Because I teach music in day care and pre-school settings, I have written many seasonal songs for young children. Last year I recorded "Halloween Ditties For Kiddies" and this year I have completed my holiday CD, "November December". These are seasonal songs, Autumn and Winter, some for Thanksgiving and Christmas, some festive but not specifically about Christmas. My hope is to continue the theme by recording songs for Spring and Summer.
Here are some notes about the songs on November December:
Over The River And Through The Woods is a traditional Thanksgiving song. I started with it because to me it defines November.
I wrote Thanksgiving Feast because my day care students and I often sing songs about food. Pie is a favorite. I ask each of them what kind of pie they brought to our pretend dinner or picnic, and they tell me such things as apple pie, blueberry pie or sometimes even rainbow or hot dog pie. They toss me a little piece and I make a big deal of tasting the bite of pie...I make funny faces and then, at last, say (with a pump of my fist) DEEEEE-LI-CIOUS PIE!!! This gets a good laugh.
When I sing The Turkey for the class, I do it at a nice moderate tempo the first time through, but then I do it very fast and that makes the gobble, gobble part very funny. It really does sound like a turkey. It isn't an easy word for kids to say but I go around the circle and each child likes to try gobbling like a turkey. Years ago, I bought a wind up toy that is a little furry bear wearing glasses and an apron. She has knitting needles in her hands and the start of a little red scarf, with the ball of yarn in her lap. When you wind her up, she knits! I bought the bear long before I was a circle time music teacher and had packed it away in a box of treasures. About two years ago, I found it again and wrote the song, The Grandma Bear, to go with it. Since it's unlikely that you will have a bear like mine, I suggest a knitting demonstration. The children can pretend to knit and tell you what they are making. Later they can be bears crawling off for their winter's nap. In the "Spring" they can come out of their caves, stretching and yawning.
About the Who Am I? Songs... Turkey, Santa, Elf, Snowman; I started the Who Am I? series for the West Contra Costa Pre-Schoolers and I wanted to include these here as part of the seasonal songs. You could sing or read the song, or play it on a CD or MP3 player, then "pause" before the answer, giving the students time to come up with one.
I have always pictured the calendar as a ring in space, encircling the Earth. Perhaps it was explained to me with a similar illustration.
You could name one child as the Sun and have the others encircle her, for a made-up game of Seasons go round the Sun, or something simple and fun like that.
For the song Summer, you could spread a blanket on the floor. Have a pretend picnic with summer foods. Or instead of regular snack time, have a real picnic on a blanket on the grass.
Leaves are an important part of Fall. Growing up in the Northeast, they were our pride. The hillsides and ground were covered in a kind of leaf carpet. As children we loved to rake them into piles and jump in. For circle time, I have some cloth leaves bought at art supply stores. I have also used the leaves you can get at gourmet stores for putting under cheese. Sometimes I use the tulle scarves and let them float down like leaves falling from the trees. The colors of Autumn leaves are a good topic, of course, and I know a traditional song sung to a descending scale in 6/8 time: Down, down, tumbling down, the leaves are falling onto the ground. Red, yellow, orange and brown, the leaves are falling over the town. The solfege would be: do, ti, la la la, sol, sol fa, fa mi,
mi re re re do.
Nicki Kennedy taught the hearing impaired pre-school class at WWC Early Intervention Program. She taught the children signs for the song, Winter, and they performed it at their winter concert.
The song Spring describes how I see it...like an impressionistic painting. When its rainy, there is a game I like to play at circle time. I bring my bamboo and paper umbrella and a rainstick, a tube with small beads inside that produces rain sounds when tipped over (found in most toy stores). So here is the silly thing I do: I turn the rainstick upside down, then, hearing that it's raining, pop open the umbrella and stick my head under it, make a funny face as if to say "Yikes, it's raining!" This gets a big laugh. Then, when there is no sound left, I put my hand out, feel that the rain has stopped and put the umbrella down...repeat.
Winter Storm is another song that would be fun with tulle scarves. Tulle (veil netting) can be purchased for very little per yard. It is easy to cut, no sewing involved, and is machine washable. Each yard makes three or four scarves. Tulle floats in the air, can be blown across the room, schrunched into a ball and thrown, peeked through, etc., etc. It's great to have a set of tulle scarves to dance with. For this song the children can use the scarves to act out the lyrics: the wind blowing high and low (throw a scarf into the air), leaves swirling (twirl the scarf at your side) trees swaying (arms up, wave scarf side to side) snow coming down (let the scarf float down to the floor). For the second half, running in a circle is always fun.
Its hard to explain or even demonstrate "breath". I play a lot of flutes in my classes. We also blow out pretend candles when it's someone's birthday. I brought a pinwheel to a class. Each child had a turn to blow and see if they could make the pinwheel turn. It's a learned skill! For I Can See My Breath, have everyone try and see their own breath.
The idea that everyone is different, yet alike, too, isn't easy to explain, but kids seem to get it anyway. I remember my school lesson about snowflakes each being unique, and I am still in awe of that fact. My best idea for People Are A Lot Like Snowflakes is to include it in a snowflake ornament project. Paper doilies can make nice snowflakes...cut the edges into points, add glitter. Paste a photo of each child on the snowflakes.
December Lights is a song about the ways we light up the long nights. I especially like that candles are used in lots of cultures. The new battery operated tealight candles are useful. For an activity, use one of these tealight candles and have the children take turns jumping over it to the rhyme "Jack be nimble, Jack be quick, Jack jump over the candlestick". You can substitute each child's name.
I like to include Jingle Bells in my December circle time classes. I have a nice stuffed animal horse and some wrist jingle bells that I put around the horse's neck. I also have a toy sleigh. I put a little monkey or bear in the sleigh and show the kids how he goes for a one-horse open sleigh ride. When they are just trotting along the bells ring at a medium speed. The bells alert people ahead to get out of the way...here comes a sleigh. When the horse gallops, the bells ring very fast, and whatever speed the horse is going, it's always to the rhythm "jingle bells, jingle bells".
Give each child some bells to jingle throughout this song. Make a big deal of the "OH!"s and do the last chorus very fast!
I wrote A Present in the style of Sesame Street. I can really hear Big Bird singing it. This song could accompany an art project with a discussion about what to make for somebody we like.
My brothers and I always tried to peek at our presents, and my day care students love anything to do with peeking or peek-a-boo! I wanted to make a song about both. "No peeking" is such a cute phrase. It always gets a smile.
Caroling is a tradition I'd love to see come back. I associate it with The Solstice. I have a small lantern that I show my classes. Tell them about the olden days, before electricity, when people would find ways to entertain themselves and their neighbors on long winter nights. Caroling was quite common. But you needed a lantern to see where you were going! Pretend to go caroling around the room.
'Twas The Night Before Christmas is a poem by C.C. Moore. My hope is that if your family or daycare likes to hear this poem, you will sometimes listen to my version of it, because I had a nice time setting it to music.
I had fun writing the Reindeer Dance. Here is a song to dance around the room to. Give all the little reindeer some bells, and they can act out the song lyrics by running, leaping, and prancing!
I hope you and the children in your life have lots of fun listening to, learning, and interacting with these seasonal songs. Thank you!