Tag Archives: Drumming

Activity Inspiration: We’re Cooking Thanksgiving Dinner

23 Nov

November is a great time to talk about FOOD…which just so happens to be one of my favorite things. I created this little activity to open conversation about Thanksgiving dinner foods and family traditions with my kiddos, so you can keep it as traditional or creative as you want. If you’re going the traditional route, you might want to make some food item picture cards like mine to help structure the activity. But if you’d like your clients to come up with their own favorite foods, give them a blank square and have them draw the item and share it with the group!

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Pass out some instruments, start a simple drumbeat, then sing or chant the words:

“We’re cooking Thanksgiving dinner, and we’re gonna make something yummy!”

Choose a client to drum/play their food word a few times, then get everyone in the group playing it. Each time you add a new food item, see how many words you can sequence together! It can get really silly if you’ve got a big group, especially if you’ve got creative food choices (ie CANDY, CANDY, CANDY). Sometimes, we even pretend the gathering drum is a table and practice asking for different food items (“Can you pass the turkey?” “Yes, I can!”) and pass the cards to a steady beat.

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Activity Inspiration: Fall Drum Chant

12 Oct

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Drumming simple chants or word rhythms can be a great way to orient clients to a new season/topic while also working on other important goals (reading, comprehension, speech, etc). I like to use this chant as a warm-up or cool-down activity, and often leave room for conversation about favorite fall activities. To start, encourage clients to join in playing a steady beat on a gathering drum (or separate drums), then begin chanting:

Fall is here and leaves fall down

Colors changing all around

Apples, pumpkins, scarecrows too

I love fall—how about you?

You’ll also want to download these FREE fall chant cards that I made to go along. Drop them into a tambourine or drum, take turns selecting one, then chant the text or drum the word rhythms. Each card also has a CV, CVC or sound effect word at the end, so this can be a great way to address speech goals. I often lead clients in a simple gesture on each word, like pretending to bite an apple on “CHOMP” or rubbing the drum for “WOOSH.”

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5+ Faves: Pumpkin Ideas for Fall

20 Oct

What people might say: “Yay, it’s finally fall.”

What I actually hear: “Pumpkin coffee! Pumpkin muffins! Pumpkin picking! PUMPKIN EVERYTHING AHHHHHHHH.”

My profound love of all things pumpkin doesn’t just stop at food. My sessions this month have been filled to the brim with all things autumn, harvest and…pumpkins! This week, I’m sharing 5 of my favorite pumpkin-themed activities that will have your kiddos jamming, moving, grooving in no time.

1. “Pumpkin Pie” Play Along (California Honeydrops): This is a great warm-up activity. Pass out shakers, guiros, sticks—anything that makes a nice scrapey sound. If you have a washboard, clients can take turns being a soloist (and if you don’t have a washboard, GET ONE!!!! It’s always a hit); otherwise, do some guitar strumming instead.

2. “Gonna Pick a Pumpkin” Chant: Okay…so I totally made this chant up in the moment while I was drumming with a kiddo. But it was really simple and fun, and was a great way to encourage my client to vocalize and work on playing a steady beat.

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If your clients are older, work together to come up with a fancy beat to play while you chant (or split into two groups and perform your beat for each other). You could even leave out the “big and round” part and have clients fill in the blank.

3. Pumpkin Vine: Click the link for a free download of the visual and to see how I use it! This little song is so catchy, and I guarantee you’ll be singing it all day. I love using this activity for fine motor skills, impulse control and decision making .


4. Pumpkin Bowling: If you really want to get the party started…do this one. Seriously! It takes all of 5 minutes to make and is fabulous for working on motor skills, turn taking and just overall group engagement.

 5. 5 Little Pumpkins book: This is a classic song, but I am in love with having it in board book format. Singable books are a perfect cool down activity for little ones, and I like using this one for counting/basic math goals, visual attention and vocalizing (my favorite page has a big “OOOOOO!” that kids just eat up with a spoon). I also use shakers as pumpkins sometimes and take one away each time we turn the page.

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6. BONUS IDEA! PumpkinFace HD App (free!) is easy to navigate and comes complete with spooky Halloween music. I use it to work on emotions, and have my kiddos select eyes, mouths and hats–then we sing and talk about how our pumpkin might be feeling.

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Music Therapy Olympics: Instrument Relay (with 4+ adaptations!)

18 Feb

As the 2014 Olympics come to a close, I want to share another activity that has been highly successful in my music therapy groups: an instrument relay! I have implemented this activity in a variety of ways to work on goal areas like social skills (sharing, turn taking, positive peer interactions) and following multi-step directions (shake and pass, etc). Regardless of the adaptation that I select, I always preface this activity with a discussion about teamwork and working together to reach a common goal. If I have access to a SMART board or iPad, I will show a brief video of a relay (speed skating, track and field, etc) and draw attention to how the athletes are taking turns, sharing and supporting each other.

Below are 4+ instrument relay race ideas to get your wheels turning, instrument batons passing and speed skates…skating!! Too much nerdiness in that sentence? …NO WAY.

1. Instrument Relay: When first introducing the concept of a relay race, I like to start out with a small, easy-to-play instrument, like a shaker. So my hands are free, I create a simple instrumental loop on a keyboard or music program that provides a steady beat without being overly distracting. I encourage each student to shake the shaker, then pass it to the person sitting next to them by improvising rhythmic or melodic prompts (ex. “Shake and shake and shake and shake and PASS IT TO YOUR TEAMMATE”) over the loop. See how fast you can get that shaker going around the circle!

Listen and download this FREE groovy instrumental I made on Mixcraft that’s guaranteed to make you strike a disco pose:

Alternate idea: Pair the concept of a relay race with Tuned Into Learning’s “Pass it Along” from Volume 1: Social Skills & Pragmatics. Let me tell you—this song is fantastic! Directions are embedded in the song lyrics (ex. “I play my instrument and pass it along”) and the music provides extra support for clients who need it, especially during that difficult transition that happens when you have to pass that shaker along. It’s hard to stop playing a fun instrument!

2. Speed Skating Relay: See the instrument relay above…but before clients can pass their instrument to the next person, they must stand up and “speed skate” a lap around the circle! This provides an opportunity to work on motor skills and following three-step directions.

Visual: Show this brief speed skating video. Bonus points if you have access to a SMART board and can play it WHILE the speed skating activity is happening. It’s fun to watch clients skate along with some Olympians.

3. Drum Rhythm Relay: Initiate a simple rhythm and pass it around the circle, telephone-style. Is the rhythm still correct when it makes its way back to you? How fast can it go around the circle without any errors? Have clients take turns being the drum rhythm leader. In a lesson or music education setting, write rhythmic lines on index cards and tape them to a handheld drum. Pass the drum around the circle and have each client drum the rhythm.

Make it harder: Split clients into small teams to create and write down their own rhythms for the group to try.

photo(4)4. Word Rhythm Relay: Instead of rhythmic notation, try writing thematic words like “Winter Olympics” and “Gold Medal” on index cards (with a visual, if needed) to promote speech skills, articulation and literacy. You can also pair the words with the rhythmic notation if working on music reading skills. Demonstrate speaking and playing the word rhythms simultaneously on a drum to start off the relay!

 Free sample word rhythm printable HERE!

[Print, cut, glue to thick paper (if needed) and drum away.]

Additional Resource: Check out a recent post from Wade Richards of Time for Music, where he shares a list of Olympic sentences to try in his post “Drumming to Foster Fluency in Speech.”

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Activity Inspiration: When It Snows

9 Dec

In honor of the snow day I’m currently enjoying in Maryland (WOO HOO!), I’d like to share a winter drumming activity called “When It Snows” that I created for my students. I like to pull this activity out when snow is in the weather forecast to help prepare my students for what they might see or feel during a snowstorm. I also tend to pair this activity with songs about what to wear when it’s cold outside!

Primary Goal Areas:

  • Following directions
  • Imitating movements
  • Sequencing (words, movements or both)

 I specifically structured the melody so that it will cue clients to execute different ways of playing their drums, such as two drums beats after each phrase or a rumble on a V chord. I usually introduce this song by asking clients to listen to the words while I sing and just try to do the drum beats and movements. I will also display a visual that contains the four lines and movements that I fade out once my clients become familiar with the song. It may also help to point at each picture icon when it is time to do that movement or have a client do the pointing.


Below is a chart of the four key lines and corresponding movements that you’ll hear in the recording below.



“The wind will blow”

Rub drum with flat hand

“The snowflakes flow”

Tap fingers lightly on drum

“Snowballs we’ll throw”

Hit drum once and say “SPLAT!”

“I might feel cold”

Hug self, shiver and say “BRRRR”

 Additional Adaptations:

  • Finger Play: For younger clients, turn this song into a finger play with simple gestures for each line (cup hands and blow for the wind, wave fingertips for snowflakes, etc).
  • Songwriting: Work together to write lines and corresponding movements based on client knowledge of what happens when it snows
  • Turn-taking and Impulse Control: Assign a different line to each client. This requires them to know:
    • The words
    • The movement/drum sound
    • Where their line fits into the song (what comes before and after)

I hope you enjoy this FREE VISUAL AID DOWNLOAD  and sound recording of “When It Snows.” What are your favorite snowy day activities? 


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