Alyssa Graber, MME, MT-BC, Music Therapist- Board Certified
“Everybody play your instrument, everybody play your instrument, everybody play, everybody play, and then we….STOP!”
I am lucky that singing this little instrument song is a normal part of my everyday life. I regularly sing not only this song, but lots of familiar kids songs like “Wheels on the Bus,” “Open and Shut Them,” and yes, even “Baby Shark.” I am a board-certified music therapist, and one of my favorite days of the week is Thursday, when I get to come make music with the kids at Easterseals Early Intervention. If you happen to peek into one of my music circles you will see me with my guitar and the kids with instruments like egg shakers and rhythm sticks. You will see the kids imitating actions in songs like clapping, stomping, and dancing. You might see me with a book, but instead of reading it, I’m singing the words. It will probably look like we’re having lots of fun, because we are! But there’s actually a lot more to my music therapy circles than just having fun.
I plan my music therapy sessions to target specific age-appropriate goals to help the kids learn and grow. We sing songs to work on speech, sound production, social skills, and communication. We play instruments to work on gross and fine motor skills, impulse control, and following directions. We move to music to work on fine and gross motor skills and following directions. We do finger plays and action songs to work on attention, following directions, and fine and gross motor skills.
Why does this work? In part, because music is motivating! Almost everyone enjoys listening to music, and even if you think you can’t sing, I bet you enjoy singing along to your radio on full blast in your car. Just like music helps you get through rush-hour traffic or a tough workout, music helps motivate and hold the attention of the kids I work with. Music also provides structure for the tasks I ask the kids to do. For example, the song at the beginning of this post is a really fun way to practice following important directions like stop and go. If we’re playing egg shakers, I can also work on body part identification by singing about playing the egg shakers on our tummies, our feet, our head, etc. This little song also provides opportunities to practice communication. For instance, I give the kids the chance to say “go!” after we “stop!” We can also practice making requests, leaving space for the kids to ask for “more,” either verbally or in sign language.
As you can see, there’s a lot of thought that goes into one little song! Participating in music making is a fun and motivating way for kids to learn important skills to help them succeed in life, but it is also just a normal part of childhood. If you have a little one in your life, don’t be afraid to sing with them! While I have years of training and education in music therapy, you don’t need that to have a meaningful musical experience with the kids in your life. So go ahead—turn on some music, sing out of key, bang on some pots and pans, and have some fun!
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