By Meghan Hanley, MT-BC

During one of my recent school sessions, I sang the song, “Herman the Worm.” When I came to the punch line of the song’s plot, the children burst out with laughter that continued into the next song. Why? In the song, Herman the worm grew and grew as he ate more and more food. Suddenly, he shrunk…because he burped.

Oh, children’s humor! If you are looking for a way to engage students as well as bring joy to your music therapy sessions, humor is key. Here are five ways to incorporate humor into your children sessions.

Children love making sounds. Instead of acting like zoo or farm animals, switch your routine up with acting like fantasy animals, for example, neighing like a unicorn. Pop songs also work great for vocalizing. For example, substitute fox sounds for other animal noises in Ylvis’ song, “What Does the Fox Say.” Another great song for vocalizing is the song, “Willaby Wallaby Woo,” during which singers focus on alliterations. “Matilda the Gorilla” and “Chick-a-boom-boom” are also two opportunities for children to choose sounds that they would like to vocalize encouraging self-expressions and creativity.

Absurd Plot Lines:
There are many stories that are silly. In the rhyming song, “Down by the Bay,” we meet absurd characters, such as a llama that wears pajamas. Likewise, a familiar camp song, “On Top of Old Smokey,” takes a turn with the version, “On Top of Spaghetti.” These songs get a laugh from all ages.

Moving to Music:
Many children find uncontrolled movements, for example, wiggling arms, to be fun. Incorporate these movements into familiar songs. For a song about the zoo, this could look like wiggling like a snake, swinging arms like an elephant trunk, clapping hands like an alligator snapping its jaws, or scratching arms like a monkey. Some movements may be absurd sounding, like lowering arms slowly to represent peeling a banana. But, these movements are what make songs, like “Baby Shark,” iconic.

Unfamiliar Instruments:
Use instruments and props that look unfamiliar or sound unique. For example, my students love to play a bicycle bell and my buzzers that sound like door bells. Another favorite instrument is the frog guiro. If you have a thumb piano and you can use it to address goals, do so!

Songs such as “Bear Hunt” and “5 Little Monkeys and the Alligator” have suspense due to their exciting stories. Add musical suspense to these stories by exaggerating dominant or dissonant chords; increase these chords in volume or add a sudden accent. If children are playing percussion instruments, encourage them to play a quick rumble to emphasize the tension of the drama. You can also create pauses to emphasize surprise endings or punch lines. For example, in the song, “The Goldfish,” by Laurie Berkner, create a long pause after the word, “minute.” “Wait a minute…….we’re fish. We don’t take showers. Let’s go swimming!”

Try incorporating just one of these tips or all of them in your next session. Wishing you lots of laughter!