Musicianship Games to Challenge Your Brains!
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Simple Games for Beginners or Young Children
SO = Used in Singing Out! sessions in ELC primary schools.
Moderate Difficulty for All Ages
Activity of the Week for P1-P3 (ages 4-8)
Brain Boggler Challenge (ages 9-99)
Have You Ever, Ever, Ever?
For this game you will need a partner and if possible a musical instrument. If you don’t have either then you can play along with me. I have recorded two versions of the game. For the first game, we sing the song and then the children have to count how many beats I play on my drum (you, or a child can take over as the drummer once you know the song). For the second game, we sing the song and then I play a rhythm which you copy on your own instrument or by clapping. For larger groups, the children can take it in turns to be the drummer, whichever version of the game you try. You can also play this as a circle game. The children sit in a circle with their eyes closed and the drummer walks round the circle behind the children as everyone sings. When the song stops, the drummer stops behind the person they are closest to. They sing “who can it be?” in any tune they like, and the child who thinks the drummer is behind them, sings back “I think it’s me!”.
For more songs and games check out https://www.mcmillanyoungmusicians.co.uk/ A guessing game song. You will need a selection of toys and a scarf or teatowel with which to hide one of the toys. We sing the song, then you hide one of the toys and your child has to guess who is missing. This can be played in larger groups by hiding a child (if you have a larger sheet or parachute). If you’re at home then you can just join in with me and my toys. Have fun!
Fuzzy wuzzy wasn’t really fuzzy was ‘e? This tongue twister guessing game can be played in two ways:
1. Circle game for a large group. Ask a guesser to go into the middle and to close their eyes. Sing the song whilst you give out two instruments. if you don;t have instruments just choose two children to clap their hands. Follow the video to learn the song and ask for the children to play or clap in turn in the two gaps in the song. All the children then hide their hands behind their backs. The guesser opens their eyes and has to decide which two children made the sounds based on the direction of the sound.
2. Individual game (requires an adult to help). Choose a selection of instruments or items that make a sound. Depending on the age and stage of the child you can either show them the choice of items first or not. Then choose one item to tap in the gaps in the song (watch the video to see what I mean). The child has to tell you which instrument or item you used. You can swap over and let them play whilst you guess.
This is really fun. It’s a fairly simple (!) boggler of a co-ordination game and involves using our thinking voices as an extension to the game. It can be played individually but is fun in a group, simply because we can all have a chuckle at each other when it invariably goes wrong! Press play and see how you get on!
This can be played individually or as a circle game. You’ll need a small (tennis) ball if you’re on your own or a larger one for the group game. Watch the video for the actions, and for the variations to challenge you. For the circle/group game, the ball gets passed around in time to the rhyme (one pass per beat). Whoever is holding the ball on the word “Moses” must sit down. They are now out so the ball gets passed by them (thrown over their head) as the game continues. The word Moses appears three times in the rhyme, so with each round three children will have to sit down. Keep repeating the rhyme until only one person is left standing (the winner). It becomes a catching game as more children are out. Challenge the children by speeding up the rhyme – can they still pass the ball in time? Also, you can tell them to put the word Moses into their thinking voices.
Bim Bom Biri Partner Game- Challenging!
This is the final challenge in the Bim Bom Biri trio. You will need four cups and a partner. It’s pretty challenging so please make sure that you have watched the Bim Bom Biri Clapping video to learn the song and then the Bim Bom Biri individual cup game video to learn the cup patterns. Have fun and don’t worry if you go wrong (a lot!!).
Bim Bom Biri Cup Game - Moderate for One Player
This is the second challenge in the Bim Bom Biri trio. You will need two cups. I’ve classed this as being a mdoerate challenge, but it still might take a while to get the hang of it, see what you think!. Make sure you’ve watched the Bim Bom Biri Clapping video (from the simple games selection) to learn the song first! Once you’ve cracked this try the partner game found in the challenging games section! Have fun!
Bim Bom Biri Clapping Game - Easy
There are three versions of this song. This video teaches the song and is a simple clapping game. The next step up is a solo game using two cups, and the final challenge uses four cups and you’ll need a partner. All three are recorded separately so that you can gradullay work your way through them. Have fun!
A speaking voice rhyme and a game of copy cat. Find a partner and ask them to copy your every move like a shadow. Then swap so that you can copy them! You can also play this in a larger group. Stand in a circle and have one person as the guesser standing in the middle. The teacher chooses a leader (without the guesser seeing who it is) and then the group has to copy the leader. The guesser has to decide who is starting off each movement by watching the shadows carefully.
Bubblegum (with actions or with sticks)
A speaking voice rhyme with actions.
Good for co-ordination, and also using our “thinking voice”. This helps us to learn to keep time by challenging us to keep the words going in our heads even we’re not saying them out loud. We have fun with this one and get faster each time then finish by putting the whole rhyme into our thinking voices. Watch this video first if you don’t know the rhyme.
Please see also the “stick game” version. You’ll need a partner and a pair of claves or wooden spoons for this one.
Bubblegum (with actions)
This is a speaking voice rhyme. Good for encouraging children to walk / perform actions in time to a beat or pulse. It can be used as a creeping song to walk quietly from place to place, as a game of stop/start musical statues or as a circle guessing game. For the guessing game you need a set of jingle bells or rattle – something that is hard to move without making a sound. A guesser goes into the middle with their eyes shut, and as the class recites the rhyme, one child is chosen to creep in, steal the bells and return to their place. Everyone should hide their hands behind their backs and the guesser has to guess who took the bells by using their listening skills and identifying in which direction the sound of the bells went.
This game is a firm favourite with larger groups of children, and it can be played with social distancing if you sit in a circle leaving suitable spaces between participants. Watch the video to learn the song. Players are out if: 1. They “pass” back to the person who has just passed to them. 2. They miss a beat (their own name should be on the pat of the knees and the person they are passing to should be spoken on the click of the fingers). 3. They hesitate and therefore miss a beat. 4. They get their own name wrong (believe me it does happen!). Each time someone is out, the game starts again. The song is sung again, and the person who leads and goes first is the person who passed to the one who just got out. To make it more challenging as the players get better you can speed the game up….good luck!
Sailor, Sailor on the Sea
This is a great game to use in class for topics or for number/maths. Or a parent could play easily with child and you take it in turns to be the describer. You will need a treasure chest (or opaque tub/box) and items to go inside that your children can describe. Use this video to learn the song (you can fast forward to 4mins 25secs if you just want help singing without any of the instructions). The game goes as follows. The “describer” peeps inside the box to see the treasure. Everyone sings the song and then the describer gives one clue as to what is inside. Select one person to have a guess – if they get it wrong everyone sings the song again and then the describer gives abother clue, and someone else gets a guess. This continues until there’s been a correct guess. For number, you can put some gold coins inside or a piece of paper with a number written on it. The describer has to describe the number of coins/on the card. For example if the number inside the box is 12 they might say “it’s larger than 8 but lower than 15”. Or, “it’s two times six,” or “it’s five plus seven”.
This is an individual challenge and you’ll need a ball, roughly the size of a tennis ball. Once you have mastered the game, try going faster and faster. As an extension, you can try only having 7 beats or passes between rounds, then 6 then 5, 4, 3, 2, & 1 !
Chumbara Cup Game for One Player
This is a mderately challenging cup game for one person. Take it slowly and replay as many times as you need to iuntil you’ve got the hang of it. Then, you can find the Chumbara Partner cup game in the more challenging games section. Grab a partner and give it a go!!
Chumbara Cup Game - Partner Game
This is a challenging cup game for two people. It would be a good idea to learn the song and the actions first as an individual game – checkout the moderate games section to find the video tutorial. Once you’ve mastered the solo version, grab a partner, two more cups and give it a go!
A Sailor Went to Sea, Sea, Sea
A fun variation on this well known song. You will need a partner for this one, and we’ll be using our thinking voices as well. We show each variation just once, so please pause the video if you would like to practise more in between each development.
Chop Chop Choppity Chop
A great game to practise both keeping the beat AND rhythm.
You will need a bowl, some fruit or veg (or pictures) and optional claves/wooden spoons/sticks. This is a fun activity for healthy eating topics and also you can make a witches’ brew at Halloween. Just substitute apples and pears for bats and spiders (but not real ones!!).
Just press play and I’ll teach the songs for you, then once you’ve got the hang of it, you can switch me off and let the children take over!
Hot Cross Buns
A simple clapping game aimed at P1-P3 children. It can be performed individually but is better in pairs and ideally in a circle as we try to demonstrate in this video. Pause the video if you find a variation you like you like and sing it yourselves as many times as you wish.
London Bridge is Falling Down
This is a real brain buster! Another twist on a well known song. The easiest way to get the hang of this is to watch the video and pause it as much as you need to until you get to know it. In short, we remove all the rhythm from the song and then clap our hands after all the two syllable words and a stamp after all those with one syllable! It can also be played as a sitting circle game. Each player only sings one syllable, even if this means splitting words across two players. If a player speaks either a single syllable word or the final syllable of a word, they also have to clap their hands after they have spoken.
Dong Dong Diggy
This game involves a “seeker” who has to search for a hidden cat and is guided by the group’s singing. The group sings louder when the seeker is close to the hidden cat, and more quietly when they move further away. You’ll need a toy cat, a large space and preferably lots of cushions, jumper, boxes that could be possible hiding places. It works equally well in a group or just with two of you. We’ve tried our best to demonstrate within the confines of the space that my camera could film – use your imagination as best you can and have fun!
Bounce High, Bounce Low
This game is for a larger group of children. There are three variations shown in this video, each gets progessively harder. The song itself is quick to learn but you’ll need a ball and if the children are young, catching (and keeping in time) can be the most difficult part of the game. This would be a good game for P.E. class as you’ll need some space.
This is a great game for a large group to play at circle time. Two people can play it too though. Choose a category and then think of as many things within that category as you can and take it in turns to call them out. The smaller the group, the harder it is as each person has to think of more examples! You can play it as a competition with players going “out” if they hesitate, lose their timing (i.e. say their answer at the wrong time whilst performing the actions) or repeat an answer that has been already. Or, you can just concentrate on encouraging the children to think of items within the catgeory and not worry about hesitation etc. If you choose the latter, make sure someone with a strong sense of the beat keeps the clapping pattern going, regardless of what esle is happening!
Bim Bom Biddy Partner Clapping Game
This is a great clapping game for two people. There are only three words, bim, bom and biddy, and each one has an associated action. The tricky bit is learning whichorder in which to sing them! However, the actions look more complicated than they actually are, so once you’ve got it it’s a good one for impressing your friends!
Senua De Dende Individual Body Percussion
This is a lovely little tune and sounds wonderful when sung and performed in a round with or without actions. As an individual game, it really challenges the brain as there are clapping actions as well as a walking pattern, and the two are quite hard to put together. It certainly took me a few goes to master it.
A spoken rhyme that really challenges you to remember words. It’s a bit of a tongue twister with actions thrown in. No special instructions. Press play and learn the rhyme with me. Pause the video as often as you need to until you’ve got the hang of it.
A warm up & welcome song. Great for starting circle time. Focus the children’s attention by changing the action you perform each time you sing the song. Can they keep up? At the end you can choose to go round the room one by one asking them to sing their name. Try to encourage beat keeping whilst this happens – best to pat your knees or clap your hands as this requires the least concentration allowing them to focus on singing their names.
Aye, Aye, Aye Goodbye
A goodbye song. This is a clapping song when used for individuals and a circle game for a larger group. For a larger group, everyone should stand in one circle and turn to face a partner so that the children face alternately clockwise and anticlockwise. Everyone should perform the song, but as you wave goodbye, everyone takes a few steps forward past their partner. They should find another partner coming towards them the opposite way around the circle and so the song can start again. The trick is to make sure the children NEVER turn around, they should keep facing the same way (either clock or anticlockwise) round the circle at all times. Can they all get back to their partner at the same time?? It’s harder than you might think. Stick with it though, once they get it they love it – and it is achievable with classes as young as P1.
Row, Row, Row Your Boat
This is a fun twist on a well known song. . It’s good for co-ordination and can be done individually. It can also be sung as a round, in two groups (with the second group starting half way through) or in four groups with a new group starting after the end of each line.
This game can be done individually or with a partner using a tennis ball (you can share the ball and take it in turns or you can have two and swap). It also works well in a larger group with one or more football sized balls that get passed around the circle from person to person in time with the beat.
Donkeys Are in Love with Carrots
This can be done individually or as a group. You’ll need either a tennis ball or a football sized ball. To play this as a circle game with a larger group, give the ball to one child and perform the actions as follows: “Donkeys are in love with carrots” child with the ball does bounce, catch, bounce, catch “Carrots aren’t in love at all” ball gets passed round the circle for four passes to the beat. “Heave ho, heave ho” the child now holding the ball throws the ball up and ctaches it twice. “Listen to that loving call” the child who threw the ball walks over to another child and gives them the ball to start the song again. You can make this more challenging by adding more balls into the circle.
Go Round the Mountain
This is a stick passing game. Each player will need two drumsticks, claves or even wooden spoons. In this video we demonstrate the two player game, but it can also be played in a larger group where the sticks are passed around the circle instead of back and forth between partners.
Reuben, Reuben Moderate Body Percussion Game
This is an individual clapping game and the challenge with this one is putting a 5 beat clapping pattern across a 4/4 song. You have to be able to count in your head whilst performing the actions and singing. Once you have this one mastered, try the harder version from challenging games section and look for the next level up. Another proper brain boggler!
Reuben, Reuben Challenging Body Percussion Game
This is the advanced version of the game. Please watch this video from the moderate section to learn the song first. For this version we put an irregular clapping pattern over the regular 4/4 feel of the song. You have to be able to count backwards then forwards in your head whilst you perform the series of actions and sing the song.