The music we listen to and engage in matters because it can influence our mental, emotional, and physiological health. It’s easy to become complacent about music preferences and listen to whatever catchy tune is streaming. However, being mindful of the songs we listen to and how we listen to them is a great starting point for improved health. Carefully selecting the music we listen to and then engaging with it in a goal-directed way can actually change how we think, feel, and act over time! Therefore, implementing high quality music-based activities on a regular basis can help create a culture of wellness within your home. Besides the opportunity for your children to practice essential developmental skills, the simple act of collectively engaging in music can be very healing.

“JOY” by Scott Mulvahill

The consistent rhythm of this song is not only great for driving attention, but also makes a body percussion experience very easy for the whole family. To keep the body percussion experience engaging (especially for various ages), it works best to keep the prompts changing. Maintaining active engagement is important because that’s how change in the brain occurs- that’s how mood shifts, how thoughts are pulled away rumination, and how focus is driven to a positive source. Here are some steps you can follow for each part of the song to maintain the family’s engagement:

  • Verse 1: Pat legs to the beat of the verse. Prep kids for the 8-count interlude that starts on the word “joy” by saying, “Get ready, watch me!”
  • Interlude: On the word “joy,” 1) left hand pats left leg, 2) left foot steps, 3) right foots steps, 4) right hand pats right leg, and then do it all over again. You can count 1-8 together (a counting challenge for your little ones!)
  • Verse 2: 1) Pat legs and 2) clap, alternating between pat and clap on each beat.
  • Chorus: 1) Quick double pat with both hands on legs and then 2) clap.
  • Interlude: Do the 8-count pat-step procedure twice. Count to 16!
  • Pause: clap for 4 counts while standing up (pick up the baby and sway!).
  • Verse 3: These movements are quick. 1) left foot step-right foot step 2) clap-snap
  • Chorus 1: Like before! 1) Quick double pat 2) clap.
  • Chorus 2: Raise Hands to 1) clap 2) open hands, continue throughout
  • Instrumental Breakdown/Outro: Keep the beat by alternating 1) clapping and 2) snapping and each person takes turns solo-ing their own beat/dance moves using their body. (Turn taking, group cohesion, impulse control, attention, and self-expression, woo!)
  • Continue until end of song.

Modifications: Complexity can be modified according to the ages and abilities of everyone in the group. Finding that sweet spot of complexity will help drive engagement. You can also choose to assign different roles. For example, the older kids can follow the steps and the younger ones can be prompted to clap, stomp or dance at certain parts. If you have harmonicas or kazoos at home, you can play these during the interlude and chorus. The attention (and impulse control) skills come into play by encouraging everyone to listen for when the instruments in the song enter and waiting again until they come back!

Song Discussion: Brief song discussion with children and teens can include what they thought about the song and activity. Then, discuss if there were any tricky or difficult parts of the activity and how they handled it. Validate their responses. “Yes, it’s great that you decided to stomp at that part. You are so creative. When it was hard, you still found a way and did a great job!” Smooth transition to the point of the song…while we do experience difficulty, it’s important to recognize it and then respond to it. Depending if your children are still with you (i.e., participating) at this point, you can end with a quick lyric substitution of the chorus.

“I just want to bring a little joy, make a happy noise. I can’t hold the weight of the world, but I can carry a tune. To rejoice in the rain, smile in the face of pain. Oh life’s no easy game, but I choose to bring a little joy.”

“I just want to _____________________, (What do you want?)

Make a __________________________ (What do you want to do?)

I can’t _________________________ (What can’t we do right now?)

but I can _______________________ (What can you choose to do instead?)

To rejoice in the rain, smile in the face of the pain, Oh life’s no easy game but I choose to bring a little joy.”

Finally, validate responses and sing it together. This song discussion and activity can also be done at another time if no time is left after the body percussion experience. When your child is upset later, sing the song together- use pots and pans as your instruments and have a jam session. These little opportunities you take to deeply engage in music together can gradually cultivate within your home a culture of wellness and JOY.

To discover more music by Scott Mulvahill, check out his YouTube channel and stay connected through his website http://www.scottmulvahill.com/

Among his other excellent songs, the title track from his album, Himalayas, is a perfect tune for active music listening and engagement like a neat lyric re-write and family discussion about future goals. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CCz83djGJZA

For more music-based activities to create a culture of wellness within the family, continue to check-in on this website and follow the Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/MusicTherapyforMom