So Long, Farewell!

Since there were no requests for favourite songs for our last session, we decided to sing our “Greatest Hits”, starting with the peekaboo Open Them, Shut Them. We moved right into I Wake Up My Hands, Sticky Sticky Bubblegum, and Bath Time, and the older kids did a great job identifying body parts and singing along with these now-familiar words. We moved into an animal trio, starting with Sleeping Bunnies and Listen to the Water, before we stood up to march around the room with The Ants Go Marching. As someone who studied music theory as a kid, I felt like I absolutely had to sing one more major scale with the group, but luckily our Circle Scales let us sing our do-re-mi’s while moving in and out of a circle – a great way to feel the music as you sing! I treated the kids to an extended jam time with the more mellow Three Little Birds, and Jamaica Farewell, before rocking out with the parachute to the Sly and the Family Stone classic, Dance to the Music (which these kids did with gusto). After we sang our goodbyes, the kids got to play the guitar one last time and we exchanged many a high-five. The end of a session is always difficult, but I felt good knowing that the kids and moms at Robertson House would keep singing all the songs they learned during our time together, even without me there!

Thunderous Movement!

It was a sweltering June day, but it seemed like the kids at Robertson House barely even noticed as they were just joyful balls of energy for our penultimate class of the session! We did a few Rainbow Songs classics to get warmed up – I Wake Up My Hands, Roly Poly, and Hands Together, Hands Apart. It’s so delightful to see how much these kids have grown and changed over the four months we’ve been together, and how they’ve mastered some of our staple songs. After getting the giggles out with Sleeping Bunnies and Little Green Frog, the theme of the week was transportation with How Now, Brown Cow. That allowed us to kick our legs like a bicycle, move forward and back like we were in a rowboat, and then chug around the circle to conclude with two train songs: Down By The Station, and I’ve Been Workin’ On The Railroad. We even had an encore transportation song with Wheels on the Bus, which these kids have also mastered. Since we’re at the start of the summer thunderstorm season, we brought out the thunder tubes to welcome the dramatic rainfall. The kids loved moving the thunder tubes around the room, hearing how they sounded in different areas and with different intensities of shaking. Our jam time was equally joyful, courtesy of two of Raffi’s biggest hits: Baby Beluga, and To Everyone in All the World. I’ll certainly be sad to wrap things up next week but I have no doubt these kids will continue making music without me!

thunder tube

Sharing is Caring!

We had a bit of a hectic start this week, as the ongoing renovations at Robertson House meant that our usual room was unavailable. Thankfully, RH’s wonderful staff helped me make a space in the Family Centre. Teeming with toys, books, and activities, I knew this may be a bit of a challenge for easily distracted 2-year-olds, but we did our best to power through!

Since we had an infant in the class, we started with a peekaboo song, Open Them, Shut Them, which the older kids enjoyed, too. We practiced the names of our body parts with I Wake Up My Hands and Head and Shoulders, with the older kids helping the younger ones as the song got faster and more challenging. We moved on to some animal songs with the stomp-heavy Elephants are Marching, followed by Listen to the Water, Old McDonald, and Little Green Frog. I pose this question: is there anything more fun than being encouraged to squish up your eyes and stick out your tongue in pursuit of the perfect frog face?

Since the kids were eager to play with the Family Centre toys, we had an extra-long jam time, which we used as an opportunity to practice sharing. With only six kids and dozens of instruments, there were certainly plenty to go around, but with the great variety of instruments to choose from, it’s easy to want to play that instrument – the one another kid is using. Sharing really is just like any other skill that a toddler has to practice in order to master, so I was really proud of kids and moms alike for pushing through the tears to a place where the kids started to get the hang of taking turns – sharing is caring!

Stop and Go!

The ongoing renovations and perfect outdoor weather at Robertson House meant we again had a small class with just four kids this week. This can sometimes make the kids and moms feel awkward, but these kids are boundless balls of energy and excitement, so we had no trouble jumping right into our Hello, Everybody song. Since three of the four kids were over age 3, I realized we could use this as an opportunity to try some more advanced repertoire with more participation. The kids jumped right into We’re All Here Today, and What Are You Wearing, where they loved the opportunity to point out the colours around the room. I gave them a chance to jump around with Sleeping Bunnies, and walk with Walk, Walk, Walk, and You Walk, and Stop. These songs all had great moments of stop and go, fast and slow: opposites that are extremely fun to act out. Afterwards, we practiced sharing with two pairs of musical spoons for four kids. Sometimes sharing in a small group is harder than in a big one, but the kids worked very hard and kept their excitement in check while they passed the spoons back and forth. I’m sure they found it a gratifying experience, but I could tell they were relieved when it was finally time to bring out the big bag of instruments and play to their hearts’ content!

Spoons

Small but Mighty

A combination of renovations at Robertson House and beautiful weather perfect for outdoor play meant we had our smallest class by far this term – just two kids! Luckily, these brothers are always the most enthusiastic and energetic kids in the class, so we jumped right in with no hesitation. Their mom, the RH staff member, and I simply played off their moods and energy. We started off with I Wake Up My Hands and Roly Poly, to give them a chance to move their arms around and practice some songs we’ve been working on for a month or so. They were still super giddy, so we just rolled with it and let them hop with Sleeping Bunnies and Little Green Frog. We marched around with Elephants Are Marching, and then sat back down for some classics – The Wheels on the Bus and ABCD – as the older boy had been showing off his alphabet skills before class. Since there were only two kids, I brought out our musical spoons to give them a more focused look at an instrument. The boys clicked and clacked as we counted up to ten with This Old Man. In our little session I was reminded of something a conductor once told me: it doesn’t matter if you’re singing for two people or two million people – music is about spirit and shared experiences!

Spoons

Tickle Time!

We had some old faces return to class for the first time in a few weeks, which is always a nice treat for our class. One of the fun things about having the same people in each class is that the kids start to master the signs we use during our Hello, Everybody song! We had a lot of names that start with E, A, and B, and one little boy was proudly showing me those signs before class. We kept the hand action going with One Little Finger and Sticky, Sticky, Bubblegum, before reprising last week’s hit, The Tickle Song. There are a lot of siblings in our class, plus these kids are so comfortable with the other moms and children at Robertson House, so the tickling quickly erupted into wild laughter! We couldn’t sit still after that, so we sang through some transportation songs held together by the story in How Now Brown Cow, before standing up to travel with Train Is A-Comin’, and Zoom, Zoom, Zoom. We passed around the beanbag to refocus the group, which can sometimes be a challenge when you have babies and 4-year-olds in the same class. The beanbag ended up travelling in a less than perfect circle, but I think that was to be expected – we grown-ups were just happy the kids were practicing sharing!

Rainy Days!

It had been an exceptionally rainy day today, which runs the risk of putting kids and grown-ups alike in a less-than-cheerful mood. Luckily, singing is an all-weather activity, and the kids and moms at Robertson House are consistently full of energy and joy, so it was no matter! We started off warming up our hands with the ever-popular peekaboo song, Open and Shut Them, and the counting song, One Finger Keeps Moving, before moving into some rainy day-themed songs. The kids had a blast banging on the floor with Thunder Pounding, and the babies really reacted to the difference between the loud part (“Thunder pounding, crash, boom, bang!”) and the quiet part (“Shh! Little falling raindrops kiss the ground”). We then brought the sunshine in with the classic, Mister Sun. The kids learned the signs for “please”, “trees”, and “play”, which I hope we’ll keep using. And we all had a perfectly good giggle with The Tickle Song, as requested by one of the moms last week who saw it on the lyric sheet. By the time the class was over, the rain had stopped and the evening sun was glowing. What a way to wait out the rain!

Follow My Lead

We had a bit of a break this April, so this was our first class in three weeks. There were quite a few new faces, but fortunately the kids who live at Robertson House are so used to being around each other that any first-time nerves were swept away quickly as the Rainbow Songs Foundation experts led the way with a rousing rendition of I Wake Up My Hands. We practiced our opposites with Roly, Poly and Hands Together, Hands Apart, and marveled at how two of the babies have completely mastered the “do a little dance” part of the song.

We continued the animal theme of last class with Baby Shark and Elephants Are Marching. Even if the new kids and moms didn’t know the words, they were happy to be able to simply follow the clapping, marching, and animal noises. We sang about great places to see animals with Old McDonald, Listen to the Water, and Going to the Zoo, but this week’s highlight was definitely the parachute. Everyone was feeling relaxed and welcome by the end of class, so we let our inhibitions go and danced to La Bamba. Ritchie Valens might argue that to dance la bamba one needs una poca de gracia, but I think we proved that dancing with grace is no match for dancing with friends!

Animal Signs and Sounds

I arrived at Robertson House and noted it seemed a little quieter than usual. One of the staff members greeted me and let me know that there probably wouldn’t be as many kids this week as many of them had moved out on April 1st. We both agreed – it’s wonderful that they’ve been able to find housing, but you can’t help but feel a little sad at how much you’ll miss seeing them!

We focused this week on some really great animal songs – songs with great melodies, actions, and rhythms. We started small with One Little Minnow, which was a big hit among the babies, as each verse ends with a toe tickle! We moved on to Baby Shark, which let the older kids practice clapping on the off-beat, while the younger kids loved the sudden shark attack part! We had a little bounce with Tingalayo, and learned the sign for donkey before we took a break to stretch our legs with Walk and Stop. We finished off our animal songs with Little Green Frog, and I Had a Rooster, which features the signs for rooster, cow, cat, and mouse. These were all so great because no matter if a child was old enough to attempt the ASL signs or was simply enjoying making or listening to the animal sounds, we all had a blast!

Using Our Hands

We had a great mix of older and younger kids at Robertson House this week, but luckily the older kids were keen to teach the little ones as my go-to “assistants”. We started off counting up to five with One Little Finger, Tap, Tap, Tap, and the older kids took great delight in shouting out the next number in the song and showing off the correct number of fingers. We practiced our opposites with Roly, Poly, and Hands Together, Hands Apart. The one-year-olds of course didn’t quite understand the concept, but they loved watching the older kids tap on the ground and followed suit by the end of the song!

We continued with last week’s theme of springtime with How Now Brown Cow and Trees Need the Sun, which is a challenge due to all of the sign language. But these kids never seem to back down from a challenge, and by the end of the song the older kids had confidently learned two new ASL signs – “tree” and “we”. From counting our fingers to tapping on the ground to using ASL to symbolize the lyrics, our hands were the stars of the show this week and a great way to enhance our music-making!