With singing games, it becomes easy to teach a variety of musical concepts. At the same time, these games incorporate music to help kids get the wiggles out and provide children with the opportunity to sing as a group and on their own.
Plus, singing games can be a great way to break the ice and get to know each other. It's also smart to incorporate them as a means of breaking up the monotony of a long rehearsal session.
These games are easy to set up since most of them are sung in unison, require no or few props and no accompaniment is required.
Why Use Singing Games?
It turns out that there are many reasons why singing games belong in the music classroom. Here are just a few of them:
- They are fun
- They inspire a feeling of community
- Singing games are a welcome counterpoint to exercises that require sitting and more concentration
- They provide an opportunity for students to connect with their heritage and that of others.
Tips for Making the Most of Singing Games
If you want kids to love singing games, then it's wise to always leave them wanting more. For instance, when someone gets to be "it" for a particular game, it isn't necessary to continue playing until every student has an opportunity to be "it." After a while, everyone gets bored. Accordingly, it makes sense to play each game a maximum of three to five times. This means many students won't have a chance to be "it," so they'll be excited about playing again on another day.
It also makes sense to use singing games as a reward for hard work. You know that one singing game that your students always ask to play? At the end of a tough session, reward them with at least one rendition of that game.
It also makes sense to encourage big movements. Inspire kids to run, jump and wiggle as they sing these games. Even in a smallish classroom, it is possible to move, and this makes the games so much more fun.
Lean into the Curwen (Solfege) hand signs
When it comes to singing, we emphasis leaning into the Solfege Curwen hand signs with students. By attaching these concrete physical movements to musical notes, you and your kids can develop a much stronger musical ear!
Adding a concrete idea like a hand-sign to a more abstract concept like pitch makes it much easier for kids and adults to develop their sense of pitch.
See how high and low your students voices can travel up the scale. For more information about the Solfege Hand-Signs, check out the Prodigies Music Curriculum.
Here are some suggestions for favorite singing games that can be played in the music classroom.
1. We're Floating Down the River
If you want to compare and contrast, then this is a great game to choose. It's a song in two sections, one of which is in compound meter while the other is in duple. Have your students make a circle with one person in the center for the first section. While singing, they step on the big beats while moving in a clockwise direction. When the second section begins, the person in the center chooses a student from the circle to dance with while the rest of the students stand in place.
2. A Hunting We Will Go
For this game, the children sing the familiar tune, A Hunting We Will Go. The song begins with everyone in a circle, their hands covering their eyes. Some of the children are hunters, so they stand outside the circle and continue to move as everyone sings, "A hunting we will go." When they arrive at the line "we'll catch a fox," each hunter "catches" a child in front of them and gently pushes them toward the circle's center. With the line "and then we'll let it go," the "fox" is released back to the circle.
3. Bobo Ski Waten Taten
Kids love the fun words in this hand-clapping game. Ask kids to pair off to begin. Each verse has two sections, one that is sung and one that is spoken. Toward the end of each spoken section is a blank that needs to be filled in with a word like lips, knees, elbows, eyes, face or many others. This filled-in blank will be incorporated the next time through the song.
4. Down in the Valley
Here is another song game that is played in pairs. The children pair off and then squat down while holding hands. The first stanza is sung, during which they playfully tug at each other's hands. When they come to the lyrics "Come on and rise, sugar rise," they stand upright. The next lyrics are "Let me see you make a motion," at which all of the children can make any movement that they like. During the next lines, the students step to the side and clap, come back to the center, and then step to the other side to clap. Ask the students to switch partners and repeat the song.
5. Alley Alley-O
This British singing game begins with all players making a line and holding hands. The children sing while weaving under each other's arms until everyone's arms are crossed. While still singing, the motions are reversed until everyone is back in a row with joined hands and uncrossed arms.
6. Round De Doo Bop (Going to Kentucky)
This is an easy one with a really fun song to go with it. Here are the lyrics:
We’re going to Kentucky
We’re going to the fair
To see the senorita
The flowers in the hair
Shake it shake it shake it
Shake it all you can
Shake it like a milkshake
And do the best you can
Oh shake it to the bottom
Shake it to the top
And turn around and turn around
Until it’s time to stop
Kids love having this opportunity to wiggle with total abandon. Ask them to stand in a circle with one student in the middle. Each line of the song has an accompanying movement. Toward the end, it's the job of the child in the middle to turn in a circle while pointing. When the song ends, whoever the student in the center is pointing at becomes "it" for the next game.
7. Brown Bear, Brown Bear
Simple and fun, this singing game gives everyone in the class a chance to participate in a "call," and then an individual gets a little solo for the "response." Feel free to use stuffed animals as props with this one.
8. Down Down Baby
Most adults remember this as a game on the playground that starts out "Down down baby, down by the roller coaster, Sweet sweet baby, I'll never let you go."
In this version, the students stand in a circle holding hands. As they sing "Down down roller coaster, they make a downward wave motion with their hands. With the line "I'll never let you go," they hug themselves. Other suggested movements include:
- "Shimmy shimmy cocoa pop," with the hands up in the air making a small, explosive movement.
- "Grandma sick in bed," making a sad face.
- "Call the doctor," while making a phone gesture.
- "Ding Dong," while rocking the head from side to side.
- "Rhythm of the hands," with two claps.
- "Rhythm of the feet," with two stomps.
9. Old Brass Wagon
This is a long-time favorite that begins with the whole class standing in a circle. As they sing the lines of the song, they walk or skip to either the left or right while maintaining the circle. The teacher calls out variations at the end of each verse such as: "to the right," "to the left" or "with swinging elbows."
10. Shoo Fly
Here is another simple one that begins with the kids holding hands in a circle. They sing the lines from "Shoo fly don't bother me" through "I belong to somebody" while moving in and out in the circle. With the line "I feel like a morning star," two of the students hold their hands upward while the others pass through them until an outward-facing circle is formed. The same inward and outward movement is repeated, and then the children reverse the pass-through until they are once again in an inward-facing circle.
Learn More with Prodigies
At Prodigies Music, we like to think that we're experts when it comes to singing games. If you are looking for inspiration in the classroom or your home, turn to the imaginative and fun offerings at Prodigies. We specialize in presenting the fundamentals of music in clever and engaging ways.