Posts Tagged 'music therapy activity ideas'

Winter Session Plan

I know I’m not wanting to think about this yet, but winter is definitely coming for those of us on Vancouver Island.  The air has been crisper than it normally is for November and the weatherman is reporting an unually snowy winter.  There are already ads on TV for Christmas goodies, and before you know it we’ll be in the throws of decorating and carols.  Here is a sample session plan to help get your residents all ready for winter!

Songs to Sing:

  • Winter Wonderland
  • Frosty the Snowman
  • Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow
  • Suzy Snowflake
  • Marshmellow World

Sensory Cues:

  • See pictures of snowy settings
  • Hear and feel the crackle and warmth from a fireplace
  • Taste a hot beverage such as hot chocolate or apple cider
  • Smell cinnamon spices and Christmas baking

Reminisce About:

  • Favorite seasons
  • Winter likes and dislikes
  • Wintertime activities
  • Preparing for winter

Halloween Session Plan

Happy Halloweeeeen (insert scary sounds here!), to all of our followers!  Hopefully this sample session plan makes your Halloween work day a piece of pumpkin cake.

Songs to Sing:

  • Bewitched, Bothered & Bewildered
  • Puff the Magic Dragon
  • Ghost Riders In the Sky
  • Old Devil Moon
  • Monster Mash

Sensory Cues:

  • See pictures of cats, witches, bats & ghosts
  • Hear recordings of scary Halloween sounds
  • Feel slimy pumpkin insides
  • Smell nutmeg & cinnamon
  • Taste candy corn & apple cider

Reminisce About:

  • Halloween costumes and costume parties
  • Trick or treating
  • Apple bobbing
  • Making pumpkin pie

Activity Idea: Sensory Stimulation Grab Bag

This activity is a universal go to for many populations and ‘functioning’ (I hate that word!) levels.  I use this with my geriatric clients who are in the later stages of their dementia, and literally need motivation to open their senses and experience something they haven’t in a long time.  It’s an added bonus when they can access memories with this little gem.

Find a big bag that has some structure to it, one that would be easy for a client to see into and reach in.  Then fill it with a variety of different props and find songs to sing about each object.  Some of the props I use are an old school slate, paired with ‘School Days’; an apple paired with ‘In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree’ or ‘Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree’; and an old toy car paired with ‘In My Merry Oldsmobile’.

I found it was easier when starting my bag to look at my repetoire of songs and then go shopping for props.  My clients love this activity.

Good luck!

Drumming Activities

A HUGE shout out to American music therapist Kat Fulton and to Long & McQuade drum rentals for the success of a workshop I facilitated for staff at Nanaimo Travellers Lodge last week.  Kat was wonderful in sharing some of her drumming ideas with me for my workshop, which had a theme about change.  We began by going around the circle each sharing verbally what our relationship was with change and feelings around current changes in the workplace and our personal lives.  We took these feelings into a drumming exercise called Build a Groove… the first person began drumming and when ready invited the next person in, and so on and so forth.  We also did an exercise where each person had to think of a word that was shouted out into the music of the improvisation, all followed by a debrief.  Everyone who attended commented on how much fun they had.

The djembe drums rented from Long and McQuade were gorgeous in sound and appearance and were very affordable ($4/drum).  Kat is an experienced drum facilitator and shares some of her valuable tricks on her website:  Thanks again, Kat!

A Musical Gift

Read music therapist Kimberly Moore’s latest blog for Psychology Today here:

A great gift giving idea as the Christmas season approaches.  Thanks Kimberly!

Activity Resources for Seniors

One of the things I love about having a WordPress website is I can see in my blog statistics the terms that people have searched to find my website.  This is a handy feature because I’m able to see the kinds of things that people are looking for, and if I’m able to, I can share what I know in that area.

I’m noticing that people are searching activity ideas often so I thought I would share some of my favorite resources in this area.  All of these resources are relevant to the geriatric population.

1) Full Circle: Spiritual Therapy for the Elderly by Kevin Kirkland & Howard McIiveen

2) Roses In December: Music Sessions with Older Adults by Beckie Karras

3) Hidden Treasures: Music & Memory Activities for People with Alzheimer’s by Cindy Cordrey

4) Say It with Music: Music Games & Trivia by Beckie Karras

5) Musical Bridges: Intergenerational Music Programs by Joan Shaw & Carna Manthey

All of these books include detailed session plans and are well worth the money if you are struggling for activity ideas.  Good luck!

Revisiting Joe

Earlier this year I wrote a blog on how music had worked for Joe, a new resident at that time adjusting to facility life.  Shortly after that post, I began working with Joe and his family.  In my sessions with them they shared with me that they had never made a recording of Joe playing his violin – something he could still do, and something that would capture strong memories for them.  We decided to make a CD of Joe and his violin. 

There were many bumps in the road to get to the final product, but the CD was completed in July.  We celebrated it with a CD release party for Joe, surrounded by his friends and family.  Unfortunately Joe has slipped into the depths of his dementia.  He is virtually unresponsive now in our sessions, and certainly has lost his ability to play his violin.  His family have expressed such gratitude for this CD, and the process - it was such a blessing that we started when we did.

Here is a sample of one of the songs.  Enjoy.

Zoom H2 Recorder

I was recently recommended the Zoom H2 recording device from someone at Long & McQuade music stores, as a good tool for doing recording projects with the seniors I work with who have dementia.  After finding out more information and hitting a few bumps in the road with funding, I was able to purchase one on behalf of one of the sites I work at.  This recorder has been wonderful to work with, and what I would call a music therapist’s dream for managing recording projects.  The Zoom H2 has been easy to use, and the sound quality of this little recorder is amazing!  I would highly recommend it for any music therapists who want to record with clients easily and inexpensively.  It retails in Canada for $189 and can be bought from Long & McQuade.  To learn more about the recorder, you can visit their website:

Blessing Blossoms

This is a nice activity idea for reminiscing groups, when having your group celebrate a person, i.e. Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Grandparent’s Day, etc.  It could also work well as a goodbye activity for a group member or staff person leaving the group permanently.  Have your group create two lists: one with words to describe that person and one with phrases of what you would say to them if you could.  Weave in related songs, poems, photos and discussion for a very meaningful session.  After the session write these words and phrases onto cut out blossoms and make a display for your group to admire next time.

Mother’s Day CD

One of the most meaningful gifts you can give someone is a home made music mix.  For anyone looking for ideas for Mother’s Day coming up, or wanting to find a way to find a gift within your budget, a CD or personalized playlist will do the trick.  Here are some song ideas for mothers to get you started:

Let It Be – Allison Crowe
Hello Mudduh, Hello Fadduh – Allan Sherman
Mama’s Song – Carrie Underwood
I Got It from My Mama –
Ave Maria – Charlotte Church
Does Your Mother Know – Abba
I Wanna Thank You – Darius Rucker
Good Mother – Jann Arden
Mamma Mia – Abba

There are many more and you can easily find song ideas online.  I also like adding songs with lyrics that express how I feel about that person or see them to mixes, in addition to the obvious ones.  Making CD’s with this kind of purpose can be therapeutic and meaningful for the person making it, and the person receiving it.

Good luck!


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