Music to spark a better life for older adults and preschoolers

Posts tagged ‘children’

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.

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.

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 

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!

Singable Books: Nursery Rhyme Songbook

I have noticed that fewer children are able to repeat  many traditional nursery rhymes. Many are tied to music. But, I found a source that is helping keep them alive. The “Nursery Rhyme Songbook: A Delightful collection of Nursery Rhymes and Fairy Stories” is published by Amsco Publication. Containing 35 songs, 3 poems, and 5 stories, this book would make a great starter for a parents library to share with a child as well as being a great resource book for childcare providers.

Most of the stories and songs are familiar and traditional with simple, colorful illustrations. The songs are presented in a format playable on piano, guitar, or autoharp. The poems are short, anonymous rhymes sure to delight both child and adult.

Check out this singable book and enjoy some traditional fun.

Planning Made Easy with Themes

Pattern 02

Whether it is for a month, a week, a day, a session, I love building off a theme. It doesn’t matter if I am planning for a preschool music group, older adult music therapy session, or an intergenerational session, I love using a theme.  Why use a theme? Here are the top four reasons .

Themes provide structure to the session.  They help me determine sensory items to bring, songs on the topic, sound clips, pictures, questions.

Themes challenge me to try new things. Often themes push me out of my comfort area. Leading a session for older adults to expose them to different cultures, different countries makes me learn new information, new music, to think out of the box. I love asking for their ideas, too. Putting them in charge gives them purpose.

Themes make it easy to incorporate others materials. While I maintain my general format for groups, using a theme gives me an excuse to share something new with the members of the group. I use various tools/methods of presenting to make the most impact for that group. This was especially true when I worked full-time in Activities. I could find movies, word games, books, famous people, food, art work all on themes. It meant everyone could gain exposure to the theme by participating in their favorite activities.

Themes make planning easy. It means gathering a set of materials for use on that day, week, or month. I feel I get more bang for my buck if I purchase something I can use several times. Now that I provide services to a variety of clients (older adults and preschoolers) I can still find ways to connect many of the  materials. My aim with using a theme is to create continuity for myself and my clients. Themes have guided who I invited for guest presentations. I could go to one website and use the material in multiple ways.

I hope these ideas on themes have helped create some interest in the topic. My July 23, 2011 issue of SPARKSwill be dedicated to this topic. It will be filled with some of my favorite resources and lots of help for others wanting to try planning their own themes. Also, you can click to hear my conversation with Janice Harris, MT-BC on this topic!

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Singable Books: 2 Special Stories

Music Notes Vector

Image by Vectorportal via Flickr

Some singable stories can be used with recordings, read, or sung live. Today’s selections work all these ways. These books are:

Rock Steady” by Sting, illustrated by Hugh Whyte  The story of Noah’s ark is retold using toe tapping music available from various sources. The illustrations are bright and eye catchy. I would recommend this book for ages 3-8 years of age. Older children can compare and contrast the story to other versions.

“The Jazz Fly” by Matthew Gollub, illustrated by Karen Hanke This book comes with a CD that helps set a wonderful jazz tone. It is fun to create your own flies and have the group scat when not using the recording. It can be a way to introduce various instruments including a bass, sax, piano, and drums. I would use this book with 4-8 year olds.

Here’s a little about these two special books: 

Singable Books: This Land is Your Land

Woody Guthrie, half-length portrait, seated, f...

Image via Wikipedia

Sometimes illustrations can assist children in understanding lyrics to songs. Such is the case with “This Land is Your Land” by Woody Guthrie. Paintings by Kathy Jacobsen bring it to life. Published by Little, Brown and Company the book comes with a CD of Woody and Arlo Guthrie singing 10 songs. And the music on the CD will bring back many memories for older adults.

Here is more about this singable book:

Singable Books: Fiddle-I-Fee

Cover of "Fiddle-I-Fee: A Farmyard Song f...

Cover via Amazon

There are wonderful songs that have become books for children. Fiddle-I-Fee: A Farmyard song the Very Young adapted and illustrated by Melissa Sweet is one such book. Check here to learn more:

I will be using this song and recommending the book in an upcoming farm themed class. Here are some other posts with books that are singable you might enjoy:

Singable Books: Silly Dilly Songs

giggling child burrito

Image by drcorneilus via Flickr

When I was a child I loved to act silly, to hear silly things, and to sing silly songs. Silly songs can let us learn about social graces, say the things that are otherwise socially unacceptable, and can make us laugh.  During a recent trip to the library I stumbled upon a wonderful series of books written by Alan Katz and illustrated by David Catrow. These gentlemen have managed to capture toddler and playground humor to create lyrics and illustrations that are a hoot. The lyrics are partnered with well known tunes much like “On Top of Spaghetti” is sung to “On Top of Old Smokey”.

Here’s a little more on these books:

While not a complete list by this author and illustrator duo, this is the titles from my local library>

I encourage you to check out these or other books for a sing with your child.

Singable Books: Neighborhood Sing-along

Singing has been a great way for me to meet and to interact with people my whole life. I’m guessing it has also been that way for Nina Crews – the creator and artist for The Neighborhood Sing-along. This would be a wonderful book for:

  • sharing standard sing-along songs with young children
  • a book for reminiscing with grandparents
  • developing a list of songs to use in an intergenerational group.

Here are some more insights on this fun book. 

Hope you enjoyed this installment of Singable books. Here are some past posts to keep you reading and singing with your child.

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