Thanksgiving is one of the most delicious and humbling holidays of the year. However, when it comes to my students and clients, many of them are hesitant about the food and have a difficult time understanding what it means to be thankful.
For children with special needs, many of the aspects of Thanksgiving are challenging: eating so many different foods, often with lots of unfamiliar family members, a change from their typical routine, and being thankful (what does that even mean?!?) can be overwhelming.
To help my students and clients prepare, I begin discussing Thanksgiving at the beginning of the month, and create goal-oriented sessions all about Thanksgiving topics so that they are ready when the big day arrives.
Some of the goals addressed in these songs:
- Increase creative expression
- Improve gross motor skills
- Increase directional awareness
- Increase socialization through peer interaction
- Improve understanding of being “thankful”
- Object identification
There are certain songs that I can’t wait to bring into sessions every year, and “Turkey Dinner Dance” is one of them. This song introduces clients to the basic food staples and also gets their bodies moving.
I’ve used this song with my preschool groups all the way up to my older elementary clients, and it’s always a motivating song. I mean, is there anything better than dancing like a turkey, stirring the gravy, mashing those potatoes, or eating pumpkin pie?
“Turkey Dinner Dance” is easily adaptable so that all of my clients are able to be successful. The lyrics state “turkey to the left, turkey to the right”, but I modify it several ways. For my youngest clients, I will often change the lyrics to “do the turkey dance” or use landmarks in the room to indicate what direction they should dance, such as “turkey to the window, turkey to the door”.
My favorite adaptation is the lyric I added to help transition the children to their seats. I sing “everyone take a nap” (just like on Thanksgiving Day!) and every kiddo moves to their seat and pretends to snore, which is the cutest and most effective way to successfully make this transition.
It’s important to introduce my students and clients to the concept of being thankful, and the song “Thankful” has been an effective way to do so. The chorus uses a variety of language to explain being thankful. Each verse details people, places, and things clients are typically thankful for.
The ideas generated by the verses can lead to songwriting with clients, and my favorite thing to do each Thanksgiving is record any original lyrics that clients create and share them with my client’s family and friends so they can hear what they are thankful for. Some clients are able to brainstorm their own lyrics, while others may require fill-in-the-blank lyrics or visual aides to make choices about what they are thankful for.
Creating lyrics can happen in many different ways and can reinforce what it means to be thankful, and if you choose to record them, can become a meaningful keepsake for the family and friends of the children we serve.
There are many more Thanksgiving themed songs in the Listen & Learn Music collection, but these are two of my favorites as they address being thankful as well as the special foods of Thanksgiving Day!
Tell me in the comments: what are your go-to Thanksgiving songs?
You can listen to all of these songs in their entirety right here. Lyrics, chords, mp3, and instrumental track for these original songs are available for download. As is the case for all Listen & Learn Music creations, we invite you to adapt this song as needed to best serve your students and/or clients.