Forwards and Backwards

Category: Bookbug

I love counting songs. Children and parents are always likely to join in after a round or two. They know the pattern; 5 monkeys, 4 monkeys... as we gradually lose all of our monkeys to one catastrophe or another.


One of the greatest joys of the counting song is the twist. Do all of the monkeys get eaten in the end? Will the ducks come swimming back? These songs are more than just songs, they tell a story.


We start with counting songs when children are toddlers. Five always seems like a good number to start with – we have five fingers on one hand so we can visualise and join in with actions. We start with five, hide one finger away and count down to nothing. But here is the important question. Are we going backwards before we go forwards?


There is something very fun, and exciting about things disappearing one at a time. It’s a punch line. If you’re counting forwards, where does it end? And if one monkey is eaten, how does that multiply into two monkeys. How does two become three?


Most of the counting songs we use count backwards. There are a few songs which go forward – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 Once I caught a fish alive and One, Two Buckle My Shoe are just a couple but there are lots more out there. However, for some reason though, when we think of counting songs, it tends to be the backwards ones that come up first. 


We need to remember what children are learning and how. Singing fun songs is a great way to catch concepts like counting. I’m not for a minute suggesting we ditch the counting backwards songs. They’re popular and fun. But, it is important to put this in to perspective. Sometimes it is okay to go backwards before we go forwards, or maybe we should go forwards before we go backwards.