From the Archives: Spin Spider Spin by Patty Zeitlin

Our From the Archives series, curated by PIO Songs Editor Val Smalkin, is a chance to dive into our rich and varied history of songs! Today’s wonderful pick is by member Patty Zeitlin, and was featured in issue 57, in the fall of 2007.

Patty Zeitlin

My worst fear of spiders began when I was six, at a movie in which Tarzan, a superhero, was about to be devoured by a giant black widow. Also scary were the black pipe cleaner spiders that popped out at Halloween, that looked like the real black widows I’d seen lurking in dark garage corners…small, but poisonous. No wonder I developed an irrational fear of spiders! As so many of us did.

Then, during my Early Childhood Education training, I learned about the value of creatures like spiders and how to help children feel less fear and more appreciation for nature. So before I began to teach, I decided to overcome my own fear. I looked at pictures of spiders and observed real ones, accepting my discomfort, meanwhile. Gradually, I began to appreciate the beauty of spiders, their webs, and their role in the web of life. I learned how to safely capture a spider that had slipped into our classroom, how to show it to the children, talk about it, and then release it outdoors.

After creating three other recordings for children, Marcia Berman and I decided to record an album of songs to help reduce the “ick” factor and fears children had about small, familiar creatures like spiders. Right after that, I noticed a spider building a web in my front yard. The song Spin, Spider Spin, was born and it became the title of our fourth album.

Here’s one way to introduce and teach the song:

Depending on the age of the children, I ask a question like, What do spiders eat that we don’t want flying around us or landing on our food? After they answer, I might add, I used to be afraid of spiders, but I’m not anymore! Now here’s a song I wrote about watching a little spider build a web, and you can help me sing it if you want to.

First, I sing just the Spin, Spider Spin part and have them repeat it; then I sing the whole song. Next, I take a ball of gray yarn, and have the children sit in a circle on the floor. I show them how to hold onto a piece of yarn and take turns rolling the ball to another child. After it forms a web (ages 4 and up) they can stand and move slowly in a circle to the music, holding their piece of yarn. That’s one way to help them create their own “web of life” instead of being afraid of the creatures within it.

Spin Spider Spin copy

7 comments

  1. Oh! I hadn’t heard Patty sing this before! I love it when I read the lead sheet, but love it more having heard this recording!

  2. What a fantastic song and way to address things we fear that we must learn to co-exist with…Thank you for sharing this! I have printed it out and hoep to add it to my repertoire.

  3. I think part of the revulsion so many humans have for certain creatures comes from an anti-anthropomorphic urge. We like mammals like us; 2-4 legs/limbs, big eyes, faces somewhat similar to ours. Cute, furry creatures. What gives some of us the “ickies” is more or fewer than than 4 limbs (insects, spiders, octopi, snakes) and “sinister” or no discernible faces. So what we should teach children is that all living things — even plants! — teach us about the web of life and how we should react and treat them.

    Thanks for reminding me I should not be icked out by spiders… because I still am!

  4. I am so happy to add this song – and activity – to my repertoire. I am always looking for minor key tunes which are so engaging for young children! Thanks Patty. I am headed out to buy grey yarn to spin!

  5. Another example of a wonderful song to teach, entertain and support the emotional health of young-to-older! thanks for this neat addition to the tool bag of nature songs!

  6. Me too Margaret! I am running into so many kids lately who are terrified of even singing about spiders. I love this song of Patty’s but haven’t done it with the yarn idea.

  7. A perennial favorite in my programs! We use a big ball of white garden string & roll it back & forth across the circle, until a ‘web’ is formed. Then we all stand up and move around our beautiful web; how could YOU move around our web? At a subsequent visit, a teacher told that our web stayed in the dramatic play room for close to a week – with a LITTLE help from masking tape.

Comments are closed.