Music to spark a better life for older adults and preschoolers

Posts tagged ‘Early Childhood’

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!

Camping Theme Resources

If you received my newsletter, be sure and check out Canoeing in Preschool. And check out this camping resource by 2 Teaching Mommies.

Those who receive my SPARKS newsletter received the following ideas and more!

Camp Songs:


  • Do Your Ears Hang Low
  • Boa Constrictor
  • The Littlest Worm
  • Little Bunny Foo Foo

Older Adults

  • Picking Flowers in the Rain
  • Tenting Tonight
  • Trail of the Lonesome Pine
  • Dip, Dip & Swing


  • Oh, We’re from Camp (insert the facility name, family name, etc.)
  • Camp Granada
  • Marching to Victoria
  • If You’re Happy & You Know It


Children’s Story Books

  • Camp Granada: Sing-Along Camp Songs by FranÃ
  • How to Catch a Fish by John Frank and Peter Sylvada
  • I Took a Walk by Henry Cole
  • On the Way to the Beach by Henry Cole
  • Wish You Were Here by Martina Selway
  • Camping in Green (Know Your Colors) by Christianne C. Jones and Todd Ouren

If you would like to receive the rest of the information, sign  up for my SPARKS newsletter. You will be able to access the rest of these camping ideas from June 2011 from the archives.

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: Patriotic

A child reading in Brookline Booksmith, an ind...

Image via Wikipedia

I grew up in a household of readers. We were required to read each day as children – especially during the summer. Those frequent trips to the library have resulted in a lifetime of reading. During my sessions, I love to share singable books.  This post is the first in a series.

Today’s books give a nod to the many US patriotic holidays that happen during the summer months. Published by Picture Window Books and illustrated by Todd Ouren, I have used these resources with a variety of younger children. The songs include:

  • America the Beautiful
  • America
  • The Star Spangled Banner
  • When Johnny Comes Marching Home
  • Yankee Doodle
  • You’re a Grand Old Flag

Watch this to learn more about the books. 

Be watching for future singable books. In the mean time here are a few others:

Apologies to those with preschoolers


Image by nesson-marshall via Flickr

I was looking back at my posts of the last month and realized there were very few easy use ideas for those with preschoolers. Yes, there are some song lists, but not a “grab and go” type entry. So this week will be mostly for you. It is my hope that my shares will also work in some intergenerational settings, too. In the mean time, here are some links to past posts that may provide you something to do with your child on a hot summer’s day other than a trip to the pool.

Who are my clients? (Part 2)

On Tuesday I shared a definition of older clients with whom I wish to work in Part 1. Today, I will share my definitions for preschoolers (or maybe I should say the adults in a preschooler’s life).

I do not want to work with you if you:

  • don’t want to join in the activities
  • expect your child to sit quietly for a half hour
  • think your child is too disabled to join in a group
  • don’t see older adults as having something to offer your child
  • don’t enjoy interacting with your child
  • don’t enjoy music

I want to work with you if you:

  • enjoying sharing your musical gifts (yes, we all have them) with your child and others
  • are willing to work with me in finding the appropriate placement for your child to grow
  • look at the abilities and growth potential of a child
  • share a vision of a world strengthen though the interactions of the generations
  • create music in non-session times of life
  • enjoy humor and laughter
  • realize life is sometimes noisy and sometimes quiet
  • enjoy seeing a child be creative

If you live in the Hays, Kansas area and this sounds like something for your child, click here to learn more about classes offered.

If you believe your child would benefit from personal music therapy sessions or adaptive music lessons, please contact me at: .

If you would like some ideas for adding a little music to your child’s life or you are unable to join in these classes, I encourage you to sing up for my FREE newsletter – SPARKS!

Flower Shop Song

Een Bloemetje

Image via Wikipedia

Yesterday, I saw a little girl gathering dandelions. She told me they were for her mom. Memories of myself gathering for my mom and of my daughter gathering dandelions for me! Flowers can be the center of lots of activities with children.

Many years ago, I stumbled upon the “Flower Shop” song and have used it in with a lot of success with four and five-year olds. It works on a variety of concepts: learning to exchanging/trade, turn taking, identifying colors, and counting – just to name a few. I used artificial flowers , but paper flowers or photos would also work. The song can be easily modified for different goals and abilities. Enjoy!

Sneak Peak

Talia playing peek-a-boo (mosaic)

Image by Nathan Rein via Flickr

While I was employed in nursing homes, assisted livings, and CCRC’s  in the Activity Departments, I general was planning two months ahead. This allowed the resident council to share their desires, resource to be allocated, and for calendars to be printed and distributed. Now that I provide community based music therapy services, I have the challenge of working even further ahead. Arrange session space with providers and meeting deadlines for inclusion in the local recreation publication twice each year are just some of the constraints. So, I am currently planning and arranging through February 2012.

Once I settle on dates, I begin to look for themes and topics appropriate to each group. Then, I can gather my existing resources on each while exploring sources for new materials.  Watch the Preschool Classes page for announcements. My offerings for June through September 2011 are currently there and enrollment can be made through the Hays Recreation Commission.

There is a minimum enrollment of five for each class each session. Music Sparks Discovery and Sharing have a maximum enrollment of ten students with an adult while Music Sparks Exploration has a maximum of 12 students. Here are my tentative offerings for my preschoolers including intergenerational programs.  Topics/Themes are set with tentative dates and times provided so you can be planning to join in the fun learning. Be watching for enrollment information in late August on the following classes!

Music Sparks: Discover provides children and their caregivers the opportunity to explore and appreciate music in a creative, enriching and fun environment.  Through singing, moving and playing instruments, participants will learn basic musical and developmental concepts all while having fun and socializing with their peers and caregivers. These classes are offered for ages 18 months through age 3.  Caregivers are encouraged to participate in the music making process.

Location: Hays Recreation Center  Times: 9-9:30 AM Wednesdays Fees: $35 per session

  •  Session 1: Sept. 14, 21, 28, Oct. 5, 12, 19, 26, Nov. 2 (make-up day Nov. 9)  Enroll by Sept. 7, 2011
  • Session 2: Jan. 11, 18, 25, Feb. 1, 8, 15, 22, 29 (make-up 3/7) Enroll by January 4, 2012

Music Sparks: Sharing Songs will provide children and their caregivers the opportunity to explore and appreciate music in a fun and exciting way with the support of senior adults.  This is a great class for family groups. Through singing, moving and playing instruments, participants will learn basic musical and developmental concepts all while having fun and socializing with their peers, caregivers and seniors. These classes are offered for ages 18 months through age 6.  Caregivers are encouraged to participate in the music making process.

Fees: $35 per session (includes one paperback book per family)

Class A: Cedar View 10:30-11:10AM        Class B: Sterling House 6-6:40PM

  • Dinosaurs: Dates – Sept. 12, 19, 26, Oct. 3, 10, 17 (make-up 10/24) Enroll by September 2, 2011
  • Down of the Farm: Dates – Nov. 7, 14, 21, 28, Dec. 5, 12 (make-up day 12/19) Enroll by 10/24
  • Outer Space: Dates – Jan. 16, 23, 30, Feb. 6, 13, 20, (Make-up 2/27) Enroll by January 2, 2012

Music Sparks: Exploration will for 5-6 year olds. We will explore basic music concepts, instruments, and composers through singing, playing, moving, and listening activities.

Location: TBA Times: 10-11AM Saturdays Fees: $45 (includes materials)

  • Session 1 Dates: Sept. 10, 17, 24, Oct. 1, 15, 22 (make-up day 10/29), Nov. 5 & 12 Enroll by September 2, 2011
  • Session 2: Dates: Jan. 14, 21, 28, Feb. 4, 11, 18, March 3, 10, (make-up 3/17) Enroll by January 4, 2012

Be watching for other community offerings targeting families and older adults in future posts while I continue to plan!

May Resources

Chiot's Run 2011 Calendar

Image by Chiot's Run via Flickr

The month of May is filled with holidays and events for many people. Here are some resources on this blog for a handful of them:

May Day:

Cinco de Mayo:

Mother’s Day:

Older American’s Month:

Fall 2011 Themes

A photo of The Thinker by Rodin located at the...

Image via Wikipedia

While spring has just begun, all too soon I will receive an email from the Hays Recreation Commission asking for my fall and winter classes (September 2011 through March 2012)  So, I am in the planning stages for my fall 2011 preschool groups.  I have the school district calendar out and am looking at dates. Contacts are starting to go out to some of my resources and our session hosts for approval.

From my conference and my mind, I have so many ideas floating around my mind. That means, it is time for you to share your theme preferences. You have a week to place your vote! 

Your vote will help create some fun learning opportunities for the Hays area preschoolers.

Tag Cloud