Tag Archives: Scarves

5+ Cinco de Mayo Session Ideas

25 Apr

It’s almost the 5th of May, and you know what that means: time for a music therapy FIESTA! Check out some of my favorite Cinco de Mayo-inspired ideas to try with your clients or students next week. I also like to use this opportunity to discuss Mexican culture with my clients. Try showing a video of a mariachi band, coloring a picture of the flag or talking about your favorite foods. Olé!

  •  Instrument Jam Session to “Oye como va” (Santana). Nothing says cool like Santana! Jam along with the recording or play it live with instruments like maracas, guiros, shakers, rhythm sticks, cabasas and castanets.

  •  “La Cucaracha” Drumming: Print out a cute little cockroach cartoon (because let’s face it—a real picture of this particular creepy crawly friend is just TOO yucky) and tape it on a drum. Tell your clients that there is a bug on the loose and it’s their job to squash it! Sing or hum “La cucaracha” and have clients wait to “squash” the bug by hitting the drum after each line. This is a great way to work on impulse control, following directions and attention.

La cucaracha, la cucaracha, ya no puede caminar. (SPLAT)

La cucaracha, la cucaracha, una pata de atras. (SPLAT)


  • Do the limbo. For your teens and cool kids, check out this pop-tastic Limbo song, courtesy of Daddy Yankee. “Limbo Rock” (Chubby Checker) and “The Limbo Song” (Frankie Anderson) are my go-to limbo classics.


  • Cinco de Mayo-themed dance party!

Conga (Miami Sound Machine)

Macarena (Los del Rio)

La Bamba (Ritchie Valens)

  •  “De Colores” (Joan Baez) with scarves. I like to play a simplified version of this song on the guitar to work on a variety of goal areas. Some possible lyric modifications to try:
  • Color Identification: “De colores, our scarves are so many colors, so many colors. De colores, if your scarf is YELLOW, wave your scarf way up high ”
  • Motor Skills: “Wave your scarves, wave your colorful scarves way up high, yes, wave them up high”; “Wave them to the side,” “wave them way down low”
  • Body Part Identification: “Wave your scarves, wave your colorful scarves on your FEET, wave them on your FEET,” (knees, shoulders, head)

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Music Therapy Olympics: Figure Skating Movement Activity

10 Feb

No Winter Olympics would be complete without some figure skating…and my Music Therapy Olympics are no exception. My students are having a blast this week with this fun figure skating movement activity (with many adaptations!), which can be implemented in a number of ways to suit your setting and client needs.

Figure Skating Movement Activity with Scarves

Goal Areas: Body awareness, gross motor skills, following directions, visual attention, positive peer interactions

Visuals to Make:

  • Scarves with snowflakes. Scarves are great way to add a visual element to movement activities, especially for those clients with limited movement abilities. This can be as simple as swinging the snowflake back and forth to get some visual attention and tracking going. Encourage them to reach out and grab the snowflake when you place it in different locations (directly in front of them, to the side, up high, down low). Check out this DIY scarf visual from a previous post.


Music to Try:

  • If you’re working with younger children, I recommend using “Snowflakes” (The Learning Station) from their Seasonal Songs in Motion CD . Song lyrics include concrete directions like “slip sliding, from your left foot to your right.” This can help your clients get the hang of swaying, sliding from side to side or shuffling their feet across the floor to mimic ice skating movements.
  •  “The Snow Is Dancing” (Debussy) is a beautiful piano piece that really sounds like snowflakes falling. Have clients stand and move their bodies and scarves along with the music. Encourage them to pay attention to dynamic, textural and tempo changes while moving.

Movements to Do:

  • Swaying
  • Sliding back and forth
  • Sliding across the floor
  • Slow spin
  • Jump
  • Finishing pose
  • Bowing (while the audience cheers, of course!)

Conversations to Have:

  • Have you ever been ice skating before? What did you wear? Who did you go with? What did it feel/smell/look like?
  • What qualities do good ice skaters have? (Graceful, hard working, dedicated, etc)
  • What is your favorite winter activity to do inside or outside?

Over the next two weeks, I’ll be sharing MORE Olympics-themed ideas for use in music therapy sessions, music education classes and at home. Stay tuned for the next Songs for Success Music Therapy Olympic event idea!!

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Activity Inspiration: Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy

2 Dec

I’m sure every therapist, teacher and parent has experienced the craziness that can ensue on the first day back after Thanksgiving break. It can be difficult to reign in all that excited energy as everyone (staff included!) transitions back into their daily routines while still counting down the days until winter break. This week, I want to share an activity that I’m currently implementing to help my students refocus in the midst of all this holiday season hubbub.

Though I’m actually a classically trained opera singer, lately I’ve been trading out Handel for Hap Palmer and Donizetti for drum circles. I love to use classical music in my sessions whenever I can because it refreshes me while also introducing my clients to a diverse range of musical styles! Music from The Nutcracker is recognizable, easy to listen to and seasonal, making it the perfect choice for a music listening activity for clients who may be new to classical music.

For this activity, all you’ll need is:

  • A recording of “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” (or your favorite winter-themed classical music piece)
  • Scarves
  • Desired instruments
  • Visual: Because many of my students have ASD and struggle with abstract thinking, I also like to provide a concrete visual during any type of relaxation or self-regulation activity. This can help set the mood while also giving extra life to the music! I used google’s handy dandy image search and found a snowy picture to project on our SMART board like the one below:

Depending on the needs of your students, distribute scarves and encourage them to move their scarves along with the music while remaining seated. Model some movements for the group, or give different students the opportunity to come up and be the movement leader for the group. If scarves are too overstimulating, walk around the circle with one instrument (or pass it around if able). I love pairing chimes with “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy,” but jingle bells or a xylophone would also fit really well with the music. Have one student play the instrument at a time and encourage them to play quietly along with the music.

For my groups that really need to get up and move around, I make a line with colored place markers that leads straight to the chimes. I encourage students to come up one at a time and tiptoe or hop from one circle to the next. When they reach the last circle, they get to play the chimes! If your students don’t require a lot of physical support, you can stand on the last circle and hold the chimes while encouraging them to make their way toward you.


Other adaptations may include:

  • Instrument play-along
  • Extending this activity into a discussion about the song or season (What story is it telling? How does it sound like winter?)
  • Art and music: have client draw or paint a picture inspired by the music

Check out this awesome recording of “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” below to get yourself in the Christmas spirit! Do you use classical music in your sessions? Share your favorite piece to use in a comment and I’ll add it to my blog post.

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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!