I can’t believe that I’m almost finished with my last week of my internship! The past few months have flown by, and I have learned so much in what feels like a short time. As I have reflected on my experiences, I found that there are ten songs that I used very often throughout my internship, and I wanted to share them here with you today! Some of the songs can be used with a variety of different age groups, while others were more appropriate for only certain clients (ex: preschool age children). With each song, I’ve included a few notes on how I’ve used it as well as other ways it can be expanded upon. Whether you’re a music therapist looking for a song for a particular client, a parent looking for a fun song to use with their child, or even just looking for a fun song you can dance to, I hope this list is useful for you!

1. Twist and Shout – The Beatles

This song is number one because of just how much I’ve used it! You can use this song with nearly all age groups! I most often used it for instrument play (ex: singing “C’mon everyone, tap the drum”), but I also used it for singing (ex: pausing to have someone fill in the phrase “Twist and Shout”), and following directions. The bridge of the song, or the “ah” section is particularly fun because you can change it to include anything you’d like. For example, I’ve changed it to singing a countdown from 5 to 1, then ending by singing “stop”, which gives a little more time to prepare everyone to stop playing together. I’ve also used that part of the song as an extra opportunity to direct either an individual or a group to play their instruments, singing that direction in place of the “ahs”. Lastly, keeping the “ahs” as is a fun way to do some singing as well!

Recommended Age Range: 7+

Recommended Activities: Singing, movement, instrument play

2. Yellow Submarine – The Beatles

This song not only tells a story, it also has a catchy and repetitive chorus! This song is fun to use with just singing along, but it also works well as a song story for reading comprehension. There are a number of different phrases in the verses that you can ask questions about afterwards, and the chorus can function as a cognitive break in between the reading, if reading is a tiring task for the student.

Recommended Age Range: 7+

Recommended Activities: Singing, reading comprehension

3. Surfin’ USA – The Beatles

I particularly enjoyed using this song with older adults for movement. It has a fun chorus where you can imitate surfing or swimming motions.

Recommended Age Group: Older Adults

Recommended Activities: Singing, upper body movement

4. Y.M.C.A. – Village People

This is another great song for movement! It’s well-known, and the dance is fun to do!

Recommended Age Group: Any!

Recommended Activities: Singing, upper body movement

5. Down on Grandpa’s Farm – Raffi

I have probably made at least ten different parodies/piggybacks of this song, not to mention the fact that I’ve used the original a ton with younger kids!

Recommended Age Group: Early Childhood 

Recommended Activities: Animal identification, singing

6. Three Little Birds – Bob Marley & The Wailers

Not only does this song have an uplifting message and a repetitive chorus great for singing, there is also a storybook adaptation of the song by Cedella Marley called Every Little Thing, that is great for reading comprehension with younger students!

Recommended Age Group: Any!

Recommended Activities: Reading comprehension, singing

7. I Know A Chicken – The Laurie Berkner Band

Not only is the original song a great one for using egg shakers, but I also have made a ton of different parodies to fit different themes. For example, if you’re working with a group of students learning about zoo animals, I’d sing “I Know an Ostrich” instead. 

Recommended Age Group: Early Childhood

Recommended Activities: Instrument play

8. Matilda the Gorilla/Matilda La Gorila – Mary Rice Hopkins

I can’t believe that I didn’t know about this song before my internship, but I’m so glad I learned it so I could use it in sessions! This song is great for working on speech/singing in general, it has an interesting story throughout the verses, and it has a Spanish version made by the original singer!

Recommended Age Group: Early Childhood

Recommended Activities: Singing


9. Johnny B. Goode – Chuck Berry

This song works well for reading comprehension, as it tells a cohesive story, and it can be fun to work on movement goals! I especially like changing the “go Johnny go” lyric to include the name of whoever I’m working with.

Recommended Age Group: 7+

Recommended Activities: Reading comprehension, singing, movement


10. Rainbow ’round Me – Bev Bos, Michael Leeman, Tom Hunter

This is another song that I wasn’t familiar with before starting my internship. I most often used multicolored scarves with this song. The verses are a great opportunity to work on color identification, and the chorus provides a fun opportunity for movement, waving one or more scarves from side to side to emulate a rainbow.

Recommended Age Group: Early Childhood

Recommended Activities: Singing, color identification, movement with scarves

Of course, there were many other songs that I used often during my internship (honorable mentions include Don’t Worry Be Happy, Puff the Magic Dragon, and Shake My Sillies Out), but I found that I used these songs the most, and a few of them I even used with different age groups. 

I hope that this was helpful to you, thank you for reading!