Spring is a lovely time to celebrate new life in nature! It is no wonder that so many religions and cultures have traditions that honour this natural display of hope and promise in the world. We end this article with 5 children’s songs about flowers, with links to YouTube, as well as suggestions of games to play. But let’s start by looking at the research on nature-based early learning, and how settings can develop this more.

Researchers in Scotland (Zucca et al., 2023) looked at different countries’ approaches at outdoor learning. From Norway to USA and Australia, settings were considered and analysed as a complex system with multiple factors. They found that when early years educators consider using outdoor learnings spaces, these factors impacted its success:

  1. Affordability of outdoor ELC
  2. Children’s play and learning experiences outdoors
  3. Collaborating to agreed vision
  4. Educator/child relationship
  5. Formal capacity building and release
  6. Informal capacity building and release
  7. Parental choice
  8. Parental ‘outdoorsiness’
  9. Practice of nature-based ELC 1
  10. Practice of nature-based ELC 2
  11. Risks and benefits; and
  12. Weather

From there, researchers identified the following 6 factors that, with the right investment, could improve nature-based outdoor play and learning:

  1. Use of outdoor space: Thinking about or finding examples of best practice on practical items like the inclusion of trees (upright and fallen), shrubbery, flowers, grasses, mixed terrain, water availability, and risk exposure.
  2. Culture of being outdoors: Specific and/or increased training and practical experience to improve staff confidence in developing a culture focused on outdoor play.
  3. ELC culture of outdoor play: Improving or identifying high quality educational training, whilst allowing for the unpredictability of weather.
  4. Perceived child safety and enjoyment: Appropriate and accessible outdoor equipment should be made available as items that keep children safe and also allowing for sufficient exposure to risk.
  5. Educator confidence: Formal recognition of training would allow educators to be more confident in delivery, developing knowledge and motivation through training opportunities, immersion, and feedback on practice.
  6. Educator agency: Building educator confidence through knowledge and motivation develops educator agency, which can be promoted through cascading learning to others.

    With these ideas in mind, here are a few musical games about flowers that would be lovely to sing and play outdoors:

Ring a ring a roses

Ring a ring a roses
A pocket full of posies
A-tish-oo, a-tish-oo
We all fall down

Fishes in the water
Fishes in the sea
We all jump up with a

This old traditional has children holding hands in a circle and walking together, pretending to sneeze at the lines, “a-tish-oo”, and then falling down. The additional “fishes in the water” has become a popular addition to get children back up and playing the game all over again!

All around the buttercup

All around the buttercup
One, two, three
If you want an awesome friend
Just choose me

This circle song/game can be played in two ways. The first is the traditional “catch” game, where children sit in a circle, the one who is “on” or “it” walks around as the children sing, and then taps someone on the last line for a chase.

The other is for slightly older children, with the children divided into two groups. One group forms an outer circle and the other forms the inner circle – and both walk in opposite directions. Both groups stop walking on the last line, to face the person in the opposite circle, so that all have partners.

Mary, Mary

Mary, Mary quite contrary
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells and cockle shells
And pretty maids all in a row

This little tune has a dark background based on Mary Tudor, or Bloody Mary, https://www.rhymes.org.uk/mary_mary_quite_contrary.htm, but it could be used for instrument play. The regular beat could be used for instruments with long sounds by metal or string instruments like triangles, cymbals, bells or ukuleles. The quicker rhythm could be matched by short sounds by wood or “skin” instruments like drums, or tapping instruments like claves, castanets or egg shakers.

Here we go round the mulberry bush

Here we go round the mulberry bush
The mulberry bush, the mulberry bush
Here we go round the mulberry bush
So early in the morning

This is the way we comb our hair
Comb our hair, comb our hair
This is the way we comb our hair
So early in the morning

This lovely traditional circle song reinforces self care routines. Children hold hands and walk in a circle for the first verse and could stop or change direction for the action verses. This is a great opportunity to give all children a turn at contributing to the song by thinking of something to add: brush teeth, wash face, put on shoes etc.

Daisy, Daisy

Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer, do
I’m half crazy, all for the love of you
It won’t be a stylish marriage
I can’t afford a carriage
But you’ll look sweet upon the seat
Of a bicycle made for two

This old song makes a lovely lullaby for a wind-down routine. With larger adult-to-child ratios, little ones could take turns being rocked in a banket hammock held by the adults. With larger children, two children may like to rock a toy in a blanket hammock, or children may rock toys or dolls in their arms individually.

Hoping that these musical flower suggestions will inspire more outdoor play in your setting!


Zucca, C., McCrorie, P., Johnstone, A., Chambers, S., Chng, N. R., Traynor, O., & Martin, A. (2023). “Outdoor nature-based play in early learning and childcare centres: Identifying the determinants of implementation using causal loop diagrams and social network analysis.” Health & Place, 79, 102995. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.healthplace.2022.102955


About the author:

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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