Timeless Tunesday: {It Is Winter}


I know some readers are in warm weather…but it’s been quite the winter in MN so far. As a result, it’s still appropriate for teachers to plan “Snow” as the theme of the month and for me to create this movement song with scarves! I set the words to the tune of “London Bridge”. During this music therapy intervention students can work on imitation, gross motor movement, including crossing midline, and use expressive language.

Pass out the scarves and sing to the tune of London Bridge:

Snow is falling to the ground (move scarves up and down or toss and catch)

To the ground, to the ground

Snow is falling to the ground 

It is Winter, Brrrr (rub arms & shiver)

Brush it off so we can play (sweep the floor from side to side)

We can play, we can play

Brush it off so we can play

It is Winter, Brrrr

Squish it up into a snowball (use both hands to squish scarf into a ball)

Into a snowball, into a snowball

Squish it up into a snowball

It is Winter, Brrr

Cover up and stay so warm (use the scarf like a blanket on lap and tap knees)

Stay so warm, stay so warm

Cover up and stay so warm

It is Winter, Brrr

Such a simple melody, but you can encourage so much movement and language with the added sensory stimulation of scarves on top of the music and movement. If it’s still cold in your area, I hope you can use this intervention!


Friday Favorite: {At the Bottom of the Sea}


It’s another “Minnesota’s closed” day due to the wonderful new batch of snow dumped on us last night. Because I can’t share one of my new favorite activities with my ECSE classroom this morning, I’m going to share it with you! Enjoy your day inside, and hopefully this intervention will inspire you to daydream of warmer oceans 🙂

This activity is adapted from the song “At the Bottom of the Sea” by Ralph’s World. Here is a link for the song. You will need a large blue scarf (the texture is a great sensory item) and several beanie ocean animals. I use a jellyfish (open to interpretation as an octopus as well), crab, colorful fish etc. and put them in a small cloth bag to “hide”.

Begin by moving the scarf up and down with large, slow movements and sing…

At the bottom of the sea

Where the mermaids murmur

You’ll find me

At the bottom of the sea

At the bottom of the sea

Where the crabs walk backwards

You’ll find me

At the bottom of the sea

Choose a child to ask, “Who’s at the bottom of the sea”? Depending on the group, you can give them hints to guess the animal, or just pull each one out and have them identify it. Have the child throw the animal into the sea, aka the scarf.

Using small, fast, up and down movements sing….

And we’re gonna swim, swima, swim, swim, swima, swim, swim, swim

At the bottom of the sea

This is a great activity to address a variety of goals such as gross motor, animal identification, palmar grasping, and self-regulation. What animals can you find at the bottom of the sea?

Timeless Tunesday: {Washing My Fingers}


Hey Everyone, it’s time for another Timeless Tunesday! Last week I was trying to think of a song about washing fruit to fit into a food theme for one of the schools that Toneworks works with. One look at Ms. Lyndie’s musical washboard and I was set. This song uses the tune of “Ring Around the Rosie”. You can work on goals of color identification, joint attention, turn taking, decision making, and peer interaction.

After passing out fruit (great opportunity to ask what colors the fruit visuals are), music therapist sings:

Washing my (fruit name), washing my (fruit name) (model scraping the laminated fruit)

Washing, washing, now it’s clean clean! (model taking both hands off the washboard and wiggling them to show “clean”)

Say something like, “we’re all going to take turns washing our fruit” and you can lead the group in using friend’s names

(NAME) is washing (fruit name), (NAME) is washing (fruit)

Washing, washing, now it’s clean!

I like to incorporate choice making by asking the child which friend they choose to wash their fruit next. Another twist you can use is to wash fingers instead of fruit. Just insert “fingers” instead of the fruit name and you’re set! You can talk about when you need to wash fingers, germs, etc. Of course, this intervention is so much fun that you get kids saying, “my fingers are still dirty!” so be ready for that 🙂

Have a blast washing fruit, fingers, animals, and whatever else your clients desire!

Monday Music and Movement: {Five Little Ducks}


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One of the ways I like to mix up my individual therapy sessions is to try new spins on client’s favorite songs and activities. During our recent trip to the AMTA national conference, Andrea and I had the chance to experiment with a lot of new instruments, and one of my personal favorites that just arrived are the quack sticks. They look very similar to colored egg maracas, but they make the sound of a duck instead. I have been wanting to experiment with making a gross motor activity using the song 5 Little Ducks for a client of mine that is working on imitation, attention-to-task, and following 2-step directions. In order to make this intervention successful for his diagnosis, the activity had to have a plenty of sensory input, opportunities for body movement, and lots of structure.

For my intervention, I began by attaching velcro weighted “web” feet to my client’s ankles to provide proprioceptive input and help him become aware of his body in space. Together, we lined up  3-5 color dot mats on the floor that make a path to our “hill”, which is a medium slide that requires him to climb 5 steps before sliding down. Next, we put two quack sticks at the bottom of the slide, and make one more path of 3-5  dot mats. At the end of the path, there are 5 beanie ducks (or visuals of ducks) and each time through, a duck is removed.

After a big “Ready, Set, GO!” I begin playing on the guitar and singing:

Five little ducks went out one day (begin on the first dot and walk to the next one until reaching the slide)

Over the hills and far away (climb up the steps and slide down)

Momma duck said, quack quack quack quack (grab quack sticks and shake)

But only four little ducks came back. (walk from dot to dot until you reach the ducks and remove one)

Continue until you have counted down to zero.

*Note: I have done several specific things just for this client, such as using the webbed feet with ankle weights, a slide as the “hill”, and colored dots on steps of different heights. Some days, when the weighted feet don’t provide enough input, I also give him a backpack of weighted beanie ducks to carry as well. After he makes it through the course each time, he takes one duck out of the backpack and leaves it on the ocean drum “pond”. You can adjust and adapt as you need or see fit.

Happy Quacking!

Friday Favorite: {Popcorn Chant}


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I’m sure many of you are familiar with the popcorn chant…

You pour the oil in the pot and you make it real hot

Put the popcorn in and you get a big grin

Sizzle, sizzle, sizzle

Sizzle, sizzle, sizzle

Pop, pop, pop, pop!

I love to use this chant with my individual and group music therapy clients on a gather drum with large and small poms from the craft store or dollar section of Target. You can work on goals of self-regulation (waiting, start/stop), imitating gross motor movements, a CVC word (pop), and following directions during this fun intervention.

I always transition into the intervention by having kiddos help me count the popcorn and placing my hand over them. Then, we all pour in the oil. Next we show the oil getting hot by making our fingers into flames, the same sign for “waiting”, which is a wonderful reminder! Finally, I take my hand off the pom poms and use my index fingers to sizzle.

The pom poms will start to bounce slightly, then have the kids start tapping faster and louder with all fingers to keep “popping” until the poms are all on the floor. I like to use music to transition back into the beginning of the chant. Sing whatever melody you’d like for directions of “picking up the popcorn, put it on the drum” several times. Then start all over for more popping fun!

If you need an idea for a fun transition out, you can flip over the gather drum and hold it at an angle so the drum head is off the floor. Divide the pom poms among all the kids and have them take turns throwing the popcorn into the drum to say goodbye. The larger pom poms make a surprising amount of noise that makes it fun to say bye.

Hope you have fun making popcorn!

Friday Favorites: {It’s Raining, It’s Pouring}



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We have had a busy week at Toneworks, starting Musical Playground groups in four Early Childhood Special Education and Mental Health Collaborative classrooms! One of the songs we have been using this week to promote joint attention and peer interaction is “It’s Raining, It’s Pouring” with slight modifications. In addition to the social/emotional goals, use of the rainstick requires motor planning and gross motor movement from the child so you can work on those goals as a secondary gain as well with this short little song!

Here is a link to the lead sheet and here are the lyrics:

It’s raining, it’s pouring, (n-a-m-e’s) making rain

First it’s (n-a-m-e), then a friend

What friend do you choose?

A simple song that hits several goal areas for you to use this rainy Spring. Happy Friday!

Friday Favorites: {Rhythm Games Part 1}


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Last night I was talking with a lovely friend who is finishing up her senior year in the Music Therapy program at the University of MN. She has the wonderful opportunity to work as a music facilitator at a shelter once a week. We were talking about how it can be tricky to come up with instrument interventions for school age kids that are age appropriate for them. Then I remembered that while I haven’t worked with school age children in groups for a while, I led many such groups with my co-intern (hey Shana!) during internship. This Friday Favorite post kicks off a series of favorite rhythm games and interventions that are perfect for use with school age children or individuals that may be at K-6th age developmentally.


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Rhythm or Music Telephone

I think everyone has played “Telephone” at some point in their childhood. There are a couple of ways that you can play rhythm telephone. I got this idea from Natasha Thomas’s blog, Music Moves, which I would highly recommend as a resource if you haven’t found it yet. The basic idea is just like telephone: you must pass a rhythmic message around the circle and try to keep it intact.

The level of support you need to provide will be up to the needs of the group. I have had to give examples of rhythms that the students chose from. If you are working within a school context and teaching note values, it would be easy enough to have flash cards (here are some printable versions) with 4 beat rhythms that students randomly choose and use as the message. Children will work on goals of imitation, recall, and turn taking.

Now, since you can have students whisper sing the rhythm or tap it on their friends’ back. Where I was during internship, the goals included positive peer interaction and cooperation so I used the tapping on back method of passing the message.  You may need to have a little spiel about gentle touch and safe bodies before starting the game. Allow everyone to have a turn being the leader and watch your students and clients have a blast while working together.


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Hide & Seek the Sound

This game is very simple, yet during it, clients can work on goals of sound localization, turn taking, waiting, and working together. One person sits in the middle of the group and is blindfolded or covers their eyes if they are averse to blindfolds. 1-2 friends move quietly around the room and use items already in the environment or hidden small percussion and play the item or instrument. Friends sit back down. The person in the middle takes off their blindfold and walks around the room to find the item or instrument played while they were blindfolded. The other students can help by saying hot, cold, or warm to help.

We hope you can incorporate these rhythm games into your practice or classroom. Happy Friday!

{Autism Awareness Day!}


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April is one of my favorite months of the year. The sun shines once again for a solid 12 hours, April Fools Day is observed, AND most importantly, it’s Autism Awareness month! Over the last five years, I have had the privilege of getting to know some of the most unique, fun, challenging, and loving individuals I have ever worked with. Yes, they all have things that “link” them together and give them a common diagnosis, but each client has a different personality, favorite activities, and lessons to teach all of us. Music is a way to express individuality in a setting that is positive and successful. My clients can participate in a meaningful experience that is engaging and work on goal areas such as gross, fine, cognitive, and regulatory skills.

“Music has the advantage of demanding attention that a visual stimulus cannot, because it intrudes immediately through ears that cannot be closed voluntarily.”       -Hanser

Hanser’s observation explains why music therapists can effectively help clients achieve goals in a variety of areas. For example, if one of my clients is having a hard time slowing down his body, we will choose a song together, and he will jump on a trampoline while hitting a paddle drum that I move around. The client may not respond to a visual for “calm body” but with music, I can meet the client where he is and using the iso-principle, bring him to the calm body that will be necessary for him to be ready for kindergarten.

The actual goal we were working toward may read “L will participate in filling in the blanks of a song sung by the therapist for 90% of opportunities with minimal assistance”. In the meantime, the secondary gains that are built in to the therapeutic music intervention include  gross motor goals by crossing midline and bilateral movement, visual tracking, breath control, and self-regulation. The client is able to build self-esteem by participating in a meaningful activity, creating rapport with an adult figure, and responding to bids for interaction (socialization!) with the therapist.

Musical experiences are positive so people participate because they are enjoyable and successful. They learn to seek out and trust the therapist because that is needed for the experience to be successful for the client. Individuals that engage in positive creative efforts gain self-control and create a healthy emotional outlet.

Happy Autism Awareness Day!

Friday Favorites: {The Lion Sleeps Tonight, Parachute Style!}


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If you’ve followed the blog for any time, you will know that both Lyndie and I have an abounding love for the Laurie Berkner Band’s songs. Today’s Friday Favorite is a cover the Laurie Berkner Band does of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”. The song is on their albums Whaddaya Think of That and Laurie Berkner Band’s iTunes Essentials.

Goal areas covered in this intervention are self-regulation (fast/slow), anticipation of the pattern, following directions, cooperation with peers, and gross motor movement. For this intervention you’ll want to have a parachute that fits the size of your group and 2-3 little stuffed lions and even a larger mama or papa lion.

Here are the lyrics:

In the jungle, the mighty jungle, 
The lion sleeps tonight 
In the jungle, the mighty jungle, 
The lion sleeps tonight 

In the village, the peaceful village, 
The lion sleeps tonight 
In the village, the peaceful village, 
The lion sleeps tonight 

Hush my darling, don’t cry my darling, 
The lion sleeps tonight 
Hush my darling, don’t cry my darling, 
The lion sleeps tonight 

In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the lion sleeps tonight 
In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the lion sleeps tonight

Introduce the song by telling the children that we have to be very quiet (shhhh!) because the lions are sleeping. You can place the lions in or pass them out to the children and have them place them gently in to address goals of following directions and the concept of “in”. Start the song and go from rocking the lions on the parachute to sleep and waking them up with large movements up and down. The nice part about this song is the story that already says the lions are sleeping. Therefore, when the song is over, have the children help you roll up the lion’s big blankie so they can go back to sleep in your bag/cart/box.

There are many different ways you can adapt this song with the recording or live.  I’ve also seen other music therapists use this song without a parachute and have children “sleep” during the quiet parts of the song and wake up and dance during the loud parts. We hope it can become a staple in your repertoire like it has become in ours. Happy Weekend!

Monday Music & Movement: {Move Your Scarves Everybody}

scarves toddler

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It can be tricky incorporate gross motor movement interventions during music therapy with toddlers. In our experience, toddlers tend to run away or explore shelves as soon as you ask them to stand up! However, if you have the right environment and pacing, toddlers can meet gross motor goals while dancing and moving to music. The song we bring you today uses changes in pacing and movements to keep the attention of the youngest clients.

“Move Your Scarves Everybody” is a piggyback song. The original is by Lisa Yves and the Young Beboppers and titled “Clap Your Hands”. You can listen to a sample and purchase the song on iTunes here. It’s a great song to use as a movement intervention without any props and if you don’t have enough hands present to do a live song.

Before we get to the song, let’s talk about transitions into and out of this therapeutic music intervention. Transitions can be a prime time to work on goals and should be just as thought out as the actual song. Music therapy students and interns may quickly find that transitions can make or break a session. The following are a few examples of goals that you can work in while transitioning into the intervention.

You can have children close their eyes and hold out their hands for a surprise colors to work on non-rigidity. You can also have children identify colors while you take them out of the bag and choose a color as you walk by so the task doesn’t take too long. Older children may take turns coming up to you and choosing a color to work on waiting and turn taking skills. Toddlers can reach up and balance briefly in tip toes thinkers you hold a scarf over their head.

Here are the lyrics to our version of “Move Your Scarves Everybody” and a link to the lead sheet and chords.

Verse 1)

Move your scarves everybody, move your scarves (show a arc of movement above head with both arms like a rainbow)

Let the music and rhythm bring you joy when you’re with them

Move your scarves everybody, move your scarves

Verse 2)

Round and round everybody, round and round (circles with scarves)

Verse 3)

Up and down everybody, up and down (jump while moving scarves up and down)

Verse 4)

Sweep the floor everybody, sweep the floor (crouch on feet while sweeping floor across midline)

Verse 5)

Tiptoe round everybody, tiptoe round (tiptoe with scarves over heads, shhh!)


Make them small everybody, make them small (scrunch up scarves so they are ready to be put away)

Please feel free to change the movements based on individual or group goals. These movements are meant to engage toddlers and preschoolers in gross motor movement that requires bilateral coordination and crossing the midline. We hope your toddlers have a blast moving and singing along to “Move Your Scarves Everybody”!