December is full of holidays that we can build music therapy interventions around. Since I mainly work in school settings, I design activities using secular songs and cultural aspects associated with each holiday. This is also important because it doesn’t exclude clients who don’t celebrate specific holidays.
The Rockin’ Dreidel Song by Sha Na Na
Goals: Social Skills, Turn Taking, Self-Esteem.
This version of the iconic dreidel song is so much fun and can be used with young and old alike. Clients sit in a circle and pass around my Dreidel Bear stuffed animal while the music plays. You can also use an instrument or something else to pass, if you prefer. When the music stops, the client who is holding the bear, gets to pick a foam snowflake, snowman or tree from a bag and do the activity that is written on the back. .
Goals: Leadership Skills, Cause and Effect, Opportunities for Control of One’s Environment, Impulse Control, Turn Taking, Following Direction
You know the old game, Red Light, Green Light? Well, in this version, we use large red and green felt ornaments from the Dollar Tree Store to indicate when to go and stop. All clients are given instruments and one person is chosen to be the leader. When the leader holds up the green ornament, everyone plays; and when they hold up red, everyone stops. I usually play popular holiday songs such as Jingle Bells, Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman on my guitar so I can immediately reinforce when to start and stop. Because of the “cause and effect” nature of this intervention, it’s effective for clients who have limited communication, control and/or choices in their daily lives. When they take the leadership role and realize that they have the power to indicate when people play and stop, the reaction is priceless!
This activity can be adapted a number of ways to enable clients who have limited mobility to have the leadership role:
Have a staff member hold up the red and green ornaments. When client points to or touches one, hold it up for everyone to see.
Staff member holds up ornaments and client uses eye gaze to indicate one. Staff holds that ornament up high and encourages client to look at other ormanment.
Use a free communication app such as SoundingBoard to take pictures of red/green ornaments and program them as “stop” and “go”. Client can then use device to indicate when to stop and go.
3. Everybody Say, “Kwanzaa!”
Goals: Opportunities for vocalization, following directions, social skills, motor skills
This is a great song by The Learning Stationthat explains Kwanzaa while encouraging singing and movement. It has call and response, movement directives and a great beat! This intervention can also be expanded to include drumming.
4. Dance, Dance, Dance
I’d be remiss if I didn’t include my 2 favorite dance movement songs! The first is an instrumental version of Hava Nagila. It works well because there are variations in the tempo…which I exaggerate when singing and moving. If there is enough staff, we do a circular dance….first, going around in a circle, then in and out towards the middle and in a circle again. If we need to stay stationary, I bring out my stretchy band from @BearPawCreek to emphasize the flow of the song and encourage movement.
My other favorite is Christmas Conga by Cyndi Lauper. My kiddos love doing the Conga dance to this song and moving around the room. This is easily adaptable to encourage simple movements such as clapping/move hands, stretching/rolling arms, etc. during the verses and doing the Conga during the chorus.