Musical Story for Preschoolers to Enjoy: African Inspired Walk to the River!

LET'S CARRY OUR BASKETS DOWN TO THE RIVER AND GET SOME WATER!  Music, Dance, Drama & Fun for your Montessori-style studies of Africa with little children.

Photo by Carolyn at Magical Movement Company

In the Montessori Classroom, it is traditional to introduce the seven continents to the children through many activities from puzzle maps to art projects and much more! 
The continent of Africa is a wonderfully diverse area of study and I personally think you can spend the whole year with activities about this part of the world! 
The children so enjoy the colorful fabrics, the amazing animals, the intriguing masks, the beautiful geography...the list goes on! But, I think the most wonderful part of African Studies is the music (& dance, of course!)
I like to start the study of Africa with some fun Orff-Schulwerk style music activities with rhythm & drama, and the children seem to love these as much as I do!
When I was learning African Dance many years ago, I discovered that most of the traditional dances are stories about everyday life. So, I love to give the children a little experience with this idea of music, dance and storytelling all blended together!
Musical stories...children so love these!

I begin by putting on some traditional instrumental African drumming music. I'm fond of the album, "Master Drummers of Africa" and just about any song you select will be  appropriate. I recommend listening to the various selections ahead of time, before you do this activity with the children to make sure you enjoy and feel comfortable with the one you decide to play. My favorites for this story are #4 "Meropa" and also #5 "The Story Begins."

This music is available at Amazon at this link: Amazon Master Drummers cd mp3 and at iTunes for downloading

First, I have the children stand and get ready for some movement!
Then I tell this story:
"We're going to learn about the people who live on the continent of Africa today and we'll start with a little music story! In Africa, many people live in villages out in the country and have to go walking to the river to get their water for cooking. So, let's pretend that we are in Africa and we're going to walk down to the river for water! First, let's get our bodies warmed up for our walking-to-the-river dance. We'll start with our feet. Let's walk in-place to the beat of the music."

Photo from the artists at Dollar Photo Club

It's here that we move out feet to the beat of the music and start to really feel the rhythm.

Photo by Carolyn at Magical Movement Company
"Next, let's warm up our legs! Bend your knees and move up and down to the music. Then, we'll move our hips, side to side, then make slow circles. We'll move up to our bellies and use our muscles to push out then pull back in...out then back in..."
With each warm-up movement, I give the children a chance to practice the movement several times, but also keep things moving along to the rhythm of the music playing. Frank Leto (one of my favorite music educators) has a great warm up dance song that he narrates on his cd: Steel Band Jamboree: "Room to Move" (at Amazon, CDBaby and iTunes) This can give you an idea of how to lead a group through a dance warmup. 
Also, a great video for an actual African Dance Warm-up that I really like is from Wyoma, called "African Healing Dance" that you can view on youtube at this link: African Healing Dance with Wyoma.

Back to our own Little African Music Story:
"Let's continue to warm up the rest of the body...the shoulders, arms and hands by moving them up and down to the rhythm. Lastly, we move our heads from side to side (ear to shoulder) and then front to back (chin to chest). We'll finish our warm up with rolling the head slowly around in a circle." 

Photo from the artists at Dollar Photo Club 
 "Now, we can start our walk through the jungle down to the river for our water. Reach down for your pretend basket that will hold the water and then you can pretend to raise it up so you can carry it on your head." 
Photo from the artist of Dollar Photo Club

I usually have the children continue our walking dance while staying in their places at the circle, but you can also walk around with them if you have the room. The important part is to move to the rhythm of the African music that is playing on your sound system.

More of the music story: 
"Whew! I hear the river...there it is! Let's cool ourselves off now that we are here. Take your basket off your head and set it down on the ground. Now, let's walk into the river!"
I bend down and pretend to splash water from the pretend river over my head and shoulders. The children love to do this action...all the while we are moving to the rhythm of the music. We splash ourselves a few times more, then I say:
"It's time to fill our pretend baskets with water to take back to our village! Let's pick up our baskets and swoop them through the pretend river and fill them with water. Then, we can carefully lift our baskets up on top of our heads again for the walk back to the village."
So, it's here that we dance our walk back to the village carrying our pretend baskets of water on our heads, through the jungle again, all to the beat of the music.  When we get back to the village, I say:
"Time to put our baskets full of water carefully on the ground. Then let's get our cooking pot ready and fill it up with water for our soup..."
The story can go on a little longer if the children are still interested. You can act out pouring the water into the soup pot, stirring it, putting in the veggies, and then eating the soup from your pretend bowl (hands cupped together.) Otherwise, if the story needs to end sooner, you can always say...
"Now our African story is over and we are back in our classroom. Wasn't that a good time we had?!"
This story can be embellished with more drama. You can move like birds that you might see on your pretend jungle walk. Also, monkey actions are fun and even the gyrating motions of a snake can be added, as these are all moves that can be seen in authentic African dances. Wherever your imaginations take your group, the beat of the drumming from the cd will keep the pulse of the movement & dance going nicely. I don't know very many people who can resist just spontaneously moving when African drumming music is played! You can read about another fun music story from drummer, Beverly Botsford in my Blog post at this link: Music, Dance & Drama: Storytelling with Little Children  

This African Music Story movement, dance & drama activity is also very energizing for the children (as well as the teachers.) What a wonderful way to introduce the content of Africa to your group!

Children before African Dance Warm-up:

Photo by Carolyn at Magical Movement Company

Children energized after the Dance Warm-up in the African Music Story:

Photo by Carolyn at Magical Movement Company

At the next circle time, I like to introduce walking while carrying a basket on the head. I am always amazed at how many children like to practice this without holding on to the basket! (like the 4 yr old girl pictured in the header photo of this post!) You can place a tray on the shelf with a basket (or 2) for the children to practice "walking on the line carrying a basket on the head" during work time. If you add some African cloth, the children can even dress up for the activity. Most enjoyable! 

 I recently got inspired all over again, when I purchased and started putting together the Montessori materials for the Seven Continents Bundle from Trillium Montessori. The Africa unit is especially stunning!  There are many lovely photo-filled activities for young children and all seven continents are presented in this download bundle. It's an amazing value! 

You can literally have all your continent study materials for the children for a very reasonable price! I have recently become an affiliate with this Trillium Montessori Product and you can order your own set by clicking here:

Cultural Studies have always been one of my favorite areas of the Montessori curriculum and incorporating Music and the Arts is always an important component! My upcoming posts will feature more Arts & Music Activities about Africa (and the other continents, too!):

  • "African Balance Beam Fun": Crossing the Bridge at "Alligator Alley" 
  • "Fanga a Lafia": beautiful African Village Welcoming Drum Song & Dance!
You might also enjoy my post about a musical story from the Rain Forest of South America to go along with your studies of that continent. Here's the link: Musical Story for Preschoolers: Hiking in the Rainforest.

I am so happy that you have come by for a visit to my Blog and I hope you get some fun ideas for musical storytelling with your group. Feel free to leave a comment in the section below...I love hearing your stories! 

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