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 ūüôā

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 ūüôā

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

Monday Music and Movement: {Five Little Ducks}


Image credit

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!

{Autism Awareness Day!}


                                                                                                      Image credit

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‚Äôs 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 ‚Äúlink‚ÄĚ 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.

‚ÄúMusic has the advantage of demanding attention that a visual stimulus cannot, because it intrudes immediately through ears that cannot be closed voluntarily.‚Ä̬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† -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 ‚ÄúL will participate in filling in the blanks of a song sung by the therapist for 90% of opportunities with minimal assistance‚ÄĚ. 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!}


Image Credit

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: {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!