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Thursday, December 29, 2011

What Are You Doing Noon Year's Eve?

No, that wasn't a typo! Saturday I'll be at the Tacoma Library main branch for the first ever Noon Year's Eve event! Kids will make a party hat, sing and dance our way around the world as we welcome the new year, and count down to the ball drop at noon. All this, and still be able to make it home for a nap or other activities. Join me for this very special end of the year fun!!- and Happy New Year to you and your families!
See the link below my photo for more info:

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Tuesday Tip! Getting Ready for the (sometimes) Dreaded Holiday School Program!

Here it is......... that time of year again... When thousands of preschool teachers across the land are dreading the annual "Holiday Program." So here are some tips and thoughts to help you get through it- not that you need it. Parents will love whatever you do!

1. I think so many teachers get stressed out because there will be "adults" present. It's one thing to sing in front of children. It's another to sing in front of adults! So remember that parents will be totally focused on their children, and will be covered in that magic parent fairy dust that makes us ga-ga over our own little angels (and that's as it should be- we're designed that way!).
2.Don't over-rehearse! Children are spontaneous, and the best thing to do is choose a simple song and sing it as few times as you have to for them to learn it.
3. Simple props can make all the difference! A pair of reindeer antlers, a paper star or crown give children comfort and look sooooooooo adorable in the inevitable videos!
4. In regards to number 3, remember SIMPLE prop! Don't get stressed spending all of your time making elaborate props for the chidlren's minute of glory. You need time to rest up and put up your feet for a while!
5. Finally, remember that some children don't do well with the stress of suddenly being "on stage," often in a room they aren't familiar with. Let parents know ahead of time that it's okay for them to join their child during the presentation. It's no fun to see a crying child reaching for his or her parent, and although these little performances are great and offer many mini lessons for children, the ultimate goal should be the comfort level of the child. So communicate this with the parents before the program, and make sure they know their presence with their child is welcome.

Of course, don't forget my website has lots of simple songs for the holidays (all winter holidays, not just Christmas!) that work great for performances. Click on link to see a playlist of free downloadable holiday songs

Now go out there and deck the halls with songs!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Tuesday Tip! Pandora Radio for Your Parenting Tool Box

If you haven't discovered Pandora Radio, you have to check it out! Or maybe you've used it for finding music for yourself, but not for children. I have found it to be a lifesaver when taking care of my grandchildren (yes, I like to play them music that is NOT mine!). Pandora is basically a free radio station you create by typing in a favorite artist, song, or genre. Pandora finds songs that are similar through an amazing process, and voila! You have a custom-made radio station. You can play it through your computer, on your smartphone or tablet (yes, there's an app for that!). If you have I-pod speakers, you can hook up these other devices through an auxiliary input. Check the back of your speakers. Most have an 1/8" input. You can purchase an 1/8" cable at Radio Shack.

I purchased a computer speaker set (bass speaker and small speakers) for $8 at my thrift store, and they are my main home speaker system. I just plug my I-pad or phone into them and I have great quality music for my little ones- and for me!

As I said, you can just create your station by putting in the title of a favorite song or artist. I put in "The Wiggles," and have been very happy with the songs Pandora selects for me. One more thing...
As each song plays, you have a choice to click on a "thumbs up" or "thumbs down." This helps Pandora fine-tune your station, steering you away from songs you don't like, and more toward those you do. It's amazing!
Having age appropriate music available throughout your day is a great way to help set a happy mood, especially during those high-stress times of day, like dinnertime! If there are songs you hear you want to own, you can also purchase them on the spot, or just bookmark them.You'll find yourself and your little ones singing along together- and making memories of happy times spent together Because that's what music does best!

Go to 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Tuesday Tip: Just Sing!

Singing with your child is one of the most important things you can do as a parent or caregiver.. It builds relationships, early literacy, and will literally help to grow our baby's brain. But as our lives are invaded by more and more sound, simple singing is easier said than done! Whether it's the radio, television, computers and tablets, cell phone, or even a room full of noisy toys, it's understandably increasingly difficult to find the space in which to insert your own voice! One of the tips I give young parents in my workshops who are not in the habit of singing, is to have specific times of the day that are built into your schedule. To take this a step further, I have suggested songs everybody knows. Of course you can sing anything you like, but here's a good and simple starting place....

1. In the car: The Wheels on the Bus
2. While changing a diaper: ABC song
3. While making dinner, a snack, or other meal:: Row, Row, Row Your Boat
4. While going for a walk or even walking to the car: If You’re Happy and You Know It!
5. At bedtime: Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star

I talk to more and more parents who say they never sing with their children, so taking baby steps (no pun intended) may be the best plan.Singing is free, portable, and can instantly put everyone in a good mood. So just sing!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Tuesday Tip! Your Public Library; What a Deal!

If you haven't visited your local library lately, you might be surprised to see how much is going on there! I won't even go into everything for adults (like free classes and book groups), since I'm all about the kids and family time.  In addition to story times for toddlers and preschoolers, many have baby story times- as in baby!  In addition to hearing books, songs, and finger plays, you'll get parenting ideas and get to actually spend a little time with adults. Older children can often do crafts related to a special story. You can see puppet shows, hear concerts, sometimes even live animals, and all kinds of other entertainment in an environment that's kid-friendly. Libraries are my favorite venue for performing, because they are cozy and not overly stimulating,. And after a concert or story time, you can go home with an armload of books... all for FREE! It's amazing! So next time you're looking for something to do, check out your local library. Visit my website for a complete schedule of my libraries concerts.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Tuesday Tip! Halloween (or harvest) Fun

Here's a quick and easy variation on my Four Little Paper Dolls song of the month. This is one of the most popular songs I do, and I use it year-round with different shapes and words. To hear and read about the original, click on this link. . 

Follow all the instructions for the paper dolls song, but instead of paper dolls, cut a pumpkin shape out of folded orange paper. You can draw different faces on each of the four linked pumpkins with a black marker. And Voila! A brand new song! Now you will sing,, "Four little jack-o-lanterns in a row..." These will be so fast and easy to make, you can make one for each child if you are a preschool teacher. Kids who are old enough to handle scissors can cut out and decorate their own. And of course the possibilities are endless for decorating with stickers, or glitter. In fact, now that I think about it, I'm going to do this today with my grandson! He just turned 3 and is very proud of his cutting skills! 

Note! If you don't celebrate Halloween, you can just make and sing "Four Little Pumpkins in a row..."

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Tuesday Tip! Arachnid Fun

"I'm just hangin' out waiting for flies!"

This is a great variation on my Arachnid Song (free song of the month for October, 2009. Here's a link to it.
I wrote this song as a round, but of course that doesn't work well with young children. So last year I tried something different, and it's been a real hit! Read the directions below, then go listen to the melody on my website. Sing each line of the song twice, having children echo you each time. Use a separate motion for each line, as noted below.

1.Arachnid (echo) Arachnid (echo)  slap thighs in rhythm
2.I'm a spider (echo) I'm a spider (echo) alternate claw hands on thighs, moving higher than slaps
3. I am not an insect (echo) I am not an insect (echo) nod head "no" while sliding open hands back and forth in front of body

Now... repeat the whole thing in a whisper, then one last time very loudly.
End by repeating "I am not an insect 3 times, getting softer and softer, and doing all 3 motions, ending with hands resting on thighs.

Young 3 year-olds are able to do this version because there is so much repetition, and the movements are simple. Older children love it because it takes on the feeling of a camp song

I like to read and sing Raffi's Spider on the Floor (available at most libraries), and do the limbo with my Limbo Under the  Spider's Web (another song of the month). The link is here: At this link, in addition to the song, you'll see links to other educational websites with information and activities about spiders.

Happy Arachnid-ing!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Tuesday Tip! Special Teacher Resources

If you're reading this blog, you hopefully know I have over 100 free songs for you to download from my website under "Songs of the Month." And you're downloading them every month, right? But you may not know that on my workshops page, there are even more songs you can download, as well as my entire workshop booklet with tons of information and activities. So if you're a teacher or daycare provider, go to my workshop page and take advantage of this free resource. Here's a link to the page on my website.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Tuesday Tip! Use Your Voices... all of them!

New parents and teachers can sometimes be intimidated about singing or even reading aloud to children. So here's a tip that will insure you're an instant hit! Nothing tickles children's funny bones more than hearing you change your voice. They don't get to hear adults do this normally, and it's just so weird to them! So when you're reading about a mouse, make your voice very tiny. When you're singing about an itsy bitsy spider, make your voice...well, itsy bitsy! A Dinosaur song? Well, you get the idea. Exaggerate words not only when it makes sense, but randomly. Why infants and children alike find this so amusing is one of life's little mysteries.

Here's a similar idea...
Take a familiar song and sing it with the children in different voices.
Some children will have no trouble making suggestions (happy mad, sad, silly), but some children will need your help with ideas. This works best with short songs, like Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. You can also do this with a short poem or finger play. And don't forget to get your whole face involved ( a little fake crying always draws giggles, too!). The more drama the better! So just have fun with it!

These ideas work well not only in the classroom or while you're reading to your child, but when you're stuck in traffic or changing a diaper, or any other situation where you need a distraction. Everyone will be in a better mood and you'll be building those very "special" memories together!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Tuesday Tip! Fun With Old Macdonald

Want to have some fun with Old McDonald's Farm? Here's something I did with my kids when they were little, and continue to do in my concerts...

Put a bunch of your children's stuffed animals in an old pillow case and sing the song... When you get to "and on his farm he had a...," poke your head in the bag and make a sound for one of the animals. Have your child guess the animal, then bring it out and finish the song. It doesn't matter if the "animals" are animals at all. Could be trucks or other toys, or animals. The challenge is coming up with a sound! Children love this because of the element of surprise.

Now I have a pillow case-sized bag. decorated with a barn and animals. Very fancy! It's filled with farm animal puppets, so there is much drama and lots of giggles. This song always coaxes the most reluctant singers to participate, and therein lies its magic. But whether you use an old pillow case or make a fancy bag, your children will love to sing this favorite song over and over with its contents as they wonder at its contents!

This idea is great for teachers, librarians, and parents. Some songs never get old!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Tuesday Tip: Getting to Know You (for 3-6 year-olds)

Here’s a fun and easy activity based on one of my free songs of the month. It’s particularly useful now, when your young students are still getting to know each other. In this song, children will walk around the circle and pick up a shape at the end of the song. They then try to find their “friend,” the child who has the same picture on his or her shape. It’s basically a matching game-song. Children love this, and will want to do it several times. So here’s what to do:

Download my free song of the month, "Who Will Be My valentine?" at Use it to learn the melody. There is also an instrumental version of the song you can download. Print out the general instructions, but change the lyrics to:

"Who will be a friend of mine?" (instead of Valentine)

Then, instead of making pairs of hearts, make pairs of apples, or any other shape you choose. I use apples at this time of year since much of the curriculum centers around them. Follow the rest of the instructions for the song. By changing the shapes of the cards and or the pictures (or letters) on the pairs, you can easily modify this song for year-round use. And of course, when Valentine’s Day comes, you’ll be all set!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Tuesday Tip! Books that Sing

"Books that Sing" are picture books based on familiar songs, like Old Macdonald's Farm, Five Little Ducks, or The Itsy Bitsy Spider, to name a few. There are hundreds of them, and new ones being added all the time. The styles of illustrations are quite varied, which makes them appropriate for a variety of ages. Below are a few of my favorites, but the best thing to do is visit your local library and ask your children's librarian to help you find some of his or her favorites.

Why do they work? Children already know the melody, and will immediately sing along! They LOVE to look at the illustrations, and these books work magic on a restless child or group of children. I always have at least a half a dozen newer ones from the library as well as my own collection, which I use at school visits.

Here are just a few of my favorites:

Old MacDonald’s Farm, by Jessica Souhami (out of print, but can be found)
A Hunting We Will Go, by John Langstaff
If You’re Happy and You Know It, by David A. Carter
What Shall We Do When We All Go Out? illustrated by Shari Halpern
The Itsy Bitsy Spider, by Iza Trapani (many other story song books by this author)
The Farmer In the Dell, illustrated by Kathy Parkinson
Go Tell Aunt Rhody, illustrated by Aliki (many others by this illustrator)

There are also a lot of original songs in this format, and they either have the melody in the back, or include a CD of the song. My new favorite of these (which means the children's favorite!), is We All Go Travellin' By, a sing-along with Fred Penner, by Sheena Roberts and Siobhan Bell. You can find it on

If you have some favorite titles, please share them on this blog!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Tuesday Tip! My Favorite Resource Website

If you are a parent or teacher, and don't know about, you MUST go there! It's my favorite site for just about any learning materials to use with children of all ages. Although it's free, there is an optional membership of $20 for an individual teacher or family, or $125 for entire school. I highly recommend you purchase the membership so we can ensure this amazing site continues to exist.But agian, you don't have to subscribe.This website has just about anything you might need, from maps and diagrams, to crafts, animal facts and printouts,games, flags, science,little printable books- you name it! When I create my songs of the month I often try to find relevant websites that will expand the topic of the song. When I do a search, ALWAYS comes up first. I don't even look anywhere else anymore. If you poke around the site for five minutes, you'll be sold! Hope this tip makes your school year more fun and productive!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Tuesday Tip! Creating Your Circle Time Space

Here are 3 simple tips to make your circle space welcoming and functional for a variety of activities!

1. Allow enough space! I can't tell you how many classrooms I have performed in that didn't have enough wiggle room for kids! We sometimes cram kids into a small space where they can't help but bump into each other while doing simple movement songs, and wonder why we spend so much time reminding them to stay in their own "personal space."

2.Make sure you're not sitting in front of a window, as glare can make it hard for kids to see you. And watch that sun! If your circle space gets sun, have window coverings available so kids don't wilt!

3. Having an area carpet, either circular or rectangular helps children find a place more quickly. And again, make sure it's large enough to allow elbow room!

Stay tuned for my next blog article for a more detailed discussion of circle time space...and have a great school year!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Tuesday Tip! Back to School Songs

Okay, I know the sun JUST came out here in the Great Northwest, but I also know you teachers and librarians are busy little bees (oh yes, the bees are finally here, too!) getting ready for the beginning of school again. And nothing says welcome like a good song!

So here's my tip:

Go to my website and download all of the past September songs of the month.My songs are organized by category, by year and month, by playlist, and alphabetically, so just choose the "by month and year" list. Most of the past September songs are great for back to school topics. And the same goes for the rest of your school year. For example, download all past December, or October, or April songs, and you'll have seasonal collections to take you through the year. All have either printable activities or movement of some kind. And don't forget- ALL MATERIALS ARE TOTALLY FREE TO DOWNLOAD!They are there simple to make our job easier, cheaper, and more fun!No password needed and no signup. So you can practically grab them on your way out the door when you're not sure what you're going to do that day!

And one more tip for September- download the playlist of classroom management songs. Some of them are not September songs, so you'll want them at the beginning of the school year. Link to my website songs of the month:

Friday, August 12, 2011

“Grandma, NO Singing!”

This is what my grandson says to me nearly every time I sing (he’s almost three now). Anyone who knows me, knows that I am absolutely smitten with my two young grandchildren. I was there to see them both arrive into the world, and have been incredibly lucky to help care for them on a regular basis. Of course I was singing to them from the day they were born. In fact, many of my website songs of the month for the last 2 1/2 years were inspired, concocted, and tested while on their watch (insert shameless plug for my FREE website songs here!). So it’s pretty funny that as soon as my grandson had words, he would say, “Grandma! NO singing!” I could have been crushed. I could try to analyze why he would say this. But I make my living singing… people pay me to sing! So I’m pretty sure my voice isn’t that annoying. I do have some theories, but they don’t really matter. What matters, is that I not stop singing to him.

When my grandson says, “Grandma, NO singing,” I pretend to be mortally wounded, as I feign crying (this has always been my response). It has become our private joke. He knows I love to sing, and that I will keep singing, and he’s safe in asking me not to…. because there’s no danger of that happening!

But over the years I have worked with so many adults who have also been told not to sing, and it has left them sad and not to be too dramatic, incomplete. We all need to sing, And as a practical matter, preschool teachers, daycare providers, and children's librarians must sing to do their jobs well.

In my workshop, “Help! I Can’t Sing, But I Want to!” (another shameless plug!) I work with parents, teachers, and childcare providers who believe they “can’t” sing. What I’ve consistently found is that:

1.Every person I have worked with can, indeed sing, and
2. Every person I’ve worked with can remember an exact moment when someone told them they couldn't, or shouldn’t sing. This might have been a child, husband or wife, or even a teacher. But for too many, the end result is the same.From that day forward, they don't sing. This breaks my heart. And it’s one of the many reasons so many adults don’t sing, or are extremely uncomfortable singing.

We are all born with a voice, and we are literally wired to sing. Children need to hear us singing, and they need to be encouraged to discover their own voices. Singing joins us together, teaches us empathy, helps support early literacy, and calms and comforts us- and so much more. It’s much too precious a gift to not use.

Years ago, after presenting at a major conference, I attended a workshop where a nationally known and respected presenter told the audience, “If you can’t sing in tune, don’t sing with children. They will learn out-of-tune singing.” I was mortified. You could just feel the attendees' voices being shut down. First of all, children have so many opportunities to hear in-tune and even well-trained voices, from recordings to concerts, to the many people in their lives. What children don’t have enough of is a live, caring voice. To sit in a lap and feel the vibration of a person’s voice singing to them. Music is our first language; it communicates through emotions. If an adult sings to a child from the heart, that child will be nurtured- regardless of the musical ability of the singer. And this very personal musical connection is what children need.

If you are an adult who has been told not to sing, or just don’t think you “can” sing, know you are not alone. Sadly, you are probably in the majority. But know that you need to sing, and the children in your life need to hear you sing. Period. End of story. We all learn to sing by singing

I'll be writing much more about singing and its benefits to not only young children, but ourselves. We humans are all in this together! In the meantime, Just Sing!

Did this touch a nerve with you? Share your story here!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Tuesday Tip! Apple and an Ant extras

Here's a great tip for one of my most popular songs for building early literacy. Apple and an Ant is one of my songs of the month, and you can download the mp3, and and print out pages with pictures, words, and letters to use with the song. But the real tip a link to my very good friend, Jim Thomas's wiki site. Jim has really used this song! He has posted pages for the entire alphabet, as well as entire versions in Spanish and for Australian audiences! This song works because it is simple, singable, and VERY repetitive- key for building early literacy. While you're at Jim's Wiki site, spend some time looking around. He has posted a huge amount of free information.

Link to Jim's Wiki site:
link to my website for the original Apple and an Ant song:

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Tuesday Tip! Bounce a Bouncy Ball

Sometimes after my songs of the month are published, I find new ways to use them. This is the first of my Tuesday Tips to let you know about these additional ideas. As I add more, you'll be able to easily find them on this blog under "Songs of the Month Additional Ideas." If you have changed one of my songs or used it in a different way, please share it on my blog.

Bounce a Bouncy Ball
If you work with infants to two-year-olds, you can use my "Bounce a Bouncy Ball" song of the month as a finger play, instead of a movement song. Instead of following the written directions while using actual balls, do the following:
Whenever you say "Bounce a bouncy ball..," hold one hand flat in front of you, and form a ball with the other hand. Have the "ball" hand "bounce" up and down on open hand.
Verses 2, 3, 4, and 5, lend themselves to additional finger play motions. Babies love balls, and they love this song, so try it out! Copy and paste the link below to get to the song on my website.Its free to download, of course!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Delia and her homemade shaker

This is what I love most! Children leaving my concerts going home inspired! Little Delia awakened before the rest of the family, and made this wonderful shaker "out of a toilet paper tube and remnants of preschool art projects with jingle bells inside and lots of scotch tape." How cool is that?

This brings back memories of my own childhood,and explains a lot about how I turned out!

My first best childhood friend was Penny Weller. Penny’s mother (she had seven children!) cleverly provided a “crafts” drawer in the bottom of the built-in’s at the top of their winding brass-railinged staircase.. She filled it with scraps of anything that would otherwise have been thrown away; bits of yarn and string, old bottle caps, used greeting cards, as well as crayons, glue, tape, and scissors. We never knew what might have been added since our last visit! Penny and I would sit on the floor in the dimly-lit hall with the open drawer between us, hiding our work from each other. We would make little gifts and then exchange them. Memory plays tricks, of course, but in my mind we spent hours there, cutting and pasting and creating our works of art which were proudly given and received. I realize now so many lessons were learned at that drawer of “stuff!” Creating something from nothing, how to give and receive, and the comfort and complete happiness of having a good friend. I had plenty of creativity going on at my own house,- to be sure, but there was something magical about that hallway and drawer, and my first best friend.

In a couple of years, when my grandchildren are older- I don’t dream of having a stack of DVD’s or computer games for them to use when they visit, but of stocking a big bottom drawer with all the magical ingredients they need to build their own memories and life lessons. Just like Delia!

Please share your own stories of creativity and childhood! We adults need a little reminder of the simple things in life...

Tuesday Tip! Egg Shaker Update

So... for nearly 30 years, I have been making shakers from plastic Easter eggs. They are inexpensive, brightly colored, washable, and easy for little hands to hold. Great for a variety of songs and activities. For almost as many years I have sealed them using hot glue, and the bond has been stronger than the egg! But over the last five years or so, I noticed they eggs have been coming apart- as if they weren't even glued! I also noticed the plastic is thinner (so bends when you squeeze it), and has an "oilier" surface. Hmmm. This has been a problem, as I use my shakers a lot and even at large concerts. So... after much experimentation and research, here is what I have found...

I finally took a plastic egg to Tap Plastics, as they specialize in fabricating all kinds of plastic things. They actually did a test on the egg, and determined that it is made from one of only a few un-glue-able surfaces! It can't be glued! How unthinkable is that?

So, I have have only two solutions for you and me. Easiest is to use tape. You have several choices. I don't use scotch tape, because it's the tackiest looking and gets brittle and grungy quickly. A better choice is "repair" tape, a heavier pliable plastic tape available at office supply stores. I noticed in researching for this post, that Staples now carries a line of VERY fun designer duct tape! It comes in zebra print, and a variety of tie die colors. So you could use zebra print for all of the eggs, or get a roll of each tie die color to match the plastic eggs. Since duct tape is so wide, you'll want to cut strips into one-inch pieces before sealing the eggs. You can place strips of duct tape on wax paper to back them, allowing you to easily cut strips without getting yourself into a big old sticky mess! Then just peel off each one-inch strip and apply it to the egg.

The other way to seal the eggs (which my wonderful artist friend Frank Sunseri came up with) is with a soldering iron. Be sure to do this in a well-ventilated space! Gently press the tip of the soldering iron just below the seam of the egg where it will melt together both halves (you'll end up with a tiny indentation). Do this at about 1-inch intervals around the egg. It also tends to firm up that middle of the egg making it harder for children to "pop" it open.

You many wonder at this point why you shouln't just purchased egg shakers from music stores and forget trying to make them. I personally have three reasons to keep making my own.

1. Homemade are way cheaper, and since I do so many concerts and always lose a few, it just makes more sense.

2. Easter egg colors are much brighter and more fun than the rather dull primary-colored purchased ones.

3.I had a purchased one open once, and saw it was filled with an unidentified substance that looked like some kind of hard plastic bead. When I make my own shakers, I know what's in them- rice. I don't want to risk having unidentified objects being ingested by little mouths.

So now that you have a bit more information, you can decide whether or not you want to make your own shaker eggs. Whichever way you go, plastic egg shakers are a must if you make music with young children! Visit my website for songs and activities to use.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Tuesday Tip! Swimming Noodle Sand Blocks

Best Sand Blocks Ever!

These "sand blocks" are made from inexpensive "swimming noodles," which are available just about everywhere now for a couple of dollars. They are brightly-colored 6 ft long pieces of foam used for flotation. In my town they are even available at the supermarket and drug store! If you can't find these (because it's not summer where you are, or they just aren't available where you live), you can use the gray foam pipe insulation tubes available at hardware stores. Not as colorful, but fully functional and still inexpensive.

To cut the noodles, you can use anything from a saw to a utility knife. The best tool is an electric knife. It makes a clean cut and you can make 30 pairs of blocks in just a few minutes! Be aware that if you use a saw, you will have rough pill-y edges which will shed for a while as the children are playing them. So if you have a choice between a saw and a utility knife, a utility knife makes a cleaner cut. Just be very careful, and you might want to mark a circle around the noodle before cutting, since the knife won't go all the way through.

So, once you have selected your cutting tool...

Cut the noodles in about 4" pieces, then cut each piece in half lengthwise. When children rub them together they make a wonderful sand block sound. And when they "clap" them, as children will inevitably do, they will make a very nice (quiet!) muffled clap, unlike wooden sand blocks that are very hard on the ears! Also, they won't cause injury when thrown ( another inevitable occurrence when working with young children!). They are washable, inexpensive, colorful, and musical! What more could you want?! I use them with train songs and any song that has wheels, as you can rub them around in circles. When playing train songs, you can make a train and walk around the room while playing.

Another great activity, is to play a pattern with your blocks, and have the children copy it. Older children can take turns being the leader.Or sing nursery rhymes and keep a rhythm on the blocks. All of these activities are great for building early literacy skills!

See my website for more songs and ideas for using homemade instruments.

Have fun!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Tuesday Tip! Water Bottle Rain Stick instrument

Starting today, I'll have a new tip every Tuesday. It will often be new ideas for past Songs of the Month, or homemade instruments. Today I'm posting an idea for a homemade rain stick. I used an empty plastic water bottle, aluminum foil, and rice.
Cut several strips of aluminum foil and loosely crumple them into ropes small enough to fit into the neck of the water bottle. kind of twirl them as you insert, so they wind around as they go in. The more "ropes" you put in the bottle, the more surfaces the rice will hit as it goes down. Add a couple of inches of rice, and replace cap on the bottle. Slowly tip the bottle, and you will hear the sound of rain as the rice makes it's way over the foil down to the bottom. If you leave the bottle un-decorated, as I have, children can see what's making the sound. Of course you (or better yet, the children), can decorate the bottle with anything from paper, colored tissue paper, ribbon, tape, string, stickers, or anything else you can find.I have left mine un-decorated so kids can see what's making the rain sound.
You can also use a stick or pencil and run it across the ribs of the water bottle and you have a guiro (Latin percussion instrument).

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

How to Have a Happy Concert Experience With Your Toddler

I just returned from the last in my Shake, Rattle, and Roll Series for one and two-year-olds. As any parent or grandparent with this age child knows, life is always interesting (to say the least!). The library is the perfect place to begin to learn how to behave in public, and I am always amazed at the creative ways parents think of to not only survive, but to enjoy the experience! Today was a perfect example.This particular series was music time and parent education about how to use music to build early literacy skills. One mom with an adorable two-year old who wanted to just RUN- scooped him up and stood with him for the whole program. She bounced, twirled, and swayed, and stayed focused on what we were doing, while staying in the same space. She was fully engaged in the songs, and her son followed her cue. The result was that they shared special time and were both fully present for it. Instead of chasing him around, or leaving the room, she found a way they could interact together; she was relaxed and joyful! It was a tribute to good parenting.

There is no technique that works for every child every time he or she is in public. But there are ways to make it work most of the time. Every successful shared experience you and your child have will help to build your relationship, his relationship to and respect of others, and leave memories in both of your hearts.

After thirty years of giving children's concerts, I have gathered a few tips that you can use to insure you and your child have a positive experience at a concert or other public program. Try them next time you find yourself at a program with an active child!

1. Sit with your child! This sounds obvious, but often adults feel they will obstruct the view if they sit right in the audience. If children are seated on the floor, don't worry about it. Children behind you will move around so they can see. And if you are sitting with your child you can monitor and model behavior, quietly dealing with any problem that may arise. There's nothing quite as distracting as an adult trying to get his or her child's attention from the back of the room. It always seems the child is the only one not listening!

2.If you have what my best friend, Marylee, calls a "little zoomer," it helps to not sit in the front row. Just sit 3 or 4 rows back, and your child will be more likely to stay there.

3.If your child gets away from you (they are VERY fast) and somehow makes it to the front of the room and the "stage" area, don't hesitate to get up and gently take him or her back to your spot. This can be done quickly and will not disrupt a seasoned performer!

4.If your child is just not ready to sit for a program, (two-year-olds are allowed to not feel like sitting!) feel free to leave the room and walk around outside, or just come back another day. Like everything else, learning how to behave in public is a process, more diffiult for some than others. And one of the things we get to do is decide what kind of citizens we want to send into the world. It is a privilege and a responsibity.And a whole lot of fun!

On a more personal note from this performer... I love performing for children. I always learn from them, and love that I never know what's going to happen next!I use a lot of props, and always invite children up to examine them after the concert. I only step in when safety is involved. A good children's librarian will give clear behavior guidelines before a program, but of course, things just happen!

If you have found strategies for "guiding" your children in public, especially at concerts and theater events, please share them here! After all, it really does take a village- and we're it!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Free Children's Songs Part Two- Ways to Use Them

There are so many creative ways people have found to use my free songs of the month,and all the other materials on my website. Read below for just a few...

1. Teachers and Librarians:
Let parents know which of my songs you're using, so they can download and sing them at home. Repetition builds memory and reinforces what you're teaching. It also gives working parents a way to be a part of their children's day!
2. Teachers and Librarians:
To find seasonal songs, just locate by month for each year. For example,if you want winter holiday songs, just check all past December songs of the month.
For a fun free or inexpensive party favor, just go to the play lists page and download the suggested songs. You can make custom Cd's as party favors. The suggested songs also have some fast easy props to make to go along with the songs.
4.Head Start and EACAP Teachers:
Using free materials, you can make "kits" for parents to take home and use with their children. Since you will only incur the cost of materials, you might even be able to make a kit for each family.
Either make a custom CD or a kit including songs and props (felt pieces, homemade instruments, books from printable pages),and use as auction item.
6. Literacy Organizations:
Make custom Cd's and distribute to students or families. Copy the music and early literacy handout and include with the CD.

7.Don't forget there are play lists for different types of songs so you can easily make a CD of dancing songs, or quiet songs(just two of the play lists)for your car, library, or classroom.

Remember, you can use the free songs of the month and printable materials on my website for any purpose that is not for profit.

If you have used my songs in any of these or other ways, please post your comment on this blog to let others know!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Free Children's Songs for Teachers, Librarians, and Childcare Providers

Let's get to the free stuff first! My website, has over 120 free songs you can download to support early literacy, child development, and good old musical fun! You don't need a password or sign up- it's totally free. You may reproduce and copy these materials for any use except for profit. I have been posting a free song of the month for 11 years, so there's a lot to choose from! All songs are available all the time. In addition to the mp3 files you can burn to a CD, you can print out the sheet music and guitar chords, lyrics, activities, and any prop patterns for the songs. Find songs by month, or by category of use (movement, seasonal, languages, etc.). The main focus of my music is supporting early literacy, so I'll be writing much more about that in upcoming blogs. I'll also give you ideas about creative ways to use these songs for fun and learning. The possibilities are endless! As a parent you can download songs and make CD's to give as party favors ( I have a play list for that).Teachers and librarians who use these songs can let parents know so they can download them at home and share the same songs (repetition builds memory in young brains!). I'm always looking for ideas for my song of the month, so let me know if you have one! In the meantime, have fun and go download!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Here We Go!

Wecome to my new blog!As I travel around singing with children and presenting music workshops to teachers, parents and librarians, every day seems to bring something new! Whether a new way to sing a song, or make an instrument, or read and sing a book, there is always something generated by my interractions with you and your children, (as well as thoughts inside my head). All of those thoughts and ideas need a home; a place where they can be shared and grow. My emphasis is always on having fun with music, and using it to build early literacy. So stay tuned for Jump in with your own thoughts and ideas!

To get started, I'd like to remind you that this is the time of year to make your own shakers from plastic Easter eggs. They will only be in the stores another two weeks, and then like the Easter Bunny will be gone. I love egg shakers because they are inexpensive, brightly colored (can be used by little ones to learn colors), are washable and easy to make. You will find instructions as well as recommended songs for using them with preschoolers on my website Check the homemade instruments page. There will be much more information coming on homemade instruments, as my summer reading concert this summer, "Sticks and Stones, Seeds and Bones," will be all about making rhythm instruments from objects found both around the house and outside in nature. You can check the summer reading page on my website for more details and recommended free songs to download. Stay tuned!