When the Leopard Sings

TulipTreeElm House Blog2 Comments

By Bee

One morning, I entered the nest with a group of children and FD asked me, “Bee, who is going to sing to us today?” As it was Wednesday, I was sure that FD was referring to music time with Ms. Heidi, but had simply gotten the words “who” and “what” mixed up. I answered her question without correcting her language. “Well, Fd. We never really know what Heidi will sing to us. That is part of the fun of music class. It’s always a little bit different, and kind of like a surprise!”

“No, no. Not Heidi. Not music. I’m asking who is going to sing to us.”

I felt puzzled, but I have been backed into many a strange conversational corner with toddlers before, so I persisted.

“I hear you asking about who will sing to us. Ms. Heidi will sing to us, and we will sing to her. We will all be singing together and to each other.”

FD looked at me and rolled her eyes so dramatically that I wasn’t sure how she kept a hold of them.

“NooOOOoOOoO!” she sighed with every ounce of exasperation she could muster, “I am asking WHO will sing to us? The animals?!?”

18 different lightbulbs went off in my head. FD wasn’t talking about music at all. She was asking me about what time it was!!! I found myself very grateful that she had kept attempting to correct my understanding, despite the fact that I clearly wasn’t listening to her properly.

A couple of months ago I purchased a special clock to bring into my classroom. The clock has twelve animals on it and they make a sound when the hour strikes.

Personally, I am a big fan of animals and they are a subject I am constantly studying. I was curious about whether or not the children would find the clock intriguing, how it might relate to our other animal studies, or whether or not it would spur a study of time. I mounted the animal clock next to our other clock and left it be.

The children were quick to notice the clock’s arrival, and we spent a lot of time talking about what all the different animals were. Several of the animals on the clock aren’t in any of our books or documentation, like the leopard for instance, and the clock provided the initial spark needed to widen our lens a bit.The children seemed to really enjoy talking about these new species, particularly the wolves, polar bears, leopards, and chimpanzees.

The true magic in the clock is when we get to hear the animals “sing”. I use the term sing because trying to say “the lion is roaring, the zebra is whooping, and the hippo is…bellowing(?)”…well it was getting to be a bit of a mess, so I simplified. The children LOVE to hear the animals sing to them, and they often cry out for silence as soon as one of the animals starts. Everyone then strains to listen. I can physically see how hard the children are trying to hear these strange little animal imitations. It’s incredible.


Back to FD in the Nest. It clicks. She wants to know the time. “Well FD, it is almost 9 o clock which means in just a couple of minutes….” I let my voice trail off…hoping…

“The Nip-ana-ZEE is gonna sing to us!!!!” yelled HB with gusto.

“You remembered, HB!”, I exclaim delightedly. “At 9 am the Chimpanzee sings to us.”

“Yeah! He will sing and then we have snack” says, FD, seemingly pleased to finally have her true question addressed.


The animals and their songs have prompted many conversations like this, and it seems like they are truly giving the children a sense of time and what to expect next.

Another day the following conversation was had:

MC: “Yeah, and I go home when the Leopard sings.”

Bee: “That’s just about right, MC. Your family usually comes after the Gorilla sings and before the Leopard sings.”

MC: “Yeah! But but but ML and ZS goes home when the Wolf sings.”

Bee: “Yup! ZS usually leaves at the end of the day, when the Wolf is singing to us. I will be leaving at 4, when the Leopard sings.”

HB: “Bee, where is the wolf though?”

Bee: “The Wolf is 5 o clock. Below the Leopard and above the Reindeer.”

HB: “When does the rhino sing?”

Bee: “At 1 o clock. Usually everyone is napping by then, so we don’t really hear him.”

ML: “Where is the Leopard?

Bee: “The Leopard is at 4 o clock. Below the Gorilla and above the Wolf.”

HB: “And the monkey.”

Bee: “You’re asking about the Chimpanzee. It’s an ape, which is a bit different than a monkey. It sings at 9 o clock, when we have morning snack. It sings after the Zebra and before the Hippo.”

OC: “Yeah over that round thing.” (referring to the hippo)

OC: “What does the lion say?”

Bee: “The Lion roars, and he roars at 12 o clock.”

OC: “What do you do at 12 o clock?”

Bee: “At 12 o clock different things are happening. The youngest children are laying down to sleep in the Den. And it is also when some of the older children sit down to start lunch.”

OC nods her head.

MC: “When will the tiger sing to us?”

Bee: “The Tiger will sing at 2 o clock, which is when everyone is in the Den together taking a nap.”


I was surprised to hear MC state when his friends leave in reference to the animals, and pleased to hear that FD has made the connection that am snack always happens when the Chimpanzee is singing.

About once a week I have a conversation like this in the Nest, and the children are able to make more and more correlations to the animals and their day. Last week the children were delighted when I let them know it was Wednesday so everyone was going home before the Leopard sang. They were immediately excited and ready to celebrate. Listening to the animals serenade us every day has made time a little more concrete for the children. It has given them a framework of reference for their day that they may not have otherwise had. I appreciate our little clock and how it has already laid some serious groundwork for helping the children understand time and navigate future routine changes.

Please leave any questions, comments, or wonderings in the space below!


2 Comments on “When the Leopard Sings”

  1. What fun! FD has been asking about “what time it is” at home a lot. Now I know one of the reasons why. (And yes… her eye rolling skills are substantial!) Thanks for this insight, Bee!

    1. Yay! I am happy to hear that her interest in time is a bridge between her home and school life. I wish I could have video taped that eye roll. I try never to laugh when the children are being serious, but that one almost got me!!! Poor thing was so frustrated that I kept answering questions that she wasn’t asking. I rolled my eyes at myself just remembering it ><

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