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Making marine music

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By Judith HarriesEarly Years teacher and writer

Use the sea as inspiration for some fun singing and rhythm work with your children


Fish playing the guitar


The following group activities are great for fostering personal, social and emotional development in early years settings. They also support specific musical skills, including solo and group singing, beat and rhythm work, and introduce simple music notation.


Activity songs in this article:

  1. Charlie over the ocean
  2. Sea sari
  3. Diving under the sea
  4. Fishing boat
  5. Meet and greet the fish
  6. Rhythm fish
  7. Magnetic fish game
  8. Silent shells

1. Charlie over the ocean

Try singing this traditional echo song and help children to develop confidence in solo singing.


Solo: Charlie over the ocean,

Echo: Charlie over the ocean,

Solo: Charlie over the sea,

Echo: Charlie over the sea,

Solo: Charlie caught a big fish,

Echo: Charlie caught a big fish,

Solo: Can’t catch me!

Echo: Can’t catch me!


Sit in a circle and learn the song together. Start by singing the solo line yourself and then ask all the children to echo. If you’re not familiar with the traditional tune, try using ‘My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean’ instead.

Invite a child to walk around the outside of the ring carrying a bean bag or toy fish as they sing the solo part. Change the name ‘Charlie’ to the name of this child. Ask the other children to echo each line. On the words ‘big fish’, the first child must drop the toy fish in front of another child who has to jump up and chase ‘Charlie’ all around the circle, back to their seat.


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2. Sea sari

Sit in a circle and ask the children to take hold of the edges of a blue sari or sheet. They should gently float it up and down like a parachute as they sing this song to the tune of ‘My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean’.


The waves rise up in the ocean,

The waves sink down in the sea,

The waves rise up in the ocean,

Up and down just like me.


As the waves get rougher, the children can move the sari up and down and make bigger movements until they are moving their whole bodies up and down.


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Online resources

Visit our resource bank for more music and rhythm ideas, such as these ‘Rhythm and rhyme‘ circle time cards.

Rhythm and rhyme circle-time cards


3. Diving under the sea

Put a selection of plastic sea creatures on the floor in the middle of the circle. Place a blue sari or sheet on top of them. Choose a child to go diving under the sari to catch a creature. The other children can float the fabric up and down and sing this song to the tune of ‘Frère Jacques’.


[Child’s name] go diving,

[Child’s name] go diving,

What can you see?

What can you see?

Can you catch a big one?

Can you catch a big one?

Then show me!

Then show me!


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4. Fishing boat

Sit in a circle and invite all the children to hold onto a loop of elastic rope. Ask them to rock forwards and backwards with the rope as though they are rowing. Sing the traditional song ‘Row, Row, Row Your Boat’ and move or row in time to the beat:


Row, row, row your boat,

Gently down the stream.

Merrily, merrily,

merrily, merrily,

Life is but a dream.


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5. Meet and greet the fish


Children making music

Introduce two soft toy fish beanbags or hand puppets. Explain that one is called Fred and the other is Freda. Try saying and clapping the names of the puppets using the syllables – one clap for Fred, and two claps for Freda. Show the children the musical symbols to represent each puppet (see symbols, below). Let the puppets hold a card with their musical symbol written on it. Go around the circle and make the puppets jump out from behind your back. Can the children say and clap the right name?


Range of musical notes


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6. Rhythm fish

Use the sea creatures from the ‘Fishing game’ activity sheet and write the musical symbols for Fred and Freda onto the underside of each one. Make a large fishing net from garden netting and ask children to sit in a circle holding onto the net. Place the sea creatures onto the fishing net and make them jump up and down. Sing this song to the tune of ‘The Wheels on the Bus’:


The fish are jumping up and down,

Up and down, up and down,

The fish are jumping up and down,

All day long.


Invite children to choose a fish to catch. Can they turn it over and read the symbol to see if it is Fred or Freda? They can then throw it back into the net and continue singing and playing.


Fishing game colour activity sheet


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7. Magnetic fishing game

Make some fish out of card (see ‘Rhythm fish’) and attach a paperclip to each one. Make a fishing rod from a piece of dowelling, length of string and a strong magnet. Invite children to take turns trying to catch a fish by touching the paperclip with the magnet. Can they read the musical symbol written on their fish? Stick the fish onto a whiteboard. Ask the child to choose a friend to catch the next fish. When there are four fish displayed, invite the group to say the names, one after the other – for example, reads Fred, Fred, Freda, Fred (see ‘Meet and greet the fish’). Encourage children to say and clap the rhythm of the names.


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8. Silent shells

To extend the rhythm patterns, introduce silent shells. Draw the symbol for a rest on the back of some seashells cut out of plastic or card, and add them to the magnetic fishing game. Ask the children to wiggle their fingers when they see this symbol and not make a sound! Incorporate the rests into the rhythm patterns, so for example, the symbols in the image above will read Freda, Fred, Fred, [wiggle].


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Discover more musical ideas…

There are lots of fun ways to include songs and music in your children’s activities. Find more by searching our resource bank.


Images: Illustration © www.istockphoto.com/kopirin; photo © Olaf Doering / Alamy

Reviews

  1. Liane Jagger
    on 10 September 2016

    Making Marine Music

    Lots of great ideas. Thank you!

    5out of 5