The magic of gorilla named Matilda: developing speech, language and motor skills through music

We have long loved the song "Matilda the Gorilla," by Mary Rice Hopkins. We were introduced to Matilda years ago and she has remained a staple in many of our music therapy sessions.

With a catchy tune and a lovable main character Matilda was bound to be a hit. As a music therapist I loved the repetitive chorus that features vowel sounds (oooh aahhh) and extended it to a longer held vowel to increase success for children developing speech. We also made a slight change to the lyrics to send Matilda to allow Matilda to end up in the Jungle rather than the circus. During this song we add in sign language to target fine motor, motor imitation, labeling and expressive language.

Here is a link to Mary Rice Hopkin's Matilda the Gorilla. Below we have included our adapted lyrics for use in music therapy. You can view our version with the added visuals and sign language on our YouTube channel by visiting the "videos" section on this website, or typing in "Rhythm and Strings Music Therapy" on YouTube.

Matilda the Gorilla

By Mary Rice Hopkins

Adapted for use in music therapy by Marie Miller, MT-BC

I had a pet gorilla (sign “gorilla”) C G

Her name it was Matilda G C

Matilda liked to sing songs every day C F

This is what Matilda the gorilla would say: C G C

(^sign "gorilla")

Ooooooh aaaaaaaaah C G

Ooooooh aaaaaaaaah G C

Ooooooh aaaaaaaaah C F

Oooh aaaah oooh C G C

(chords for verse and chorus repeat through remainder of song)

We’d go strolling through the park

The people would laugh (laughing) and the dogs would bark (sign “dog” modified)

They didn’t understand a thing Matilda would say

But Matilda was just doing her gorilla thing

(sign “gorilla”)


One day a young man came along

He said “Matilda, I know where you belong”

I’ll put you in the jungle to sing your song

You’ll be monkeying around all day long!


Well Matilda was as happy as she could be

She’d eat her banana (sign “banana”) and seeing from the tree (sign “tree”)

Now when you go to the jungle you’ll see

Matilda singing with her family



We hope you enjoy using this song with the children you work with! We love the opportunities it provides for vocalizing on an open vowel sound, gross and fine motor skills, and motor imitation. Visit the Rhythm and Strings Music Therapy YouTube channel to see how we implement this song.

We typically pre-teach the sign language each time we move to the next picture and also add in other signs to discuss the pictures.


Music therapy services in Southern Maine and New Hampshire

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