One thing I love about the music therapy community is its willingness to help each other. Whether it’s in group supervision, conference presentations, or on social media sites, I am continually amazed at other therapist’s generosity with sharing their ideas, suggestions, and work. And now with a little one taking over all of my time outside of work, more than ever I am leaning on other music therapists for new ideas and research suggestions. For example in preparing for my upcoming presentation at a conference, I posted in our music therapy Facebook group about research study suggestions regarding the effect of staff such as teachers, nurses, and paraprofessionals participating in music therapy sessions. Within hours, I got numerous suggestions from therapists; two people even sent me copies of their masters theses.
Recently music therapists on Facebook came to the rescue again in helping me get some new ideas for interventions. This last month I participated in an online song swap, sponsored by the Music Therapy Kids group on Facebook. Each week we were prompted to share an intervention that we like to use with clients working on certain goals or with with certain materials. This was the second song swap I participated in, and it is such a wonderful resource! Dozens of music therapists participated by posting videos, lyrics, photos, and sheet music. And what amazing ideas!
Below are my four contributions to the song swap, showing a few of my favorite songs I’ve been using recently in my group sessions. The first week I decided to make an informal video to show my first intervention, and my 15 month old son decided to sit in my lap and participate. After that, it became a fun experience (and at times a bit of a challenge!) to include my son in all four videos.
Week 1 – Communication
Communication is an extremely broad goal area, and there are so many ways to work on communication, whether it’s increasing verbal skills, promoting personal choice verbally or nonverbally, or developing language. Working with the early childhood population, I always try to get the kids to sing as much as possible as well as to contribute ideas for new lyrics or ways to sing. Basically anything to get them using their words and vocalizing!
I love a good, silly campfire song that’s simple and easy to change and adapt. “No Bananas in the Sky” is a favorite with my preschoolers. Sometimes I ask for different fruits to substitute in for bananas. Other times we try out silly voices like singing like a robot or a dinosaur. Lots of possibilities! The best part of campfire songs is they are meant to be super easy to pick up and enjoyable for everyone of all ages. This one is definitely catchy, and I love hearing kids singing it on their own later in the day. One three year old girl with autism who has limited verbal skills particularly loved this song and would start singing it every time she saw me.
Week 2 – Music and Movement
Every session I do includes lots of movement as young children learn and develop so much through movement especially in terms of gross and fine motor skills. They also cannot sit still for very long so incorporating movement into my sessions is imperative. I often use parachutes with little kids as it easily gets them moving and also contains them at the same time. Here’s a favorite little intervention I do where everyone gets a turn to hide under the parachute and play peekaboo. Great way to work on name recognition, impulse control, and turn taking too.
And if you don’t have a parachute, scarves work well too!
Week 3 – Academic Skills
In preschool, we start working on pre-academic skills such as colors, numbers, shapes, etc. The slightly older children start learning letters and basic writing skills. It’s so easy to incorporate so many of these basic concepts into song so that children are working on these skills without even knowing it. Part of our job working with these young children, is making sure they are ready for kindergarten and have the basic knowledge that is expected of them at that age.
“My Bonny Lies over the Ocean” is a great song for movement and for letter recognition. First I sing through the song, and then I ask them to listen for all the words that begin with “B” and to touch their nose (or raise their hand, clap, etc) whenever they hear one. Then I make it more difficult and they have to stand/sit for those words. And then we go faster each time.
Week 4 – Props or Instruments
Almost all kids (and grown ups too!) love getting the chance to play a drum. However, drums are loud and raucous and can be problematic in group settings, especially with children with sensory issues. I adapt the Nordoff Robbins song “Let’s Play the Drum” all the time in my group sessions where I walk around the room and each kid gets to play the drum once. Especially in large groups, it helps control the chaos a bit and limit sensory overload while still letting everyone have a turn. It’s also great warm up to then lead into a longer drumming intervention.
Hope you enjoyed the videos! And looking forward to the Mid-Atlantic Regional Music Therapy Conference later this week to share more ideas with other music therapists!