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Ways to Integrate Winter into Music Therapy Sessions

By Katlyn Hasbrouck, MusicWorx Intern

I love wintertime! It reminds me of the Midwest, where I grew up. When it comes to planning music therapy sessions, I like to use interventions that tie into this time of year. I’ve compiled 10 ideas that can be adapted depending on the population, size of the group, and diagnoses.

1. Choose Instruments and Materials that Correlate to Winter Colors

Instruments and materials are a great opportunity to incorporate winter colors into sessions. In preparation for this intervention, you can set out the instruments before the session, or assign choosing winter-themed materials to the client. The music therapist can print pictures of winter objects or pull images up on a device to encourage client(s) to find instruments of the same color. This intervention is flexible to do virtually by encouraging client(s) to find items around their house.

2. “Snowflake Shuffle” Movement Song

“Snowflake Shuffle” is a children’s movement song that I wrote to promote fine and gross motor movements. The movement prompts in the song are easily adapted to fit clients goals. Here is a video of me singing the song:

3. Play Through Songs with Keyboard Instruments

This intervention uses keyboard instruments like piano, xylophone, glockenspiel, desk/handbells, boomwhackers, and tone chimes. You can either write down the melody line by ear, Google search “melody lines”, or buy pre-made songbooks and play through the song as written. Depending on the ability level, choosing to use a color-coded system over using the letters may be easier for clients to follow along. This intervention can be made as simple or as complex as you would like. Be mindful of the different holidays that your clients might be celebrating when choosing music. 

4. Adding Instruments to a Short Film

This intervention is all about engagement, participation, and instrument exploration by adding instruments into short films or videos. Facilitation for this intervention could happen in 3 ways.

  • Assign an instrument to each character or action; play the assigned instrument whenever that character/action appears.
  • Have the therapist point at individual clients at designated times during the video. Encourage them to play the instrument they’re holding as soon as you point at them. This requires the therapist to watch the video prior and plan when instruments should play.
  • Prompt the client(s) to create their own instrumentation for the video. 

Here are some videos you can use for this intervention:

5. Drawing to Music

This intervention focuses on expression, identification, and creativity. The goal is to have the client(s) draw what they feel, see, hear, smell, and touch as they listen to the music. Be sure to  have different coloring utensils and pieces of paper available. Play through the entire song, or choose a selected portion for  client(s) to draw along to. Some instrumental winter pieces that can be used are linked below:

If a client chooses more than one song, have them divide their sheet of paper into sections, use the back of their piece of paper or use a new sheet of paper to separate the drawings for each piece. To finish the intervention and prompt conversation, ask the client(s) to describe what they drew and why.

6. “It Tastes So Good” Vocalization Song

This is a children’s song that I wrote to encourage vocalization. Each time you sing through the verse, change up the holiday food by asking the group some of their favorites, or thinking of a list prior. Here is a video of me singing the song:

7. “Frosty the Snowman” Movement Song

Not only is this song adorable, but it is also a great movement song for children. I wrote out some dance moves that can be used; feel free to be creative and adapt movements to suit your client(s) goals or needs!

Frosty the Snowman” by Steve Nelson and Walter Rollins

Frosty the Snowman
Was a jolly happy soul
With a corn cob pipe and a button nose
And two eyes made out of coal

Frosty the Snowman
Is a fairytale they say
He was made of snow, but the children know
How he came to life one day

There must have been some magic
In that old top hat they found
For when they placed it on his head
He began to dance around

Oh, Frosty the Snowman
Was alive as he could be
And the children say he could laugh and play
Just the same as you and me

Thumpetty thump thump
Thumpetty thump thump
Look at frosty go!

Thumpetty thump thump
Thumpetty thump thump
Over the hills and snow!

Frosty the Snowman
Knew the sun was hot that day
So he said, “Let’s run, and we’ll have some fun
Now before I melt away”

Down to the village
With a Broomstick in his hand
Running here and there, all around the square
Saying “Catch me if you can!”

He led them down the streets of town
Right to the traffic cop
And he only paused a moment
When he heard them holler STOP!

Frosty the Snowman
Had to hurry on his way
But he waved good-bye, saying, “Don’t you cry
I’ll be back again some day!”

Thumpetty thump thump
Thumpetty thump thump
Look at frosty go!

Thumpetty thump thump
Thumpetty thump thump
Over the hills and snow!

Snowman Dance Move
Point to big smile
Point to pipe in mouth and point to nose
Point to eyes

Snowman Dance Move
Make book with hands
Make snowball in hands, then point out finger
Spread out arms, like giving a hug

Twirl finger around in circles
Form top hat with hands, above head
Bring hands closer to head, in top hat form
Big jump/Skip Around

Snowman Dance Move
Gather arms by chest, then explode arms
Laugh and dance
Point out on “you”, point at self on “me’

Marching arms
Marching arms
Make binoculars with hands over eyes

Marching arms
Marching arms
Make wave motions with arm(s)

Snowman Dance Move
Wave arm towards face/wipe sweat off head
Run in place, then thumbs up on “fun”
Droop over like you’re melting

March legs in place
Pretend to hold a broom stick
Point all over
Wave/point pointer finger on beat

March forward
Surprise looking face
Hold up hand on “stop”
Yell the word STOP and throw hands in air

Snowman Dance Move
Run in place
Wave to others in group
Thumbs up/give self a hug

Marching arms
Marching arms
Make binoculars with hands over eyes

Marching arms
Marching arms
Make wave motions with arm(s)

8. Winter Mindfulness Scripts

Start by asking what winter scene is comforting to your clients. If the client(s) need some guidance, mention scenes like sitting inside with a warm drink on a snowy day, putting up holiday decorations, smelling homemade baked desserts or sweets, or an event that has a deep memory attached. Focus on the five senses, any memorable aspects that the client brought up, and you can even turn on a background noise that parallels the mindfulness. I have included an example of a short Winter Mindfulness that I wrote.

Please use the below interventions only if your clients have self-disclosed that they celebrate Christmas.

 

9. 12 Days of Christmas Lyric Rewrite

This holiday rewrite is versatile and addresses goals including fine/gross motor skills, communication, participation, and social interaction. First, ask the clients for  twelve of their favorite things or most memorable moments that revolve around winter/Christmas time. Use their answers to rewrite the original lyrics, and then sing through the new version of the song. After doing this, the therapist can increase engagement for this intervention in two ways.

  • Add in an instrument for each of the twelve objects. Depending on the size of the group, split up the instruments so that each object has at least one client playing an instrument. Instruments may include: egg shakers, drums, wooden sticks, bells, triangle, boomwhackers, piano, guitar strum, sandblocks, maracas, tambourine, etc… When you sing through the song, prompt the client to play the instrument that correlates to its lyrics. 
  • Create a movement for each of the twelve objects. When singing through the song, everyone in the group should complete each of the twelve movements. 

This intervention is also flexible to do virtually. Use the whiteboard function on Zoom or screen-share a document when gathering responses.

10. Instrument Playing with “Little Drummer Boy”

“Little Drummer Boy” is a great song  to use for structured music-making. Some non-pitched instruments to consider using include: bells, chimes, wooden sticks, jingle bells, and drums. The lyrics can be rewritten to provide cueing: 

“Play your instruments… Pa rum pum pum pum”  

“Play the bells for me… Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding”  

“Play the drums for me… boom, boom, boom, boom, boom”, etc. 

Another option is for the therapist to hand a variety of instruments to the group and rewrite the song to give solos. This song is usually played at a slower tempo but can speed up; take advantage of the song’s flexibility and make it your own.

 

I hope you find these winter themed interventions and ideas helpful for creating some fun sessions over the holidays!

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