Tag Archives: Social Skills

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: We’re Going to be Friends

14 Sep

The idea to first use this song came from one of my MT BFFs, Kayla Lyles, MT-BC, who you can now find blogging for Noteable Progressions Music Therapy Services. She shared one way to use this song back when we were completing our equivalency program at Shenandoah University, and I’ve since adapted for use with my kiddos! I always pull this intervention out at the beginning of the school year, because it can be a great warm-up/getting to know you song for new groups or clients.

Intervention Ideas:

  • Lyric Analysis: Conversation topics may include friends at school, favorite school subjects, new teachers/classes.
  • Listening/Impulse Control: Give clients an instrument to hold and have them wait to play until they hear a specific word-“friends” is a good place to start! I like using bells or shakers.
  • Basic Signing: For little ones, I use an excerpt of the song (with alternate lyrics) and some sign language visual cards I made using resources from Baby Sign Language.

Here in music, we have fun

Getting to know everyone

Making friends is really nice

So smile wide and be polite

I can tell that we are gonna be friends

I can tell that we are gonna be friends

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5 Activity Favorites: Valentine’s Day Fun for Little Ones

4 Feb

Get ready to hug, drum, sign and sing…because I’m sharing 5 of my favorite music therapy activities to use in celebration of Valentine’s Day!

1. Heartbeat Chant: I made up this simple little chant to use for colors, shapes, number ID, animals, etc. Just change the lyrics as needed! It’s a fun challenge to get your clients doing a heartbeat rhythm and super easy to adapt for different needs. This also works great with a group on a large gathering drum.

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2. Snuggle Puppy: Okay, this board book is just the CUTEST. It has lots of opportunities for “ooo” sounds and basic signs (hug, kiss, I love you, dog), and is unbelievably sweet if you have stuffed animals to go along with it. I also like this one for Mommy & Me groups as a lap song.

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3. Little Red Valentine: This piggyback song has been a hit with my ECI kiddos. Download my colorful hearts visual, cut them out and have your kiddos put them in a little mailbox (or drum, etc–whatever is on hand) each time they correctly ID a color. Oh, dollar section of Target…I love you, oh yes I do.

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4. Rachel Rambach’s The Feelings in my Heart: I always like talking about feelings/family/friends around Valentine’s Day, and this song is a great conversation starter. I’ve used the full version for older kiddos or just the chorus + signs for each feeling in a simple chant for very little ones. I made a fun visual to go along with it–all you need is a foam heart (cough Target again cough), some feelings pictures and velcro.

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5. Rachel See’s Teeny Tiny Valentine: The visual I use for this one is easy: take the feeling pictures off the foam heart, grab one heart that you cut out for Little Red Valentine, and cut out one more medium-sized heart. BOOM. This song is a fab fingerplay, but I’ve also used it with the above visuals for IEP kiddos working on opposites: big/small, loud/soft, etc.

unnamed (49)BE THE FIRST to hear about new posts, free downloads and session plan ideas from Songs for Success by entering your e-mail in the sign-up box on the right and following my twitter, instagram or pinterest.

3 Resources I’m Loving: Summer Visuals

6 Aug

I think we all know by now that I love me some easy to make but effective visuals. A good visual doesn’t have to take you 2 hours to craft (though, if your laminator is moody like mine…you never know) and shouldn’t cost an arm and a leg (COUPONS! COUPONS! COUPONS!). Sometimes, the simplest items can make or break a session by getting everyone engaged and having fun. Below are three visuals that have been an absolute hit with my clients this summer!

photo (4)1. Suns. If you’re thinking, “All she did is print out a picture of a sun and put it on the ground,” you are CORRECT! But you better believe that these suns have been going everywhere with me this summer and have been used in a bunch of ways. Our fan favorite has been putting the suns down on the ground in different shapes or paths, slapping some sunglasses on and stepping on the suns to the beat of the music. It’s a great way to work on gross motor skills, problem solving (If one sun is too far away to step to, how can we get there? Do we need to jump, move it closer, etc?), working on shapes (placing the suns in circles, triangles, squares) or just for a summer dance party. Try it with “Walking on Sunshine,” “Good Day, Sunshine” or “Let the Sun Shine In.” 

photo (3)2. Surfboard. This one REALLY got the party started in some of my group sessions. I just cut out the shape of a surfboard from brown paper, drew a line on it and BAM! Instant summer fun. My clients of all ages had a blast showing off their surfing skills and cheering for their friends. To be extra cool, throw some sea animal beanie babies/stuffed animals in there and have clients choose one to go surfing with them. Works great with “Surfing USA” and “Hawaiian Roller Coaster Ride”.

photo (2)3. Fish & Fishing Pole. My buddies at Toneworks Music Therapy inspired me to use their Let’s Go Fishing song in my sessions. Place the fish on a scarf and take turns “going fishing”. You could adapt this in a number of ways; my kiddos were working on colors, but you could also write social questions, movements, instruments, etc on the fish that can shape the activity as you do it. Once I tried this out, I’ve had requests almost every week for “the fishies”!

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3 Resources I’m Loving: iPad Apps

25 Jul

In my summer blog series, 3 Resources I’m Loving, I’m sharing my favorite 3 resources at the moment for different purposes! Check out my last post about Music & Relaxation.

One of the most important tools I carry around with me as a traveling music therapist is my iPad. I use it for a variety of purposes: documentation, scheduling, recording, pulling up youtube videos, fun apps for clients to earn…you name it, and I probably use my iPad for it! Below are three apps I’ve been using a lot this summer to work on goals ranging from communication and choice making to social skills and following directions.

photo (1) 1. Bla Bla Bla. Price: FREE!

This app is TOTALLY AWESOME for communication goals! Bla Bla Bla is a sound reactive app that uses the microphone on your iPad to control images on screen. Users can select a fun face from the menu, which will begin move as they vocalize. If it’s a soft sound, the face will move a little bit, but it really goes bonkers as you get louder. It’s fun demonstrating for clients and watching as they realize that the only way to move the face on screen is to vocalize. I’ve seen kiddos shake it, touch it, etc…but it’s really exciting when they start to make the connection and begin to use their voice.

photo (4)2. Beamz. Price: FREE!

This app is for all your cool kids and teens who dream about becoming a DJ. *Insert Dubstep Music Here*. The Beamz library contains tons of songs in different genres (anything from HipHop to Bluegrass) with corresponding sound effects that can be played simply by swiping purple lines on the screen. No matter what sound you hit, it’s guaranteed to sound great and go with the music. You can even record your song and listen back to it! I’ve used this app for social skills (turn taking, following directions, imitation), communication and emotional expression.

photo (3)3. Real Guitar. Price: $0.99 (WORTH IT)

I loooove using this app in sessions because it’s appropriate for all ages, has a high-quality sound and is really easy to use. Real Guitar allows you to select desired chords, put them in whatever order you want and pick a strumming or fingerpicking pattern. Clients can play along with you (or you can follow their lead) or you could even play along with preferred recorded music. This is awesome for clients working on fine motor skills—I have them point their index finger and practice strumming on both the iPad and my actual guitar.

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Activity Inspiration: Silly Seuss Sounds

4 Mar

Oh, the places you’ll go…when you let Dr. Seuss inspire your music therapy activity planning! In honor of his birthday (March 2) and Read Across America day, my music therapy groups are having a jolly good time this week creating silly Seuss sounds to work on goals like positive peer interaction, decision making, following directions and self expression/creativity.

Seuss-sational Activity Ideas:

Download the Dr. Seuss Band App for $.99. If your clients are able to play, the game is a great way to practice color matching and fine motor skills! But something I love about this app is that you don’t HAVE to play the game as intended…simply select a song (each one is so delightfully goofy sounding) and have clients press the buttons to play the instrument.

For the suggestions below, I usually open the app, select a song and have clients layer silly sounds over the music.

photo-1 Use instruments to create silly sounds! Throw some unique instruments in a bin (or drum, etc) and have students choose one to play. Some ideas:

  • Vibraslap
  • Frog Rasp
  • Clatterpillar
  • Thunder Tube
  • Rainstick (bonus points if you have a colorful one!)
  • Wind Tube
  • Canary Whistles
  • Boomwhackers

photoRecord silly sound effects on communication devices.  Find some sound effects that strike your fancy (thank you, youtube!) and record them on a choice board on your iPad or on communication devices like big macs. I had access to a Cheap Talk 8 at school, but individual buttons would also work great.

Fun Sounds to Try:



 Tuba (hehehe)

Slap (Don’t have a vibraslap, so I improvised!)

Don’t miss this FREE DOWNLOAD(!!!!!!): a visual I made for use with those sound effects. Just cut out and attach to communication devices or use as a choice board.

Build your own silly Seuss instrument. Divide students into teams or work together as a group to make a unique instrument that can be played in many ways. Provide students with a box of items (instruments, tin cans, boxes…the possibilities are endless) and encourage them to assemble a never-before-seen instrument. Have students describe their instrument to the group and demonstrate how to play it. Don’t forget to name it when you’re finished!

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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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