Wordless Wednesday: 1.30.13

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Monday Music & Movement: {We’re Going to the Circus}


Image via West Music

Scarves are a great way to motivate children to move in order to meet gross motor goals during music therapy session. Not only for gross motor movement, there is a sensory aspect to using scarves as children feel the light touch of the scarf on their bodies. In addition, children use their eyes to track the movement of the scarf so there is hand-eye coordination involved.

There are so many songs we love to use with scarves during sessions. Our song today also encourages imagination and cooperation during pretend play while “on the way” to the circus!

“We’re Going to the Circus” is a call and response song and the lyrics lend themselves to easy substitution for the interests of your little ones. During the chorus, pretend to drive by holding the scarf  with both hands and moving the scarf as a steering wheel. Older children may be able to handle moving around in a circle together while “driving” as well.

Here’s how we like to move during the verses:

Man on a tightrope = hold the scarf in front of you like a pole for balancing and walk forward and back

A girl on a horse jumping up and down = wave scarf up and down with one hand while jumping

A seal spinning round and round with a ball on his nose = ball up the scarf, hold on nose, & spin!

And an elephant dancing on his tippy toes = stretch arms and scarf up while dancing on tip toes

Here is the sheet music for the song. We hope you have fun moving around with scarves to this song and adapting it to your clients or children!

Friday Favorites: Beanbag Alphabet Rag


Image via Bear Creek Paw

We believe in engaging children in therapeutic music interventions that meet their sensory needs to help them focus in during the session. This is one of the many lessons we learned from observing and co-treating with occupational therapists. Today’s Friday Favorite provides an opportunity for sensory input using a beanbag.   By moving the beanbag on the body and balancing one’s body throughout the song, children get tactile and proprioceptive input. Textured beanbags, like the ones pictured above for purchase at Bear Paw Creek  provide additional tactile input from the different textures.

Hap Palmer has some wonderful songs for gross motor movement. The Beanbag Alphabet Rag is no exception! I prefer to use a recording (it’s only $.99 on iTunes) for this therapeutic music intervention because the musical cues are excellent and hard to replicate by oneself.  I also model the movements for little ones throughout the song. They are pretty self explanatory and the lyrics are provided below. I never manage to do all the movements successfully so this intervention is always full of laughs while everyone tries their best to maneuver with a beanbag!

A – Arm, put it on your arm
B – Back, put it on your back
C – Catch, throw the bag and catch
D – Drop, drop the bag and dance
With the Bean Bag Alphabet Rag

E – Ear, put it on your ear
F – Foot, let it fall to your foot
G – Grab, grab and grip the bag
H – Hop, hold it on your head and hop
With the Bean Bag Alphabet Rag

I – Ice, imagine it’s made of ice
J – Jump, jiggle the bag and jump
K – Keep, keep it on your knee
L – Leg, lift it with your leg
With the Bean Bag Alphabet Rag

M – March, N – Neck,
Put it on your neck and march

O – Off, let it ooze off your neck
P – Pat, gently pat the bag
Q – Quick, quickly make it quiver
R – Run, run around the bag

With the Bean Bag Alphabet Rag

S – Slide, slide it up your side
T – Toes, tap it on top of your toes
U – Under, undulate under the bag
V – Vibrate, vibrate very fast
With the Bean Bag Alphabet Rag

W – Waist, wipe it on your waist
X – X-ray, look through it with X-ray vision
Y – You, you make something up
Z – Zoom, zoom around the bag
With the Bean Bag Alphabet
The Bean Bag Alphabet
The Bean Bag Alphabet…rag

We hope you have a blast moving around to the Beanbag Alphabet Rag!

Client Success Story: {L}


January is Music Therapy Social Media Advocacy month. Throughout the month, music therapists are sharing personal stories, tips, and advice to advocate for music therapy. Today’s client success story is brought to you by one of our music therapists, Lyndie Walker.

*Name of the client has been changed 

Success stories: L’s story

Lake McCarrons

Lake McCarrons (Photo credit: Jvstin)

For the last few summers, I have had the privilege of working at an overnight camp for kids and adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorder. The kids spend a week fishing, crafting, biking, and swimming among many other things.

Most of the kids bring favorite books, movies, toys, etc. and my camper for the week, L., was no exception. She brought around ten fidgets (small toys used for sensory input) and a cd player with a case of her favorite music. One of CDs was a mix of songs that her sister had made for her. It was a WIDE variety…from Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer to Bad Romance by Lady Gaga. The CD was all of her favorite music that she was familiar with. This also meant that L. had memories attached to the music that made her feel safe: her bedroom, comfy living room couch, and family. The attachment to the CD from home was one of the great ways she was able to deal with unfamiliar challenges at camp.

Naturally, the waterfront is the most popular time of the day at camp. The kids can go tubing, swimming, or paddle boating. However, the most popular attraction at the waterfront were the pontoon rides. L., loved going for boat rides. She loved the feel of the wind in her hair and warm sun on her face.

The problem with boat rides is that you have to walk on a very unsteady dock to get to the boat. This caused a lot of anxiety for L. and ultimately, she wasn’t able to go on the boat rides. On the second day of camp, we headed back down to the docks. This time, I held both of L.’s hands and kept eye contact. As we got closer to the docks I started softly singing Rudolph. Her eyes locked on mine and she slowly continued to follow me down the dock. After repeating the Rudolph chorus one too many times, I moved on to Bad Romance, hoping the endless hours of top 100 radio I listened to wouldn’t fail me. Luckily, we made it to the pontoon before I had to hit any high notes with Gaga, and Lucy had a successful trip on the boat!

It may not seem like much at times, but the transition songs that we can provide and teach caregivers to use with clients can help them be successful in daily life. I am very grateful to be a part of client’s growth through music therapy!

Friday Favorites: {5 Songs for Sit-er-cise with Older Adults}

morning chair exercise

(Photo credit: sparkle glowplug)

I don’t know about you, but I love incorporating some sit-er-cise after the hello song in music therapy groups when I work with older adults. Without fail, it doesn’t take long for my residents to stop complaining about the chilly Minnesota weather and start taking off cardigans as their bodies warm up. The group works on physical wellness by sit-er-cising, but there is also the secondary gain of social support as residents engage in friendly encouragement.

Cevasco and Grant (2003) explored the relationship between type of music and participation in exercise. They found that older adults with Alzheimer’s disease participated most readily to instrumental music followed closely by exercise to instrumental music using instruments. Songs with vocal tracks elicited less participation than the instrumental conditions. The authors speculated that the competing stimuli of the music therapist directing through verbal prompts and the vocal line were confusing to the participants.

With Cevasco and Grant’s research in mind, here are our Top 5 Big Band instrumental tracks that will get you clients or loved ones movin’ and groovin’!

Sing, Sing, Sing – Benny Goodman

In the Mood – Glenn Miller 

Stompin’ at the Savoy- Chick Webb

Hot Toddy – Ralph Flanagan & His Orchestra

Take the “A” Train – Duke Ellington


Cevasco, A. M. & Grant, R. E. (2003). Comparison of different methods for eliciting exercise-to-music for clients with Alzheimer’s disease. Journal of Music Therapy, 40, 41-56.

Monday Music & Movement: I Was Walking to the Circus…

The Circus

The Circus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Welcome to the second song in the Circus Theme we’re sharing from Toneworks! Our first post was a song designed to meet the academic and kindergarten readiness goal of identifying basic shapes using singing. I came up with today’s song “I was walking to the Circus” to meet goals of recall and sequence. I got the idea from this song from my amazing co-intern who had a similar song “Walking in the Jungle”.

If you can’t read music, it’s easy enough to chant the lyrics of the song. I like to use rhythm sticks during this therapeutic music intervention, but I think it would work with just hands or anything that you can tap together. I also like to incorporate movement and singing together to get a kinesthetic learning experience so in the lyrics you’ll see how to incorporate that into the song.

“I Was Walking to the Circus”

I was walking to the circus and what did I see?

Many people rolling out the tent. [roll the sticks on the floor]

Roll, roll, roll. Roll, roll, roll. Roll, roll, roll. Roll, roll, roll and freeze!

I was walking to the circus and what did I see?

Many people hammering down stakes. [hammer one stick atop of the other]

Hammer, hammer, hammer….etc.

I was walking to the circus and what did I see?

Big, grey, elephants dancing on their feet. [walk the sticks vertically on the floor]

Dance, dance, dance…etc.

I was walking to the circus and what did I see? Fancy ladies brushing down some horses. [scrape sticks against each other]

Brush, brush, brush…etc.

I was walking to the circus and what did I see?

A crowd full of little children clapping with glee. [tap sticks]

Clap, clap, clap. etc.

I was walking to the circus

{sorry for the picture instead of pdf…technology problems at Toneworks today!}

I usually sing through the song 2-3 times. After that, there are several ways to ask the children to recall what they did during the song. You can simply ask them what they saw while walking to the circus. Another way is to ask how they moved the sticks during the song and then follow up with what the movement represented. After every correct answer, it’s fun for the children if you reinforce what they said by leading the group through the particular movement again (e.g. just sing the “hammer, hammer, hammer” line). For sequencing, you can have clipart pictures printed out that the children must match to numbers 1-5 or just place in order correctly.

Thanks for reading and we hope you can use this song with your little ones!

2013 Music Therapy Social Media Advocacy Month


Image via Groovy Garfoose

Do you advocate for music therapy? January is Music Therapy Social Media Advocacy Month and Toneworks Music Therapy is excited to share what we are and have been doing to advocate for music therapy! The Music Therapy Maven shares why advocacy is important for us as clinicians and for our clients. Here are a few ways that we advocate for music therapy!

1) The Little Things

Every time someone asks me “what do you do for a living?”, I take the opportunity and go into my “elevator speech” version of what music therapy is and what music therapy looks like. Usually people will respond with, “oh, I have a cousin who plays the piano for people at a nursing home too” or “are you going to play your violin/viola for me so I can feel happy?”.

I find that people understand more clearly what music therapy is when I explain that the results are not about the music. However, the music facilitates the physical, social/emotional, and cognitive changes that the music therapists assesses and plans for the client. In addition, specific examples that relate to the person I’m talking to (e.g. do they have a loved one that was in hospice or a child that is on the Autism Spectrum) and how music therapy would help in that specific situation helps people understand how music therapy works.

2) The Not-so-Little Things

In opening our private practice we have been giving in-services to many facilities and parent groups. In these presentations we have a powerpoint about what music therapy is and what credentials we have along with music therapy research that supports what we do in sessions. We usually have an experiential portion as well so parents can see what their children are capable of and how music can be used to get children to interact, move, and learn. We do not expect everyone to choose us as their music therapist and we get excited when parents ask us for music therapists in their area!

This Saturday, we are also excited to advocate for music therapy at a local health & fitness expo. We will be spreading the word how music therapy can be used for wellness and prevention, development in children and adults, and maintenance for older adults. We will have lots of examples of therapeutic music interventions, instruments, and AMTA fact sheets to help people understand how music therapy can have a positive effect on their lives.

3) The Big Things

Getting involved at the state level to participate in Day on the Hill to speak with legislators about licensure is one way of advocating for music therapy on a large scale. We are excited to participate in MN this spring for the Day on the Hill. Sharing personal stories of how we impact lives is an important part of advocacy. If you invite lawmakers to participate in music therapy social media advocacy month, even better! If you’re on twitter be sure to use #lovemusictherapy and #MTadvocacy when sharing during MT social media advocacy month.

These are just a few ways to advocate for music therapy in person and in social media. We are excited for the growth in our field and in awareness of what music therapy can do for clients during January. We are looking forward to posting client success stories during the month of January on our blog.

Happy advocating!

Wordless Wednesday: 1.9.13

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Monday Music & Movement: The Clown Juggles Shapes

royalty-free-clown-clipart-illustration-94054Image via

Some of the silliest sessions I have led had songs that centered around the theme of a circus. I’ll be sharing them through the Monday Music & Movement series with the category “Circus Songs” over the next month or so. It’s great to start off by asking your clients or children what they know about the circus already. By doing so you are not only encouraging peer interaction and speaking in turn, but you can also find out if any children have bad associations with the circus or clowns, etc.

“The Clown Juggles Shapes” is a piggyback song [new lyrics, old melody] that I came up with to address the academic goal of shape identification for pre-schoolers I worked with. You sing it to the tune of “Farmer in the Dell”. In addition to the academic skill, children will work on emotional/social skills during this song as it requires turn taking and cooperation.

The clown juggles shapes, the clown juggles shapes

My, my, how fast he goes, the clown juggles shapes

He’s looking for a __[name of shape]___,

He’s looking for a __[name of shape]___

If you have a __[name of shape]___ please put it in the air

Here are the visuals we use. You will want to laminate or contact paper the shapes for durability and place some sticky velcro on the back. We have a file folder that we laminated over and velcro squares for the shapes in an oval around the clown’s head. After children identify the shape they are holding, they can come up and place their shape on a velcro square.

When you’re first introducing the song, you might want to hold the shape that you’re naming in your hand so the children can visually match their shape with yours. After that, you can sing the name of the shape that you’re looking for and have the child identify without matching.

This therapeutic music intervention can be adapted for older children by adding different colors to the shapes and singing that the clown is looking for a “purple circle” or “green diamond”.

We hope you can try out this circus theme song with the children you work with or at home with little ones!