Starfish Therapies

January 16, 2012

Great Songs for Therapy

I think that most people who work with kids have discovered that songs are an amazing tool to support play and therapy.  We use songs all the time, sometimes they are well known songs and sometimes they are made up songs.  I think my favorite part is adding parts to songs that already exist.  For example my bus from ‘Wheels on the Bus’ has an eclectic assortment of riders.  Sometimes the songs are great just to keep the child engaged and entertained and sometimes they can support the skill you are working on.  I especially love songs that have multiple verses sorted by numbers or characters because it can help maintain the repetition so the kiddo gets more practice.  I am not a singer and have never even attempted to be, in fact my parents and brothers cringe whenever they hear me start to sing but luckily the kids I work with aren’t as picky about the voice, they just love the song!

The Pirate Song

This new favorite song of ours.  One of my coworkers started using it and we have all picked it up.  Its great for ball or balance board work.  Its especially great if you add a dramatic pause after the line ‘the captain said to me…’ because the kids love the anticipation of what comes next and it usually results in a great giggle!  I love it because I can switch it up.  I can move the child slowly on the ball during parts of the songs, I can hold them for slightly longer so they have to work on various trunk muscles, and then I can speed it up when it comes to ‘We’ll go this way and that way and forwards and backwards’.  I mean the song helps you out with trunk control right in the verse!  I usually add in some bouncing too.  Its great for the kids to come up with items that rhyme with the numbers and to pick up the vocals at different parts.  Definitely 2 thumbs up for this song from us and our kiddos!

The Ants Go Marching

This is a great one for working on walking or crawling or knee walking or wheelbarrow walking.  I loved it when I used to do treadmill training with the kiddos.  I don’t have access to a treadmill anymore but I still use it when I am gait training a kiddo using an assistive device or where I have to manually help them.  It provides a nice steady rhythm to go with walking and it engages the kiddos while they work on a harder skill.  I also use this for ball work as well because the kids love to bounce during the ‘boom, boom, boom’ part!

The Wheels on the Bus

This is a classic favorite.  Depending on what I am doing or how long I want the activity to last I add in my own verses.  I’ll share a few of mine but feel free to make up your own.  I was trying to keep a kiddo entertained and she loves Disney characters so while we were slowly commando crawling across the floor I pulled every Disney character out of my memory and added them as riders onto the bus.  Let your creativity and imagination run wild and I bet your kiddos will love it!  See who they come up with too, you might be surprised!

  • The parrot on the bus says ‘Polly want a cracker’
  • The pirate on the bus says ‘walk the plank’
  • The baker on the bus says ‘have some cake’
  • The genie on the bus says ‘your wish is my command’
  • The butterfly on the bus says ‘flutter, flutter, flutter’
  • The Winnie the Pooh on the bus says ‘where’s my hunny’
  • The ballerina on the bus says ‘twirl, twirl, twirl’
  • The Dorothy on the bus says ‘there’s no place like home’
  • Use animals too and have them make whatever sound you usually have them make

Ok, I think you get the idea.  We’ve also adapted it for bike riding so it can be the wheels on the bike.  This way the feet can ‘pedal, pedal, pedal’ and the hand can ‘steer, steer, steer’.  Hope you enjoy the adaptations as much as we do!

Ten Little Monkeys

Another favorite that can be used for gross motor play or for ball work again.  It can be used while working on jumping on the trampoline or across the floor.  My favorite line is the last one when there are no monkeys jumping on the bed and when mom calls the doctor the doctor says ‘put those monkeys back in bed’! (see Kids Games – New Twists on Old Favorites for a gross motor idea for this song)

Where is Thumbkin

We use this one on the ball to keep a kiddos hands occupied with a task or just sitting down and working on posture or from a fine motor standpoint, working on finger isolation or imitation.  Its a fun one!

Creating My Own Version

I have a kiddo who I work with whose mom is amazing at coming up with lyrics to well known tunes or just making up her own tune.  Her child responds really well to songs and will do any activity if there is a song to it.  Well I have been able to practice a bit with this and I’m not nearly as talented as her but I’m getting better with practice (well at least the kiddos don’t mind my attempts, my coworkers continue to giggle at me)!  Here are a few that I have added in to work on the skills we are doing (I will try to keep it to tunes that are already in existance):

  • Five Little Ducks – We are working on climbing a climbing net and to get multiple repetitions involved we are putting bean bag animals at the top for the kiddo to rescue.  On the way up we use the words: ‘5 little friends went out to play, up the net and far away, (kiddo’s name) said ‘hey where are you?  I’m coming to rescue you’, up the net he went to them, left foot right foot and two hands.‘  (If it takes him longer than this to get to the top I have to get creative so it changes on a weekly basis)  On the way down we sing: ‘down the net he went once more, left foot right foot to the floor, over and over he climbed back down, until his feet were on the ground.‘ (same deal for if it takes him longer).  We then repeat with one less friend for the next time.
  • Farmer in the Dell – Ok, I had to get really creative on this one because we were working on standing from the ground using a half kneel (not something any kid really wants to practice over and over).  Since I was using a farm puzzle to help with the repetions, I adapted Farmer in the Dell to the following words: ‘There’s a (kiddo’s name) on the ground, there’s a (name) on the ground, hi ho the dairy oh, there’s a (name) on the ground.’  Next verses I will just give the first line, hopefully you get the idea: ‘(name) takes a sheep (or whatever animal piece you want them to pick up)‘ next verse ‘There’s a (name) on his knees‘ next verse ‘And, (name) stands up‘.  Hopefully you could follow that, believe me I’m a novice at this song writing stuff!

I’d love to hear any of your favorite songs to use.  I generally use any song that has lots of verses from the pre-existing kids songs but I also would love to hear any creative adaptations!


  1. Love these ideas! For a fun new version of “ants go marching” try “The Food Goes Marching” from the children’s CD produced by an SLP – Dancing in the Kitchen: Songs that Celebrate the Joy of Food!

    Comment by Melanie Potock, MA, CCC-SLP — January 16, 2012 @ 6:01 pm | Reply

  2. Love this post. I am big on adding crazy lyrics to movement. Usually I just think of them off the cuff and can not even repeat the refrain that I just made up. I always do silly rhymes. Some get stuck in my head. One that is always a favorite is using names and an action – “If your name is John stand up tall, stand up tall, stand up tall. If your name is John stand up tall, all day long”. Can’t even tell you the tune though. I also must disclose that I am monotone but the kids don’t seem to care.

    If you are not a creative singer, you can order some great movement music on our website – check it out at

    Adding music to therapy sessions helps to encourage:
    1. Sensory Processing Skills – Children have to use their auditory sense to listen to the directions. Children model other children in the room therefore using their visual sense. The proprioceptive and vestibular system are activated while jumping and spinning. Don’t forget the tactile sense – touching hands to knees, dancing in bare feet, etc.
    2. Motor Learning – Children learn gross motor skills through practice. Through the use of interactive songs, the children have opportunities to listen, follow directions and move over and over again.
    3. Socialization – Children are able to play together while dancing to the music.
    4. Learning – Children can learn how to follow multiple step directions.
    5. Motivation – Music is motivating and fun!
    6. Positive behavior – Interactive songs usually have structure and a routine. Children are able to know what to expect.

    Comment by Your Therapy Source — January 17, 2012 @ 2:19 am | Reply

  3. Thanks for the suggestion!!!

    Comment by Starfish Therapies — January 17, 2012 @ 2:40 am | Reply

  4. […] my last post on fun songs to use in therapy my coworkers suddenly started remembering songs that they frequently use in therapy so I thought […]

    Pingback by More Great Songs for Therapy « Starfish Therapies — January 27, 2012 @ 12:03 pm | Reply

  5. I sing a wonderful Bill Staines song called “A Place in the Choir.” Here’s a clip:

    Comment by cybercita — March 29, 2012 @ 8:25 pm | Reply

  6. […] 8.  Great Songs For Therapy […]

    Pingback by Top Ten Blog Posts of 2012 « Starfish Therapies — December 31, 2012 @ 7:00 am | Reply

  7. […] 10.  Great Songs For Therapy […]

    Pingback by 2013 Recap and Top Ten Posts | Starfish Therapies — January 1, 2014 @ 5:18 pm | Reply

  8. […] had written two posts a while ago about when we used songs to motivate kids that you might find […]

    Pingback by It’s All About Motivation | Starfish Therapies — July 23, 2017 @ 12:30 am | Reply

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