Sleigh Rides and Bell Horses

There are TWO fabulous classic folk songs about jingle bell horses and their fun sleigh rides.  While singing or listening to these fun songs, have some fun with different ways to make this song come alive for your child.

Over the River and Through the Woods”  is a Thanksgiving classic.  My FAVORITE book featuring this song is a Scholastic book by the same name, illustrated by John Steven Gurney. (It also comes with a recording of the song.)  After reading/singing it through once, we always go back through and talk about all the fun winter activities that are going on in the beautifully illustrated winter scenes.   Since we live in Florida, it helps to have a good reference into this mysterious world.

Jingle Bells” is simply a song about the same activity – sleigh rides with jingle horses.  It was originally written for a Thanksgiving program, but was so popular, it was revisited at Christmas and instantly became a favorite classic.

These are some fun ideas I’ve introduced in my Kindermusik classes.  For more information, see my website.

Sleigh ride fun while singing these song:

  • Use fingers to trot around on your child or on the floor while making a jingling sound.
  • Place them on your lap, and keep a steady beat bounce.  At the end of the song, make lots of fun HORSE sounds.  Let them hold some jingle bells while bouncing.  (Make sure the bells are safe for the child –  typical jingle bells may cut child’s tongue if mouthed). 

  • Use a blanket or towel and pull your child around  –  let them play with some safe jingle bells.  Enjoy making horse sounds.
  • Have the child use a blanket to pull their favorite stuffed characters around.

  • Use a long scarf as reigns for your little horse.  Wrap the scarf around the front of their body and under their armpits, with the long ends trailing in the back for you to hold onto.  Let them hold, or wear, bells if you have them.  Have your horse lead you around the room, or even the yard.
  • TRADE – the adult becomes the horse, and the child becomes the sleigh driver


I PROMISE these activities will leave lasting memories of the fun times that you and your child share, as well as provide them with the knowledge of the songs of our culture, and of our history. 

For more blog posts on Thanksgiving themes, click here.

I’d LOVE to hear if you know of additional songs about bell horses and sleigh rides – OR, if you have any additional ideas for interactive sleigh ride activities.


Active listening to bells, bells, bells

In this series of blog postings, we’re having fun with bells.  For the next few postings, we’ll focus on LISTENING !   Intentional listening helps us focus our attention on the aspects of the sounds we hear, and be able to tell the difference between sounds, much like we recognize our own child’s voice from any others.  This is an incredibly important skill in all areas of life, and must be developed through practice.  Of course, music makes it engaging and fun. 

For young children it is often helpful to listen with your whole body. 

  • Listen to the sound of a specific type of bell.   We will start with bells you may have at home.  Starting with sound that are familiar allows the child to review what they already know so they can connect their current understanding to the new shapes and sounds that will be presented. 
  • Creating the sound and feeling the real instrument while it vibrates is the best choice for building a foundation of discriminating sounds.   Let the child HOLD it, and CREATE.
  • Using our bodies to move like the bell, or our mouths to sound like the bell is an important part of intentional listening, since we have to attend well enough to copy the sound and movement.


Ding Dong – Let your child RING your doorbell, then both of you try to recreate the sound verbally.  If you are up to the task, take the cover off the door bell, and show them how it works – that is if your doorbell actually uses a bell.  Many these days are a digital sound, which may be good to hear – but not to see.


Does your child have a bike bell?  Well, then they most likely have a lot of experience ringing it.  If not, take a trip to your local bike shop to check out all the bike bells that are available ! 

Fun, Fun !!!


Most children love the bright shiny ring-a-ling sound of the jingle bells.  If you have some jingle bells, bring them out for your child to explore. 

If you don’t, they are easy to find at Walmart or a craft store.  For now, just buy the larger bells (they make a better sound) and enjoy listening to them in the bag.  Then let the child explore it in their hands.  In another posting, we’ll explore ways to make jingle bell instruments, and have a lot more jingle bell fun !


Most children are also familiar with this type of bell, typically called wind chimes.  This video shows a large assortment of styles, and simply the sound of all of them together.

Do you have a wind chime at home your child can try?  If not, head over to a store near you to listen to the wonderful chime sounds.  Here in Lakeland, I would recommend Brooke Pottery.  But many times you can find them in most hardware stores.  Wind chimes are also a simple craft to make with your child.

Different types of bells will be presented in each of the following postings in this series, and some videos will be available to hear the sounds, and/or how these bells are used.  For our purpose here, we will focus on the classic bell shapes with ringers on the inside or out.  And I have organized them from the smallest to the largest bells.  After all my research, I believe I must divide it up into separate blog postings.  Although I am presenting them all in one day, take it at a pace that is right for you and your child, perhaps one type of bell a day.  With your older child, you might look at all of them as an overview, then explore them all more personally throughout the next few weeks.

In our Kindermusik classes, we explore many types of bells and compare the sounds, and use appropriate bells for different songs and activities.  Come join the fun and learning by checking out the types of classes offered on my website, then contact me to learn more.

I’d LOVE to hear how you and your child are exploring these sounds.  PLEASE SHARE !   Is your child starting to recognize the difference between the sounds of the bells?

Jingle Bells Makes me Laugh

Ask children if they know a song about bells.  The first to come to mind is “Jingle Bells”.  Although it is commonly known as a Christmas song, as it has nothing to do with this celebration.  It is a fun song about riding in a horse drawn sleigh, meant to make people laugh.  Since GOOD laughter is GOOD medicine for the heart, mind, and soul (really !  Research proves it), let’s have some Jingle Bells fun.

All in the spirit to make you laugh, let’s watch a video, explore the origins of the song, as well as some fun astronomical history, deviate into the childhood versions, and then…  well, maybe you can share your own version with us.

This video made me laugh, not only because holiday icons have become musicians jamming out to this song, but also because one of the reindeer starts rocking out to the “batman” version.

The author and composer of Jingle Bells was a minister called James Pierpoint who composed the song in 1857 for children celebrating his Boston Sunday School Thanksgiving. The song was so admired that it was repeated at Christmas.   There are actually 4 original verses.  Just imagine attending that first event, full of the spiritual meaning of the celebration, and hearing these verses.  What a surprise !  No wonder it became popular.

Dashing through the snow
In a one horse open sleigh
O’er the fields we go
Laughing all the way
Bells on bob tails ring
Making spirits bright
What fun it is to laugh and sing
A sleighing song tonight

Oh, jingle bells, jingle bells  Jingle all the way
Oh, what fun it is to ride  In a one horse open sleigh  (2x)

A day or two ago
I thought I’d take a ride
And soon Miss Fanny Bright
Was seated by my side
The horse was lean and lank
Misfortune seemed his lot
We got into a drifted bank
And then we got upsot.   (Chorus)

  • A day or two ago
    The story I must tell
    I went out on the snow
  • And on my back I fell;
  • A gent was riding by
  • In a one horse open sleigh,
  • He laughed as there I sprawling lie
  • But quickly drove away.
  • Now the ground is white
  • Go at it while your young
  • Take the girls tonight
  • And sing this sleighing song;
  • Just get a bobtailed bay
  • Two forty as his speed
  • Hitch him to an open sleigh
  • And crack! You’ll take the lead.


 Here’s a surprising fact I didn’t know.

“Jingle Bells” was the first song broadcast from space, in a Christmas-themed prank by Gemini 6 astronauts Tom Stafford and Wally Schirra, December 16, 1965. They sent Mission Control this report:

“We have an object, looks like a satellite going from north to south, probably in polar orbit … I see a command module and eight smaller modules in front. The pilot of the command module is wearing a red suit … “

The astronauts then produced a smuggled harmonica and sleighbells and broadcast a rendition of “Jingle Bells” (Smithsonian Magazine, December 2005 pp25ff). The harmonica, shown to the press upon their return, was a Hohner “Little Lady”, a tiny harmonica approximately one inch long, by 3/8 of an inch wide.  Read the whole story here

My 5 year old daughter is now repeatedly singing the “batman” version that I remember from my childhood.  Does every child singing this song have to repeat it incessantly ?

Jingle Bells, Batman smells, Robin laid an egg.  Batmobile lost a wheel, and Joker got away.”  Actually, she is singing it and Joker takes ballet.  When did that get added?

So, children love to come up with new words to this fun song.  What a fun activity to do while traveling together in a car, or during a meal together – maybe something we’d rather hear.    To encourage you to do so, I’m offering a Gift Certificate for $40 towards tuition of a full semester of Kindermusik  for the winner of this Jingle Bells contest.  Just enter in your new words by Jan. 4th, 2010, here with your name and email address.  I look forward to many new laughs !!!