Friday Fave: Hand Bells

You know the feeling when you find a $20 bill in your coat pocket?  Well that is how I felt when I remembered that I had purchased this shiny little 8 Note Hand Bell Set several months ago!  My studio is chock full of instruments, props, and other goodies, but I store many of these items out of view from my EXTREMELY curious kiddos.  These bells have been hiding out underneath my bookcase since August, and I discovered them as I was doing some spring cleaning and organizing last week.

This discovery came at the perfect time, because I was racking my brain for new ways to engage one little girl in her weekly music therapy sessions.  The lightbulb went off as I opened the box ‘o bells and found that on the top of each handle, there is a letter (representing the note in a C scale) and number (representing the bell’s position in the scale).  This, along with the great big sound they produce and their bright colors, held so many new possibilities.

Sure enough, we had a winner.  My student’s interest was immediately piqued as I pulled out the bells, and she complied with nearly all of my directions to do the following:

  • Choose and play the appropriate bell as I verbally name a color
  • Choose and play the appropriate bell when shown a picture card displaying a color
  • Choose and play the appropriate bell as I verbally call a number (1 through 8)
  • Choose and play the appropriate bell when shown a picture card displaying a number
  • Line up the bells in order of the numbers on top of the handles

Once she had demonstrated her ability to do all of the above, we moved on to sequencing.  I would call out two (and then three) colors, and she would then play those bells in the correct order.  We did the same thing with the numbers.  She absolutely loved switching roles and calling out colors and numbers for ME to play.  We spent almost her entire session with these bells, and I had her complete attention (no easy feat, I tell you).

Our next step is to play simple songs by “reading” the notes (notated by color and/or number), and I’d love to come up with some additional ideas.  Do you have a set of bells like these?  How do you use them?

Get ‘Em While They’re Hot!

Not to mention, on sale!  Through Friday, when you purchase a songbook for $25, we will also include the supplemental CD (usually sold separately for $10) and free shipping. Also, a portion of all Listen & Learn songbook sales will be donated to the music therapy clubs of Colorado State University and Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania (you choose which university you’d like to support when you make your purchase).

Listen and Learn: Educational songs for School, Home, and Play contains 24 of my most popular songs. It includes the melody line and chords for songs that address goal areas such as counting, daily care, directions, transitions, friendships, and more, along with activity suggestions for each one. It was developed for other music therapists, educators, parents, or anyone who works with children. I made a video in which I talk more about the book and sing a song from it; you can watch here.

Bucklin’ Our Seatbelts

When I received a request for a seatbelt song via Facebook yesterday, I jumped at this songwriting opportunity.  I also asked myself: why hadn’t I thought of it already?  Buckling up is essential to our safety, and it’s a habit we learn at an early age.  Some kids just need a gentle reminder, and what better way to remind them than through song!

We’re gonna get in the car and take a ride,
So let’s open the door and get inside,
But before we pull away,
And before it’s time to play,
We need to buckle up.

Click, click, click,
We’re bucklin’ our seatbelts.
Click, click, click,
We gotta be safe.
A click for me, and a click for you,
Bucklin’ up is what we do!

What other safety skills can you think of that might make a good song topic?  I’ve already written these, but I’d love to add to the collection.  And of course, if you are looking for something a bit more personalized for your little guy or gal, you can always opt for a custom song.

While you’re busy brainstorming safety song ideas, I’ll be whipping up several new tunes for you over the next couple of weeks.  In May, I begin helping my students prepare for the transition from the regular school year to summer school, or for some, graduation and entry into the “adult” world.  It’s an exciting time, and a great opportunity to make music together!

Sunday Singalong: April Showers

This week, I reached out to my readers via Facebook and Twitter, looking for “Sunday Singalong” song suggestions.  I received quite a few great requests, including “Shaky Fruit”, “The 3 R’s”, and “Maraca Rock”, but the one I chose was just too fitting to pass up.

“April Showers” has been around for a long time – since 1921, in fact.  It was originally recorded by Al Jolson, though Judy Garland, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and many other singers have versions as well.  This song is used more often with senior citizens than it is with young children, but I like it so much that it just may have found a permanent spot in my repertoire.

Not only one, but TWO fellow music therapists requested “April Showers” this week.  Kristin Bozard and Janice Harris will receive a free album download of their choice, and YOU can too!  All you have to do is suggest a song (via email or blog comment) for next week’s “Sunday Singalong” video.

One more thing, and this is pretty exciting.  Yesterday I wrote my 400th blog post!  I’ve only been writing this blog for a little over 1.5 years, so I’m pretty amazed at hitting such a high number already.  Thanks so much for being a Listen & Learn reader, and here’s to 400 more posts!

Autism & Alleluias

I hadn’t planned on writing a post today, but I just finished reading a book and wanted to share it with you.  In Autism & Alleluias, author Kathleen Deyer Bolduc gives us a glimpse into life with Joel, her son.  Joel, like so many of the children who touch my life and yours, is diagnosed with autism.

Each chapter tells a story or experience, such as Joel’s touching visit with his grandmother who suffers from Alzheimer’s Disease (a chapter that especially affected me) and his special relationships with friends and caregivers.  But of course, as we all know, autism often makes life very difficult.  In addition to the good, Kathy candidly writes about the bad and the ugly, including Joel’s meltdowns, struggles with finding the right medication, and the questions about Joel’s future as an adult.

Kathy’s faith led her to the moments of clarity and beauty she details in her book.  Even in the most seemingly hopeless situations, she discovers the “alleluias” in them.  Sometimes they are buried or don’t appear until days or weeks later, but they are there.  One of my favorites was Kathy’s struggle with the fact that her son was being trained as a trash collector during high school.  As she meditated on this reality, the words trash man for heaven came to mind.  This phrase helped her accept the fact that Joel was humbly and obediently making the world around him a better place, and likewise, let her fully accept and be thankful for his job. (Fun fact: the college music therapy student Joel was working with at the time wrote a little ditty about this job, which became one of his favorite songs).

Kathy’s story is deeply rooted in her Presbyterian faith, but her message – the importance of valuing, honoring, and enjoying the unexpected gifts of children with special needs – is universal.  I laughed, cried and related (as someone who works with children who have autism on a daily basis) while reading.

And in the spirit of National Autism Awareness Month, I would love to pass this book on to a Listen & Learn reader.  The first person to email me (be sure to include your full name and mailing address, as well as your connection to autism) will receive my copy in the mail this week.  For those of you who would like your own copy, you can purchase the book here.

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