It was a bit too cold on Thanksgiving this year in New England, a reminder that real winter is just around the corner. You can find some of my favorite winter songs and stories on this blog.
Leo Lionni’s classic story of Frederick the mouse is always great. You can find out more in my post at this link. That story also inspired my song called simply, “Winter Song,” which is nice for adults as well as kids.
On a slightly different note, I’ve already enjoyed bringing out my stuffed squirrel and singing “Nuts for the Winter” this year with my students. It’s always a favorite!
Here’s another song and activity that is fun for any time, but especially winter. It pairs well with the popular book The Mitten, a Ukrainian folk tale retold and illustrated by Jan Brett. In a wintry landscape, a boy drops a white mitten knitted by his grandma. One by one, a variety of animals discover the mitten and burrow inside to take a winter’s nap.
The story’s theme is that there’s always room for one more, though sometimes things can get a bit uncomfortable. The surprise ending comes when a mouse tickles a brown bear’s nose, and whoops! That’s the end of that communal bed. Except the mitten is miraculously safe.
My related song is the classic “Five in the Bed,” which I’ve changed some over the years. Watch my video of the song at this link and you’ll see that at the end of my version, the creatures realize that there’s room for them all. I got the idea of singing the song with stuffed animals from Chicago-based children’s singer, Susan Salidor.
Susan is a master at “super-sizing” finger plays by having children act them out. I have had fun with children acting out “Five in the Bed,” often starting with many more children than five, all lying on the floor (they love this). That’s why I changed the words to “they all gave a wiggle,” because rolling around with a bunch of kids on the floor could get tricky.
When I “super-size” the song with a group, I let the child who “fell out” choose the next person who’s going to fall out. In the end, you can serenade the child who’s left with “You’ve got the whole mattress to yourself.” (You know the tune.) I also learned that finale from someone else, possibly Ellen Allard. That’s the great thing about The Children’s Music Network (CMN); you’re always collecting new songs and ideas from others.
You can also sing a song about the Jan Brett book. I found one on the Mrs. Jones Room web page. This is a helpful website written by a longtime kindergarten teacher.
Sometimes it’s fun to sing a song that’s not about the story, but related to it. Then children can compare and contrast. When singing “Five in the Bed,” you can ask the children what type of bed the animals might be crowded into. Perhaps a small cave, or a hollowed-out tree trunk? You could also discuss hibernation and what types of animals sleep in the winter. The stuffed animals in my rendition of the song mostly don’t hibernate, so you could also talk about how they stay warm in the winter.
Whatever you decide to sing, I hope YOU stay warm!