This month I thought we could take a slight detour on the skills and benefits to improve little one’s musical experience and use it all to have a little fun!

During my years of delivering music in different venues, some groups have preferred a more traditional list of songs, whilst others have wanted easier tunes that have had words (lyrics) changed to suit the occasion. There will be those who feel that there are enough old and new Christmas songs to warrant that lyrics need not be changed. After all, we already have “Away In A Manger”, “All I Want For Christmas (is my two front teeth)”, “Frosty The Snowman”, “Twelve Days of Christmas”, “Here Comes Santa Claus”, “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town”! A closer look at these songs shows that these can be really tricky for littlies, either because there are many notes close together, or because the range between the lowest and highest notes is too large for new singers. Being a pragmatist, I have had situations where singing Christmas words to familiar tunes (melodies) has been the best option, improving confidence of both parents and littlies, and giving families practical, interactive ideas to take home and use.

Because of this experience, I personally feel that both traditional and new, purpose-written or re-written songs have their place in the Christmas season. And depending on child experience and family preference, all of these songs may be suitable at any age. If, for example, family gatherings usually involve everyone bringing or picking up the nearest instrument, along with a makeshift choir of 4-part harmonies, it is likely that you will have quite a long list of have-to-sing songs. If a background CD/playlist is your more usual pace, you may like to start with these fun numbers. Here is my Top Ten list of Children’s Favourite Christmas Songs! (My complete Top 25 List of Songs is also available on YouTube, on the Musicaliti channel!).

10 Twinkle, Twinkle (Christmas changes)

At number 10, this is a lovely little song to sing with the lights off and a tiny torch light to follow on the ceiling.

Twinkle, twinkle, Christmas star
How I wonder what you are
Shining high up in the sky
Show the shepherds where Christ lies
Twinkle, twinkle, Christmas star
How I wonder what you are

9  Reindeer Cokey

This is a great movement song to either start or end a festive party. The Reindeer Cokey uses reindeer body parts (hands stuck out like antlers on your head etc.), and also develops the musical ideas of diminuendo (getting smaller) and crescendo (getting bigger) as the circle moves in and out in the chorus.

You put your antlers in, you put your antlers out
You put your antlers in, and you shake them all about
You do the Reindeer Cokey and you turn around
That’s what it’s all about

Oh, Reindeer Hokey Cokey,
Oh, Reindeer Hokey Cokey
Oh, Reindeer Hokey Cokey
Knees bent, arms stretched, raa, raa, raa!

You put your hooves in…
You put your fluffy tail in…
You put your reindeer body in…

8  Guess Who? (Mary Had A Little Lamb)

This is a great song to sing with a picture or toy Santa. Use scarves or hide him behind your back as you sing the tune, and uncover or bring him out for the last line!

Guess whose beard is long and white?
Long and white, long and white?
Guess whose beard is long and white?
It’s Father Christmas!

Guess whose suit is red and white?
Red and white, red and white?
Guess whose suit is red and white?
It’s Father Christmas!

Guess who comes on Christmas Eve?
Christmas Eve, Christmas Eve?
Guess who comes on Christmas Eve?
It’s Father Christmas!

7  Are You Sleeping? (Frere Jacques / Where Is Thumbkin?)

There are a few Christmassy variations of this old traditional tune that range from bell accompaniment to peekaboo scarf or puppet play! Anticipation is a common technique used in music that helps to keep the audience interested whilst telling the story of the song.

Are you sleeping? No more peeking
Or I’ll tell, or I’ll tell
Santa Claus is coming, Santa Claus is coming
Hear his bells, hear his bells

Where is Santa? Where is Santa?
Here I am, here I am
Merry, merry Christmas
Merry, merry Christmas
Ho ho ho! Ho ho ho!

Santa’s coming, Santa’s coming
Sleigh bells ring, sleigh bells ring
It is Christmas eve, it is Christmas eve
Ding, ding, dong, ding, ding, dong

Father Christmas, Father Christmas
He got stuck, he got stuck
Coming down the chimney, coming down the chimney
What bad luck, what bad luck

6  Santa (She’ll Be Coming ‘Round The Mountain)

The original tune is so familiar that this will be a great sing-a-long tune, mainly because of the repetition. The health benefits of singing together are becoming more and more well-known, meaning that this will more than likely be an easy hit number!

He’ll be driving nine brown reindeer when he comes
He’ll be driving nine brown reindeer when he comes
He’ll be driving nine brown reindeer, driving nine brown reindeer
Driving nine brown reindeer when he comes

Singing ho-ho! Merry Christmas all!
Singing ho-ho! Merry Christmas all!
Singing Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas

He’ll be piled up with presents when he comes …

We will ring those Christmas bells so loud and clear …

We will ring those Christmas bells so quietly …

We will ring those Christmas bells so fast and loud …

5  The Lights On The Tree (Wheels On The Bus)

This old favourite also allows children to “practise” the excitement of Christmas day, while also allowing for new verses to be invented.

The lights on the tree go blink, blink, blink … all Christmas day

The presents at the house go rattle, rattle, rattle … all Christmas day

The mum at the house goes bake, bake, bake … all Christmas day

The dad at the house goes snore, snore, snore … all Christmas day

The grandma at the house goes hug, hug, hug … all Christmas day

The grandad at the house goes kiss, kiss, kiss … all Christmas day

4  Father Christmas Land

This is THE song that I end all my sessions on because of the way it goes down so well. As a circle dance, it is interactive and engaging, whilst using considerable repetition so that even if it is a new song, it is easily learnt. Actions may be changed to be more appropriate to the group, e.g. older children may prefer disco land, break dance land, Pokémon land etc.

I travelled far across the sea
When Father Christmas came to me
“Ho, ho,” he said, “where do you live?”
And this is what he told me,
Come with me to clapping land, clapping land, clapping land
All who want to live with me, come with me to clapping land

Come with me to stamping land, stamping land, stamping land …

Come with me to jumping land, jumping land, jumping land …

Come with me to twirling land, twirling land, twirling land …

Come with me to tickling land, tickling land, tickling land …

3  When Santa Got Stuck Up the Chimney

Despite being a fairly tricky tune (many notes close together, wide variety between the lowest and highest notes), this very popular Christmas song is a great favourite with children and nurseries alike!

When Santa got stuck up the chimney
He began to shout
You girls and boys won’t get any toys
Until you pull me out
My beard is black, there’s soot on my sack
My nose is tingly too
When Santa got stuck up the chimney

2  Jingle Bells

It was tricky to choose a number one, as Jingle Bells is known and loved far and wide, but reluctantly, we settled on this in the number 2 spot.

Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way
Oh, what fun it is to ride
On a one-horse open sleigh, hey

Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way
Oh, what fun it is to ride
On a one-horse open sleigh!

1  Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer

And the number one favourite of all children’s Christmas songs has to be …

You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen
Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen
But do you recall the most famous reindeer of all?

Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer
Had a very shiny nose
And if you ever saw it
You would even say it glows

All of the other reindeer
Used to laugh and call him names

They never let poor Rudolph
Play in any reindeer games

Then one foggy Christmas Eve
Santa came to say,
“Rudolph with your nose so bright
Won’t you guide my sleigh tonight?”

Then all the reindeer loved him
And they shouted out with glee,
“Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer
You’ll go down in history!”


About the author

Frances Turnbull

Frances Turnbull

Musician, researcher and author, Frances Turnbull, is a self-taught guitarist who has played contemporary and community music from the age of 12. She delivers music sessions to the early years and KS1. Trained in the music education techniques of Kodály (specialist singing), Dalcroze (specialist movement) and Orff (specialist percussion instruments), she has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology (Open University) and a Master’s degree in Education (University of Cambridge). She runs a local community choir, the Bolton Warblers, and delivers the Sound Sense initiative aiming for “A choir in every care home” within local care and residential homes, supporting health and wellbeing through her community interest company.

She has represented the early years music community at the House of Commons, advocating for recognition for early years music educators, and her table of progressive music skills for under 7s features in her curriculum books.

Frances is the author of “Learning with Music: Games and Activities for the Early Years“ “Learning with Music: Games and Activities for the Early Years“, published by Routledge, August 2017.

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