A Stretchy Band for Every Skill

A Stretchy Band for Every Skill

Written by: Alyssa Wilkins, MT-BC, owner and founder Dynamic Lynks Alyssa is a passionate Autism provider, Board Certified Music Therapist, music educator and adaptive yoga instructor.

I have been using products developed by Bear Paw Creek for years, and I just cannot get over the versatility of the stretchy band. Whether you are working on motor/physical skills, cognitive skills, or communication development; the stretchy band can do it all! Here are 6 ways to use the stretchy band to work on skills across clinical domains.

1. Cognition – If You’re Holding __________ Stand Up!

This is probably my most requested song in session. I have each child in the group sit crisscross on the floor and hold the stretchy band with two hands. They have to listen to the colors in the song, and when they hear the color they are holding (they might even be holding 2 colors), they stand up and do a dance move!

Stretchy Band Joy

2. Motor/Physical – Bounce it Out

I recently got this idea from a Music Therapy conference from Kathy of Tuneful Teaching. Sitting on the floor, each child holds the stretchy band with two hands. I put on some fun background beats (I suggest using the newest loops on Garage Band or creating your own loops in LaunchPad –  and the children have to bounce the stretchy band to the beat. You can have them bounce high and low, side to side, in and out, make a wave – you name it!

3. Communication – Sound it Out

Beat competency is a precursor for language development. Bouncing to the beat, like we did above, helps prime the brain to take in information and aids in future skill development. Bouncing also provides a visual and tangible prompt for speech skills, which is very helpful for children struggling with the motor planning aspects of speech. You can use the same beats as above and have your children bounce specific words to the beat such as po-ta-to or ma-ca-ro-ni. Or you can make your own song and bounce out syllables, consonants, words, or even whole sentences.

La Puerta Abierta and the stretchy band

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4. Social/Emotional – Take the Band

I have found that my groups are sometimes the only opportunity a child gets to engage in cooperative play with a peer, since it is provided through an engaging and well-structured medium. I created this song for one of my families, and it has quickly become a hit in all of my sessions. Each child stands and holds the stretchy band, and completes the movements along with the lyrics of the song. I emphasize the idea of working together and completing the move with a friend – which is made much easier by holding the band together.

5. Sensory Integration – I’m Flying

In previous posts, I have mentioned how I use the stretchy band for both vestibular and proprioceptive input through the popular songs Row, Row, Row your Boat and London Bridge. One of my new favorite ways to use the stretchy band is for “flying”! In my individual sessions, I hold one end of the stretchy band and a parent holds the other end. The child steps in the middle and we gently fly them from one side of the band to the other. They are in control of how fast they go, how far they stretch, etc. I sing the song I’m Flying from Peter Pan, at a slow to moderate pace, along with their movements to provide musical structure and anticipation of when the activity will end.

*I suggest using a relaxing activity after “flying” to help regulate the body.

6.  Relaxation – Breathe In, Breathe Out

We practice coping strategies and self-regulation in both my music therapy sessions and yoga groups. Breathing techniques are one of the easiest coping strategies to access, but can be tricky to teach. I love using the stretchy band as a group to show the movement in and the movement out of the breath. Sitting in a circle, each child holds the stretchy band and we stretch the band all the way out with the “breathe in” part of the song, and shrink it all the way in with the “breathe out” part of the song. Check out the song!

I hope these ideas give you some inspiration for your own sessions, groups or classes! I can’t wait to see how you use the stretchy band to target skills in even more clinical domain

You can listen to and purchase the songs I mentioned above for $2.50 each at Dynamic Lynks.

Janet and I are also joining forces to give away a medium stretchy band these three songs!

enter to win medium stretchy band and alyssa wilkins songs 

 

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Animal Boogie Lesson Plan Share

Lesson Plan Share: Animal Boogie

Written by: Morgan May Sparks, MT-BC  Owner & Director, Rhythm Garden Music LLC

 

 

I have taught early childhood music and movement classes for several years. My favorite way to plan sessions is to base the session on a book I know my families will love. The following is one of the lesson plans for my 0-3 class that I’ve used with the book Animal Boogie.

Lesson Plan for 0-3 around Animal Boogie

Welcome and Beginning

Hello Song- Welcome to Blooming Rhythms
            I wrote a hello song specific to my early childhood program, Blooming Rhythms, and that’s what I use to open every class. I greet each child by name within the song.

 

Lap Bounce- I Took a Walk to Town One Day

I took a walk to town one day,

and met a cat along the way

What do you think that cat did say?

MEOW, MEOW, MEOW

 

You can repeat this with any animal, take suggestions from the class, and even incorporate hand puppets for an added visual element. This is also a great rhyme to incorporate ASL for the animals and encourage vocal play with the animal sounds.

 

Instrument Exploration

I use either an instrument like a from guiro that looks like a specific animal, or an instrument that can be used to imitate animal sounds. Some great options for animal sounds are a gobbler for a turkey sound, castanets or wood block for a horse galloping, or a large drum for an elephant stomp. To help with sharing and transition, I give each child a visual and verbal count down (5, 4, 3, 2, 1, and pass). This has helped limit melt downs when the it’s time for the child to pass the instrument to the next child, and it ensures that each child has the same amount of time exploring the instrument.

 

Choreographed Movement Activity to Saint Saens: Carnival of the Animals (The Tortoise)

 

For this activity, I have the group stand in a circle. Each adult/child pair has the option of either allowing the child to walk next to the adult or be held. The movements are simple: 4 steps right, 4 steps left, 4 steps, 4 steps out, and I occasionally will throw in a 4-step turn. I give verbal cues to the group to let them know which movement is next. Any order of movements works with this piece, just repeat movements until the end. For the in and out, I encourage parents who are holding their children to face them into the circle so they can see and interact with the other children.

Story Time

Story time is a much loved part of my class routine. Even the youngest children know when the blanket comes out, it’s time for a story. Animal Boogie has been a big hit in my classes. It’s a sing-able story with a catchy tune that also encourages movement. My students love identifying the animals and doing the movements.

Interactive Song: 5 Little Animals Jumping on the Drum

I love Rachel Rambach’s Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Drum, but instead of using five monkeys, I use five different animal puppets on my drum. I do this activity a few different ways depending on how many children are in the class. If I have five or fewer children, I let each child take a turn helping one of the animals “jump” off the drum. If the child is old enough, I will ask them to identify the animal and make the sound. If not, I will have the entire class help identify the animal and everyone make the sound. If I have a larger group, I will choose which animal “jumps” off and ask the class to help me figure out what the animal is and what sound it makes. Occasionally, I will just change the number of animals to match the number of children in the class.

 

Little Monkeys Jumping on the Drum from Rachel Rambach on Vimeo.

Free Movement to Saint Saens: Carnival of the Animals (The Aviary)

For this movement activity, I give the children and caregivers scarves and encourage them to “fly” around the room like birds. At the end of this activity, I instruct the children to fly gently to their caregiver for quiet time.

 

Quiet Time/Rocking

The song I use for this varies greatly depending on the mood of the class. Sometimes I will use recorded music and other times I will invite the adults to sing a lullaby with me.

 

Goodbye Song- Goodbye Friends

My goodbye song is the same tune as my hello song, only I slow it down a bit and accompany with finger picking instead of strummed chords. After I sing goodbye to each child, I give them the opportunity to strum my guitar.

 

 

What are some of your favorite themes and activities that you use in your early childhood classes? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Morgan Sparks, MT-BC, is the owner of Rhythm Garden Music LLC, where she provides music therapy services, early childhood music enrichment classes and music lessons in West Central Indiana. She is a board-certified music therapist, Barefoot Books Ambassador, wife, and momma to an energetic toddler. Visit her website and follow her on social media at MTMompreneur.com.

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Autism: How to be Inclusive

Create a welcoming and safe environment.

 

 

Do you know what it’s like to go to church when Autism is part of your story?

 

George has autism and Down syndrome.

 

Every Sunday, George is welcomed with his whole family by their local church. He isn’t just “welcomed” as in, they-let-him-come. He is welcomed, as in, they actively seek ways to make it comfortable and safe for him to come.

 

This is the essence of inclusion and it impacts George’s whole family.

A church for George and his whole family.

When I scrolled through my Facebook and encountered an update my friend Yvonne made, it warmed my heart and intrigued me.

 

In her post, she expressed her appreciation and thankfulness to her church family for welcoming George so well. George has Autism and Down Syndrome. She gave thanks for the love and welcome which the church extends to George and flows out to George’s family.

 

 

I knew in that moment, that I wanted Yvonne to help me discuss the ways in which their church made a home for their family for this blog post.

 

April is Autism Awareness Month.

 

Last year I wrote about how isolated many persons with autism may feel.

 

Natural Play Therapy encourages parents and caregivers to bridge the gap by moving into the world of the person they love through play. I also described how isolated caregivers themselves can feel in the midst of the care they give.

 

It’s so easy for the rest of the world to carry on with their busy lives. Families dealing with autism can feel that they don’t have a place to belong in the outer world as they deal with the unique challenges that have entered their lives through Autism’s portal. I want you to hear from Yvonne’s own words, what it has meant to them to have the members of their church reach out to their family over the past year:

 

 

 

 

 

What I appreciated most about the church we decided to go with, is that several people approached us and let us know that they were glad we were there. And you could tell they meant it.  They also had a pretty good special needs population and were fine with ‘noises’ in the sanctuary.  They also had a special needs class on Sundays and when approached about it I voiced my concern that George can’t do ‘a class’.  They said no problem that they would accommodate his needs and just love on him.  They said there would be no harm in giving it a try.  They were willing to work with his special needs, some of which required securing the door shut so he couldn’t run off, making sensory items available to him such as tactile items and auditory items.  They were very willing to learn how his communication device worked and how they could help him to communicate with it.  This class was only on Sundays but I was also wanting to come on Wednesdays so my older boys could participate in the youth group and I could do a bible study.  They had no place for George so they created a place for him and provided a one on one helper so I could go to a bible study!  It has been such a blessing to be able to participate in a women’s bible study again.  I have not been able to do that for 9 years!

Let’s discuss some specifics George and Yvonne’s church did to open make a space where the whole Marshall family could come and feel welcome.

Six tips for churches and other groups to create a good experience for families dealing with Autism.

  • Provide locking doors for kids who run [Windows should be provided, or half-doors, so the classroom can be observed while the door is locked for accountability where there is a locked door.] How to make a DIY interior Dutch Door
  • Create environments which don’t overstimulate. Bright lights, flashing lights, and lowlights can cause problems for some people who are on the autism spectrum. The key here is keeping the lights natural and non-stimulating. If you’re unsure about whether the lights are a problem in the environment, you can ask the person or the parent for their insight.
  • Consider whether to have a special needs class or integrated class. At Yvonne’s church, they have a special needs class on Sunday morning. If you choose to have an integrated class, make sure that everyone understands each other’s needs and that appropriate expectations are in place for behavior. Make sure there isn’t any bad attitude toward behavior that is natural. Assume the best about each other and be patient (Definitely, some training should be taught for teachers and a trained assistant should be present to help the child if needed).
  • Bring an attitude of flexibility. For example on Wednesday night,  the elderly women meet in the room that is especially fitted out for George’s need. The women invited George to be in there with them, accompanied by a helper so that Yvonne could attend a study with another group of ladies. One of the elderly ladies told Yvonne that her brother had special needs and it warmed her heart to see George being made welcome in the church.
  • Ask, “What can I do for you?” If you can’t figure out what to do. Ask.

 

Five tips from Yvonne, for parents seeking an inclusive environment for their family.

  1. In regards to worship services at church: You might have better experiences in one with a simple worship service where the volume is tolerable for your child and there are no moving spotlights or strobe lights (Yes, some churches use strobe lights…). If the church has a pipe organ it might not work for you as well because of the fullness of sound.
  2. Lay the groundwork by visiting with the person in charge before going to a new church, playgroup or other organization. See whether it will be a good fit for your family. Don’t get discouraged if the person seems overwhelmed at first. What is a part of your daily life may be very new to them. On the other-hand, by being proactive, you might be able to head off some misunderstandings.
  3. Even if you decide that group isn’t for you, by coming and talking with the pastor, or person in charge of the group, you are planting a seed. Another family in the future, who is dealing with autism, may reap the fruit of your inquiry. Don’t feel like your efforts are wasted.
  4. Let the person who has autism have input on what will help them if he or she is able to express that. Otherwise, as the parents, have confidence in your judgment. 
  5. Be flexible. Yvonne said, even as she advises that churches and other groups be flexible when reaching out to families, she advises families that are dealing with autism to also be flexible as well. What may just barely work out now can be improved upon with time and understanding.

     

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Creating better spaces for George at home.

 

Even as things are getting better for George and his family in terms of church support. There is room for improvement his home environment. Not in the home as much as right outside of his home, in the backyard!

 

George loves to be outside. Everyone who knows him knows that. Sunshine and fresh air are great environments for every child.

 

However, George also likes to start going and keep going once he gets outside. This is called “running” [Running away common with autism.] It is a challenge for parents caring for children with autism.

 

Yvonne can’t just send George to play outside with his brothers and say, “Stay in the backyard.” That ain’t happening! When George goes outside, he has to be accompanied by someone who can ensure that he won’t run off. As much fun as that would be for him, it could have dangerous results by they time he was found. I don’t need to elaborate.

 

As long as I’ve known Yvonne she has desired to have a safety fence for George so that he would be free to go outside and explore and enjoy the outdoors. I have been in charge of George in the past when he has climbed and re-climbed the outdoor play equipment outside and seen the utter joy on his face.

 

Wouldn’t it be great if Yvonne could have a safe climbing space and other things for George to explore and do in their backyard, without having to worry about him running off if she goes inside to put the laundry in the dryer or answer the phone?

 

Yvonne’s family recently moved and spent a good bit of money on special locks throughout their house (expensive) in a desire to keep George safe. I was really disappointed to hear that she still hadn’t been able to afford a fence (it has to be really tall and strong).

 

 

Right now Yvonne’s working on applying, again, for a grant to help with the expenses. She has done this several times and been turned down. I’m praying that she won’t be turned down again.

 

Taking good care of a child who has autism can be very expensive and that’s why I’m glad to announce that, once again, Bear Paw Creek is donating to Hope4George again for Autism Awareness Month this April. Let’s come alongside Yvonne as her family seeks to do the very best she can for George!

 

Yes, awareness does help. There is still so much that many people don’t understand about autism. But also, doing something helps. This month, when you buy from Bear Paw Creek you will be doing something to help the Marshall family. Additionally, you can donate directly to their family by contacting Yvonne using the link for George’s Natural Play Therapy below. For regular updates on how George is doing, you can like his page Hope4George linked to below.

 

Useful Links:

 

 

I am praying for this to be the year that George gets a great fence in his backyard to help him enjoy it safely!

 

15% of all sales to Hope for George April Autism Awareness

 

Do you have suggestions for creating an environment that is welcoming to those with autism? I would love to hear them in the comments below. If this post was encouraging or helpful to you, please share it so that we can keep this message going. We need more churches and groups like Yvonnes church!

 

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Jenette is a freelance writer of web content, blogs, and podcast show notes. She is also a wife and imperfect mother, whose family mean the world to her. She has dealt with sensory issues in her family and keeps up with autism news as some of it intersects with their experiences. You can find Jenette’s business website at www.mywordsforhire.com.

AMTA Regional Conference 2017

AMTA Regional Conferences 2017

 

 

Since 2013 Bear Paw Creek has been advertising or sending donations/door prizes to the regional music therapy conferences.

This year we will also have our products on display at the GLR Conference! It’s already full swing and it sounds like loads of fun.

I’d love to have some social media fun and get some glimpses of what’s going on this year!

Read on!

Regional AMTA Conferences 2017

Tag Bear Paw Creek – To Win!

The internet and social media has opened up a whole new world for Bear Paw Creek.

With it, we are able to connect one and one and build relationships across the globe. I love it!

I thought it would be fun to play a little game during the weeks of the AMTA Regional conferences.  Our products will be showing up in giveaways and also in some exhibit halls.  If you spy some, take a picture, and tag us with @bearpawcreek or #bearpawcreek.

At the end of the conference we will giveaway a $50 gift card to use in our store!

Tag Your It @bearpawcreek #bearpawcreek

Janet Stephens is the founder and creator behind Bear Paw Creek’s creative movement props and bags. She is passionate about learning and sharing along the way.

Shamrockin’ with Creative Movement Props for St. Patrick’s Day

Shamrockin’ with Movement Props

 

 

One of my favorite ways to incorporate music and movement into our days is by using holidays and the times of the year. 

St. Patrick’s Day is coming and I’m excited to share a song written by Rachel Rambach Listen & Learn Music!  It’s title says it all, “Shamrockin’ Song.”  It’s sure to do that and get stuck in your head!  My kiddos LOVED it (and so does their mom.)

We’ll be giving the song and balloon ball away this week!

Now I’ll share some ways we’ve been having fun with it.

Sharockin' Song and Shamrock Balloon Ball Giveaway

Shamrockin’ with the Stretchy Band

Sometimes when I hear a song, I know it will be a great one with the stretchy band and any time I hear Irish music, it gets my feet tapping, and I want to start dancing like Riverdance!  You’ll see our feet attempt to do an Irish jig in this video.  With lyrics like this: hey, hey, move left and right, up and down, it’s great to use with the stretchy band. If we had a little more I think  it would be fun to put the kids on the connect-a-stretchy band straight and have them dance in a jig line!

 

Shamrockin’ Streamer Craft

Using scarves or streamers to move along with the Shamrockin’ Song would allow more individual interpretation of the song. 

We had fun cutting out these shamrocks and adding some “gold” for tails.  Glitter of course was a must!

Then we danced along with the song following the directions in the song.

Making shamrock streamers creative movement with shamrockin' song

Buy Rachel’s song and learn more about it!

Shamrockin' Song Listen and Learn Music Rachel Rambach

 

 

 

Check out the St. Patrick’s Day Balloon Ball

St. Patrick's Day Balloon Ball

Janet Stephens is the founder and creator behind Bear Paw Creek’s creative movement props and bags. She is passionate about learning and sharing along the way.

Dr. Seuss, Beat Competency, Reading Skills

Finding My Dr. Seuss Books

 

March 2 was Dr. Seuss’ birthday and this week is Read Across America week. With that in mind I went to gather up all my Dr. Seuss books from our book shelves. But…..

Since our oldest son moved out and took all his children’s book, almost ALL of our Dr. Seuss books are gone!  Oh my – I will be needing to add those back in.  We are still enjoying the books I have left but sorely missing some favorites.

Here are some Dr. Seuss activity ideas to incorporate with his books, and a fun way to use the stretchy band.

Dr. Seuss, Beat Competency, Reading Skills and the stretchy band

Dr. Seuss Activity Links

What is your favorite Dr. Seuss book?  One of my favorites is “Oh The Places You’ll Go”. 

Here are my favorite links to use for this week’s celebration:

What is your favorite book? Any fun activities you do?

 

 

Stretchy Band For Rhyming

Tuneful Teaching shared a great article this week called “The importance of keeping a beat: Researchers link ability to keep a beat to reading, language skills”.

The findings of a Northwestern University study of more than 100 high school students lend proof to the surprising link between music, rhythmic abilities and language skills.

Read more at: https://medicalxpress.com/news/2013-09-importance-link-ability-language-skills.html#jCp

 Tuneful Teaching shares this about beat competency:
The Stretchy Band is also a fabulous way to teach “beat competence,” the ability to move your body in a steady beat which matches the tempo of music.

It reminded me of the video they shared awhile ago where they used the stretchy band to teach literacy. You can take the same concept shown below, and use it to send rhyming words around the circle.  This is a great tie in with Dr. Seuss’ books!

 

Janet Stephens is the founder and creator behind Bear Paw Creek’s creative movement props and bags. She is passionate about learning and sharing along the way.
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