Tag Archives: Session Theme

February Freebie: Counting Cards

6 Feb

As Valentine’s Day approaches, I’m always looking for fun ways to fill my sessions with love. Don’t miss this week’s free download:

Valentine’s Day Counting Cards (1-20).

How to play:

Encourage each kiddo to choose an envelope, identify the number then sing an adapted version of the Woody Guthrie classic, “Mail Myself to You”:

“I’m gonna wrap myself in paper/I’m gonna dot myself with glue/

Stick some stamps on top of my head/I’m gonna mail _____ hearts to you.”

Then, count out the corresponding number of manipulatives (I use felt hearts from the Target dollar area-where else? Conversation hearts work great, too) and place them in inside a mini mailbox (you can probably guess where I found that…TARGET).


Fun adaptations include clapping/stomping/drumming the number after putting the hearts in the envelope, or counting out instruments to “mail”, then putting them in a much larger mailbox (gathering drum, tubano, etc). It’s also fun just to play along with the original recording, or sing it live!

In search of more ideas for Valentine’s Day?

Check out my favorite V-Day Dance Songs and  MT Activities for Little Ones.

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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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It’s Turkey Time: 7 Gobble-Worthy Activity Ideas

18 Nov

November = TURKEY TIME!!! I like using turkeys as a session theme because they’re cute, can be used in endless ways and are great for speech goals (can I get a gobble, gobble?). Below are some of my favorite turkey-themed activities to use this time of year.

1. Feather Decorating: This is a nice art and music activity I like for self-expression and tactile experiences. We listen to Copland’s “Hoedown” and decorate turkey feathers with different sensory materials like feathers and stickers.

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2. Turkey Drumming: This is a simple drum activity that I love for attention, impulse control, following directions, and speech goals. I sing it to the tune of “Turkey in the Straw”, but simplified the words so my kids could really focus on just saying “turkey” and “gobble”. I usually line up three tall drums and have kids strike each drum in order on the “1-2-3” beat that follows each line. With groups, I will give everyone their own drum and either choose a soloist to come play the big drums or ask for volunteers to sing the gobbles into the microphone.

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3. Pass the Turkey: My most heavily used visual during turkey season is my turkey beanie baby! He’s the perfect size for passing around a circle or even for perching on a drum or piano during sessions. The kids love him!

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4. Turkey Songwriting Cards: I made my own turkey flash cards this year to use for songwriting with bells, boomwhackers and xylophones. My piano students totally dig writing their own turkey song with the cards then performing it on the bells. I’ve also been using them for math goals as well as color identification and matching. Download them for FREE! All you have to do is color them in. 🙂

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5. Starvin’ Marvin: He’s basically a celebrity to my kiddos. Everyone wants to meet Marvin, is always very concerned about how hungry he is (When I pulled him out the other day, one kiddo said “Miss Kerry!!!!!! He’s REALLY hungry—he looks a little faint.”) and loves “feeding” him by tossing bean bags in his mouth.

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No time to learn the song? This also works great with “Let’s Turkey Trot” by Little Eva.

6. Rachel Rambach’s “Turkey Dinner Dance”: This one is always a hit and is a great way to work on gross motor movement. Plus, it’s pretty darn catchy!

7. Turkey Dance Party: Straw hats optional! Check out some of my favorite hoe-down dance songs below that will get your clients do-si-do-ing.

Hoedown Throwdown (Miley Cyrus):

Bonus points for learning/teaching the dance:

Cotton Eye Joe (Rexnex)

Turkey in the Straw (Tennessee Mafia Jug Band)

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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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5 “Happy New Year” Activity Ideas

2 Jan

I have a confession to make: I love session themes. I mean, I really love them. Maybe it’s the preschool teacher in me talking, but I would use a different theme every week if I could (Maybe this should be my New Year’s resolution/challenge…?!). What I like so much about themes is that they can help create a nice arc for a session. Having a concrete idea that we keep emphasizing in a bunch of different ways really helps promote understanding and client success! You can make a theme as obvious (Halloween! Dinosaurs! Under the Sea!) or as subtle (Teamwork; Coping Skills; Self-Empowerment) as you want, depending on the ages and needs of your clients.

To start 2014 off right, I’m going to share my entire “Happy New Year”-themed MT session plan with you. Here are 5 activity ideas to help you party like it’s 2014 with your clients this week!

1. Save hats, noisemakers, tiaras, and silly glasses from your own NYE festivities and hand them out to your clients. Who doesn’t love a costume? Lead everyone in a countdown and all say, “Happy New Year!!!!” This can serve as a fantastic conversation starter; ask clients about their favorite NYE memories.

P10205872. Rock out to “Celebration” by Kool and the Gang. I like to pass out an assortment of shakers, drums and boomwhackers and have everyone play along with the recording. Invite clients up one at a time to show off their funkiest dance moves. OHHH YEAH!

3. For kids or older adults with dementia, sing a song to help reinforce the new year. The song I wrote for this purpose, “It’s A New Year,” is easy to use with AACs for clients who are nonverbal. I record myself on a big mac or iPad singing “2014” and “Happy New Year” so that my clients can sing along at the appropriate times during the song. Encourage clients who are verbal to fill in the blanks while you sing (i.e., “It’s a new year, it’s a new year, the year is ______”). If you work in a mental health setting, have clients share their New Year’s resolutions and write them into a blues-style improvisation.

4. DANCE PARTY!!!!! Let’s be honest–no NYE party is complete without some dancing. I make a dance choice board and have volunteers take turns “DJing”. Some popular songs from this year’s playlist are:

  • “#thatpower” (Will.I.Am feat. Justin Bieber)
  • “A Little Party Never Killed Nobody” (Fergie)
  • “Alive” (Krewalla)

5. Create fireworks using “Relax App.” During the last few minutes of my sessions, I like to dim the lights and give each client a chance to play around with Relax App. If you have a SMART board, hook up the iPad so everyone can watch the fireworks display. I recommend paying the $1.99 for the full version of the app–nothing like an advertisement to ruin a relaxing experience for a group!

For more info about Relax App, check out: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/relax-app-relaxation-music/id666443137?mt=8

Relax App

Sample “firework” created in Relax App

What are your favorite New Year’s activities? Comment below and I’ll add your idea to my list!

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