I’d like to share a very special person with you who has been a profound part of my life – Claricia Iona Cummings. Miss Cummings, endearingly referred to as Nona, joined my family from Panama when I was just five days old. At the time, we lived in Springfield, Massachusetts. Nona has been like a mother to me throughout childhood and adulthood, and incredibly, lived to be 105 years old, just 4 months shy of 106! Nona, with presence and awareness, passed away this October in Washington DC. Her life shines as an extraordinary example of humility, joyfulness, dignity, careful craft, and hard work, and those who knew her remain in awe of her graciousness and love.
In remembrance of Nona, I wanted to share a Russian lullaby I recorded in 2012. I think Nona would like it, and would feel comforted by its gentle melody. I invite you to listen, and to join me in honoring this very special person. For you Nona…I love you.
I am eager to share this wonderful coincidence with you. My neighbor and client, Danny Carragher, saw one of my Sukey’s Circle mini shows while vacationing in Panama, and his kids were thrilled to see Tick Tock in the archipelago. One never knows where Tick Tock might show up.
So nice running into you the other day! I just had to let you know about a funny thing that happened to us on vacation! We decided to take the family “off the grid” and flew down to Panama where we spent one night on the Panama Canal (quite amazing) and then early
the next morning took a prop plane to northern Panama and a 40 minute boat ride through the archipelago of Bocas del Toro to Isla Popa, a small island with one hotel and 5 indigenous tribes (or so we were told). Our room was smack dab in the middle of the rain forest and for the first few days we did nothing but swing in hammocks and jump in the ocean. One night the boys were a bit restless waiting for us to get ready for dinner so we decided to turn the TV on in our room (they actually had one, though we were told the satellite reception was spotty). After flipping through the channels a bit I found what looked like the children’s station and turned to head back to the bedroom… when suddenly we heard it – YOU, and the “Hello, Everyone” song (in Spanish!) coming from the television! I think it was our little guy, Cooper, who screamed first – “It’s Sukey!!!” The boys were in heaven… and, just when I thought they couldn’t adore you more, you’ve now been deemed an INTERNATIONAL superstar in their eyes.
The release of my new Sukey’s Circle (El Circulo de Sukey!) DVD is getting closer and I’m particularly excited about the fact that it’s bi-lingual! Children will be able to watch and listen in both English and Spanish, and it’s a really great opportunity for learning. I don’t speak Spanish myself, and I wish I had learned when I was young. However, during the recording and translating sessions, I was able to learn and sing many of the songs in Spanish, and am now becoming interested in learning the language! I’m excited to know that children who watch the new Sukey’s Circle! DVD will have the same opportunity to appreciate and learn the songs and dialogue in Spanish as well as English.
Here is a sample of yours truly singing Hola Todos (Hello Everyone), and, a sample of Maya Solovey singing Tic Toc (Tick Tock). Sing along with us!
I’m back from a family trip to Nepal and excited about the upcoming release of my newly recreated Sukey’s Circle “made-for-TV” Mini Shows DVD. As you know, Sukey’s Circle! is currently airing on BabyFirstTV in both Spanish and English, and I’ve been getting lots of fun emails and tweets from around the globe.
Sukey’s Circle! episodes are created specifically for families with children age 2-5 with an emphasis on active viewing, thoughtful listening, and participatory learning. Each of the 15 mini-shows features live action scenes and felt art animations which are set to my award winning music, and include my favorite Sunshine Family friends, Sunny and Tick Tock.
You can pre-order Sukey’s Circle! Vol. 3: Mini Shows directly from my website prior to the July 30th release date. I’d love to hear from you with comments and reviews!
Hi Everyone! I’m really pleased that my newly recreated Sukey’s Circle! Mini Shows are airing on BabyFirst TV! When BabyFirst initially expressed interest, they requested that I deliver all 15 mini episodes in both Spanish and English. This was quite a surprise but I did it! After the lyrics and dialogue were interpreted from English to Spanish with my friend (and flamenco dancer) Anna de la Paz, we went into Studio ‘L’ with co-producer Larry Alexander and recorded the voice over’s for all the spoken word segments. After completing Anna’s recording session, we returned with vocal artist Maya Solovey who recorded the song vocals. It was fun!
On July 30th I will release Sukey’s Circle! Vol. 3 Mini Shows on DVD and you’ll be able to watch all 15 ‘made for TV’ shows in both languages! In the meantime, catch Sukey’s Circle! on BabyFirstTV on Dish, DirecTV, Comcast, and other cable networks. Click here.
Drum play is inherently a magical activity and seems to attract children young and old. Drum play creates an invitation to touch that allows children to explore sounds and rhythm all on their own. With a little guidance, drums are wonderfully responsive instruments for play and learning, and are very versatile particularly for little hands.
I offer drum activities in my mommy & me and preschool PlayMove&Sing classes, and I include a variety of drum play options for children to try. Children find drumming exciting and satisfying, and I believe it’s in part because they’re able to impact directly on their environment, and receive immediate feedback with instant response.
I invite children while seated to:
Pat the drum with two hands
Rub the drum in circular motions with one hand
Scratch the drum with finger tips
Tap on the drum with pointer fingers
Pat the drum with hands alternating R/L
And while standing to:
Pat the drum while marching in place
Pat the drum while marching around the room
Then seated with mallet to:
Tap the drum with one mallet (or two, one in each hand)
Circle the mallet(s) around the top of the drum in circular motion
Tap the drum with mallet(s) alternating R/L
Turn drum on its side and tap the top with mallet(s)
With drum on its side, tap the side(s) of the drum with mallet(s)
Stand and tap drum on sides or top with mallet(s)
March in place, then march around room tapping side or top of drum
The song melodies I use are taken from Ten Little Indians and Skip to M’Lou. I’ve recorded them as Pat the Ball and Rocking in My Rocking Chair on my CD’s. You’ll simply need to modify the traditional lyrics to direct the drum activity. It’s fun to try! (See lyric recommendations below).
Here’s video clip of a PlayMove&Sing class in Nyack, NY and we’re drumming away. Join us!
Ball play has universal appeal for young children and is a great activity for the developing years. Ball play develops eye-hand and eye-foot coordination, builds steadiness and confidence in the emotions, and develops physical skills to take through life.
Ball skills begin by experimenting with fundamental “lead up” skills to set the groundwork for developing more complex skills later on.
Pre-walking babies can sit and “pat” a ball, and can “track” a rolling ball coming toward them across the floor.
Toddlers can pat a ball, and also spin, roll, toss and kick a ball. They can also toss a ball into a hoop.
Preschoolers can do all the above, and can also bounce a ball, catch it, toss it (at a target or into a hoop), and can even begin to dribble a ball.
In the PlayMove&Sing classes I teach, I include additional (non-traditional) ball play activities to create a special atmosphere of physical fun and discovery.
In addition to:
I invite babies, toddlers and preschoolers to:
Sit and bounce on the ball.
Sit and bounce on the ball while clapping.
Roll on the ball (on tummy) going forward and back.
Hold the ball between feet while lying down with legs lifted overhead.
In the song featured here, Pat the Ball (to the tune of “Ten Little Indians”), the lyrics highlight ball skills to try in rhythm while singing along.
Here’s a video clip of a PlayMove&Sing class in action in Nyack, NY. (ages ___ to ___). We’re singing “Pat the Ball” while doing the actions described by the lyrics.
Each of us has a natural inner rhythm that corresponds to our own sense of personal expression. Young children thrive on connecting that personal sense of rhythm with physical action.
Offering fun objects to make sound with, and to create musical rhythmic patterns, gives valuable learning opportunities for exploration, rhythmic training, and eye-hand coordination. Tapping sticks and spoons together is both fun and instructive. Children love finding lots of ways to maneuver the sticks, and enjoy the freedom to experiment at their own pace while having physical fun.
Here’s a video clip of children (1 ½ – 3 yrs) in a PlayMove&Sing class with me in Nyack, NY. We’re singing If I Had Hands and tapping away. Click here to watch.
To join in the fun, place multiple pairs of wooden “stix” (or spoons) in a basket, pass them out, and watch the fun begin. When adding music, the rhythmic play event takes on a life of its own. Children can be invited to:
tap the stix together
tap them on the floor
tap high in the air
tap gently on the knees
tap gently on the nose
tap while marching
tap while dancing
tap behind the back, and so on
The song featured here, If I Had Hands, is based on the traditional tune “Skip to M’Lou”, and the lyrics have been changed up to create rhythmic training.
begin with wooden dowels (3 ft, 6 ft, or 12 ft lengths)
cut the dowels down into 6 or 7 inch pieces
sand the ends of each stick
paint them (or leave them natural wood)
finish by covering them with a clear, child friendly, non-toxic coating
To make rhythm spoons, purchase plain, inexpensive wooden kitchen spoons, cut the handles down to 4 inches (6 or 7 inch total length with spoon end), paint them (or leave them natural wood), and coat them with a clear, non-toxic finish.
Babies and young children benefit greatly from physical activities that include rocking, swaying, rolling and turning. These physical motions stimulate the vestibular system which is located in the inner ear and is responsible for developing good balance. Children need lots of vestibular stimulation in the developing years, and they naturally enjoy repeating these motions over and over again. The sensation is pleasing and fun!
In the PlayMove&Sing classes I teach, I include songs and movements that offer rocking, swaying, turning, and rolling, along with lots of other motion options, to specifically include vestibular activity. The two songs featured here, Row Row Row Your Boat and Rocking in My Rocking Chair offer circle time lap-sit activities, as well as independent motion activities, and I use traditional melodies that are familiar to all, while changing up the lyrics to highlight the specific physical motions.
As a lap-sit, Row Your Boat and Rocking Chair are sung with baby or toddler seated on adult’s lap, with motions created by the movement of the adult’s legs, and by lifting the child in the air. As seen in the video clip, baby or toddler can also be placed tummy down on adult’s legs/shins (while on your back on the floor), and moving your legs forward, back, up and down.
As an independent activity for 2 ½ – 5 year olds, children sit on the floor rocking forward and back, and then upside down with feet overhead. It’s fun with this age group to sing the songs at different speeds, getting slower and quicker with each run through. It’s also fun to change up the lyrics with Rocking Chair to include bicycle leg motions and other creative body postures. Remember, children love to repeat, repeat, repeat!
Here’s a short video clip from a PlayMove&Sing mommy and me class (ages 1 ½ to 2 ½) at the Rockland County YMCA in NY. In the clip we’re singing Row Row Row Your Boat, followed by Rocking in My Rocking Chair. Sing and move along with us!
Hello Play and Goodbye Play serve an important role in creating special moments for children to connect with one another when gathering together. Special attention given to Greetings and Partings helps to bring a sense of welcome and belonging.
In my classes and performances, I always like to begin events with a special Hello song, accompanied by my hand puppet Sunflower, and Little Flower when singing Goodbye. One day in class, it dawned on me that the children and parents would enjoy having their own puppets to sing along with too, and I now begin and end every class with two baskets full of Sunflowerand Little Flower puppets for everyone to share.
The two songs I sing, Hello Everyone and Goodbye Everyone, are easy to learn, and are designed to include each child’s name as the circle time leader sings around the circle. It’s fun to include a gentle cheek touch from your puppet as you greet each child, and to allow time for children to play with their own puppets before singing. I invite children and parents to move the puppets up and down, side to side, round and round, and behind the back for peek-a-boo.
I first created my Sunflower and Little Flower puppets out of felt, and you can do the same. Simply outline the shape of your hand on paper in order to make the mitt pattern, then sew the two felt sides together, followed by sewing or gluing on faces. You can include petals, and a circle, to go around the faces by cutting shapes and sewing them into the mitt seam. (See patterns below – click to download).
I now make hand puppets for educators, librarians, parents, and children to enjoy in and out of the circle time setting, but I always encourage everyone to try making their own. It makes for a great family or classroom activity.
Here’s a short video clip from a PlayMove&Sing mommy and me class (ages 1 ½ to 2 ½) at the Rockland County YMCA in NY. In the clip, we’re singing Hello Everyone with our puppets, and the class is just getting under way. Sing along with us!