I Have a Bean Bag

I Have a Bean Bag Album Cover

This isn’t the first time I’ve mentioned what a HUGE fan I am of the movement props created by Bear Paw Creek. Their stretchy bands and connect-a-bands are both staples in my collection, and I just recently added their bean bags as well.

There are so many ways to incorporate bean bags into my music therapy sessions and early childhood music classes, but I knew exactly how I wanted to introduce them for the first time — with a brand new song, of course :)

I wrote “I Have a Bean Bag” with several goals in mind: listening skills, body part identification, and imitation. An added bonus skill this song addresses is balancing, which is funny to watch my kiddos try to do once they’ve placed the bean bag on the correct body part.

Although this song was written with bean bags in mind, I’ve already adapted it for scarves in bigger groups where I don’t have enough bean bags to go around (yet!).

A special thanks goes to Janet Stephens, owner and creator of the products at Bear Paw Creek, for her support of Listen & Learn Music. Everything in her shop is made right here in the U.S.A. and is of the utmost quality. Please check out her movement props and other resources if you haven’t already!

Tap Dance

Tap Dance

This song wins the “triple threat” award — it manages to combine instrument play, movement, and gradual increase in tempo — with bonus points for being super simple and repetitive. One of those tunes I whipped up on the fly and yet is incredibly handy to have in my toolbox.

What I like most about this song is that you as the music therapist/teacher/facilitator can choose your own dance steps and rhythms depending on the child or group with whom you’re working. Or, you can let your kiddos choose their own (which is what I usually do!). There really is nothing more entertaining than watching a room full of preschoolers make up dance moves while playing rhythm sticks at the same time.

I didn’t include an instrumental version since the tempo increase would make it difficult to record over or sing along to. A lot of times, I sing this a capella anyway and use the rhythm created with our “dancing” and stick-playing as accompaniment. Sometimes I’ll even use a metronome to add a visual and extra audio component to the tempo change. Fun stuff!

Grow, Flower, Grow!

Grow Flower Grow Album Cover

I’ve been working with children long enough to know that movement is ESSENTIAL to a well-rounded music therapy group or early childhood class session. I’ve used all kinds of movement props, including scarves, streamers, bean bags, stretchy bands, to get my kiddos moving.

A few months ago, I added a new movement prop to my collection. The Connect-a-Band is the newest creation from Bear Paw Creek, who also makes the popular stretchy bands we all know and love. Connect-a-Bands are made of the same material as stretchy bands, and they can be connected together in all kinds of ways for group movement activities.


My favorite is the flower shape, which inspired the song I’m sharing with you today. Grow, Flower, Grow! encourages group movement using the Connect-a-Band; I love that everyone has to work together to make the “flower” do all the things mentioned in the song.

I actually have several songs in the works for use with the Connect-a-Band, but I wanted to start with this one since it coincides perfectly with the start of spring! Thank goodness this insane winter is coming to an end. Here’s to warmer temps and new musical experiences!

Sensational Ideas for Working With Children With Autism (Part 1)

I’m currently on maternity leave, and many of my colleagues have been kind enough to share their expertise via guest posts throughout the summer. The following comes to you from Amy Kalas, MM, MT-BC.

Child on therapy ball

I am constantly on the lookout for ways to improve my skills as a music therapist, aren’t you?

I find it fun and motivating to discover more and more effective ideas for engaging children in music therapy and connecting with them through music.

The children I work with at both my full-time job at UCP’s Early Beginnings Academy and in my private practice, Wholesome Harmonies, are primarily diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

One of the main things that enhanced my work with these children is co-treating with occupational therapists who specialize in sensory integration. Through these co-treatments, I began to learn about the unique sensory needs of children with ASD and brainstorm how I can address those needs in a therapeutic music experience.

In a session where I have children who are “sensory-seeking” (those are the ones jumping and crashing into things, seeking sensory input), I always ‘start with sensory.’I’ve found that if I “feed” that sensory need by providing the children with a sensory integration experience such as jumping on the trampoline or bouncing on the therapy ball, they are better able to attend to and engage in the subsequent music therapy activities.

Here is a video showcasing an example of one sensory integration experience I use in my sessions with children with ASD:

In this video, the children are receiving proprioceptive and vestibular input by bouncing on a therapy ball, while the music is organizing the whole experience. The lyrics cue the children to bounce and stop; and the rhythmic beat and tempo tell the children how fast to be bouncing. All these elements work together to create an experience that is appropriate and beneficial to the children.

This activity can be extended by having the children move in different ways on the therapy ball: they could lay on the ball on their stomach and bounce up and down, or they could lay on the ball on their stomach and roll front two back, using their arms and legs to push themselves back and forth (I hear a nice 6/8 accompaniment in my head for this one!)

The ideas are endless…why not meet with an occupational therapist and find out some other ways you can utilize the therapy ball in your music therapy sessions?

This is just Part One of a series I am starting on Music Therapy & Sensory Integration on my blog, Wholesome Harmonies. Want to stay up to date on the next installments? Click here to hop on the list!

Amy Kalas, MM, MT-BCAmy Kalas, MM, MT-BC is a board-certified music therapist with eight years of experience working with children and adolescents with special needs. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Music Therapy (2005) and Master’s degree in Music Therapy (2010) from University of Miami. Amy has been employed at United Cerebral Palsy of Miami as a music therapist, practicum supervisor, and internship director since 2006. She recently accepted the position of Interim Professor of Music Therapy at University of Miami.

Amy is also the owner of Wholesome Harmonies, LLC, where she provides music therapy services in the Miami area. She is the author of two E-Books: Tuneful Teens: Creative Ideas for Engaging Adolescents in Music Therapy and Sensational Songs & Ideas: Sensory-Based Ideas for Music Therapy. You can visit the website and blog for Wholesome Harmonies at www.WHmusictherapy.com.

Movin’ In the Circle

Movin' In the Circle - Stretchy Band Song

For a while now, I’ve heard about and seen stretchy bands in action, but had never actually tried them. Boy, have I been missing out!

I was thrilled when Janet Stephens (owner of Bear Paw Creek, the makers of the stretchy band) and her sister Kathy Schumacher (music therapist and owner of Tuneful Teaching) reached out to be about creating a stretchy band-specific song. Of course I immediately said yes, and got to work.

Movin’ In the Circle is designed to be used in a group setting, using the stretchy band while seated on the floor. There are all kinds of movements that can be done in this manner, and the song lists just a few:

I’m already excited about the possibility of writing an entire series of stretchy band songs, because they can be used in SO many different ways. If you haven’t already, please make sure to check them out for yourself. I’ve only been using mine for a couple of weeks now, but they are already a huge hit with my students!

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Kathy Schumacher

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