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Rebecca Jane Flanagan

Musical Experiences For Children

Educational Storytelling Incursions for Children

Dynamic Workshops for Educators and Parents



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Children and the Importance of Connecting with Nature

Posted on June 25, 2014 at 2:45 AM Comments comments ()

A creative arts spin on science investigations


As an early childhood advocate, I am particularly passionate about children having the opportunity, extended periods of time and to explore their natural environment. Whether this may be experiences in the garden investigating leaf litter or planting veges, or going on a nature walk to look at the trees and listen to the birds…. it is so important children are actually given the freedom to be in nature, learning about their world, and developing a connection that runs deep.

My favourite learning journeys with children are when we look at plants and animals, in particular insects and mini worlds. To truly take an inquiry approach however, plenty of time must be spent in the “outdoor classroom”, it is pointless to teach about nature using just paper based resources or models. Bringing the outdoors inside can lead to amazing play scenarios, and even better, bringing the inside out means more time in nature for exploration and learning.

Investigating the lifecycle of the butterfly is something I do each year with young children. The learning journey we go on together lends itself to the most engaging and exciting creative learning experiences. Whether it be garden exploration as we go on a bug hunt, looking for caterpillars, butterflies, chrysalis or eggs, or an art response through painting, drawing, sculpting or designing, the learning is rich ad multi-faceted and always directed by the children, in the aspects of the experience that they are most interested in.

“The Very Hungry Caterpillar” by Eric Carle is a firm favourite in classrooms and homes all over the world, and for very good reason! There is so much to take from this wonderful picture book, from sequencing and ordering events, to lifecycle investigations, to discussion about food and sorting. I always start with this story in particular, and move on to non-fiction texts afterwards. The children are very capable of telling the story too! Through play or literacy targeted mat sessions, provide them with props and pictures and they will take the lead!

I always like to incorporate musical experiences in my teaching! Here is a wonderful music and movement activity to try with your children, using colourful sheer scarves.


A Caterpillar Lifecycle" - a musical scarf activity

(Sung to the tune of The Wheels on the bus)

Provide each child with a scarf. The children lay down on their scarves and then wriggle around like caterpillars trying to keep the scarf under them.

Sing: The caterpillars are wriggling all around, all around, all around. The caterpillars are wriggling around, all around the garden.

The children then roll into a ball and cover themselves with their scarf - just their head if the scarves are small)

Sing: The caterpillars are building their cocoon, their cocoon, their cocoon. The caterpillars are building their cocoon and now they're fast asleep, shhhh!

Wait a few moments while the children are very quiet in their cocoons.

Sing: The butterflies are flying high and low, all around, up and down. The butterflies are flying high and low, until they rest on the ground.

Children will be using their scarf to fly like a butterfly all around the room, but at the end have to come and sit down quietly.


“Flight of the Bumblebee" by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov is a fantastic piece of music for getting children up and zooming Boys especially love this one as it is quite fast paced and they often feel like little "superheros" as they act out flying around the indoor or outdoor space whilst listening to the imaginative music. The girls love to take turns wearing a beautiful handmade crown, with natural materials and jewels, as they pretend to be the Queen Bee.

I like to set the scene by talking about bees, and their important job, often turning it into a little story. The children love to discover the bees in the garden in the spring, following our music and movement experience. You can also add shimmering scarves to the experience for the children to use as wings so they can really feel they are taking flight.

If you head to your local farmers market on the weekend you can also pick up fresh honeycomb and dried pollen that the children will marvel at up close. There are plenty of delicious cooking experiences you can do with honey as the focus, and perhaps you can invite a real bee keeper to visit the children to show the special clothing they wear and the slats for the honeycomb in the bee house.

There are so many art experiences relating to flowers you can do with young ones. My students especially love making perfumes and potions with flower petals and essential oils, and using flowers and foliage to make beautiful nature crowns.

Here is a delightful little finger rhyme about bees that children adore…..


“Here is the Bee Hive”

Here is the beehive, where are the bees?

(Hold one hand closed tight and “look” for bees)

Hidden away where nobody sees.

(Try to peek into the hole of the beehive)

Soon they come creeping out of their hive,


(Take fingers out of the closed fist one by one)


(Make all the little fingers fly into the air like little bees)


Exploring famous artworks with children is a wonderful cultural experience. One of my favourite artworks to look at with children is The Snail (or "L'escargot") by Henri Matisse. Matisse is a particular favourite of mine as he was the artist who at the age of 72 became unwell and could not stand to paint for long periods of time, began to "paint with scissors". He would paint large sheets of paper with watercolours and then cut freehanded shapes to create his masterpieces.

This a technique children love to explore, and delight in finding they share a connection with this wonderful artist. The picture book "Snail Trail" by Jo Saxton, is perfect to complement this art study. There is so much you can explore here and by giving children the materials for open ended, unique expression they will be responding and reflecting as they imagine and create.

For a scientific look at snails, why not collect some from the garden and display a observatory snail house in your classroom (you only need a glass tank, some foliage and tray of water). Clipboards with paper and black markers provide a lovely invitation to draw the snails and you can focus on extending vocabulary by using rich, detailed language focused on snails in your discussions with the children.

As you know by now, I love a finger play or two! This little snail rhyme is a perfect accompaniment for your snail investigations!


"The Snail”

Slowly, slowly, very slowly

Creeps the garden snail.

Slowly, slowly, very slowly

Up the wooden rail.

(Creep fingers up your arm)

Silver snail is slowly moving

Up the window pane

He leaves a shiny path behind him

And then comes down again

(Creep fingers up over head and then down again)

Silver snail is never worried

Though he wanders far and wide

For on his back his house he carries

And when he's tired he pops inside.

(Creep fingers back over chest and down arm again. Close hand into a fist at the end)


Enjoy your nature explorations, and don’t forget to take your teaching outside to allow children to really connect with the world around them!



Creative Cooking Capers!

Posted on June 1, 2014 at 11:15 PM Comments comments ()

Cooking is such a fantastic experience to include in your early childhood programs. Mathematical language, science, health and creativity are just few of the benefits that spring to mind, not to mention the pure joy that cooking brings to little ones. Start early and they will develop a life long love of cooking - an essential life skill and definitely a lovely, theraputic activity that so many of us have a great passion for (kids are no exception!)

I was teaching Kindy full-time when Masterchef had just come out, and we had lots of fun in the sandpit, home corner, and with real cooking experiences at least once but often twice a week! Here are 5 of my favourite sing-song action rhymes for cooking experiences. Perfect for making bread (perhaps you are reading The Little Red Hen?) or pancakes (lots of fun to do with beanbags for pancakes!) or cookies and even gingerbread men! :)  Enjoy! xx



The farmer gave us golden grain

For us to grind and grind.

Now it’s flour brown and white,

Soft and very fine.

Add the water, yeast and honey,

Mix it with our hands.

When it’s soft and not too runny

Let it stand and stand.

Shape the dough into a loaf.

Put it in to cook.

When it’s crusty, crisp and brown,

We’ll have a look.

((Children sitting down - actions to match the words))



When I was a farmer, I sowed the wheat, sowed the wheat, sowed the wheat. When I was a farmer I sowed the wheat, sowed the wheat today.

And now the farmer will mow the wheat, mow the wheat, mow the wheat. When I was a farmer I mowed the wheat, mowed the wheat today.

And now the miller will grind the wheat, grind the wheat, grind the wheat. When I was a miller I ground the wheat, ground the wheat today.

And now the baker will stir the bread, stir the bread, stir the bread. When I was a baker I stirred the bread, stirred the bread today.

And now the baker will bake the bread, bake the bread, bake the bread in the big oven. When I was baker I baked the bread, baked the bread today.

And now we all give thanks for the bread, Mm-m-m - delicious!

((Children standing up - actions to match the words))



Mix a pancake,

Stir a pancake,

Pop it in the pan;

Fry the pancake,

Toss the pancake,

Catch it if you can.

((Works well if you give every child a beanbag to throw in the air when you come to the toss the pancake section!))



Five little gingerbread men in a row (5 fingers)

Not going to eat one no, no, no. (shake finger and head side to side)

But they look so sweet from head to toe (point head to toe)

Crunchy, munchy...uh oh! (Rub tummy, then hand to face- uh oh!)

Continue until...

No little gingerbread men in a row

Wasn't going to eat one, no, no, no

But they looked so sweet that it's sad to tell

Crunchy, munchy... oh well! (Hands up in the air)



I am making cookie dough

Round and round the beaters go! (arms go round)

Add some flour from a cup (pretend to pour)

Stir and stir the batter up (pretend to stir)

Roll them, and cut them, nice and neat

(roll hands, pretend to cut)

Put them on a cookie sheet (lay out cookies)

Bake them and count them 123 (count with fingers)

And serve them to your friends with tea!


Posted on May 20, 2014 at 2:15 AM Comments comments ()

Fairies are the magical folk who whisper sweet stories in children's ears as they sleep and leave a trail of sparkle dust as they skip about the garden with trilling laughter and song in their step. I am so lucky to spend most days as a fairy when I visit the darling children whose faces light up with joy and delight when they spy my wand and wings! Here is a collection of some of my favourite fairy rhymes to share with your little ones....

 The "Christmas Tree Fairy" live on stage - Rebecca Jane Flanagan

"If You See A Fairy Ring"

Author Unknown

If you see a fairy ring

In a field of grass,

Very lightly step around,

Tip-Toe as you pass,

Last night Fairies frolicked there

And they're sleeping somewhere near.

If you see a tiny fairy

Lying fast asleep

Shut your eyes

And run away,

Do not stay to peek!

Do not tell

Or you'll break a fairy spell


 Beautful fairy and butterfly wings in a rainbow of colours available in our Web Store

"Fairies in the Garden"

By Faye Gisbon

My garden brings the fairies,

You will never know the hour.

The sun may just be peeping

Past the apple tree in flow'r.

See them? No! But I discern

Pixie clues they leave behind:

The fragrant thyme they danced upon . . .

I am always sure to find

A dewdrop mirror clinging

To a blossom hanging low;

I hear their tinkling laughter

When the breezes softly blow.

Sometimes I think I spy them

Riding on a firefly's back

At dusk above the garden,

But their pathway's hard to track.

Jumping off, hiding themselves

In moss blankets--soft delights--

Their flying steeds unharnessed.

"Go to sleep, my garden sprites."


 Magical wooden fairy houses for wondrous play experiences available in our Web Store

"Sleep Song"

By Steven Kroll

How far and wide the fairies fly

On bright and golden wing.

But when they settle down to sleep

A gentle song they sing

Sweet Queen of Night

Soft silver stars

We're glad you are so near

We seek our beds

We rest our heads

Without a moment's fear

On thistledown

In hidden nooks

We watch the waning light

The joys of sleep

Upon us creep

We wish you all good night


Musical Easter Fun!

Posted on April 7, 2014 at 6:45 PM Comments comments ()

Easter is a magical time of year for little ones. I clearly remember being around 5 or 6 years old and absolutely SURE I saw the Easter Bunny hopping down the street, human sized and wearing a waistcoat and bow tie! Here are some delightful little rhymes, songs and musical experiences to enchant and nurture those beautiful imaginations. Happy Hopping!

Funny Bunny - A Finger Play

(Author Unknown) 

Here is a bunny, with ears so funny (Raise two fingers.)

And here is a hole in the ground. (Make hole with fingers of other hand.)

At the first sound she hears, she pricks up her ears (Straighten fingers.)

And pops right into the ground. (Put fingers in hole.)


I’m An Easter Bunny - An action rhyme

(Author unknown)

I’m an Easter Bunny, watch me hop, (Hop around.)

Here are my two ears, see how they flop. (Hold hands at sides of head and flop them.)

Here is my cotton tail, here is my nose, (Wiggle your hips, then twitch your nose.)

I’m all furry from my head to my toes. (Point to head, then to toes.)

The Bunny Pokey - A festive dance!

You put your bunny ears in, you take your bunny ears out,

You put your bunny ears in and you flop them all about.

You do the Bunny Pokey and you hop around,

That's what it's all about!

Oh the Bunny Pokey! Oh the Bunny Pokey!

Oh the Bunny Pokey! And that's what it's all about!

You put your twitchy nose in....... and twitch it all about!

You put your thumper feet in....... and thump them all about!

You put your cotton tail in.......... and wiggle it all about!

Little Peter Rabbit - An adaptable movement verse

Little Peter Rabbit had a fly upon his nose

Little Peter Rabbit had a fly upon his nose

Little Peter Rabbit had a fly upon his nose

And he flipped it and he flopped it till it flew right away!

Little ______ Rabbit had a fly upon his _____

Little ______ Rabbit had a fly upon his _____

Little ______ Rabbit had a fly upon his _____

And he flipped it and he flopped it till it flew right away!

Sleeping Bunnies - A musical game

Do you know the rhyme "See the Bunnies Sleeping"? It is such a lovely little song. Well what I do is have the children sitting in a circle. One child will be chosen to be the sleeping bunny in the middle, dressed up in their bunny finery! Then we all sing together: "See the bunny sleeping, til it's nearly noon. Shall we wake him with our merry tune?" Then I will choose someone from the circle to sneak forward to the sleeping bunny, tap them gently singing "Oh so still, asleep until...." and scoot back.We will then all call out "Wake up little bunny!"

The child in the middle will have three chances to guess who snuck up on him while he was sleeping! When the children has guessed (or used up his 3 chances) I will say "Time to hop little bunnies!" and all the children will stand in the circle and bounce up and down as we sing "Hop little bunnies hop hop hop, hop hop hop, hop hop hop. Hop little bunnies hop hop hop. Hop hop and stop" and everyone sits down again. Then a new little bunny is chosen. You can change the movements at the end too if you like, you could say "Time to skip little bunnies!" Or trot, or run or tiptoe!

(I bought my bunny set from the Reject Shop for $3)

Musical Eggs - Making percussion instruments
I love stocking up on festive bits and pieces at Easter and Christmas that can be used for wonderful fun and learning long after the festivities have concluded! Take these hollow, "pop open" plastic eggs for example - I'm sure you have seen these all around town and you should snap some up now before they go! They make the most delightful "shaker eggs" by filling them with rice, sealing with tape a...nd then paper mache-ing all over with different coloured tissue papers and a glossy layer of PVA. A perfect percussion instrument that every child can create, perfect for music and movement experiences. You can also make some lovely sensory eggs for little hands to shake and little ears to listen to, identify, and match sounds. Try filling the eggs with bells, little pebbles, sand, even water (seal the eggs securely). Keep them in a woven basket or better yet, in a real egg carton!

Enjoy your music and movement adventures and lots of delicious hot cross buns too!

Happy Easter to you all!

Ballerina Bunny will be sharing enchanting stories and songs in her show "Easter Tales with Ballerina Bunny" all throughout Perth, Western Australia this Easter!

Let's sing a song about colours

Posted on March 26, 2014 at 5:10 AM Comments comments ()

Being both an early childhood teacher and a children's performer means I am very passionate about providing children with the opportunity to engage in rich, meaningful music and movement experiences. I could go on for days about the importance of live singing and real, hands on music interaction, and how I feel the emphasis of ICT and electrical devices in an early childhood setting needs to be greatly reduced if we are to offer children those wonderful multi-sensory experiences.

Now I'm not completely anti-technology for the early years, it really is all about balance. IWBs can fit into an inquiry based program when done thoughtfully and with mindful intent. I've played instrumental music to photography and mini documentaries of incredible scenes of our world and nature up close. I've played classical music set to screen visualisations at quiet reflective time in the afternoons. Every now and then I will play a wonderful musical animation of a favourite storybook to add another layer to the children's learning. A layer upon layer approach can be both spontaneous and intentional, collaborative by following the children's interests, and can take you on a magical journey of discovery.

There is a song on You Tube at the moment that I have heard many teachers play on their IWBs, called "Let's sing a song about colours". It has a delightful folk melody that is lovely to sing and listen to, that's true, but here is my concern - it is very one dimensional, and when teachers press play and let the song sing though every time, well I'm wondering.... "Where is the imput from the child?".

The lyrics, "the grass is green, the pumpkin is orange, the sun is yellow" are sung again and again....but what about when the pumpkin is green or yellow? And what else can be orange??? So I like to sing this song with children, without the IWB, and get them to come up with their own ideas! The most amazing discussions stem from it, about colours, nature, comparing and reflecting, because the experience involves questions for the children to ponder and wonder. You can go really deep into exploring shades of colour and see where the children's investigations takes you!

My point is, an IWB or an iPad is just a tool. Use it sparingly, as an aide, because YOU are the most amazing resource. And when you combine that with the children's imaginations?..... Well that is when the real magic happens!

Rebecca xox

March 20th ~ The Very Hungry Caterpillar Day!

Posted on March 16, 2014 at 8:45 PM Comments comments ()

Many would say "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" is THE most loved picture book in the world, and I think I may have to agree! That marvellous munching Mr Caterpillar will be chewing his way through lots of wonderful activities and events with children all around the world, with the happy day ~March 20th~ being The Very Hungry Caterpillar Day! 

I always like to bring music and movement into my early childhood teaching programs. I have some gorgeous little rhymes and action songs about butterflies and caterpillars on my new double CD audio resource (brilliant to be able to hear the melody and then have the actions, lyrics and complementing learning experiences written in the songbook - available for purchase in my Web Store), but I have such a big repertoire of sweet little rhymes and finger plays, I will share some of my favourites with you now!

"The Fuzzy Caterpillar" - a rhyming fingerplay
(to the tune of Incy Wincy Spider)

The fuzzy caterpillar
Curled upon a leaf,
(*finger draws a little circle on palm of opposite hand)
Spun her little chrysalis
And then fell asleep.
(*two little pointer fingers spinning around and around)
While she was sleeping,
She dreamed that she could fly,
(*pretend to be asleep)
And later when she woke up
She was a butterfly!
(*little hands turn into a butterfly flying high)


"A Caterpillar Lifecycle" - a musical scarf activity

(to the tune of The Wheels on the bus) 

Provide each child with a scarf. The children lay down on their scarves and then wriggle around like caterpillars trying to keep the scarf under them.    

Sing: The caterpillars are wriggling all around, all around, all around. The caterpillars are wriggling around, all around the garden.

The children then roll into a ball and cover themselves with their scarf - just their head if the scarves are small)

Sing: The caterpillars are building their cocoon, their cocoon, their cocoon. The caterpillars are building their cocoon and now they're fast asleep, shhhh!

Wait a few moments while the children are very quiet in their cocoons.

Sing: The butterflies are flying high and low, all around, up and down. The butterflies are flying high and low, until they rest on the ground.

Children will be using their scarf to fly like a butterfly all around the room, but at the end have to come and sit down quietly.


"Roly-poly caterpillar" - an action rhyme

Roly-poly caterpillar

(wiggle right pointer finger)

Into a corner crept,

(crawl finger up yor arm into your elbow nook)

Spun around himself a blanket

(spin your body around)

Then for a long time slept.

(go into a ball and place head on folded hands)

Roly-poly caterpillar

(hold out and wiggle right pointer finger)

Wakening by and by,

(wake up and stretch)

Found himself with beautiful wings

Changed to a butterfly.

(flutter arms like wings)


"The fuzzy caterpillar"  - a story to tell with finger and hand movements

Once there was a caterpillar fuzzy as could be,

He ate and ate and ate all the new, green leaves.

(wiggle finger with a pipecleaner attached to show his "feelers")

And when he was finished and could eat no more,

He made himself a chrysalis that didn't have a door.

(hid him inside your hand)

While inside this chrysalis, he began to change,

The fuzzy caterpillar would never be the same.

(wiggle the finger in the hand)

After seven days, he broke out and my oh my,

The caterpillar he had been was now a butterfly.

(turn hands into a butterfly)


"Little Caterpillar" - a story to use with a miniworld set up

(props and puppets are lovely with this story)

The little caterpillar crawled up into a tree,

Spun his cocoon and slept so quietly,

All through the winter he didn't make a sound,

He dreamt of his new life when he'd be flying all around.

While he was sleeping the snow did gently fall,

Winter came and went, then he heard the robin's call,

Come on Mr. Butterfly, out of your cocoon

Spread your wings and fly for me, while I sing my tune.

(use a little bird whistle here if you have one!)

<3 Rebecca xox


Posted on March 8, 2014 at 10:45 AM Comments comments ()



I believe very strongly in the magic of books and illustrations, but I also believe just as strongly in the power of storytelling - a story from the mouth (and heart !) I almost always use props when storytelling (if not props, then the use of body actions, voices and facial expressions). The best ideas I have come across for storytelling are these:


★ A storytelling apron with lots of little trinkets inside each pocket to spark the imagination and the creation of a new (or well loved) story.

★ Lighting a candle to set the scene for a enchanted atmosphere. Singing a little rhyme or using a chime or windpipe adds to the magic!

★ Start with classic tales and stories from your childhood that you know back to front so that you can focus on your storytelling skills rather than remembering the words to the story.

★ Waldorf texts are a brilliant resource for giving you story ideas (they always focus on stories from each season and include nature as well as magical elements)

★ Keep props in your storybook area so that the children can play with them - a storytelling basket is a fabulous resource that you can collect or make little props for stories the children already know (ie Jack and the Beanstalk, The Gingerbread Man, The Little Red Hen), as well as creative made up stories too.



I often talk to teachers and parents who ask me, "How do you go about creating stories to tell, if you are not reading them from books?" and another one, "How do you remember all the stories?"


Picture books and classics are wonderful stories to start off with when you are storytelling. By choosing one you know really well you will have the confidence to put down the book, and then use your facial expressions, gestures and body movements, tone and volume in your voice to help "paint a picture" in the children's imaginations. I always break up the stories I tell into little segments and this is an easy way to remember the words. For example, "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" can be broken up into:


1 - First two pages (popping out from the egg - I like to use hand actions to show the little caterpillar wiggling on my hand)

2 - Days of the week and fruit (counting, hold up fingers - children love to help in this part!)

3 - Long list of food (use little props to help you! I have a lovely printed artwork of all the food in this section that you can point to as you say it)

4 - Spinning a cocoon (I use movement here, the children spin their cocoons and go to sleep)

5 - Butterfly (I use hand movements and then sing a lovely butterfly song "Flutter Butterfly" - one of the tracks on my CD!) ♪♫




I always use little songs and rhymes if I can, within the story, to give it the added element of music and movement. Props are wonderful to both help you to remember sections, and to give a little visual treat, complimenting the illustrations they have created in their mind. Children love to hear favourite stories over and over, so don't worry if you only have a handful of stories in your storytelling repertoire! repetition is vital for language development, and the more you tell these stories, the more the children will get out of them and be able to play bigger roles. They will even begin to role play the stories without you during play experiences - so make sure you have some little open ended props available for them.


As for making up your own stories, well that is where your amazing creativity can take flight! I have a selection of stories I have made up and acted out with children over the years, some have been sparked by other stories or rhymes, some by nature, some by little moral tales I would like to introduce to support social and emotional development. But my all time favourite thing to do is see where the children's interests are at and make up a story on the spot for them!




This week I went into the Pre Primary class I look after for half a day, armed with a big stuffed dolphin "Diamond Dust", some little jewels wrapped in shimmering blue fabric, and some long lengths of fabric and ribbon for mermaid and mermen tails. I told a story about a lonely dolphin prince who lived in the crystal river where the water sparkles. Many of the children were sure they had seen him ~♥~ I focused on the dolphin's heart as his most precious gift, and little comments were flying all around from the children "I would be his friend!" "I want the mermaids to play with him". I will incorporate little bits and pieces from their comments during the story so they feel connected and thrilled they have the magic in them to be part of the story!


Try some storytelling today, I just know you will love it as much as the children in your care!


Rebecca xox