Monday, November 15, 2010

Thanksgiving Ideas

I love teaching music during the month of November. There are so many wonderful songs, games and books to use.

Songs can range from table graces to Native American Songs to songs about turkeys. Thanksgiving is a great time to sing a grace around your Thanksgiving table. Even preschoolers can participate and teach guests and family of all ages how to sing the song. When was the last time everyone in your household sang a song together? We just don’t do that anymore.

Two of my favorite Thanksgiving games are “Shoo Turkey” and “Oats, Peas, Beans”. “Shoo Turkey” is a call-response game in which the leader asks a question and the others respond “Yes, Ma’am” to almost all of the questions asked. It is a song from South Sea Island in Georgia, popularized by Bessie Jones. It can be found on her album, Put Your Hand on Your Hip and Let Your Backbone Slip or seen in the video by Linda Goss on You Tube . Her version is closest to my version.

“Oats, Peas, Beans” is a circle game about farming, another good subject for Harvest Time. It puts a farmer in the middle with the circle rotating around. The farmer gets to pick a partner and the partner then becomes the farmer. Let me know if you’d like the lyrics. There are plenty on You Tube.

My favorite Thanksgiving books are:
1. There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Pie, a take-off on the classic lady who swallowed a fly except in this version she turns into a balloon in the Thanksgiving Parade.
2. One Little, Two Little, Three Little Pilgrims, using the old favorite about 10 little Indians tune but telling the story about the first Thanksgiving instead. You know the tune, don’t you?
3. Over the River a classic about going to grandfather’s house. You can pick from three books using a classic Currier and Ives illustrations, the story using turkeys instead of humans or a modern family traveling in the family mini-van.

1. “Harvest Home” by Jay Ungar and Molly Mason, who provided music for the PBS Burns epic about the Civil War. I bought it for the harvest cover and my family pretty much wore it out every November. Yee haw! Barn dance anyone?
2. Any Native American recordings.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Halloween Music

Halloween is a great time to explore music with your child. There is suitable music in almost every genre; classical, folk, popular, or rock. Think of the Halloween songs you sang in your elementary music classes. In our town growing up no one would give us candy unless we sang a song or told a joke so we all paid really close attention in music class. Feel free to teach your children the Halloween songs of your youth.

The songs we learned in elementary music are fine for preschoolers. Of course we need to be careful when choosing music for younger children since we don’t want to scare them. Some young children are really sensitive to music in minor keys. I think it’s mostly a cultural phenomenon. Other cultures use minor melodies more frequently in folk and happy songs. In our culture we tend to use the minor modes to denote sad or scary moods. Some children pick up on this at an early age and minor music will really upset them.

When my kids were elementary school age we would get out all the spooky classical recordings. You have probably heard some of them in old movies. One of our favorite albums was Chiller, conducted by Erich Kunzel with the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra. There are many great songs in the album from this CD. The collection has everything from “Phantom of the Opera” to “Danse Macabre” by Saint-Saens to “Funeral of a Marionette” which was the music on Alfred Hitchcock’s show. Now you can buy the MP3 versions of these recordings on Amazon.

Lately, I’ve seen many more popular collections of Halloween music in stores. A few years back I bought a recording of Halloween songs in Wal-Mart containing songs like “The Monster Mash” and the “Purple People Eater”. These are great to play when it’s raining outside and the kids and adults need to blow off some steam without wrecking the house. Put these recordings on and dance while you’re making dinner. If you know the Mashed Potatoes dance, teach it to the kids. It’s so good for kids to see parents dancing and singing. Dads I don’t want to hear that you’re sitting the dances out. It’s especially good for the kids to see that it’s okay for dads to move to music too.

One more thing – don’t forget to go through your recordings and see what you can use as Halloween music. I’ll just bet that there is something in there that you can use.

Now, put on some recordings and rock away. I’d love to hear what music you have used during October for your family.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Snowy Day Idea #1 - The Kitchen Band.

It's the third day into a 30 inch snowstorm in Baltimore and I'm sure that many parents are losing their minds. Now is a great time to get the kids together and make some music.

Idea number one: Put on one of your favorite recordings and gather anything in the kitchen that is unbreakable. Put all of the kitchen implements into a large plastic container and take it into a room with a lot of space. Now you can have a kitchen band. Really! You can even have the kids help you choose what should go into the container. Metal measuring spoons work well. Plastic or wooden spoons make great drum sticks. Old pots and pans make great drums. Empty oatmeal containers also make good drums but they just aren't as substantial as they used to be. Don't forget cardboard boxes. Tape them back together and bang away.

If you have taken the kids to a Music Together class you may use "Playin' in the Kitchen" as your accompaniment. I'm sure that other preschool music classes have recordings for kitchen bands, too.

I'd love to hear about your kitchen band experiences. Tell us about your instruments and recordings.