Help your child improve Communication with these musical games!

Using Music at home promotes 1) Bonding, 2) Connection, and 3) Builds relationships between parent and child (and even siblings!).

All of our games and suggestions here are specially designed to help you as a parent bond with your child while helping them work on needed skills at the same time.

The following “Helps” are geared toward early to advanced communication. Try them out and find new and engaging ways to connect with your child!

And if you’re looking for more resources and ideas, check out these articles as well:

Early Communication

Early Exploration

Early communication skills begin with basic exploration. Allowing your child to explore instruments, their textures, and the sounds they make is a fun, engaging, and extremely beneficial form of play. Your child will gain interest in the world around them and will begin to develop communication skills as you join them in the process.

Here are a few tips as you support your child in early exploration:

  1. Allow your child to explore textures with their mouth. This is a very natural and beneficial developmental phase, and will help your child gain important information about the world around them.
  2. Guide your child by showing them the sound of an instrument, then allow them to explore in their own way. There is no need for them to play it the “right” way in this phase.
  3. You can add in songs as desired while you play. Your child will most likely watch you while you sing (this is good!)
  4. As they get used to you singing, they’ll start to engage in other activities while you sing, such as playing their instrument.

Request “More” by Playing an Instrument

This is appropriate for children who don’t participate or respond to you very often

  1. Get out your Harmony Instrument bag and choose two instruments—one for you and one for your child
  2. Sing one of your child’s preferred songs all the way through while you play your instrument
    • Suggested songs:
      • Old MacDonald
      • Itsy Bitsy Spider
      • Wheels on the Bus
      • Twinkle Twinkle
      • Skinamarink
      • Five Little Ducks
      • Five Green & Speckled Frogs
      • Happy and You Know It
  1. Sing the song again, but stop at the end of a phrase and encourage your child to play his/her instrument before you start singing again.
    • If necessary, help your child play and teach them that when they play you will sing

Choose an Instrument

A big part of communication is being able to make choices and allow your child some control over the environment. This is easily done with music.

  1. Get out two instruments. These can be anything including kazoos, drums, shakers, etc.
  2. Place both instruments directly in front of your child and show what each sounds like.
  3. Ask him/her which instrument he/she would like to play. You can help them physically reach for the instrument if they need help focusing.
  4. Once your child chooses an instrument, sing a favorite song while playing together.

Note: This can be done with pictures of instruments as your child’s communication becomes more advanced.

 

Emerging Communication

Song Choice

  1. Find two objects or pictures to represent one of your child’s favorite songs, and one for a non-preferred song (i.e. a star for “twinkle twinkle” or a lamb for “Mary Had a Little lamb”)
  2. Place both pictures or objects directly in front of your child and sing the first line of each song as you point to the corresponding object/picture.
  3. Ask your child which song they would like to sing. You can help them physically reach for the object/picture if they need help focusing.
  4. Once your child chooses a song, sing it together or listen to a favorite recording.

Filling in the Gap

  1. Sing one of your child’s favorite songs all the way through
  2. Sing it again, and leave off the last word of each phrase (a natural resting point in the song). Encourage your child to fill in the blank.
    • Note: If your child is unable to form the word, prompt the first or last sound of the word by emphasizing it for them.
  3. Continue singing the song and allowing your child to fill in the missing words.

Request “More” with Sign Language or Words

  1. Sing one of your child’s favorite songs all the way through while playing instruments together
  2. When the song ends, prompt your child to say “more” before you sing again. You can help them sign it by showing them how to move their hands to sign, or by pointing to your lips while you say “more”
  3. If your child does not say or sign “more”, then help them make the sign with their hands and sing again right away.

Dynamic Play (Loud vs. Soft)

  1. Get out two instruments. These can be anything including kazoos, drums, piano, shakers, etc.
  2. Sing one of your child’s preferred songs all the way through while you play your instruments to warm up
  3. Ask your child if they would like to play the song loud or quiet. Use your voice and gestures to model “LOUD” and “quiet” as you ask their preference.
  4. Sing the song again using the dynamics your child chose.
  5. Note: if your child does not choose a dynamic, you get to choose! Alternate between playing loud and soft, helping your child follow your lead as you do so.

Intermediate Communication

Finishing the Phrase

  1. Sing one of your child’s favorite songs all the way through
  2. Sing it again, and leave off the last phrase (or full sentence). Encourage your child to fill in the blank.
    • Note: If your child is unable to remember the whole phrase, prompt each word of the phrase one by one until they can fill in at least one word.
  3. Continue singing the song and allowing your child to fill in the missing phrases.

Imitating Musical Patterns

  1. Get out two drums or tambourines (or one of each)
  2. Sing one of your child’s preferred songs all the way through while you play your instruments to warm up
  3. Play a rhythm on your drum and encourage your child to copy the same rhythm. Do this 2-3 times
  4. Encourage your child to play as you copy his/her rhythm. Do this 2-3 times.
  5. Continue with the game as long as your child shows interest

Musical Conversation

  1. Get out two instruments. These can be anything including kazoos, drums, piano, shakers, etc. It’s best if you and your child have the same instrument.
  2. Sing one of your child’s preferred songs all the way through while you play your instruments to warm up
  3. Play any short musical pattern on your instrument (no more than 4 beats), then encourage your child to take a turn to play. Go back and forth like a “conversation” on your instruments.
    • Helping to engage: If needed, help your child play his/her instrument during his turn
    • Helping to wait: If needed, help your child wait during your turn to play by placing your hand on his/her drum

Greeting Others

This is a great song to use for helping kids with social skill deficits to learn the basic patterns of a conversation. You can use the verses in any way you wish. This recording is structured to give space for the student to practice saying the different elements of a conversation.


When I see a fried I know just what to do
I tell my friend hello
I say hello, then you say hello
Then I say how are you? And you say I’m fine, thank you

Chorus
Saying hello is easy, you just gotta know
What to say when someone else tells you hello

When I see a fried I know just what to do
I tell my friend hello
I say hello, then you say _____
Then I say how are you? And you say ________________

Chorus

When I see a fried I know just what to do
I tell my friend hello
I say _____, then you say hello
Then I say ____________? And you say I’m fine, thank you

Chorus
 
When I see a fried I know just what to do
I tell my friend hello
I say______, then you say ______
Then I say ____________? And you say ________________

Chorus
 

–Jaycie Voorhees, MM, MT-BC

Hungry for More?

If your child responds well to music, please let us know! We would love to help you get more ideas on how to help your child grow and succeed.

We even offer a free 30 minute in-person consultation where you can learn more and discover how music therapy can help your unique child.

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