Summer Camp Week 4: Musical Venn Diagrams

Here’s another quick activity requiring no preparation other than finding pen and paper.

We made a Venn diagram of some of the children’s favourite songs. This sparked lively conversation about songs, plenty of singing and dancing, and taught the kids about Venn diagrams. Lovely!

colourful venn diagram showing children's favourite songs

We are also working on a 2-circle version showing music that makes us dance, music that makes us feel sleepy, and music that makes us do sleepy dancing!

You can draw your circles freehand, find some suitable-size mugs or plates to draw around, or you can download my blank 2- and 3-circle Venn diagrams below.



Summer Camp Week 4: All about that bassoon

For today’s activity all you will need is access to YouTube (I’d guess that’s not difficult if you are reading this blog) and a couple of minutes concentration from your children (potentially more difficult if your children are anything like mine…).

I saw an article a few days ago talking about the bassoon as an ‘endangered’ instrument. You can read the article here. In it, bassoonist Bram van Sambeek is quoted as saying, “At the moment, only about 1% of people on the street can even recognise this instrument.”

I don’t know if this is true but, just in case, to avoid my children being in the 99% of bassoon non-recognisers, I thought we’d sample some bassoon repertoire.

First, here’s some baroque bassoon music:

And some jazz:

And, of course, Angry Birds:

If your children have a longer concentration span, this segment about the bassoon is very interesting, my kids only managed the first couple of minutes, but I think they did learn something!

Summer Camp Week 4: Silly songs

Making up new lyrics to familiar songs is another quick musical activity which your children might well already be doing (if they are, please take the opportunity to pat yourself on the back for allowing them to further their musical education and pour yourself a nice cup of tea!).

I was raised in a house where every mundane activity provided an excuse to sing – so as a toddler screaming that I wasn’t tired, my dad would be attacking me with a flannel and singing, ‘This is the way we wash our face, wash our face, wash our face…’ (from ‘Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush’). Perhaps we were slightly odd (who am I kidding? We were definitely odd!) but, for better or worse, I seem to be passing that tradition on to my children.

I played the kids the ‘Found a Peanut’ song the other day (is it strange that I didn’t already know this song?), and now we have several topical variations such as ‘Found a Minion’, ‘ Dropped a Cheerio’, and ‘Made you Laugh’…

The girls also made use of the Mulberry Bush melody for their masterpiece, ‘The Old Lady Sat in a Chair’, (The old lady sat in a chair/In the car and everywhere/The old lady sat in a chair/EV-RY-WHERE!).

This also works for rhymes without melodies; we have been treated to endless variations on, ‘Brown bear, brown bear, what do you see?‘, to keep spirits up during hikes and car journeys.

Making up these silly rhymes is, most importantly, fun – but it’s also a opportunity to experiment with rhyme and rhythm and to express some creativity.

Should you need a reminder of the Mulberry Bush song, here’s a cute version.  

And for anyone else who lived in a cave (or maybe the UK) and doesn’t know ‘Found a Peanut’, it’s sung to the tune of ‘Oh my darling Clemantine‘, and we discovered it in Lisa Loeb’s very fun ‘Silly Sing-Along’ book (with CD).


Summer Camp Week 4: Echo, echo…

I wonder if it is possible to get through the summer break without feeling some degree of guilt or inadequacy about how we are spending our time.

I’ve seen magazine articles claiming that facilitating too many activities for children damages their ability to function independently… and I’ve read advice from educators on steps we should be taking to halt the ‘summer slide’.

I’ve clicked on comforting blog posts celebrating carefree and unstructured summers… and I’ve marvelled at pinterest boards and facebook feeds full of fabulous crafts and amazing excursions.

As with most things, I guess the key is to find the right balance for your family (and your sanity!). Luckily there are many ways to make music a part of your summer fun with very little planning or extra effort, so this week’s posts will focus on quick ways to provide some musical moments.

Today – echoing. This is something you can do at the breakfast table, in the car, at the checkout… or at the piano or somewhere more ‘musical’ if that’s where you happen to be! All you need to do is sing a short phrase – anything from a couple of notes to a line or two of a song and get the children to sing it back to you.

You can sing to ‘da, da, da’ or ‘la la la’; sometimes I’ll throw in some solfege names to see if the kids parrot them back without realising that I’m sneakily trying to teach them something. For some variety (or if you don’t feel comfortable singing) you can also do this with clapping or tapping rhythms.

And that’s it!

So far playing echoing games has proven to be a good distraction when my little lot start bickering (and it’s also a great way to make use of those times when the children decide to play the HILARIOUS ‘copying everything I say’ game). Plus, as I increase the length or complexity of the phrases I sing to the kids the thought occurs that, along with prolonging our musical playtime, I might also be helping them prepare for any pesky aural exams that might crop up in their future. Result!

Summer Camp: So far…

We’re halfway through the summer break here so I thought I’d take a break from posting new activities this week to give us time to play around more with some of the ideas we’ve already tried.

If you’re looking for a quick musical activity, please do take a look at what we’ve been up to so far…




It’s been a fun few weeks! Hope to see you back here for more next week…

Summer Camp Week 3: Fantasia

Today I felt pretty grotty, so I pulled out all the stops with a musical activity I’d been saving for just such a day… we watched TV!

I borrowed Fantasia/Fantasia 2000 from the library (I think I could blog every day about how much I love Calgary Public Library) and let the DVD look after all of us for a couple of hours.

In all honesty I’d forgotten that a lot of Fantasia isn’t really that entertaining for young children, so we skipped through a few of the heavier (and scarier – Night on Bald Mountain) sections but, unsurprisingly, Mickey as The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and the dancing hippos in Dance of the Hours went down very well.

Fantasia 2000, however, was a revelation – I’d forgotten it even existed and certainly don’t think I’d ever seen it. The whole program was enjoyable for the whole family, but the Rhapsody in Blue section is just fabulous; we couldn’t resist watching that part again straight away. The whole thing is good enough to make me feel ill for another day so we have the excuse to watch it again (although – who I am kidding? – we’re definitely gonna watch it again anyway!).

Today’s recommended activity: watch Fantasia 2000 or, failing that, listen to Gershwin’s wonderful Rhapsody in Blue or, failing that, just watch TV… go on, you know you want to. 😉

I’ll be taking a break from this virtual summer camp next week; week four will commence Monday August 3rd.

Summer Camp Week 3: Guess Who

Today we played Guess Who with musical instruments.

The children playing Guess Who with musical instrumentsWe have the version with the little doors, so if you have the same version please feel free to download the PDF I made from the bottom of this page.

My choice of instruments had a lot to do with which pictures were easy to find and wouldn’t be too confusing rather than featuring complete instrumental families or sticking to a particular genre of music. So, for example, I included the violin but not the viola or cello as with pictures this small the differences between them weren’t obvious enough (and two of my three kids aren’t readers yet).

I was impressed with how easily my little lot adapted to this version of the game – without prompting they came up with questions such as:

  • Is it a blowing instrument?
  • Does it have strings?
  • Do you hit it to play it?

They did need a little guidance when it came to the difference between the organ and the piano (maybe I’ll change one of those options on a future version), and I guess you might need to keep your ears open for any disputes about the piano as it can fit into a couple of different categories.

If you do decide to print this out to try at home (I hope you will!) then I suggest you leave the top section of the paper attached to help hide the sliders as I only made one version (rather than creating a second page with the items in different positions). Please let me know in the comments if you find this printable useful; I’d be happy to upload alternative/improved versions in future.


NB. The PDF is set up for letter size paper, but if you are printing on A4 just ensure you don’t click to resize and it should still come out ok – you might just need to cut a small strip off the bottom of the page.