When Jellybeans Music met Harry & Meghan

The week has finally arrived when the nation will assemble on their settees by 9am on Saturday 19th May, probably still bleary eyed and in our pyjamas to celebrate the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle and I am very much looking forward to it – it’s been a long winter, they are in love and it will be beautiful to watch.  But, and this is the but, and it’s a big one,  how do you translate a Royal Wedding into the world of the Jellybeans Music early years music classes and is it even appropriate to do so?

When William married Katherine in 2011, we celebrated the marriage in classes and shops and towns throughout the land were full of red, white and blue wonderfulness.  Even very small children were aware of flags fluttering everywhere.  They were desperate to hold and learn how to wave flags and the majority wore red, white and blue clothes a lot!  Shops were festooned with the memorabilia of the happy couple and the nation was on tenterhooks of excitement.   This time around, although we all wish them a lifetime of happiness, and I really do (especially after having been smiled at by Prince Harry in Grantham A&E once) it would seem the nation is far more relaxed about the event – the shops are not full of their faces, the flags are not flying down the streets and I haven’t heard of a single street party, which begs the question, if I decide to ‘theme’ a week of classes around a wedding, what if anything will that mean to the children and surely the whole point of the classes is to support their developmental needs?

So, here’s the deal.  It’s a huge ‘yes’ from me to the Union Jack, red, white & blue parachute for listening time where we’ll be listening to the traditional nursery rhyme ‘Pussy Cat, Pussy Cat, where have you been’.   It’s an even bigger ‘yes’ from me to flag waving – thinking fast/slow tempos, gross motor skills, impulse control skills and we can extend the use into peek a boo time.  It’s even a possible ‘yes’ from me to heart shaped balloons on the lycra as the week goes on and wedding fever builds but this is a wedding where singing about the 5 corgis on the bed, or the wheels on the royal carriage going round and round, just doesn’t feel right if I’m creating a class thinking like a toddler.

What do you think?  Are you sad we won’t be singing about the corgis and twirling princesses?







Bubbles, Bubbles

It is no secret at Jellybeans Music that I love bubbles probably as much as babies and toddlers.  I love watching the tiny babies focus on the bubbles swirling above their heads.  I never tire of toddlers trying to catch and blow them and hearing early talkers say the word ‘ubble, ubble’ as soon as they see me, still gives me goosebumps.  But did you know that I use bubbles not just because I love them but because they are a fanastic early years development tool?


As soon as the bubbles come out, I always start talking about how blowing bubbles can help to build mouth & jaw muscle tone and support breath control, all essential for speech development but did you know that bubbles also support mathematical developmental? It’s not rocket science but if you encourage your child to count the bubbles with you, you are helping them learn to apply the number labels to actuals.  Discuss what shape the bubbles are – again, words like circle, round are introduced in a ‘real’ way!

Watching the bubbles float and fly around the room is a real workout for your child’s eyes.  Very small babies will be learning to use both eyes simultaneously to focus upon the bubbles, whilst slightly older babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers will be reaching up strengthening motor skills and eye-hand co-ordination as they reach for and try to pop the bubbles.  One of my boys really didn’t enjoy messy play – not for him playing with spaghetti and baked beans but he really enjoy the ‘feel’ of bubbles and I think bubbles encouraged him to try new tactile sensations.

Finally, don’t forget it can be very relaxing just watching bubbles floating slowly down to the ground, so even the quietest child can enjoy a cuddle watching them.

But, bubbles are not just for Jellybeans – don’t forget to enjoy them at home together.  Why not try blowing bubbles over your baby/child while they are in the bath?  The bubbles will float and land both on the water (bubbles pop on dry surfaces!) and your child, giving a fun, visual, sensory experience.  Or, if you have a play tunnel, why not blow bubbles through the tunnel?  This will encourage your child to crawl through the tunnel and help to develop their sense of spatial awareness.

Take your bubbles outside and watch how high they fly!  Add a couple of drops of food colouring for extra pretty bubbles and try catching these coloured bubbles on paper!  I could go on and on, but perhaps the best tip of all, is to always have a small pot of bubbles in your handbag for those days when your small one is just restless and you have lots and lots to do.

Bubbles, bubbles fly around.

Bubbles, bubbles touch the ground.

Bubbles landing on my nose.

Bubbles landing on my toes.

Bubbles, bubbles fly around, bubbles, bubbles touch the ground

‘The Wheels on the bus go round & round’

pexels-photo.jpgOne of the first things people ever say to me when they find out that I both create and deliver Jellybeans Music early years music classes is either ‘You must love singing Wheels on the Bus’ or ‘You must be so tired of singing Wheels on the Bus’.  It is an iconic song of a 21st century early childhood, one of those songs that expectant parents probably look forward to singing with their new baby although I do wonder whether if we were to time travel forward to visit them 4 years later, those very same parents may very well be wondering why they ever wanted to sing it in the first place……….. It is one of those songs that as the first few notes unfold the vast majority of a class will know exactly what they are about to sing.  It is a ‘happy’ song in a major key that is musically easy to master and then sing.  In all honesty, I neither love or loathe singing the song and I must have sung it thousands of times since Jellybeans Music launched in 2007 but I do know that small children love it, and I mean really love it.   They respond instinctively to the strong repetitive lyrics and rhythm and how can you not want to sing a song that makes so many small children so happy they shine with happiness?

So let’s dissect it – and don’t worry I’m not going to have an existential crisis about why the wheels go round and round, we’ll leave that thought to those endless wooden signs you can now buy on Etsy.   The song is credited to Verna Hills and first appeared in print in 1939 in Volume 25 of ‘American Childhood’ and it is that version that we sing in Jellybeans Music with it’s musical echoes  of  ‘Here we go round the mulberry bush’ – go on, sing that song to yourself and you’ll spot the similarities very quickly.  As I said earlier it is very repetitive both musically, lyrically and rhythmically but is that necessarily a bad thing?  This repetition makes it very easy for the child to assimilate and sing, especially the last 3 words ‘ all day long’, a phrase I have observed many, many children first finding their singing voices belting out those 3 words (silent for the rest of the lyrics) complete with magnificent glottal stops on the ‘long’.

The language of the verses, although simplistic, are strong on ‘sound’ words, ‘swish’, ‘beep’, ‘waaa’, ‘chatter’, to name but a few of the many verse variations.  It is a song to encourage conversations and extend vocabularies – ‘what colour is the bus’ ‘how fast is the bus going’ – and crucially it about a bus, something surely 99.9% of children recognise and understand even if they’ve never been on one or seen a red double decker bus in everyday life.

Physically, it is a fantastic song for supporting the development of both fine and gross motor skills for example strong arms go ’round and round’ (gross), small hands ‘open and shut’ (fine).  As the child matures we can extend ‘swishing’ wipers arms down to feet and attempt to synchronise the movement likewise with the ‘beeping horn’ – one strong hand moving in and out becomes two, ultimately aiming for cross lateral ‘beeping’.   It is a song which enables us to again introduce and reinforce the music concepts of loud and quiet as the sleeping babies are ‘fast asleep, shh’ while the wide awake babies ‘go waah, waah, waah’ again depending on which set of verses are being used.

I think it is the variations that make this song such a staple and useful in early years – because the tune is so well known, it is very easy to adapt and switch up the lyrics; it is possibly the ultimate ‘go to’ song on a long, tiring parenting day.  Hands up who’s ever sung about The Wheels on the Tractor or The Wheels on the Snowplough?  Surely I’m not the only one who has sung The Wheels on Santa’s Sleigh?  It is one of those songs that can be sung on endless car journeys about what ever can be seen out of a window.  It is one of those songs that when your day has been going on for hours and you are exhausted you can adapt very easily and as we all know singing releases the feel good endorphin – for instance next time you just want to get your child in the bath, why not try

The baby in bath goes splash, splash, splash, all night long

or if meal times are becoming a battleground

The carrots in the bowl are really yummy, really yummy, really yummy.  The carrots in the bowl are really yummy, I think they’re scrummy

The food in your hair is stuck really fast, stuck really fast, stuck really fast.  The food in your hair is stuck really fast, all day long?

The Wheels on the bus is a song that ‘everyone’ sings.  It is a song that ‘everyone’ knows (or thinks they know).  It is the song that is always used in television sitcoms or news segments whenever early years music classes are depicted.  It is a song that I deliberately did not record for inclusion in the Jellybeans Music ‘Wriggly Giggly’ CD.  It is a song that I do sing in classes, but, and this is a very big but, it is a really teeny tiny part of our Jellybeans Music repertoire as I believe there are so many more wonderful early years songs out there just waiting for their chance to shine in your child’s musical world.

So, please, next time you hear those opening notes, don’t inwardly groan at my lack of musical imagination or knowledge.  Look around you,  look at the children.  Observe those strong shoulder muscles, arm muscles, finger muscles swirling round and round and think pincer grip, this song is helping my child develop the skills to hold a pencil.  Watch the anticipation on the child’s face as they realise they are about to be tickled and think, wow, my child’s memory is expanding rapidly.   Listen to the ‘sound’ words your child is singing and be proud of how their innate knowledge of rhythmic language and vocabulary is developing.   Hear the laughter and see the smiles as the children fly to the sky as the ‘stairs go up and down’ but most of all, remember early years don’t last very long, make the most of every single minute, be the adult who swishes, beeps, and lifts your way into their memories as you sing with them.

PS it’s the song that I will be singing a variation of when we celebrate Prince Harry’s marriage later this month …………….” The ladies in the church said it should have been me” …….. you have been warned!


The Journey Begins

Hello and thank you so much for joining me.

I know, because you are reading this blog,  that you are already very interested in the developmental benefits of early years music making and in particular how you can make music an even more integral part of your little one’s life.   Indeed, we might even already be sharing a melody or two every week in either a baby beans or a jellybeans class.

Introducing all genres of music to very young children is something that I feel very passionately about so I am really looking forward to sharing my expertise and experiences both within Jellybeans Music classes and in raising my own 3 children, with you.

Thanks for joining me and don’t forget to sign up so you never miss a blog!

Creativity is intelligence having fun — Albert Einstein