I end up working with a lot of clients and their siblings within music therapy. Often, when a client is suffering from a life-limiting illness, they tend to gain a lot of attention from parents, medical staff, teachers, and others. The siblings see this and usually don’t understand the complexity of the situation or that not all attention is good attention. Therefore, increasing positive sibling interactions, increasing cohesion between siblings, improving problem-solving, and improving social-emotional skills of both client and sibling become top goals in music therapy.

Although there are many serious moments in therapy with children diagnosed with life-limiting illnesses, I often focus on supporting quality of life as well. Creating a fun, upbeat, and exciting environment for these clients and their siblings ends up being incredibly important and effective.



“What Instruments Is That!?!?”

Of course, whenever I say the name of this intervention, I say it with an extremely exaggerated tone, not unlike an SNL game show host impression. The kids love this game. The point of this game is to guess the name of the instrument by hearing its sound and looking either on the iPad or with real instruments. The therapist starts at the instrument “leader” while the clients guess. The clients can then earn/switch to be the leader.

POPULATION: Clients between the ages of 5 and 12, in a group setting (siblings or classmates)

GOAL: To increase impulse control, increase sibling/group communication, and improve cohesion. 


  1. Lay down ground rules: Clients must listen to the sound of the instruments first played by the leader, take a look at the picture (or the real thing) and then DISCUSS IT WITH EACH OTHER.
    1. I like to give one warning at the beginning that goes along these lines: “If anyone calls out an instrument BEFORE talking it over with the team, points are automatically deducted!”
  2. Using a point system (1 correct song = 1 point), discuss that points can be redeemed at the end of the game to play a preferred activity. For example, I have a few kiddos that LOVE the parachute. If they earn 8 points throughout the game, they can redeem the points for the parachute!
  3. Clients take turns being the “speaker”, the one who gets to voice the name of the instrument
  4. Points can be redeemed at the end to “earn” a preferred activity.

KEY ELEMENT: The key element in this intervention is within the discussion between clients. This is where I find myself most actively listening to what each is saying and supporting positive problem-solving skills.


  1. Make this more difficult by hiding the instruments so that clients are only guessing based on their sense of sound.
  2. Make this easier by writing and creating a song about conflict resolution or working as a team at the beginning of this experience.

Download a copy of this intervention to have on you at all times! I’d love to hear any of your ideas about if you’ve used something like this before and how it worked for you!

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