Music to spark a better life for older adults and preschoolers

Archive for the ‘Preschool’ Category

Happy Second Birthday!

Music Sparks is two years old. 

It has been a great year – both in Hays and in social media.  

Here in Hays, I have had great fun regularly providing group music therapy services at some area assisted living facilities including a very successful intergenerational group at one facility. Being invited to take part in the Family Fun Fest at the Mall was an absolute blast! The fall Saturday morning class was great fun for me and the boys who attended. I am also thankful for the opportunity to volunteer some time during the year in the Good Samaritan Alzheimer’s unit – New Horizons.

Social media wise, things are booming. Our Facebook page has reached over 100 “likes”. As of June 2011, SPARKS is now a bi-weekly newsletter providing resources for preschoolers, older adults and intergenerational programs around different themes. And, as of today, Music Sparks has a new website: music2spark. Do check out the new site!

I am so thankful I found Laura Crum who is assisting me in the process, and providing guidance. I also have a lot of people who have served as mentors in social media:

Things only look for exciting for Music Sparks this coming year. As I announced in May, there are lots of changes coming. The intergenerational program will now be known as Music Sparks: Sharing Songs. Beginning in September there will be an additional evening session. For children 18 months through age 3 I will offer Music Sparks: Discover one morning a week. And, the Saturday morning class for 5-6 year olds will reappear as Music Sparks: Exploration. (Click here to check the Preschool Class page for details.)

Older adults not in Assisted Living aren’t forgotten. I am working on some group music opportunities just for you! The best place for you to find out about upcoming sessions is the Older Adult tab.  

Thank you to all who read this blog. I’ll see you from now on at the new, improved site  – Music 2 Spark!

3 Back to School Morning Boosts

Saying my daughter is not excited about going back to school is an understatement. (No, that isn’t a picture of her.) She is a true teen, a true musician. Mornings are not her thing! Whether you have a teenager, a child in elementary school, a pre-schooler or are an adult preparing to return to a class schedule, there are three things you can do to boost the energy level in the morning.

Restart the bedtime and wake time schedule. Depending on how “off schedule” your summer has been, it takes time to reset the body clock. We had a very laid back schedule at our house, so we have started a couple of weeks out with gradually having earlier bed and wake times.

Try adding a positive affirmation to your day as you turn off the alarm clock. It can be short like “new day, new opportunities” or something long. I find affirmations help me have a positive focus to my day.

Add a little music. (You knew this was coming, right?) With the advent of mp3 players and iPods this can be easy. My daughter often plays music as she puts on her make-up. I may play music as I prepare breakfast.  It doesn’t have to be peppy, just music we like. When she was little, I had relaxing, lullaby CD’s I played and sang with at her bedtime. My favorite CD’s were:

I would also sing little songs to wake her in the morning.

What are your favorite ways to awaken on a school morning?

Singable Stories: Take Me Home, Country Roads

John Denver's Greatest Hits

Image by thejcgerm via Flickr

Tomorrow I will be traveling back home after a wonderful family vacation. Though I will be flying, John Denver is running through my head. If you open the cover of John Denver’s “Take Me Home Country Roads”, adapted and illustrated by Christopher Canyon you are greeted with this quote:

Music makes pictures and often tells stories, all of it magic and all of it true. And all of the pictures and all of the stories, and all of the magic, the music is you. ~John Denver

While this is a children’s book, I believe it would work well in an intergenerational group. Watch the clip to find out why.

What are your impressions of this book? Share them in the comments.

Simplification in a Session

Simple

The week of August 1-7 is Simplify Your Life Week. As always, that has me asking questions.

  • How can simplification apply to my work?
  • How does simplification apply when working with older adults or children?
  • Does it apply to life with a young child?

In my work, simplification can take many forms. Accompaniments can be reduced even to the point of a simple rhythm on a drum. I can prepare less structure/plan allowing myself to flow with the clients during the session.

Working with older adults I have become aware of the need to decrease background noise. With many clients – old & young – less visual noise is also helpful. It can be easier to attend to a person or a task when there is less in your visual field.

At home, simplification can mean putting away some of the toys for a month. By rotating what is out and available, it keeps things fresh. It can also mean playing with simple blocks or containers

How do you bring simplification to you life? Your work?  Please share it now in the comments.

Secrets of Creating Inspired Themes

Secret

Image by val.pearl via Flickr

In this post I am sharing some of my secrets for creating and using inspired themes.  It is my hope they are helpful in kick starting a session, a week, a month, or a year for you. They are easy to apply ideas for the home, school, and long-term care settings. So here we go!

Where do you find inspiration for a theme?

You can find it everywhere. Really, I do: books I read, calendars, resource books, dreams, ideas from clients, local events. The secret is to capture them on paper, in a file, in a voice memo. Just capture them otherwise they tend to disappear from your thoughts.

What sources can be used to kick-start ideas?

  • If the idea is triggered by a local annual event, often there are resources from this event to get you started.
  • Many on-line holiday and special event calendars have links to starter sources.
  • When it is free-floating ideas from my thoughts, clients, or dreams I often use Google as a starter point. Look into the suggested search terms that may pop up in your search

How to I build on an idea that doesn’t come with ready-made ties?

Ask questions about the theme to pull it into other events. For example, how I use a camping theme to create a cohesive week of events at an assisted living facility? The topic itself becomes something for reminiscing. Think of the images that relate to the topic. The equipment on might use can become the decorations and the physical objects that might help with the reminiscing. When you think of camping, it might help you think of smells  (pine tree, smoke, Mosquito repellent), tastes (hot dogs, smores, trail mix), movements (cutting wood, hiking, boating, horseback riding), sounds (insects at night, bird calls, wolves, songs around the campfire, and touch (rough cord, bark from trees, iron skillet, fabrics from tents). All these things can help you spread the theme into events: topics for Jeopardy, words to unscramble, movements for exercise, foods for cooking, songs to sing, just to name a few.

Hope this has helped. Recipients of the July 23, 2011 SPARKS newsletter received this and more! Join today by clicking here. Then you will be able to access this themed information in the archives.

7 Link Challenge – Music Sparks Version

backlit house number

Image by cmurtaugh via Flickr

My friend, Michelle Erfurt put out a challenge on Music Therapy Tween for a 7 link challenge. This seemed like a simple challenge. The questions only apply to the dates of August 2010 – July 2011. So here we go!

  1. Your first post of August 2010: Music for All This was a short post sharing a link. Boy have my posts changed in the last year.
  2. A post you enjoyed writing the most: Right Down to Your Toes I love being barefoot. I love getting a pedicure. Finding this poem and turning it into a song was a joy.
  3. A post which had a great discussion: It surprises me that a couple tied: Time to Spring Forward and Singable Books: Patriotic.
  4. A post on someone else’s blog that you wish you’d written:  Intergenerational Music at Cornerstone I wish I had a big hit post like this one on intergenerational music that was on my blog.  This may be a goal for this coming year. I wrote something that impacted the lives of those for whom I provide services.
  5. Your most helpful post: Brining Australia to Kansas This post brought comments from Australia that informed my sessions. The residents were very impressed to have music suggested from around the globe.
  6. A post with a title that you are proud of:  Yes, You Can! The title created interest and was a great summary of this video. We can each make a difference in the lives of those dealing with dementia.
  7. A post that you wish more people had read: Singing Bowl Meditation Doing meditation with a group of older adults with a variety of backgrounds and diagnosis can be a challenge. But, this seemed to work.

Now, it is your turn! If you are a blogger, share your list of seven.

Singable Stories: Some Sunday Specials

From time to time I teach Sunday School at my church. These singable stories would be appropriate for Sunday Schools, religion classes, or just sharing with a child. Check them out!

I hope you enjoy these books. Which is your favorite? Let me know in the comments.

Top Intergenerational Music Blogs

My last two top ten posts looked at music therapy and music with older adults. Here is list #3 – the top intergenerational music blogs. This took a little work as many are just news articles or single posts. So, I’m trying to share sites with the greatest information. You will notice there are only seven. Most of the items were news stories or offered only an overview of the program.

7. Our Big Earth

6. Sound Health Music 

5. EMBE Music Therapy

4. Darwin Intergenerational Music (This is a YouTube link)

3. Soundscape Music Therapy 

2. Music Together 

1. Cornerstone Music Community (A new blog I now follow)

What this tells me is not many blogs repeatedly address intergenerational music – an area which I greatly enjoy. It provides me some new resources for interview and conversations on the subject. In fact, I hope to have some posted targeting intergenerational music during August 2011.

Sparks Spot: Erin Bullard

Today’s post is a guest spot which excites me.  It is by Erin Bullard who I met through Twitter. Erin Bullard is a board-certified music therapist and neurologic music therapy fellow. She completed her master’s degree in music therapy weeks before becoming a mother in 2009 and has since focused on the intricacies of parenting. She has recently started blogging on life as a parent and using music to guide that process. If you fancy, read more at http://parentsong.wordpress.com 

Erin BullardMusic Through the Day with Young Children: A Shapshot

As I music therapist, I’ve used music to aid in transitions and tasks with a wide range of ages from older adults to children with autism and developmental delays. Music is frequently used in preschool and early childhood setting to help establish the daily routine and let the children know what task is at hand and how long it should be attended to.

The most commonly used routine marker in music therapy is the Hello and Goodbye song. These are invaluable when it comes to clients who have a hard time shifting gears into and out of the music therapy session. We music therapists often refer to music as our “co-therapist. ” I have relied on these many times to help clients anticipate and mentally prepare for what was to come. It is so helpful in the sessions, that I have even encouraged parents to use a special song for transitions and daily tasks to guide the child through the day. I never knew how this actually played out or how powerful it was until I applied it to my own children.

In this post, I want to share a bit how music facilitates my day with little ones. I only have very young children at this point, and infant and toddler, but it seems that music is far more effective than words are at this point. Here are three ways I use music as my “co-parent”:

Music to gain attention: If you are a parent or caretaker of young children, it is likely that you have experienced the child deep in play or what appears to be randomly exploring his or her environment. As my toddler gains ability to play independently, my voice has had to become more interesting than what she was engaged in. If I need to interrupt her to let her know it is time to go soon or ask her a question, I usually get a quicker response if I sing her name. Very simply, in a light, descending minor third usually does the trick. It prevents me from repeatedly barking her name and using physical means of gaining her attention.

If needing to get her attention to stop her from doing something dangerous, such as touching a hot object or walking into the street, I resort to the “mother tone,” which is of course, much more alarming and serious. This means I can save that serious tone for serious things, and use a more playful tone when it is not an emergency. It has saved me considerable energy.

Music to facilitate a task: This is probably the most obvious use of music, but before I actually did it in a non-therapy setting, I did not know how it would go over. When my daughter was first learning to eat solid foods and therefore required to sit in one place at the table, she often became very restless and refused to eat. After singing the same song during a few meals, she began to calm down and allow us to feed her the entire meal. We usually used the same two or three songs so that they became familiar to her.

This was also true of diaper changes and baths. I always thought the song had to do with the actual task, but it didn’t seem so in the case with my daughter. As long as we had sung the song over and over so that it became familiar, it didn’t have to reflect the task at hand to be effective as a distraction and make the task more enjoyable.

Music to ease transitions: This is the area in which music has become the most helpful, especially since I have an infant that prevents me from verbally and physically coaching my toddler from one activity to another. I use very short melodies that simply call attention to the fact that something is going to happen, whether it is a meal, a story, going upstairs (to transition to nap time, bath, or bedtime), or the end of an activity, such as playing at the park.

For example, we sing a melody just before sitting down to eat. The words are “Welcome, welcome, welcome to our table.” That’s all. That is enough to announce that it is time to eat, and most of the time, it works! My daughter will come running to the table. Some melodies are a little longer, but it makes the announcement that we are going to do something and now is the time to prepare.

Of course, using music does not make for effortless guiding, but it does make things easier most of the time. Whenever I forget and start only using words to explain what is coming, I am always met with some resistance and things don’t flow as smoothly. The music helps me keep energized, grounded, and a little more patient!

I hope these snapshots give a picture of music in action and spark some ideas for using music in your own life with little ones!

Family in Song

A large family having fun by the water.

Image via Wikipedia

My family is important to me. I love my husband & daughter. My dad, siblings, their spouses/significant others, their kids all fill my thoughts. Then there are my many aunts, uncles and cousins. These are special people to me. And, I hope they know that.

I know from conversations with older adults and with young children, families are important to them, too.  With that in mind, here are  few family songs you could use to create a family themed music event.

  • Daddy Sang Bass
  • We are Family
  • I want a Girl
  • Take My Hand My Son
  • Que Sera, Sera
  • Daddy Little Girl
  • Cats in the Cradle
  • Sunrise, Sunset

If you like these, be sure you are receiving my SPARKS newsletter. When you do, you’ll be able to access my July 9th Family Reunion theme for even more ideas.

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