​Scrunchy play with your September starters

05 September 2022

Scrunchy play with your September starters

Kate Maines-Beasley is an early years music specialist, and Culture Bridge North East’s EYFS Consultant. Here she shares some simple ideas for musical games that will help young children who are making the transition into school or nursery this September.

Scrunchy play with your September starters

When the children come into nursery or school in September, this is a big transition period for them. They may have been on holiday for up to seven weeks. They may be starting in a brand new class/setting/area. They may have separation anxiety, and be fearful of this unknown change. It can take a while to blossom and thrive in their learning and development with you. This can be a challenging and emotional time for children (and staff!).

I have put together a simple resource of scrunchy games and activities, which can be used to help the children to settle in with you. 

The scrunchy is pictured above between the parent and child. Think 1980s hair scrunchy, but huge, with lots of different colours and textures on. It has elastic in the middle, and a variety of fabrics over the top to explore. This is a great resource for music and movement play in the early years.

I have also included some children’s ideas/responses to my scrunchy games, so you can get an idea of how I use this in my work, and just how versatile and open-ended this resource can be. 

Let me know how you get on and where your children take you. 

When I work with a small group of children with my scrunchy, the children are:

  • Having fun
  • Looking at the other children in the group and connecting with them 
  • Making a physical connection through the scrunchy with the rest of the group
  • Developing friendships with each other
  • Learning how to be part of a group
  • Working together to make things happen
  • Developing physical and verbal communication skills
  • Developing a feel for the pulse/steady beat
  • Exploring physical development and dexterity
  • Encouraged to take risks/try something new
  • Developing proprioception (the brain/body connection which tells us where we are in relation to other objects/people)


Clear a large carpet area, or go to a separate space (if the children are settled enough to do that). You need to be able to stretch out your scrunchy without any children bumping their heads on furniture.

Group size and adult:child ratios

Smaller groups work best, as this creates more space for individual ideas/movement play. I use EYFS ratios as a guide. It is not always possible to work with these exact ratios. Trust your judgement. 

Two-year-olds:  one adult: four children, or two adults: eight children.

(When I work with two year olds there are two adults:four to six children I am an extra adult.)

Three to four year-olds: one adult: six children, or two adults: 12 children

(I go with key groups and take a steer from the practitioners I work with. I have worked with up to 16 children with an early years practitioner)


Below are a set of songsheets and songs to try with your scrunchy. If you can’t remember the tunes or words, just make one up! Take a tune you know and change the words. I find that London’s Bridg is Falling Down, Frere Jacques, Skip to my Lou, and Whole World in His Hands work well. 

Songsheets & songs: 

Pass the scrunchy - songsheet and song below

Can you lift the scrunchy - songsheet and song below

Stretch it out a little - songsheet and song below

Adapt and use the scrunchy as part of the song. I have used this one with children in the middle, giving them a gentle sway from side to side as you can see in the short video clip below:

Row your boat scrunchy sway video 

Movement play possibilities:

Put soft floor mats down in a cleared indoor space, or do on soft grass outside in the warmer months.

Shoes and socks off if safe and appropriate to do so.

With an open mind and safe scaffolding, the opportunities for child led development movement play are limitless. 

Try using recorded music and following the children’s lead with how to move the scrunchy. Each person could take a turn to ‘lead’ the movement without the need for any words at all. 

Some examples from my work:

I work with two-year-olds. I can never predict what they will choose to do with the scrunchy once it comes out. Something different happens each time. They may not want to do what I have planned, and often have far better ideas than me. 

Don’t fall in! I worked with a two-year-old girl who chose to put the scrunchy flat on the ground, so she could balance on it and walk around on top of it, in a circle, using it like a tightrope. She had bare feet so was getting lots of physical feedback from it. We had just been singing row your boat, with the children in the middle, being moved slightly by the scrunchy as we swayed it from side to side.  

Photo by Simon Watkinson on Unsplash

There were two adults, and four two-year-olds. 

There was water in the middle, and also a crocodile (from our row your boat song). The girl decided that she had to stay balanced on the scrunchy so that the crocodile could not snap her toes. Her friends followed her movements and ideas. Each child moved in a slightly different way, as they moved from foot to foot along the scrunchy without ‘falling off’ into the water.

The girl was the leader of the whole activity. One child tip-toed forwards, another walked sideways like a crab, another had one foot on the scrunchy and one on the floor. They were fully engaged using their whole bodies to balance, following each other around in a circle, on top of the scrunchy. The adults held the scrunchy down against the floor for them. I made up songs about what they were doing.

One boy in the sunshine:

I was working in a stay and play session, so parents and carers were there, as well as experienced early years practitioners.

This started off as a whole group activity, and ended up being a movement play session in response to one boy’s choices. The adults followed his lead. I scaffolded, by ensuring he had space and would not hurt himself or anyone else.

The boy’s childminder was fully engaged with the scrunchy, and had a go herself. This made a huge difference. Other adults were celebrating this boy’s movements from all around the garden. It was a real privilege to support him in his play in the sunshine. 

  1. He used it like a high jump with one adult on each end. 

  1. Getting higher! The adult holding onto the scrunchy with me is not his mum, but is still hugely celebrating and supporting his play.

  1. Next, he chose to do forward rolls over the top.

  1. Then, he got in between the top and bottom of our scrunchy. His friend joined him. 

  1. Limbo! His childminder got totally stuck in (as shown below). This was a 10 metre scrunchy, which is bunched right up.

5. His turn at limbo

  1. Feeling it against his face whilst doing his ‘limbo’ underneath

Where can you get scrunchies:

I get mine from 1st for Fabrics, up here in the north east of the UK, and I highly recommend them. £12.50/metre. I ask for varied fabrics, textures, and sounds. You can even get bells put into them for extra sensory stimulation. They can be posted to you.

You can also get scrunchies from the Jabadao shop where they are listed as ‘elastics’. 

I think there is a seller on Etsy called Cullercrafts making them too.

I have met people who have made them, but I think it is complicated as it involves turning the fabric inside out around the elastic. 

Let us know how you get in, and do get in touch if you have any comments or questions and one of the team can put you in touch with Kate. 

Our email is: bridge@twmuseums.org.uk