by Tamsyn

April 13, 2016

These printables are now only available in our members area and as part of the larger "Counting Games and Activities" set in our store.

Print out color-coded counting songs and play games with these manipulatives.

These classic counting songs are a great way to introduce counting to children.  Use the manipulatives to help you teach the songs to the kids by rote, then if they're up to a bigger challenge, give them the color-coded sheet music and have them play it!

counting songs

Color-Coded Sheet Music

Printing out the sheet music is fairly straightforward.  You will want to print these out in full color.  These colors coincide with other printables on our site and are designed to help you teach solfege as well as piano for emerging readers.  Do is red, Re is orange, and so on through the rainbow.  I use movable "Do", so the three songs in F major will feature red "F"s, while the one in C major will have red "C"s.  We have a color-coded piano insert available in some of our store items as well as the general membership area.

Making and Using the Manipulatives

One of my favorite ways to save on ink is to print things on colored paper.  I trimmed construction paper down a bit so it would be 8.5" by 11", but you could also simply use colored paper of the same size, including cardstock.  The printouts themselves are simply black outlines, so they're flexible.

Once you have printed them out, I recommend cutting them out fairly close to the lines, laminating them, and then cutting them out again, leaving a nice laminate border.  They will be most durable for heavy use this way.

Finally you can tape on paper clips for fishing-pole play, or tape on small magnets for use on a magnet board.

Using the manipulatives alone

You really don't have to do anything fancy with the manipulatives.  Their primary purpose is to help children learn the counting songs by giving them something to count.  Pictured at left are simply five frogs.  You can count them and take away a frog with every verse.  With "Once I caught a fish alive" and "Ten Little Turtles", you will not be taking anything away in between verses, you will simply be counting the printouts while you sing.

Math Pond Play

It's been more than 6 years since I made the Math Pond activities from which inspired these printables.  I did not make the actual pond printables for you because I don't have access to cute pond printouts that I can legally share and the ponds serve more as a math manipulative than a singing one, plus two of the songs I'm sharing today are more about counting to 10.  Still I wanted to share the idea.  I have done this activity with all of my children and they have all loved it, especially when they get to clear the boards with a fishing pole when we are done.  Seeing the numeral next to the actual number of ducks, fish, etc, has been very helpful as they grasp the concept that the numerals represent "how many".  The following videos were made during my very early blogging days and are very rough, but I'll share them anyway to illustrate how I use the ponds.  Ironically the duck songs aren't the same as the printout, but that's okay.  Same principle.

Rhythm Play

My final suggestion for using the printables is to use the printouts to teach the basic rhythms of quarter-notes and eighth notes.  This is a basic Orff concept where you substitute words for rhythm notes.  If there is one syllable, it represents a quarter note.  If there are two syllables, it represents two eighth notes.  Three syllables, a triplet, four syllables, four sixteenth notes.  While the concept can also be adapted for half and whole notes, it is most ideal for faster rhythms.  Unfortunately "fish", "duck" and "frog" are all one syllable and "turtle" is the only two-syllable printout I give you pre-made, but the turtle is pretty cute and he doesn't mind the spotlight.

Ask the kids to make rows with four pictures each.  The rows will represent a 4/4 measure.  The picture above is one example of how the manipulatives might be arranged.  First say the names of the items rhythmically.  "Turtle, turtle, fish, fish..." and so on, giving one beat per picture.  Later you can go through the exercise of writing down the rhythm or recreating it with rhythm flashcards. We have pre-made rhythm card printables available in our store (see "Beginning Rhythm" or "The Solfege Train"), or you can make your own on something like post-it notes or index cards.

Introducing rhythm with fun pictures really helps set the stage for learning the notation.  It's easier for beginners to say the names of items than it is to count to four with all of the "ands" added to the mix.  For example, the measure pictured above could be said "One, two-and, sh!, four.  It's easier to say it with rhythm solfege, "Ta, ti-ti, sh! Ta!", and even funner to say it "Fish, Turtle, sh! Fish."  You can create your own rhythms with just about anything.  Going on a picnic?  Make a whole rhythmic list!  "Sandwich, drink, watermelon, plate."  Into Princesses?  "Snow White, Cinderella, Elsa, Anna, Belle!"  Star Wars fans?  "Han Solo, Chewy, Luke".  These printables are simply one tool you can use to practice and introduce this concept.  Go out there and have fun!

We have a lot more color-coded sheet music where these comes from!  We are having a HUGE Crowdfunding Sale right now- prices will never be this low again!

About the author 


My name is Tamsyn and I love music. I got my bachelor’s degree in vocal performance from USU. I spent many years teaching private piano lessons until I had children of my own. I have attended several children workshops on how to teach children music. I really like the Kodaly method, but have adapted a lot of different techniques for my own children.

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