Timeless Tunesday: {We’re Making Soup Today~The Farmer in the Dell}


Image credit

We have a new category of favorite interventions to share with you…Timeless Tunesdays! We are looking forward to sharing some of the many classic folk songs whose melodies have been adapted into activities shared with us from our music therapy mentors. Many of these songs also bring back personal memories of my grandmother singing them to my sisters and I as children. We would make up crazy body rhythms to keep us entertained on long winter evenings. The catchy tunes and easy rhythmic structure make it ideal for creating new lyrics with a familiar theme.

With windchills in Minneapolis nearing -20 degrees, I am trying to make an effort to keep interventions interactive with both gross motor movement to keep every thawed out, and cognitive challenges to keep our minds alert. I believe that the best way to get warm is to eat (or sing about it!), so I brought out my big soup bowl, aka gather drum, and had the students in my ECSE classrooms work together to make a pot of soup today.

This activity is ideal for 2-5 children. Begin by gathering visuals of food (here is a link of vegetables I like to use) so that there are enough for each child to add one item to the pot of soup. Have the children sit around a large gather drum that is turned upside down. I like to place colorful scarves in the drum so the students have “broth” to stir.

Using the melody of “The Farmer in the Dell”, have students pat their knees and sing,

We’re making soup today

We’re making soup today,

Stir, Stir, Stir the soup

We’re making soup today.

Next, I model directions by choosing between two visuals and placing my choice, the tomato, in the drum with the scarves. Using a drum mallet, I stir the soup while the children sing and tap their knees.

We’re stirring in tomatoes

We’re stirring in tomatoes

Stir, Stir, Stir the soup

We’re stirring in tomatoes.

Choose a student to go next, and have them choose between two foods. After adding the food to the gather drum, have them stir, and encourage students to sing and tap their knees. Substitute the new food choice for the word tomato.

This activity is easily adapted depending on your food themes or group goals. You can have students come up with ideas of food to add on their own, give everyone a mallet to stir together at the same time, or work on food group identification.

What are some of your favorite food themed music therapy interventions? We would love to hear about them!


Friday Favorites: {Free Singable Little Books}


Image Via

As I was teaching a violin lesson yesterday, I said to my student, “learning to read music is just like learning to read words…”. This statement reminded me of the little books that are today’s Friday Favorite. I love to use singable little books with children, siblings, and families. Little books can be part of your sessions even for children as young as 1.5-2 yrs of age. I would not suggest using little books for a group of 10 toddlers, but in sibling or family sessions, little books work just fine.

What the child will get out of using a little book in a music therapy session will be different by age group, of course. It is important to make your goal appropriate for your client’s development. Here are some of the goals that you can address with Little Books:

Big vs. Little Letters – learning the rule that at the beginning of every page, there is a big letter. Later, you can work on Big letters at the beginning of sentences and as proper nouns.

Expressive Letter Identification – Ask children “What letter is this?” as a sung prompt

Receptive Letter Identification – Sing “Where is the letter __?”

Follow the Reader – Show children where you are singing by moving your pointer finger along and encourage them to do the same in their little book. Between this and turning pages, you are teaching pre-reading skills of moving front to back, left to right, and top to bottom in the books.

Cooperation – Siblings or small groups can work on turn taking and working together by allowing friends to identify letters in turns or share what they like about each page

Recall & Sequencing – After you read the book, talk or draw what you saw in the book and the order that these pictures or events occurred. This can be in the form of picture cue cards you plan ahead of time and a velcro board or student drawings on paper or a white board.

I didn’t come up with these ideas on my own, but had the privilege of helping lead piano groups last year during my internship where little books were part of the curriculum (Supervisor: Sarah Woolever, MA, NMT, MT-BC; The Family Partnership).

Here is a link to the Nellie Edge site that offers free printable singable books.

A brief snapshot of research from the American Music Therapy Association that supports the link between literacy and music therapy. There are many more studies out there in the speech/language and education fields that aren’t in the scope of this blog post as well. If you’re a student and your university has access to online journals, just search for “Literacy + Music” and you’ll see for yourself!

Happy singing and reading!

Monday Music & Movement: {Valentine’s Day BINGO}


Image via Hearts in Nature

The older adults I work with never get tired of a few music therapy interventions (balloon volleyball to music anyone?). One is playing name that tune or music bingo. These music interventions never fail to get my groups of older adults clients interacting, singing, clapping, and reminiscing.

Today’s intervention addresses the same goals as the Holiday music bingo post found here. Because the goals are not simply to sing along or identify a melody, it is important to allow time for the group to share memories and encourage active listening and empathy among group members. You can discuss the different kinds of love in the songs. Romantic love, young love, love for your country, etc. This intervention will allow both the music and therapy skills that we have as music therapists to shine!

Here is a link to the Valentine’s BINGO sheet as a pdf and as a word doc if you want to change out some of the songs.

We hope you are able to use the session idea with your clients and adapt as necessary for group preferences. We will be sharing more ideas for Valentine’s Day sessions in the coming weeks so please subscribe to the right or follow our blog for the most up to date posts.

ETA: wikifonia is no longer so we hope you can find the lead sheets on your own through the wonderful internet 🙂


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.

Friday Favorites: Laurie Berkner Band’s Airplane Song


Airplane (Photo credit: Biczzz)

I’ve talked about how much we love to use the Laurie Berkner Band’s songs during music therapy sessions. Today’s Friday favorite is another from the LBB titled “Airplane”. You can take a listen to the song and buy it here.

The idea for using this song as a gross motor movement intervention comes from my former internship supervisor, Sarah Woolever  MT-BC, M.M., NMT. There are a couple of ways to use this song to meet goals of working together and cooperation.

Here are the lyrics, which are repetitive enough to create a sense of anticipation but varied for using listening skills to follow the actions in the verses:

Get in your airplanes and off we go 
Going to the park is first, you know. 
Now slow it down and land on the ground 
And when you get out you’re gonna jump all around. 

…California…spin all around 
…New York City…gallop all around 
…playground…dance all around 

Get back in your airplanes, it’s time to go home 
Your family and friends are waiting you know 
Now slow it down and land on the ground 
And come sit down in your own hometown

For younger children such as toddlers, you will want to create one big circle and hold arms, swinging during the lyrics “get in the airplane off we go…”. Then follow the song lyrics by slowing the arm swinging down and “landing” on the ground by crouching. Everyone can drop hands and move like the lyrics each verse (e.g. spin) until the line “get back in the airplane”.

To adapt the intervention for older children, the music therapist can pair up pre-k or kindergarteners. Instruct the children to hold hands and hold arms out to “fly”. The children can hold hands for the duration of the song while acting out the lyrics in this adaptation.

Finally, younger elementary school age children can share a hula hoop as the “airplane”. You may want to engage in a bit of prep on how to have a safe body before passing out the hula hoops though, I speak from experience!

During this therapeutic music intervention, children will work together to move with a peer. In addition, having them in circle formation or in pairs encourages eye contact and conversation. We hope you can use this song as a resource for encouraging social skill building.
Happy weekend!.

Friday Favorites: Brown Bear, Brown Bear Singable Book

brown bear cover

Image via Macmillan

I think most music therapists that work with kids know how versatile the book Brown Bear, Brown Bear can be during sessions. The words of Brown Bear fit with the first part of the tune of Twinkle, Twinkle. It’s not always a perfect fit of notes to words, so just in case you need a little bit of help, we’ve included a lead sheet with chords for you here. Simply repeat the musical line over and over for the whole book!

brown bear last page

Image via Building a Library

Goal Areas:

Language –

Print out clipart or use a pdf template that matches the animals in the book and laminate for durability. Have your children bring up the matching picture to you or to a felt board when their animal card matches the animal on the page. Symbol matching is a pre-requisite for letter identification and this book is a great way for little ones to practice matching. For easier matching, color in the pictures to match the book for identical symbol matching.

Pre-school Concepts –

Have children sing the color that they see on the page before you sing, or test them after you sing the page by singing “What color was the (animal)?”. You can also have laminated pieces of construction paper that the children can hold up or bring up to match the color of the animal on the page.

Kindergarten/Early Grade School Concept –

Print off the words of the colors in the book and laminate (e.g. Red or Brown). Use the color instead of the name of the animal because the color is always printed first on the page. Children can match their word by sight during the book. In addition, a pre-reading skill is to know that  books are read left to right and top to bottom, so having the children look for the “first” word in a sentence reinforces this concept.

Secondary goal areas and gains may include peer interaction and joint attention as children point to each other’s objects to help match colors and pictures. In addition, if there is matching involved, the children can work on cooperation and turn taking during Brown Bear. Finally, younger children can take turns pinching a page to turn to the next page to work on pincer grasp.

Thanks for taking time to read our post and we hope you can use this wonderful singable book with your little ones!

Friday Favorites: Wikifonia {Lead Sheets}


Do you have trouble finding free sheet music on the internet? I was struggling to learn a lot of songs from the 1920’s and beyond during my senior year of music therapy coursework during a practicum in hospice.

Cut to the day that I found Wikifonia…it was one of those “Hallelujah” moments for me. Wikifonia is a website full of lead sheets for personal use. You can search lead sheets by song name or artist. Once you find the song that you want, you can even change the lead sheet to the key that works best for your client! Click on the key you want the song transposed to, download, and print the pdf and you’re on your way to learning new music for your next music therapy session.

I will say I have had the most luck searching for music that is older, unsure if that is because of copyright issues or the demand.

Below I have gathered links to a few holiday songs that I found on Wikifonia over the years to use with clients. Happy searching to you on Wikifonia!

We Wish You a Merry Christmas

Jingle Bells

Silver Bells

Deck the Halls

Winter Wonderland