Early Childhood

How to Lead a Tot Shabbat: 10 Fun Songs for Kids + FREE Lead Sheets

This is a Tot Shabbat Songsession Plan that I’ve used to lead small and large groups of kids and their families with high levels of interactivity and sustained engagement. The ‘script’ I’ve provided is intended to offer you guidance and a model. I don’t suggest that you read them verbatim. Similarly, this set of songs is not intended to be prescriptive or exhaustive. Aim to be flexible and responsive to the needs of the folks in front of you. You can learn more about how to do that in my Songleading for Kiddos course!

Set a musical mood

I  typically have ambient music playing as people enter our Tot Shabbat space, as it is an opportunity to set the mood. I typically use my Tot Shabbat playlist, which includes tunes that we’ll be singing during the program. Just like a theater flickers lights or sounds a bell to indicate when audience members should find their seats, using a pre-service song is a prompt for engagement. 

The opening songs are designed to build confidence and competence

I like starting with a song that is both familiar and novel- a combination our brains love. I want to demonstrate to families before I even begin singing that I “get” them, and I find this Shabbat version of “Baby Shark” to fill that role delightfully.

10 Tot Shabbat Songs for Kiddos

1. It’s Shabbat by the Maccabeats 

This Shabbat version of the painfully popular “Baby Shark” is an attention catcher that consistently sparks delight from small children. I like to play the recording of this song immediately before I want to start my Tot Shabbat program, which creates an opening ritual. Young children thrive with repetition, so this is just one of the many strategic cues I’m cultivating to increase participation. 

 I turn the volume up a bit and start clapping and singing along to the recording to help them transition to from whatever they are doing towards a communal singing experience. This song is high energy, which I carry over to the next song. Your use of the presently popular “Baby Shark” tune is a clue to your participants that you “get” them, which builds relationships.

To transition: OK Friends, it is time to gather together for our Tot Shabbat service! Please find a seat- you can sit on a chair, floor, or lap- find a place for your tushie! We are here to sing, dance, play, and learn together! My name is ______ and I’m SO glad you are here. I’m DELIGHTED to be sharing Shabbat songs with you. (If you have any community norms to share, this is a good spot to communicate them)

 I think you might know the next one- if you don’t know it, you will soon! Let’s get ready:

Chant: When I say bim, you say bam! 


When I say bam, you say bim: BAM (BIM) BAM (BIM)…… 

<start strumming guitar, sing….>

2. Bim Bam 

This tune is familiar to  Jewish people of all ages all over the US. Whether I sing it in an early childhood learning center or in a residential senior facility, it is always a hit. The simplicity is brilliant and I love leading it because it breeds enthusiasm.  I start singing the song with my fists tapping on top of one another to the beat… that way even the folks who have never heard any Jewish song before can participate simply by copying me. I always remember to translate “Shabbat Shalom” because their meaning is central to the entire celebration. Remember to LISTEN to your participants- if they are singing beautifully, tell them! 

Transition: Friends, I loved hearing your voices as we shared that song about a Shabbat full of peace! Next up, we’ll get a little silly by singing a  melody you might know a little differently than usual….


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3. If It’s Shabbat and You Know It 

This is a cheesy choice- but a deliberate one. I want to make sure that every participant who wishes to participate can do so with confidence- and this song  TTTO (to the tune of) “If You’re Happy and You Know It” fits the bill for that task. Ask the kiddos how they like to move their body the best and “zip” in their ideas.

If It’s Shabbat and you know it, clap your hands!

If It’s Shabbat and you know it, clap your hands!

If It’s Shabbat and you know it, and you really want to show it…

If It’s Shabbat and you know it, clap your hands!

If It’s Shabbat and you know it, stomp your feet…

If It’s Shabbat and you know it, shout shalom…

If It’s Shabbat and you know it, blow a kiss…

If It’s Shabbat and you know it, take a deep breath…

If It’s Shabbat and you know it, shake a hand…

Transition: Yes, Yes, Yes! It IS Shabbat, and we know it- and something else I know is that it is good to be together! Look around the space we are sharing…sisters, brothers, old friends, new friends… y’all are wonderful and it feels SO good to be together. We’re going to use Hebrew and English words in  our next song about how good it is to be together. This is a warm-up song for our bodies, so let’s start keeping the beat with our bodies! Can you show me how the music moves with tapping toes? (I’ll start tapping my toes) Yes! Until you know the words, I’ll sing and you move! (Start with a tapping toes verse)

4. How Good It Is, How Sweet It IsHinei Mah Tov by Miss Emily

Feel free to use any version of Hinei Mah Tov- this is a zipper song that I use as a “warm up” for our bodies.  I  curate ideas from the kiddos about ways to move our bodies to the beat in this zipper song about how good it is to be together.  I don’t typically teach the words explicitly. Rather, my priority in this song is to encourage participation through physical movement. This is a standard in many communities- I’ll often sing a few bars of a more traditional “Hinei Mah Tov” to demonstrate that some of the crowd is already familiar with the words. Once I’ve completed the initial “tapping toes” demonstration verse, I’ll ask kids what they want to do with their bodies, then I’ll sing whatever idea they gave me into the next verse: How good it is, how sweet it is….spinning, stomping, crawling, dancing, skipping, tip toeing, dabbing, snuggling….

Transition: Wow! By the end of that song, you really knew what you were doing! Amazing singing and moving, friends! I want everyone to head back to their seat! (I might sing one more slow acapella verse ‘How good it is, how sweet it is, finding a tushie spot and sitting in our seat with my sisters and brothers….)! Now, it is time to set some intentions for our Shabbat. Take a moment to think about what kind of Shabbat you want to share. Take a few breaths while you reflect on how you hope to feel or what you wish to do in the next 24 hours. In a moment, then I’ll ask you what you think, and we’ll welcome our blessings, practicing gratitude as we enter Shabbat.  

5. Hello Blessing, Bye Bye Stressing by Miss Emily

In this zipper song, participants are asked to contribute an adjective- a word that describes the kind of Shabbat they wish to share. Remind people to let go of their typical stresses and enjoy the moment. I might prompt participants to share what they are going to let go: “What stress can you wish bye-bye for now?” and highlight that the blessings are in abundance- not only in our rituals but also in our presence.

While this tune isn’t directly related to any particular blessing, it can be shared ritually in conjunction with any of the blessings or songs that are part of your communal celebration.

Transition: I feel lighter already- I let go of some of my stresses- and I’m ready to welcome in Shabbat. For our next song, I’m going to ask everyone to say my most favorite Hebrew word. Jewish people use this word to tell God “Good Job.” The word is ‘Halleluyah!’- Can I get a ‘Halleluyah?’ (group responds with hallelujah…if they don’t get it you can try again). Amazing. In this song, we are going to sing it in a funny way, like this- repeat after me: HA! (ha) LA LE LA! (la le la) LA LE LU!  (la le lu) YAH! (yah)

Great! In between turns of singing that together, you’ll follow directions to share this song.

6. Halalalalalalalalaleluyah by folk, taught to me by Shira Kline

This is one of my favorite evergreen tunes (evergreen = nonseasonal song that can be shared at any time). This song has an “A” part (Halalalalalalalaleluyah) and a “B” part in which directions are given. Here are a few examples. (Always make sure to model the behaviors):

Wave hello to someone far away from you, wave hello and say “Shalom!”

Take a deep breath and let it out quietly, take a deep breath and just relax… 

Transition: ‘Hallelujah’ means ‘praise God’- praise is when we say what we like or love about something. I hope you remember to offer praises daily.  It is a sacred obligation to recognize and appreciate creation. God miraculously made our world, and in my experiences, children are experts at observation and their wonder can be awe-inspiring. We can use all of our parts to experience this wonderful world we share. Now let’s sing a song about our senses and how they help us know God.

7. God, God, God by Ellen Allard

This is my most favorite Ellen Allard song, and she is a prolific artist, so it is hard to  whittle it down! I start by asking kids to take out one finger on each hand, and show them to me. Then, I’ll prompt: “point to the part of you that can do each of these things: hear, see, smell, taste, touch, know, feel!”  (I’m modeling pointing to the parts with one finger on each hand.)

Transition: Now that our whole best selves are ready, we are going to say some special Hebrew words that come from our Torah. Jewish people from all over the world say these precious words every day. In my house, we say it at bedtime. (Only say things that are true- make a personal connection if you have one).

8. Sh’ma by Shira Kline

I like to match a melody that is typical in the congregational service of the Tot Shabbat host. Once we chant in Hebrew, I sing a translation TTTO (to the tune of) Sulzer’s Sh’ma: “Listen, Yisrael! Adonai is our god! Adonai is 1”.

If “God, God, God” had high engagement, I might return to the song briefly. After I sing the translation, I might say: “Yes! And who can help me remember all the parts that we can use to know our God Echad?” (using hand to show number one), then lead one more chorus of the tune. 

To transition: I think it is truly amazing that our one God made this world and loves us so much. Please take a few moments to think about what in this world you love, because we are about to sing a Thank You Song about the things for which we are grateful!

9. Thank You God by Shira Kline

This is another one of my favorite ‘evergreen’ ‘zipper songs’ (see above for explanations of these useful terms). The simplicity of this song makes it incredibly sing-able. Participants re-create the tune each time it is shared by adding their own lyrics, and I find that parents are incredibly attentive when their individual children have the opportunity to shine in this way.  Kids and grown-ups need a few moments of processing time before they are asked to perform a new task (which is why I explained their role in the preceding transition). 

I’ll instruct participants by saying: “I’ll sing ‘thank you for my’ and then get really quiet. If I look right at you when I get quiet, it is your turn to finish the line. If you don’t want a turn, just point to the person next to you when I get to you, so I know. 

Transition: (I take the last turn in zipping ideas into the tune  and I sing thank you for the people in the room, the space we are sharing, and the other activities we are enjoying in connection with the Tot Shabbat program). THANK YOU, friends, for creating these musical moments together. Now, we’re at the conclusion of the service and I’d like you to cuddle up with whoever came here with you tonight! Find your grown-ups and snuggle in close, because you are going to be singing this next echo song to each other. Parents and kids each get a turn in this song about blessings. Who wants to go first, parents or kids…? (Decide who is going to go). Great, this is a taking turns song. I’m going to sing a line, and when it is your turn, you will sing it back to the people in your family. OK, kiddos! Sing the words I sing to your grown ups! Let’s get super quiet in the room so we can hear them. Grown ups, you take a listening turn. Once the kiddos go, we’ll switch! Then, we’ll conclude the song in a grand finale, singing blessings to one another….

10. Family Blessing Song by Miss Emily 

This is a lullaby in my house. The Priestly Benediction in Numbers 6:23–27 is a beautiful custom that comes straight from the Torah. I have always been irked by the relative opacity of the translated language I grew up hearing, including ‘God lifting his countenance upon thee’ which I still don’t understand. 

It is interesting to note that in the Torah, the priestly class, the cohanim, recited this blessing with their hands outstretched, with pinky and ring finger together, then the middle and pointer together, with thumb outstretched. This position is known today as the “Vulcan Salute,” Leonard Nimoy, Star Trek actor, cited this Torah tradition for the inspiration of this move. 

Customize this plan to meet your community’s needs!

If none of these songs are familiar to you, then it is probably a good idea to use some of your existing repertoire in conjunction with these suggestions. Yasher Koach-all the respect for your willingness to work to connect with kiddos. Learn more in What is Tot Shabbat? 

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