty pleasure music is best served loud and sung along to at the top of my voice. It’s fun, the endorphins released by singing start flowing, I exercise my lungs, get more oxygen flowing around my body, and my mood is lifted. My children have a happier and far less frustrated mummy!

This is not me, but it’s like the photographer was there with me this afternoon…..
Music at home

How music has been helping us through homeschool

So it is the end of week 6 of lockdown for us, and the end of the first week that we have had organised home learning from school.

I had thought that it would help us enormously having access to a full timetable of activities from school for my eldest, and his teachers have clearly worked very hard to provide this full timetable of work. Prior to this week I felt that my son needed a little more structure to his days, my ideas of what on earth to do we’re starting to run out, and he was starting to take a long time to get to sleep every day. I thought he needed more mental stimulation.

It has not exactly worked out as I had imagined though. For a number of reasons.

Like many parents of primary aged children, we are grappling with Seesaw. It is brilliant having access to a platform to host these activities, but it has been very hard to work out how to use it. I am not convinced we are doing it right, and my son, my husband and I have all got thoroughly frustrated with it several times this week.

Having a younger sister who has no set homework, is noisy and whose tasks mummy sets her to keep her busy, or plays with her while he is working is very distracting for my poor boy. At times it seems like she has more fun, because she gets to scribble in a colouring book or stick stickers in a book for 10 minutes before she can go back to just playing with her toys. It has been very hard for him to concentrate, and he often has not wanted to sit and concentrate on his school work. It has not helped that it has been harder to get outside this week with the rainy weather.

We started the week with great intentions of doing all the English and Maths set work, and probably some of the other stuff set too. By the end of the week, we do a phonics activity and either English or Maths, and sometimes do one of the other set activities, though not every day.

The rest of the time we draw or paint, and of course we have a lot of music at home. So how do we use music at home at the moment?:

  • We are still making DIY instruments, and actually my son in particular is really enjoying this. I’ll write about the DIY guitar we made this week at some point. It’s a creative task, and while the making part is generally quite quick, sometimes the children play with it for a while afterwards. It is something new for them, and passes some time!
  • I am trying to teach my son to play ukelele, and learning it with him. We tried learning the piano at the beginning of the academic year, but it didn’t capture my boy. He is much more willing to give this a go and we have learned a few songs so far. I think the fact that I am learning along with him and playing it with him helps.
  • We sing lots of songs together, they can be as loud as they like when we are singing! And my daughter loves singing away to herself.
  • We get our instruments and either just play anything we want to, play along with some music, or just use them to get some frustration out of our system. It’s fun seeing how loud you can play the instruments! They also, unwittingly, are working on their listening skills when they are trying to play along with some music input on for them.
  • When things have got quite tense and the children have been fighting with each other a lot, I have been known to find a “happy songs” or “children’s party songs” playlist and get them to dance away. Our favourites are musical bumps and statues. The children like the idea of musical chairs but my daughter, who is just 3, doesn’t understand how you play the game at all so it always descends into chaos! They burn off some energy and get to jump around like crazy things.
  • I put music on while my son is supposed to be doing some of his work. We have lots of different styles of music on in the background at different times of the day. The children get to listen to and get exposed to many different sorts of music, some they are familiar with and some not so familiar with. I will write more about this, and why it is so good for children another day, but I am hoping it will develop their love of and appreciation for music in the future.
  • When my temper is fraying (and oh my goodness, my patience has been tested on at least a daily basis by us all being together all the time), pretending I am in a musical or opera, and singing to them instead of talking (shouting!) has helped enormously, and I have just about managed to control my temper. Other days I have to walk out the room for 5 minutes…

Do you use music with your homeschooling or to help you cope with lockdown? What do you do and how do you find it helps you?

Music at home · Music games to play at home

Learning musical notation

If you have read this blog before you will know that I decided to use this time to teach my children some music. One of the things I wanted to teach my 5year old was how to start reading musical notation. You can read more about starting to teach him about this here.

In a nutshell, I wrote some rhythm patterns out for him and taught him the rhythm for them using the names of snacks he and his sister had been asking for!

So today, after we played the ukelele for a bit, I got my notation craft sticks out and revised the rhythm patterns with him. The snacks did their job and he managed to remember them all!

Then I put a different pattern down for him to copy, and we took it in turns to make different rhythm patterns for each other. For each pattern I asked him to say it with the snack names and then clap the rhythm pattern.

Starting with a simple pattern
Becoming a little more complex

He then had the idea to turn all the craft sticks upside down and pick out some at random and make a rhythm pattern using those craft sticks, and again we too turns doing this. He definitely did much better speaking the rhythms than clapping them, but with only a little more practice I think he will soon get the idea.

It was harder to clap the rhythm than say it.

It was a nice way to do this and to pass some time this afternoon. Let’s face it, most of us at home with the children have an awful lot of that at the moment!

Music at home · Music games to play at home

Preparing for homeschool

This is not really related to music as such, but something I am thinking about quite a lot. My children are 2 and 5 (very nearly 3 and 6, with the 3 year old highly likely to celebrate her birthday in lockdown mode as it is towards the end of April). At this age we are lucky that the absence of formal school will not make much difference to their education. They are young enough that the stuff we do at home, playing board games, playing Lego, playing pretend, running about in the garden, are educational in themselves.

My son’s school have prepared a homework pack and we will probably do some of that if only as something different to do. However, I am not going to rush to get him to do all of the work every day because I want it to last. The school term should have lasted another 3 weeks, but we will not be leaving the house much for a lot longer I anticipate, so we have tonnes of time to do it in.

I am going to do a bit of a timetable for the week because I think my son especially will work well with a structure to his day- who am I kidding, one of the benefits of going back to work after a long absence with the children was getting that structure back into my life, so we all thrive with at least some structure?

We have been self-isolating for nearly a week now, and while I did put together a rough timetable for the week, it slipped a lot. That is fine in itself, but we really noticed a difference in how frustrated the children got with us, with each other and us with them on the days where we just drifted rather than did anything defined.

I am going to keep the weekends largely practical music-making-free, or rather directed music free so that the music activities we do are part of our “homeschool” timetable. And there will be quite a lot of them. After all, I am a preschool music teacher, this is what I know!! We still have a lot of music on at home all day. Listening to music and lots of different types of music is really good for children. Music and early exposure to music can help your little ones with forming connections in their brains. And it’s fun.

I often post on Instagram or Twitter the music that we have on when playing using the hashtag #musictoplayto. For example, on Friday we did some painting while listening to the fabulous Honey Siren II (Full Like Drips) by Oliver Leith. The children were trying to paint butterflies, but the watercolours we were using didn’t quite work, we’ll have to try again with acrylic paint next week. I would love to see what music you are listening to while playing or painting or cooking or anything really, so I’d love it if you joined me using #musictoplayto

Homemade Instruments · Music at home

Making Balloon Shakers

We have made a few instruments at home now and my boy has really enjoyed it. So much so that when we were talking about what we would do this week during self-isolation he said that he wanted to make an instrument.

I thought this might make quite a good project for him (and pass some time one afternoon!) So I asked him to first plan out his instrument in a notebook (writing and drawing practice) and then we would work on making it together. The instrument he had in his head was a balloon shaker, which inspired me to make a version or two myself.

This was my son’s instrument diagram:

“Plan of Music Instrument”

And he wrote some quite detailed instructions for making the balloon shaker:

  • First put 5 chickpeas inside a balloon.
  • Next put 12 dried lentils inside the balloon.
  • Then put 5 little pieces of paper inside the balloon.
  • Finally blow the balloon up.

He had told me his plan before starting to write it out, so I found a funnel, balloons, chickpeas and lentils and prepared to make the shakers:

Firstly I made a lentil shaker. Lentils were poured into the balloon through the funnel, and then I blew up the balloon. Surprisingly few lentils were needed to make quite a good sound.

And then we tried out the lentil balloon shaker. I loved that you could see the lentils through the latex, I thought it added a bit of an extra sensory element to the shaker.

Then it was the turn of the chickpeas, and they needed a little extra help getting into the balloon, I think finally I used a pencil to poke them down into the balloon. These made a much deeper sound and we needed far fewer of them.

We then made my son’s shaker following his very specific instructions and finally we did one balloon with a mixture of both lentils and chickpeas. We finally sang the song I Hear Thunder with our shakers, a good few times over. The children loved them. They loved making the balloons, they loved shaking them, they loved that they were really quite loud, and we spent almost an hour making these shakers and exploring the sounds they made.

The yellow balloon on the foreground does make the video appear to have flashing images.
Music at home

Nursery Rhymes and Music for Children to watch on TV

At the time of writing this blog post we are at the start of people quarantining themselves at home because of the outbreak of Coronavirus here in the UK. There are a whole host of amazing virtual entertainment and education options for people to look at to keep their children entertained/busy/educated. There are also lots of songs and music programmes for children to watch and sing along to and I thought it would be a great time to write about the ones we used to watch and, I’ll be honest, still do on a regular basis.

Before I continue, if you are reading this because you have a small child I would encourage you to sing along with your children as much as possible. Your voice is the best, most brilliant voice as far as your baby is concerned, much nicer to listen to for them than anyone else’s. So sing away to your heart’s content. And maybe enjoy the adoration, because as soon as they were able to do it my children told me to stop singing. Now it works to get them to do things I want them to do “Mummy will stop singing if you pick up your toys”…..

CBeebies is an excellent resource. On iPlayer they have song spotlights with songs from programmes like Waffle the Wonderdog, Maddie’s Do You Know, the brilliant Hey Duggee. The following programmes are particularly good for music too:

Mr Tumble

Mr Tumble, or Something Special is, of course, a multi-sensory show and there is a focus on Makaton sign language, however there are also a lot of Mr Tumble Songtime songs on the iPlayer. Our favourite is the Hokey Cokey. From when they were very small the children and I have done the Hokey Cokey, flying them around in my arms as babies, and now we hold hands and my children attempt the moves- it’s impossibly cute watching my 2 year old trying to work out which is her left leg or right leg! My son tries to go in and out of the circle as quickly as possible, and sometimes decides to just throw himself up and down the room in the chorus!

Tee and Mo

I love Tee and Mo. It’s such a lovely cartoon about the adventures of a monkey and his mum, voiced by Lauren Laverne. we discovered the cartoon via the CBeebies songtime section on iPlayer. They had two songs for Mother’s Day, A Bag Full of Love https://youtu.be/enVd6qX7FmU and Only One Mum https://youtu.be/ehntXOUUDio there is a Tee and Mo album, and for a while this was my 1 year old daughter’s favourite album to play in the car. She is 2 now, so obviously too old for that sort of thing. I am often tempted to listen to the album on my own now. The children’s favourite song from this is Are We Ready to Go but mine has to be the lovely lullaby Go to Sleep, beautiful song that I have sung to my children at bedtime.

https://youtu.be/QG5KVgP190w

YolanDa’s Band Jam

I started watching this with my 2 year old and she loves it. I would say that I probably wouldn’t watch it with younger children, but the. Again any exposure to music is great. YolanDa Brown is a saxophonist and, together with her band and invited guests they play music for children to play along with, dance along with, listen to. She has a variety of artists appearing as special guests from bands like The Lightning Seeds to solo percussionist Evelyn Glennie. This is a brilliant show, and if your children have even a slight liking of music watch it! Below is a fun clip from the show trying to wake up the drummer

When I had my son, despite having been a musician, I could not for the life of me think of any nursery rhymes. I knew loads, but as I had been working as a lawyer for a while they had all disappeared! So I looked on YouTube for some ideas of nursery rhymes to sing. I found loads!! Some are really good, others were odd to say the least! These are a few of our favourites:

Super simple songs

These are American song compilations and there are loads of them. There are nursery rhymes, phonics songs, Christmas songs, number songs all sorts. When my youngest was just a few months old and I had a 3 year old at home at the same time these were quite a life line as both children would be absolutely transfixed by them. We particularly like the Apples and Bananas song

Pinkfong songs

When my little girl was born, my son was obsessed with dinosaurs. Utterly obsessed. We read about them, we drew them, we went to see them at the dinosaur museum and, of course, we found songs about them. Pinkfong had some great songs (they also do a version of the dreaded Baby Shark, so be warned of you want to avoid it!) Our favourite was Spinosaurus vs T Rex

This compilation was one of my husband’s favourites to put on and sing along to with the children while I made dinner (escaped for 10 minutes):

Ned and Nellie

One of the first compilations of nursery rhymes I watched with my son when he was tiny was Ned and Nellie’s nursery rhymes. Traditional songs with traditional tunes, and sung by a girl and her puppet friend. They are fun, recognisable and great to sing along to.

Music at home · Music games to play at home

Musical Games: Notation on Craft sticks

Given everything that is going on in the world at the moment, with everyone needing to stay at home a lot more my thoughts have been turning to how on earth I will entertain my 2 children when we are inevitably stuck at home. Here in the UK schools have not yet closed, but I know it is a matter of time. I have a 2, nearly 3 year old who is incredibly active, and a 5, nearly 6 year old, who is very good at concentrating on any given task. They are very different and have very different learning styles both because of their ages and personalities-my elder son likes to understand and master something before he feels comfortable really going for it, my daughter will give most things a go right from the off but gets bored very quickly. So I need quite a lot of activities for them if (when) we are on lockdown.

I will try to share as many as possible here (young children at home allowing of course). My first idea was to find ways of teaching both children musical notation and rhythm. At least to start teaching them what different note lengths look like. So I have drawn some on plain craft (popsicle sticks). Each craft stick represents a bar in 2/4 time (2 beats in a bar, imagine a marching band playing a beat to get soldiers marching in line together). I drew 4 of each with the aim being to play a few games with them:

  • Musical snap is the first that came to mind, so we use the craft sticks like cards and “snap” if 2 of the same rhythm come up
  • Musical flash cards: draw a craft stick and attempt the rhythm on there
  • Tune recognition: place the craft sticks in an order, tap or sing the rhythm and see if we recognise it. This one might be quite tricky with my two.
  • Rhythm composition: arrange the craft sticks and then tap or sing the rhythm that is shown, then get the children to rearrange them.

So I started with these craft sticks:

Then I thought I should make sure my children could read the notation on there. We started off clapping the rhythms, then putting our names to the rhythms, but quite frankly that did not work because all of our names fitted the crotchet sticks. My children were haggling for snacks at the same time as doing this, so I ended up illustrating the different rhythm/notation patterns with the snacks we were talking about! I’ll be honest, my daughter got bored very quickly, pretty much once it was clear the offer of chocolate wasn’t actually on the table.

It seemed to work with my son, though and he was able to go through all of them one after the other. A good basis ready to start playing our game a and seeing if any of them work for my two.