Summer Camp Week 5: 5 Counting Songs

As with yesterday’s post about action songs, 5 (or 6) songs is just a very small sample of all the wonderful options available, but hopefully I’ve included something in this selection which is new to you or an old forgotten favourite.

1. Five Currant Buns

Five currant buns in a baker’s shop.
Round and fat with a cherry on the top,
Along came [name] with a penny one day,
Bought a currant bun and took it away.

Subsequent verses start with the remaining number of buns until they are all gone.

A lot of these counting songs also count as action songs – with this song you could either use your fingers to represent the currant buns, or if you have a group of children you can act out the whole song with children as the customers, the baker, and even the currant buns if you have enough people.


2. Five Little Ducks Went Swimming One Day

Five little ducks went swimming one day,
Over the hill and far away.
Mummy Duck said, “Quack, quack, quack, quack.”
But only four little ducks came back.

Similarly to the currant buns song, subsequent verses start with the remaining number of ducks until they have all swum away. I like to include the final verse below to keep things cheery!

Just Mummy Duck went swimming one day,
Over the hill and far away.
Mummy Duck said, “Quack, quack, quack, quack.”
…And all five ducks came swimming back.


3. Five Little Speckled Frogs

Five little speckled frogs sat on a speckled log,
Eating some most delicious bugs. Yum yum! 
One jumped into the pool, where it was nice and cool,
Then there were just four speckled frogs. Glug glug!

Again, this one counts down from five with each verse, with the final line being, Then there were no more speckled frogs. Glug glug!


If you fancy some variety, or more of a mathematical challenge, you could try this starting with ten frogs and have them jumping off in twos.

This is also a great song for introducing the idea of syncopation (stress on the off-beat) – try clapping the rhythm of the song emphasizing the syllables capitalised here, Five LI-ttle speckled frogs sat ON a speckled log.

4. Ten in the Bed

There were ten in the bed and the little one said,
‘Roll over, roll over.’
So they all rolled over and one fell out.

This continues counting down to one in the bed, until the last person in the bed says, ‘I’m lonely’, or ‘goodnight’.


5. Ten Green Bottles

Ten green bottles, hanging on the wall,
Ten green bottles, hanging on the wall,
And if one green bottle should accidentally fall,
There’ll be nine green bottles, hanging on the wall.


+ This Old Man

I thought I ought to include at least one song that counts up rather than down!

This old man, he played one, he played knick-knack on my thumb,
With a knick-knack paddywhack, give a dog a bone,
This old man came rolling home.

This old man, he played two, he played knick-knack on my shoe…

This old man, he played three, he played knick-knack on my knee…

This old man, he played four, he played knick-knack on my door…

This old man, he played five, he played knick-knack on my hive…

This old man, he played six, he played knick-knack on my sticks…

This old man, he played seven, he played knick-knack up in heaven…

This old man, he played eight, he played knick-knack on my gate…

This old man, he played nine, he played knick-knack on my spine…

This old man, he played ten, he played knick-knack once again…


Tomorrow I’ll suggest some longer songs… the sort that can keep you occupied/drive you crazy on long car trips.


Summer Camp Week 5: 5 Action Songs

Inspired by a Facebook conversation started by my dear friend Philippa (of the fascinating Thinking on my Feet dance blog), this week’s posts are going to be suggestions for songs to sing with your child or listen to together.

Few, if any, of these will be new to you – many are very well-known old favourites – but maybe one or two will jog your memory if you’ve got stuck in a rut singing the same songs over and over (Let it Go, anyone?).

1. Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes

This familiar song is a good full-body warm up!

Head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes,
Head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes,
And eyes and ears and mouth and nose,
Head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes.

Sung while tapping or pointing to the relevant body part with both hands. Subsequent verses omit singing body parts, taking one more away with each subsequent verse (you can substitute a ‘shh’ to remind smaller kids) while still tapping them. Sometimes the final verse is sung in full but as quickly as you can manage the actions.


2. Wind the Bobbin Up

Young kids sometimes find the arm rolling action in this song tricky, but it’s good fun working on it.

Wind the bobbin up, wind the bobbin up,
Pull, pull, clap, clap, clap.
Wind it back again, wind it back again,
Pull, pull, clap, clap, clap.

Point to the ceiling, point to the floor,
Point to the window, point to the door.
Clap your hands together, 1, 2, 3.
Put your hands down on your knees.

Actions are rolling hands around each other as you wind the bobbin up (changing direction on the back again) and pulling hands apart, clapping, pointing etc as suggested by the lyrics.


3. Tommy Thumb, Tommy Thumb, Where Are You?

This one is a nice introduction to individual finger dexterity.

Tommy Thumb, Tommy Thumb, where are you?
Here I am, here I am, how do you do?

Subsequent verses introduce Peter Pointer, Toby Tall, Ruby Ring and Baby Small. If you are teaching your child about the fingers you can wiggle the appropriate finger on the first line, encouraging them to join in on the second line. If your child already knows the rhyme you could both hide your hands for the first line, and both bring out the appropriate finger on the second.


4. One Finger, One Thumb, Keep Moving

This is another fun one to get the whole body moving.

One finger, one thumb, keep moving,
One finger, one thumb, keep moving,
One finger, one thumb, keep moving,
We’ll all be merry and bright.
Verse 2.One finger, one thumb, one arm, keep moving…
Verse 3. One finger, one thumb, one arm, one leg, keep moving…
Verse 4. One finger, one thumb, one arm, one leg, one nod of the head, keep moving…
Verse 5. One finger, one thumb, one arm, one leg, one nod of the head, stand up, sit down, keep moving…
The lyrics are pretty self-explanatory; I’ll leave it to The Wiggles (sorry!) to demonstrate.


5. This Little Piggy

I don’t want to leave the toes out, although you can do this with fingers, too.

This little piggy went to market,
This little piggy stayed home,
This little piggy had roast beef,
This little piggy had none,
And this little piggy went wee wee wee all the way home.

The finger-play for this is to wiggle each toe in turn starting with the big toe (NB. I do mean that you should use your fingers to wiggle your child’s toes – it would be pretty impressive to be able to wiggle each toe independently!), and at the wee wee wee it’s time for tickles.

+ 1 2 3 4 5, Once I Caught a Fish Alive

I like this one because it helps young piano students get the idea of the finger numbers we use (thumb starts as 1), and they need to remember which hand is on the right.

One, two, three, four, five, once I caught a fish alive,
Six, seven, eight, nine, ten, then I let it go again.
Why did you let it go? Because it bit my finger so.
Which finger did it bite? This little finger on the right.

I hope there is something in this list to get you singing and moving. I’ll be back with some more counting songs tomorrow.

Summer Camp Week 4: I’m bored!


So, of course, we haven’t managed to get through the long summer break without hearing ‘I’m bored’ a couple of times. Usually I just send the kids off to play (unless it’s me who is bored!) and they’ve forgotten they were bored within seconds, but last week I decided to embrace the boredom and let it inspire our first family song-writing session.

I found a big piece of card and set the kids to work writing and drawing things that they thought were boring and things that definitely weren’t (I prompted them by asking about activities, books, foods, songs, places, etc).

The kids sketching out songwriting ideas.We worked out a quick chorus based on the very few ukulele chords I could remember:
We’re bored, bored, al-ways bored.
We’re bored, bored, ev’ry day bored.
(F, C, G7, C, F, C, G7, C)

We’re still working on some verses talking about the ideas they sketched out and attempting to disprove the premise of the chorus!

This could qualify as a very quick activity as you need only go so far as brainstorming some ideas – in our case that seemed to be enough to remind the kids that actually they weren’t that bored at all.

If you want to continue with the activity you could…

  • Convert your ideas into lyrics or a poem.
  • Set your lyrics to an existing tune or compose your own.
  • Make your ideas into a craft project and make a big BORING poster, with written ideas, drawings, collage etc.
  • Practice together, and perform your masterpiece!

This is an activity we keep returning to – I’m hoping we’ll have an end product at some stage but, even if not, we’ve had a good time trying to be songwriters. And it’s never a bad thing to be reminded that there’s plenty of fun stuff happening in our lives!

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “( YAWN ).”

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.