Tag Archives: Fall

Friday Faves: Fall Edition

7 Oct

Lately, my sessions have been filled with songs about apples, pumpkins, and all things fall…and I CAN’T GET ENOUGH! Can you feel the sweater weather, fluffy scarf, pumpkin spice love? Today, I’m sharing 3 resources that have been making their way into most of my early childhood and school based sessions.

  • Pumpkin Counting Cards from The Kindergarten Connection. Laminate these babies, put them on a clip ring, and you’re ready to roll! Add clothespins for some extra fine motor fun. I like using these cards with improvised songs & familiar tunes like 5 Little Pumpkins. Bonus: the version below is great for counting AND emotion identification.

  • Singing “Button Up Your Overcoat.” I love singing this song acapella with my kiddos on the first chilly day of the year. We have fun making up our own finger play movements, like putting on a coat, signing “apple” and pretending to sleep. This song is especially great for parent-child duos, because it’s fun to give each other a big hug and sing “you belong to me!”

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Friday Faves: 4+ Apple Ideas

30 Sep

It’s time to rev your laminators: after a long hiatus, Songs for Success is back in business with music therapy session ideas, songs and visuals! I’ve been busy with grad school, intern supervision and a whole lot of clinical work, but couldn’t be more excited to start spreading the intervention love again. In honor of October (and finally, cooler weather), I’m sharing my favorite apple songs and ideas.

This week, my kiddos and I will be…

Counting Apples!

  • Pretend your red, green and yellow shakers are apples and sing “Way Up High in the Apple Tree.”
  • Download cute and {free} visuals like these apple seeds or apple baskets and sing while you count.
  • Slap some apple icons on your beanbags, hide them, and go apple picking.
  • Sing an old school SFS song like “Apples in a Tree”  or a classic like “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree” for intergenerational groups. I like to change the words to /I don’t sit under the apple tree or apples will fall on me, no, no, no! Let’s count how many fell off the tree, how many do you see? Oh, count these apples with me/.

Dancing to songs about apples!

This song…need I say more?

Relaxing with “Apple Tree” by Justin Roberts!

This is a sweet, calm way to end a session. I like to sing it live or listen to the recording and sway with red, green and yellow scarves along with the music. We love growing like seeds, waving our branches, and stretching to the sun. Bonus points if you incorporate signs (wait, apple and tree are a great place to start) and practice spelling apple at the end.

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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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Singable Book: The Leaves Are Falling One by One

28 Sep

Leaves are fallingSung to the tune of “The Ants Go Marching One by One,” this book by Steve Metzger is one of my fall favorites. It’s a familiar melody that has lots of fun rhymes, action movements and opportunities for color identification and counting.

I like to pair it with some foam leaves that I labeled with both the number and number words (which, btw, are also fun to use with a parachute—throw them in and make them fall/twirl/dance, etc!). While we’re singing along, I have my kiddos sort through the leaves to find the corresponding number or word, then add it to our leaf pile each time we sing “fly, fly, fly.” At the end of the book, we JUMP, JUMP, JUMP in our leaf pile and throw them everywhere…well, because it’s fall.

Leaves are falling 2

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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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Activity Inspiration: Starvin’ Marvin the Turkey

18 Nov

Just a few more days until I’m off to Jacksonville, FL to experience my first American Music Therapy Association National Conference! I’m so excited to meet and learn from music therapists from around the country (and to escape the cold Maryland weather for some Florida sun—woo hoo!). Before I go, I want to share a silly little Thanksgiving song that my internship supervisor and I wrote together called “Starvin’ Marvin.”

For this activity, your clients can practice impulse control, counting, following directions, turn taking and motor skills as they listen to the song lyrics and toss beanbags into Starvin’ Marvin the turkey’s mouth. Don’t be afraid to be silly—I love to make Marvin dance and often make sound effects to go along with the song (stomach rumbling, gobbling and sometimes he even says, “FEEEEEEED ME!”). You can even have clients volunteer to make Marvin move and talk–but be prepared for LOTS of giggles! This activity could also be a simple craft to make at home to keep your kids occupied and having fun on a rainy November day. Pre-cut the box, have them design and draw the turkey on it and then, voila! You have a new game to add to your collection.

All you’ll need to make your turkey is a small cardboard box, scissors and my turkey face template (included below). I cut a large hole in the front of the box and glued the turkey face together on the top. I also had some left over feathers from another activity, so I glued those on the back of the box to give him a cute tail. Let your creativity run wild with this one!

P1020532During the song, encourage your clients to wait until the count of three to toss their bean bags into Marvin’s mouth.  Depending on client needs, I either hold the turkey close to the client so they can easily put their bean bag inside his mouth or set it up further away if they are able to toss the bean bag. Repeat the bean bag toss as many times as desired and be sure to encourage lots of gobbling and wing flapping from clients who are waiting for their turn! Once each client has had a chance to “feed” Marvin, have everyone speak for him and say “Thank you” by using their voices, sign language or AACs—whatever works best for each client.

Below is a recording of “Starvin’ Marvin” and a free PDF of my turkey face template. I hope you have a blast making your own turkey and implementing this activity with your clients and children!

Starvin’ Marvin PDF

Activity Inspiration: My Pumpkin Vine

13 Oct

As the air (slowly…but surely!) gets colder here in Maryland and Halloween draws closer, I decided it was time to bring out some fun pumpkin activities for my sessions this week. One of my favorite pumpkins songs to use is a folk song called “My Pumpkin Vine” that I’ve adapted in a variety of ways for a range of populations. This week, I’m sharing the version that I created for children to focus on goals such as impulse control, decision-making, following directions and fine motor skills.


  • Image of a vine (laminated with velcro)
  • Realistic images of yellow flowers, black bugs, green leaves and orange pumpkins (laminated with velcro)
  • Choice board to display on iPad, SMART board or printed out

For this activity, I give each client one pumpkin vine containing a “picture bank” of images to add during the song. P1020484

I display a choice board created for the song and ask for a volunteer to select an item to add to the vine by vocalizing or pointing to their desired choice.

P1020482If you are an iPad user, I highly recommend a free app called Sounding Board, (https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/soundingboard/id390532167?mt=8). It provides simple choice board templates, which I find work great for my nonverbal clients. The app allows you to easily input photographs and record your voice, which provides great auditory reinforcement when these clients press their desired selection.photo-1

Each time a choice is made, I will sing that verse of the song and encourage clients to move the targeted image from the “picture bank” to their pumpkin vine. I created my own chorus involving a 1-2-3 clapping pattern to increase engagement for clients who have finished placing their image on the vine. Some clients may need more direction and support than others during this activity, so each verse can be repeated as many times as needed.

P1020486 At the end of the song, I ask clients to hold their full pumpkin vines up and show them to a friend. This is a great opportunity to practice social skills like giving compliments and saying “Thank you!”

 Additional adaptations of this activity may include:

  • Expanded goal areas:
    • Expressive Language Skills: Have each client share an item that could be found on their pumpkin vine and add it into the song. Be warned: silliness may abound when you do this! I like to encourage creativity when I use this as a songwriting activity, and have heard suggestions ranging from squirrels and birds to Spiderman and video games!
    • Art and Music: Have clients draw their own pumpkin vine. Instruct clients to listen to the song lyrics and draw only the items they hear on their pumpkin vine. Share pictures with the group after singing the song.

Below is a sample choice board and recording of me singing “My Pumpkin Vine.”

Pumpkin Vine Choice Board

Activity Inspiration: Instrument Corn Maze

8 Oct

Another fall-themed activity I’ve found highly motivating for many of my clients is my instrument corn maze! This activity involves the creation of instrument stations that clients will visit and play as they make their way through the “corn maze” path. Reinforcing a seasonal concept such as a corn maze can be helpful for clients because it provides exposure to a common fall activity that they may experience in the community.  I also like utilizing a range of musical instruments in one activity because it allows clients to experiment with a variety of sounds.


  • Corn images
  • Assorted instruments (4-6)
  • Appropriate musical recording
  • Mallets (1-2)

I printed a large corn image on four different colored pieces of construction paper for each instrument station. The amount of corn maze stations you create is dependent on your therapy space, goals and client needs.

I selected four different instruments (tubano, xylophone, tambourine, djembe) and attached a corn image to each. When I decided on a path for the maze, I made a “corn maze map” to project on a SMART board for students to follow as they make their way through the maze. The colored corn images on the map correspond with the images on each instrument in the order that they are placed in the room. For smaller groups, you could distribute a map to each client.


During this activity, I play upbeat recordings such as “Ease On Down the Road” from The Wiz. Because my clients range greatly in age, I find that popular recorded music is almost always age appropriate while allowing me the freedom to assist each client as they take a turn navigating through the maze. At each instrument station, clients are to strike the instrument at least once with a mallet. When they cross the “finish line” after the last station, the facilitator should lead the group in cheering for the client.

Additional adaptations of this activity may include:

  • Clients work together to create the corn maze and map
    • Separate groups into two or more teams
    • Each team must design a maze and map for the other team to follow
  • Facilitator creates an original “corn maze” song to accompany the activity with embedded directions

Below is my sample corn maze map and a great recording of “Ease On Down the Road.” I’d love to hear about how my instrument corn maze works for you and your clients!

Sample Corn Maze Map

Activity Inspiration: Autumn Scarf Movement

30 Sep

This week, I’m sharing an easily adaptable fall movement activity to Concerto No. 3 (“Autumn”) from Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons. I love incorporating classical music into music therapy sessions whenever possible because it is always age appropriate and provides a fantastic opportunity to introduce clients to a range of musical styles and genres. The programmatic nature of this Vivaldi piece pairs well with concrete seasonal concepts such as leaves changing color and falling off the trees, making it a highly successful activity for clients of all ages and levels of functioning.

For this activity, you’ll need:

  • Scarves
  • Yarn
  • Laminated leaf images (3-4 per scarf)
  • Recording of Vivaldi’s “Autumn”

First, I decided on some leaf images that were realistic in color, size and shape.

I laminated them for durability, punched a hole in each and tied them to some scarves with yarn. Using a simple slipknot, I made a loop at both ends of each scarf so that clients can easily grip it or slide it on their wrists if needed.

Scarf with Leaves Attached

Scarf with Leaves Attached

Scarf with Leaves Hanging

Scarf with Leaves Hanging

During this activity, clients are encouraged to move their leaves along with the rise and fall of the music. Clients without physical restrictions are free to stand and move around the room if desired. Throughout the activity, I model a variety of movements for clients such as:

  • Lifting the scarf up and down
  • Swirling the scarf around
  • Waving the scarf
  • Making the leaves bounce
  • Spinning slowly in a circle

Additional adaptations of this movement activity could include:

  • Music and art: Encourage clients to draw a picture of the story depicted in the music as they listen.
  • Music and relaxation: Dim the lights and have clients move their scarves slowly in their seats.
  • Sharing and teamwork: Pair students together and have them share one scarf. The students must work as a team to move the scarf without talking.

Below is a great version of Vivaldi’s “Autumn.” Happy Fall, everyone!

Activity Inspiration: Apples in a Tree

22 Sep

As we make our way into fall, I want to share a fun seasonal activity that I created with the help of some large scale props, a little bit of craftiness and a few colorful chords. Many of the apple-themed activities that I have come across in my research are cute and catchy, but most are geared toward young children and emphasize academic skills such as counting and color identification. I have noticed that for groups in which clients’ ages and levels of functioning of clients vary greatly, targeting specific academic concepts may not often be the most beneficial therapeutic approach. I found that many of the most successful activities in this particular situation often emphasize broad cognitive, social and emotional areas such as decision-making, attention-to-task, impulse control and following directions.

For this activity, you’ll need to make a medium to large-sized tree as your main supplemental! I was lucky enough to recycle a leftover tree prop to make my apple tree, but a piece of poster board could work well for most groups. Draw or print enough apples for your group—I made sure there were at least three apples per person, plus a few extras in case some get damaged or lost—and adhere them to your tree with velcro. If possible, laminate your apples for extra durability.

Apple Tree

Apple Tree

For clients with autism who struggle with abstract thinking, I recommend making some sort of apple basket (either one large one for the group or individual baskets) in order to make the task more concrete. You’ll notice that my “apple baskets” are clear bins with a picture of a basket filled with apples on the front and inside.

Apple Basket

Apple Basket

Below you’ll find a brief recording of my song, “Apples in a Tree,” and a copy of the chord sheet. When I implement this activity, I instruct clients to sit and listen to the chorus, which contains the instructions, as I sing it through one time. Clients must then raise their hands during the “Who’s it gonna be?” verse if they would like to come pick an apple. This is repeated until every client has appropriately raised their hand and had an opportunity to come up to the apple tree. The overall song structure is very loose, as I often repeat the chorus and improvise lyrics over the melody as needed to prompt each client as they select an apple. After the final client has had a turn, I sing the last two lines that you’ll hear on the recording and have everyone hold up their apples.

Additional adaptations of this activity could include:

  • Creating supplemental aids on a smaller scale (i.e., file folder) for an individual session
  • Expanded goal areas:
    • Color sorting
    • Counting/math skills
    • Social skills (sharing)

I hope you’re able to implement this activity with your own clients. I’d love to hear about the adaptations that you make!

Apples On a Tree Chords