MusicallyMontessori100 Songs: "Ten in the Bed" Let's Sing, Play, Read, Count & Dramatize!

ARE YOU ONE OF THOSE EDUCATORS WHO LIKES TO MAKE A WHOLE UNIT OUT OF AN ACTIVITY THAT THE CHILDREN LOVE? You can take this old favorite song and create lots of really fun learning moments with your children... Montessori-style. 

Extend, extend, extend the learning!

A FAVORITE SONG is just one of the BEST ways to engage the children in activities that involve ALL THE MAJOR AREAS OF CURRICULUM. 

For children, singing the words to even a silly song like Ten in the Bed is an exercise in:

  • Language: Vocabulary, Speech, & Memory Development 
  • Music: Keeping a Steady Beat 
  • Arithmetic: Add the ingredient of Subtracting Quantities to the song and you've introduced Mathematics in a really fun way
  • Science: If the children act out the story and actually  "pretend to fall off the pretend bed", there is a little lesson in Momentum and Gravity!  
You've probably heard the song, "There Were Ten in the Bed" a gazillion times. Generation after generation of children greatly enjoy this traditional favorite and there may be a gazillion ways they enjoy it, too!

One of the first & BEST ways young children LEARN is through MOVEMENT. I found this darling little video on youtube that shows a group of preschoolers having a grand time singing, playing and acting out this funny little song. 

Did you know how very much these little ones are "learning through the art of play" when they enact the song in this way?!

The funny little story of the song and the "ACTUAL EXPERIENCE OF SUBTRACTING" turns out to be very popular with little children. There are a lot of MEMORY SKILLS  involved with singing the lyrics of the song, and it's repetitive structure helps the young child learn the words quickly. 

When they actually move along "the bed" (using chairs as seen in the video) and then roll off when it's their turn, the children ABSORB a lot of MATHEMATICAL INFORMATION about one-to-one correspondence and taking a quantity away while having a hilarious time of it!

Probably the most engaging part of this activity for the child is the "rolling off the bed"! Actually, young children seem to love "ROLLING & SPINNING" as well as "FALLING" and these activities are IMPORTANT to the DEVELOPMENT OF THE BRAIN. You can read more about what scientists say about movement and healthy brain development at these links:
here, and more here, and also here.

There are many recordings of the song, and one of my very favorites is from this wonderful album from the Australian group, Sugar Kane: "200 of the Greatest Nursery Rhymes Ever."  You can download the song or the whole album (well worth it!) by clicking this link: 200 Greatest Nursery Rhymes cd on Amazon

I really like the accurate, beautiful, and simple renditions of the songs from Sugar Kane's huge collection of children's favorites. In my opinion, this cd is a "must have" for early childhood teachers as a resource for so many beautiful songs of childhood. 

Many of the recordings are very short (half a minute or less!) and mainly serve as a resource for the teacher to learn and then teach it to the children. The children usually want to sing a song over and over or add verses or dynamics (loud/quiet, etc) and so the cd recordings are not really meant as sing-alongs for the group.  Rather, they are more of a guide to the melodies for the teacher to hear, learn, and then teach to the children.

Fortunately, this classic song, Ten in the Bed, has been made into picture books over and over again, too! For an early childhood environment, especially in Montessori, we like to offer the children developmentally appropriate experiences in literature that reflect real rather than make-believe least for the very youngest children. For that reason, I still use the Childsplay version of the story/song that is pictured below. Here's that link: Ten in the Bed Picture Book by ChildsPlay.

Of course, a very fun way to introduce the song is by reading/singing it to the children at story time. The children will quickly join in on the chorus: "Roll over...Roll over." And, if they don't do this spontaneously, then you can simply stop when it is time to say those words and wait for the children to respond by saying or singing them! This works well for the counting down in the story, too.

Later, it's important to place the picture book in the book corner for easy access so that each child can pick up the book and have a personal experience enjoying it in depth.

One thing I always love about books that depict a favorite childhood song, is that the child can quickly begin to "read" the book him/herself! (S/he has memorized the words to the song and so knows the words in the book.) 

Here's the youtube link for an adorable toddler "reading" (actually singing) the story as she turns each of the pages! 
Ella Reads There Were Ten in the Bed Book.

You can also set up the following Montessori style shelf work (or individualized activity) for the children that is most enjoyable and very language & mathematically rich! 

You can create a very engaging individualized activity that the children will love finding on the Math OR Language shelf in your environment!

Photo by Carolyn at Magical Movement Company

Here's how I have set up this activity for individual children.

A tray or basket to hold:

  • A copy of the book
  • A container with exactly ten plastic baby miniatures
  • A doll bed that can accommodate all ten of the miniatures lined up next to each other
The child (or adult) "reads" the book and then arranges the plastic baby miniatures on the doll bed according to the words on each page of the book. The children enjoy rolling the babies and then rolling each one off the bed as the story/song progresses. You can enrich the experience by having the child tell the number of babies left as each rolls off the bed.

Photo by Carolyn at Magical Movement Company

I used to find those little plastic baby miniatures at toy stores and craft shops, but nowadays you can purchase them on-line at Amazon and other sites.

I particularly like this set of plastic baby miniatures (pictured below) that I found at this link:

Likewise, if you don't happen to have a small doll bed in your collection of objects, you can purchase one on-line, too. I like the doll beds for Barbie because they are long enough to hold all ten baby miniatures (and that is important to the success of the activity for the child!) If you like thrifting, I am sure a Barbie doll bed will show up in your hunting excursions sooner or later!

The Barbie doll bed pictured below is available at Amazon at this link: Barbie doll bed on Amazon. 

As a prop for the teacher to show at circle, while singing the song, I find that a felt board story is really fun and can be interactive, too. 

Here's a beautiful Felt Board Set from Storytelling Fun available on Etsy at this link: StoryTelling Fun

You can extend the learning even further by providing a puppet activity that you can put together from this kit I discovered at Roylco. Here's that link: Roylco Store Blog with free downloads.

I really like the "cozy" quality of the materials in this kit, especially the pajama fabric craft sticks for each little creature in the bed! When I discovered this activity, I was delighted to find that there is a free download for the bed in the project. In fact, that is the bed I used in the header photo collage on this Blog post!

I thought of actually substituting pictures of children's faces for the animal faces in this project. In the past, I have even used photos of the children in our class...just cut each photo to the size of your craft stick and laminate the picture so it is child-friendly and lasts. The children love to find their own photo, of course, and then line up their favorite classmates in this interactive shelf work!

There are also very cute craft stick puppets that are in the shape of boys & girls. The children can decorate their own and place them on the freebie download bed at Roylco.(see above)

These puppet sticks are available at Amazon at this link:  Wooden puppet sticks at Amazon.


After the children have had a variety of experiences with this silly song, you can introduce a little musical ensemble for dramatizing the story.

For a group of 24 children and 2 teachers, you will need:
****I have included links to my favorite maracas, bells, and drum. Just click on the instrument in the above list.

Preliminary: I introduce this activity after the children have had some experiences with rhythm instruments in a group setting. In the prior experiences, the children have all played the same instrument and only that instrument at a time (ex: rhythm sticks, or maracas, or single bells, etc) You can learn more about introducing instruments to children at my past post here: Montessori Music with rhythm instruments: Ding, Tap-tap, Click!

The Activity: The children are divided into 4 sections (similar to the orchestra or a band) in which the people playing the maracas will sit together and the people playing the bells will sit together in another area. Likewise, the child who will sing the "Roll over..." part, will sit a little ways from the others. Lastly, the child who plays the drum will be in his/her own area. ****I often play the drum myself the first time we do this activity so that the children hear when it is to be played. Then, you will need 12 of each instrument outlined above...that way, every child has something to play. 

Preparation/ Practice: I explain that we will not all be playing our instruments at the same time. That's the challenging part! Sometimes, only the maracas will play. Sometimes, only the bells will play. Sometimes, only the drum will play. And, sometimes, no one will play when the child is singing, "Roll over, roll over." I invite the maraca players to practice playing all together AND the other children DON'T play. (Very challenging!) Then, I invite the bell players to practice playing all together AND the other children DON'T play. Likewise, the drummer only...and lastly, we ALL practice NOT PLAYING while one child sings the "Roll over" part.

The "Maraca Section" of our "Band" only plays on the first two lines of the song:

"There were ten in the bed"

I remind the maraca players to practice playing all together AND the other children DON'T play. (Very challenging!)

"And the little one said... (signal for musicians STOP)

Next, nobody plays, while the designated child sings:

Photo by the artists at Dollar Photo Club

Then, it is the "Bell Section" of the Band's turn to play (no maracas playing!) on these lines:

"So they all rolled over..."

"And one fell out!" (signal for musicians STOP)

Everyone stops playing after the word "out" and ONLY the drummer plays a little boom!

Since this song has 10 verses (!) the children will have lots of practice at getting their parts correctly. This may even be your next little performance in your classroom show! You might enjoy reading my other posts featuring favorite songs from the Montessori Music Room. Just click this link to my Musically Montessori: A Hundred Favorite Songs Series.

I want to thank you again for visiting my blog and I really hope you got lots of ideas for expanding your child's learning through the art of play!

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