Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes

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Children in a Japanese elementary school singing the song.

"Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes" is a children's song. The song has been documented as early as the 1950s.[1]

Description[edit]

There is generally only one verse with lyrics similar to those below. The second line repeats the first line both in words and in melody, the third line has a rising tone, and the fourth line repeats the first two. Children might dance while they sing the song, and touch their head, shoulders, knees and toes, in sequence while singing each word.

Lyrics[edit]

The following lyrics are taken from the children's music database of the US National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences:

Head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes
Head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes
And eyes and ears and mouth and nose
Head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes

Additional verses are sung by omitting the first word sung in the previous verse, and, instead, children touch their body parts, without actually saying the word. For example:

Verse 2
----, shoulders, knees and toes
Verse 3
----, ----, knees and toes
Verse 4
----, ----, ---- ---- toes
Verse 5
----, ----, ---- ---- ----

This pattern continues until the children are silently touching their body parts in rhythm with the song. The last verse consists of no actual singing, just touching what would have been sung or repeating the first verse in a quicker tempo.[citation needed]

I remember my nursery, kindergarten, and first grade teachers leading us in singing this song in a town where the nursery school was across the Tappan Zee Bridge,and in Montgomery (Mrs. Kelso) and Middletown (Mother Mary Alexis), New York. We did do the form of leaving out words, but, not often as it wasn't as much fun as doing that with other songs. We'd rather do the word omission routine with the songs, "James, Joseph, Jingleheimer, Schmidt," and "BINGO. We sang "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes" this way in the 1950s. I sang it in 1956, but it was likely being sung earlier:

Head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes
Head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes
Eyes and ears and chin and mouth and nose
Head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes.

[2]

There is a song that was adapted from the traditional and though it uses another tune, it does say, "Eyes and ears," "Chin and nose." and suggest touching the body parts as in the traditional song. [3] Another alternative from the Traditional was changed for Christian classes. It, too uses starts the line with, "Eyes," and includes "chin," however, it has the words in an order that causes the motions to zig zag. [4] Today there are many derivative songs that teach the vocabulary of body parts. [5] [6]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Witte Austin, Dorothy. "Troubadour Pleases Playground Audiences". Milwaukee Journal, July 18, 1961, Part 2-p. 6. Retrieved on July 3, 2014.
  2. ^ Mrs Kelso (personal communication), Mother Mary Alexis (personal communication) with Anonymous former student of Montgomery Elementary and Saint Joseph's schools, Personally recounted here, July 22, 2016
  3. ^ http://www.preschoolexpress.com/music-station11/body-part-songs.shtml
  4. ^ http://www.preschoolexpress.com/music-station11/body-part-songs.shtml
  5. ^ http://lagubaru.zep.pw/vi/QkHQ0CYwjaI
  6. ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N2pUxxM8W3g

External links[edit]