Saturday, December 21, 2013

Theme of the Week: Ukulele Christmas

 Sorry, I know that Christmas programs are over and done, but I wanted this up for my own records and perhaps to give others inspiration for next year!

I missed a lot of programs in November/December because my mom is seriously ill and I've been shuttling back and forth between home and my other home in NYC. It left me no time to plan any sort of toddler version of the "Nutcracker" program I do for the two and up crowd.

But I had all these great new toddler safe rhythm instruments:

 I had two great books--one being a perfect toddler holiday book, the other not aimed at toddlers, but a song that my own daughter used to love me to sing to her when she was a toddler. (Alas, she is now almost 19!).

AND I had my ukulele, which I've just been starting to play in programs.

With these, plus some help from the Internet for song chords, I was set:

. When SC was almost 2, she insisted that I sing this song at bedtime. Every night. For about 5 months AFTER Christmas. True story.
She also liked "Chanukkah, O,Chanukkah", which I sang in both English and Yiddish!

So I know that this song is toddler friendly. And the big colorful illustrations here, complete with a fabulous fold out of Santa's sleigh and reindeer, are excellent for using with a group. The grownups actually sing along for this one!
(There is an opening stanza that you can just recite and the same goes for the middle section with the fold out. I like to sing the end lines of each of those parts. Try it in advance and see what works for you!)

Then it was time to get out the animal bells, and dance to "Jingle Bell Rock".  I have a friend who HATES this song, but it's a great dance tune. I downloaded a version by kids musician Joe Scruggs, which has a nice big band feel to it, which made it great for dancing a small child around the room. Lots of other versions to choose though--pick a favorite.

Time to take a break and sit down and read this book. Smee's "Clip Clop" is a favorite to use at toddler programs because its action invites the parents to join in, bouncing their kids. This does the same thing, only with sledding and shaking the bells.

We weren't done with the bells yet, because now the ukulele came out, and everyone sang along to "Jingle Bells". The chords for this are very basic and simple--if you are learning ukulele, the basic chords for most children's songs are C,F and G/G7.  The only additional chords here are D7 and C7, which are easy to learn.

We ended with another uke song, "We Wish You A Merry Christmas".  This has a few more chords, but I kind of like doing that E7, it makes me feel skilled!
BTW, unless you've got a skilled musician in the crowd, no one will notice if you botch chords. And I had the additional luck to have one of my littles putting his fingers on the uke just as I DID hit a wrong chord. Because of him, no one noticed....

I have always sung this at the Christmas program and added verses like "We'll all do a little clapping"
and "We'll all do a little hugging," but the uke inspired me, and we added a verse where we rang the bells and another where we shook the shakers. I considered adding waving scarves too, but decided what we were doing was enough. But I may try that next year.

All in all, it was a nice little program and there will be more uke in my future programs!

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