If leading your own music time at home or therapy seems like a daunting task, fear no more. These steps will have you singing and moving in no time!
Make a musical plan
Almost all of my music therapy sessions incorporate these elements. Also, take into consideration your child’s preferences! Does he love to jump and move? Does she prefer lullabies with massage for sensory input? Is there one song that he really connects to above all others? Use it as a reward at the end. You can use more or less of the elements that work for you!
Where can you find these tunes? I love to use Listen & Learn, YouTube, and Songs for Teaching. As our site grows you will also find great songs and ideas right here at Music Therapy Kids. Also check out this article (using music link)
Use the same opening song each time. Over time the child will recognize it as a cue that it’s time to sing and play with music for a while.
Check out these great option for dancing and grooving!
Many books are set to music and include a CD or you can find the song on you tube. See a list of our faves here.
Sing Familiar Tunes
Twinkle Little Star and Wheels on the Bus never get old. Maybe for us as therapists and parents, but the kids continue to love and request these standards. Use picture cards (link) to let your child choose which songs to sing.
Tons of fun can be had while playing instruments. You don’t have to have fancy ones. Get out a couple pots and pans if your child can tolerate the sensory input. Use free instrument apps on your iPhone or iPad. I know my son was given toy instruments at his first and second birthdays!
A song to address a theme or targeted skill
Are you working on learning animal sounds or colors? Do you want to help your child with turn taking? A search at songs for teaching or YouTube will result in lots of options.
Use the same song each time to indicate that music time has finished!
A couple notes about music selection. There are literally tons of options out there. Don’t get hung up on choosing the “right” song. Keep it simple. Provide lots of repetition. If your child genuinely seems to dislike the song, pick another one but keep in mind that sometimes children with special needs require time and repetition to accept something new. Check out this article about choosing appropriate music! LINK
After you’ve found your songs, make sure you can access them all in one place in a playlist type fashion – your computer, your phone, a CD – all good options. It will be a little bit of work up front, but once you have your playlist, you will be set.
Set the structure
- Pick a consistent time. This could be daily or weekly.
- 20-30 minutes is a good length. You may start with as little as five minutes and work up. If your child especially loves music, then go for more.
- Have music time in the same place every time.
- Use a small chair or carpet square for your child. I like to encourage independence but he may also need to be held in your lap. That’s ok!
- Remove distractions (sounds, toys). Make sure the TV is off and toys are out of sight. If the iPad is a distraction, then hide it too.
Gather your stuff
Make sure you get everything needed for music time before you start. Gather up items in a tote bag or an empty box. The point is not to have to interrupt the music activities once you begin.
A quick checklist of items:
- Music (cd player, phone, computer). As a music therapist I primarily use live music, but when I do use recorded, I prefer to make a playlist on my phone. It’s loud enough to use with just one child or you can purchase an inexpensive speaker to attach.
- Song Cards
Bring on the music!
No music time will be perfect. My first year as a music therapist, I had one school group where my mantra literally became “Learn to accept the chaos. Music will bring them back.” The session always felt so hectic. Some of the kids had difficulty remaining seated and were working on impulse control. Some wanted to be the musical center of attention and did not like to share the spotlight with their peers which caused them to be upset. I eventually realized that “chaos” is sometimes just a part of therapy or group sessions. And I did notice that music always brought them back. Each child responded on different days or different times throughout the session but nevertheless, they connected to music!
This was a very important lesson to learn my first year out. Please don’t be discouraged if it seems wild! That’s part of the ride! Be consistent, use the songs, and connect with music! And if you have any questions – please contact us (link)! We are happy to help.
Guide to the Best Singable Books
Get our FREE Singable Books ebook - 25 stories that can easily be used with music.