Instrument Spotlight: The Ocean Drum

Summer is such a fun time in our music therapy sessions! There are so many great session ideas to explore: the beach, travel, the sun, ocean animals, and more. My favorite part is that I get to use the Ocean Drum more than I do during the school year.

What exactly is an ocean drum? It’s a hand drum that’s sealed in with little beads inside of it. When it’s tilted from side to side, the beads roll to make a sound like ocean waves.

We really like the REMO ocean drum. You can buy it here. (Note, this is not an affiliate link. We just really like Amazon!)

Now why is this our favorite? It’s FANTASTIC to work on impulse control. You can feel the beads move when you tilt the drum, so it provides sensory input. Talk about a hands on example of cause and effect!Plus, some of our kiddos alternate between waves and thunderstorms depending on how they move the drum. When they shake it vigorously up and down, it sounds more like thunder than the calm soothing rain.

One of my favorite relaxation exercises uses the ocean drum. I’ll have the client lie down on their back, and hold the drum about arms length away over their head. We’ll turn the lights off, turn on meditation-esque music, and hold a flashlight behind the drum. While we tilt the drum back and forth, we ask the client about what they see. What do they see? How many fish are there? What colors are they? All of these questions allow the client to work towards their goals while they get a chance to relax.

Photo by Fabian Wiktor on

A Music Therapist in a Preschool Classroom

Kids say the darndest things! Whether it’s pointing out a distinguishing characteristic of a stranger at the supermarket or just announcing to the world whatever crosses their mind, there’s no telling what a child will say next.

The early years are the years when a child soaks up information faster than a sponge. How exactly does this relate to music? Before a child is born, they are exposed to the rhythm of their mother walking and the melody of the voices around them. Hearing is the first sense developed in utero.

Would you rather memorize a list of letters that doesn’t make any sense, or would you rather learn the letters through a song? There’s a reason why the ABC’s are so widely known! Music is another tool in a child’s tool box for learning.

We’re not just playing with scarves. We’re learning how our body moves through space, as well as identifying colors AND learning how to take turns while waiting for the scarves to be passed out.  When we shake egg shakers, we are learning opposites (like fast and slow, high and low) while working on a palmar grasp. While singing songs, we often work on sequencing, creativity and other concepts they also are working on in the classroom. On rainy days, everyone is thankful when the child gets a chance to shake out their sillies in the classroom – and music helps with that, too!

A child might not have a specific diagnosis, but they are still learning and experiencing all that life holds for the first time. A music therapist brings a unique perspective to a classroom environment. Even if it isn’t exclusively a therapy setting, the music therapist has skills that they don’t turn off. We are trained to constantly evaluate how a session is progressing and anticipate what the client needs. We have undergone rigorous training in using music to affect a variety of clients and settings. Why not have a music therapist come to your preschool classroom?

What Happens in a Music Therapy Session?


There is one question that comes up every time I talk to a family  interested in music therapy for their child: “What do you do in a session?” Good question! While there is more awareness now than there used to be, most people haven’t experienced a session before.

At Rhythm and Therapy, we provide all of the instruments and materials that we need, like speakers and music. All that the family needs is a space for sessions to take place. Our suggestion is that it’s a room that doesn’t have too many distractions in it, like toys or electronics. Many families choose to have their child receive music therapy services at a school or daycare.

A typical session starts with a hello song. This routine helps the child realize that it’s time for music, as well as giving a great opportunity to work on social and speech skills.

The rest of the session is filled with other activities designed to meet the child’s goals. These can include singing, playing drums, shakers, rhythm sticks, and more. Considering what we’re working on, there may be pictures on the iPad or actual pictures on a felt board that they can touch and move. With older kids, we might do a song writing activity or a recording project.

Just like we use a hello song to start the session, we end with a goodbye song. This helps the child transition back to whatever comes next.

Every session is a little different, because the children are different — sometimes a child is stressed or “not in the mood”, and we then quickly adjust our planned session to meet more immediate needs. Hopefully this gives you a general idea of what goes on in a music therapy session!