With Easter fast-approaching I thought it was about time I shared these little guys!

minion-themed shakers made from kinder eggs

Making novelty shakers is a fun way to make use of the plastic yolks from ‘Kinder Surprise’ eggs if you are lucky enough to have access to them.

Egg-sized shakers are a great percussion instrument/toy for children – the shape and size is perfect for little hands, and they can be used for rolling around, keeping a steady beat, making sound effects…

To make these minion-themed shakers:

  1. Clean off the plastic yolk and fill with dried rice, beans, beads, sand… you can have fun trying out all sorts of different fillings to compare the different sounds. Note that if you are making shakers with ‘normal’ plastic eggs you may well need to block any small holes in the plastic.
  2. Close the egg securely. Kinder Eggs are good for this activity as they are hard to open. If you are using other plastic eggs you will need to tape securely around the join. Either way, you may well need to remind your child not to try to open them or squeeze them too hard. It goes without saying (but I’m still saying it) that you should use your best judgement as to whether this activity is suitable for your child.
  3. Wrap blue painter’s tape around the egg with the top edge of the tape positioned just above the join. Make small cuts along the bottom edge of the tape and fold the tape under the egg.
  4. Cut thin strips of tape to make the straps for your minion’s overalls, and draw pockets, gloves or whatever details you like onto the tape.
  5. Choose one or two googly eyes and position them however you like. Note that PVA glue will not hold the eyes on firmly. If your children can’t wait to finish their minion, just take a note of where they want the eyes and super-glue them on later. Alternatively you could use round white stickers or a little white-out fluid for this stage.
  6. Complete your minion’s face and head with a mouth, strap for goggles, hair, eyelashes… just whatever details look fun.

minion-themed shaker toysAs you’ll see from these pictures – we definitely made these minions ourselves! I do not have a gift for crafts and my kids are all young, so you can see that this is a pretty straightforward activity.

E insisted her minion should be a girl; setting aside my thoughts about whether girls necessarily need to wear dresses and have blue eyeshadow I’m amused by her ‘glamour-minion’!

These particular minions like to shake about and sing along with various minion-style songs – a great way to join in with pretty much any song without knowing the ‘real’ words – bonus!


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 One: Theory Thursday

We’re getting crafty and making a rhythm chooser today.  This idea came to me after the kids picked up free fortune tellers from our excellent local library as part of their summer reading program.

All you’ll need are:Young children doing rhythm activity

  • 1 sheet of paper
  • scissors
  • pencil.

I was going to put together a step-by-step, but it really seemed unnecessary once I came this very clear explanation on good ol’ Wikipedia.

I put a semibreve (whole note), dotted minim (dotted half note), minim (half note) and crotchet (quarter note) on each corner of my chooser. Knowing the extent of my children’s musical knowledge I also wrote how many beats each of these was. If the kids were choosing I let them point or say how many beats they wanted and I then said, for example, ‘Ok, that’s a crotchet – the filled-in circle with a stalk – 1 beat’. If I was the one doing the choosing I would ask for the note by name, ‘Semibreve, please,’ and then if they looked quizzical I would point and say something like, ‘That’s the circle with no stalk, 4 beats’.

On the next section I put 8 simple rhythm patterns, making sure to have a good balance of even and odd. We tried clapping these to make our choices with varying levels of success. This was challenging for my younger two (ages 3 and 4) but they were able to count the number of claps and compare it with the number of dots even if they didn’t get to grips with the exact rhythms. With my eldest (age 6) I tried repeating with the Kodaly rhythm syllables (ta for a crotchet, titi for a pair of quavers etc – click here for a more complete guide) as I know she is familiar with that from her school music lessons.

We came up with a variety of musical activities to put as our surprises under the flaps – from conducting along with orchestral music to finding middle C on the keyboard to dancing to a favourite song.  I’m looking forward to making and decorating more choosers with the kids later. In the meantime I’ve uploaded a copy of the chooser we’ve been using; if you want to print this out you’ll need to cut off the bottom blank strip before you start folding.

Click here to see our rhythm chooser

This first chooser is pretty amateurish, but if anyone is interested I can try to put together something more polished to share in due course – let me know in the comments.

Summer Camp Week One: Turn-Taking Tuesday

Today we’re going to sing ‘Let Everyone Clap Hands Like Me’. This is a favourite of ours to sing in the car – I’m interested to see what else the kids come up with when we give it a bit more attention.

If your kids don’t already know this song then you’ll be able to practise turn-taking as you sing the song and they join in with the sound/action you suggest. They can then take turns in suggesting what the action should be for the next verse (even if they aren’t quite ready to sing the whole thing).

The lyrics go like this:

Let everyone clap hands like me (clap, clap),
Let everyone clap hands like me (clap, clap),
Come on and join in with the game,
You’ll find that it’s always the same (clap, clap).

Further verses can include ideas like, ‘Let everyone sneeze like me (at-choo)’, ‘Let everyone laugh like me (hee, hee)’…

You can find various versions of this on YouTube; today I’m enjoying hearing the legendary Pete Seeger at work:

A few more ideas to explore:

‘Let everyone whistle like me (woo, woo)’ – young children will struggle with whistling but it’s really fun for them to try – they will be so excited the first time they make an actual whistle sound, and some of their alternatives to whistling are pretty cute!

Sharpen up their listening skills – try changing the verses without warning – do the kids still do the sound/action you sing? How about if you cue just one of the kids, ‘Let Emily clap hands like me,’ – who responds?

Working on beat, rhythm and the vestibular system – ‘Let everyone rock like me (rock, rock). Do a slow rock from foot to foot in time with the music, then a quick rock, rock at the end of lines 1, 2 and 4. Try getting little ones to stand facing you and holding your hands, with their feet on top of your feet for this – great fun for them and a good challenge to your core stability!

Older kids might be interested to learn a bit more about Pete Seeger. Fascinating life, fabulous music. His New York Times obituary is here.