Intervention Inspiration Series: Fine Motor Activity

As a new initiative for MTSA this summer, we are choosing to share different ideas for Music Therapy practice in the hopes that this will provide a valuable resource for beginning music therapists and as inspiration for practicing therapists.  Every Monday, a different intervention idea will be presented.  They will be very basic and will be best as beginning inspiration to be varied and adapted for different clinical settings.   They may include specific music, but will typically only indicate the style of music to be incorporated. 
The following basic format will be given for each intervention: 1) Activity, the type of intervention; 2) Target population, the intended client population for the intervention; 3) Materials, the instruments and supplies required; 4) Goals/Aims, ideas for goals or aims that could be addressed in the intervention; 5) Method, a detailed description of what would occur during the intervention; 6) Comments, an explanation of why this intervention is applicable for the given client population and how the goals/aims are addressed; and 7) Evaluation, questions to allow for reflection on whether or not the intervention was effective for a particular client or clients. 

Fine Motor Guitar Activity

by Jeff Burton


Photo Source


Can You Help Me Play the Guitar?

Target Population:

Young Children aged 3-10 years old who are non-verbal and have one or more disorders that severely limit mobility.  Examples of such disabilities include Cerebral Palsy, Angelman’s Syndrome, and Global Developmental Delays.


3/4 size guitar (preferably with nylon strings)


To strengthen and promote growth of muscles

To encourage movement of child’s arms through music making

To encourage creativity

To augment hand-eye coordination through playing music

To promote patience and turn-taking while each child waits for their chance to play

To encourage vocalizations

To raise self-esteem levels


The music therapist will arrange the children in a semi-circle.  Using the 3/4 size guitar, the therapist will play and sing the song (whatever piece the therapist chooses) once through so that the children can hear what the song sounds like. The lyrics of the song should be pre-composed or improvised to relate to the children.  If any vocalizations occur from the clients, the therapist should respond and somehow adapt the lyrics to provide encouragement.

After playing through the song once, the therapist will explain that they need help to strum the guitar and that each child in the group will need to be patient and take their turn in order to help make music together.  In order to indicate each child’s turn, the therapist will sing the child’s name.  Then, the therapist will hold the guitar very close to the child’s hand with one hand and hold the correct chords with the other.  In order to keep the song going, the therapist will try and sing with moderate rhythm.  If there is a co-therapist, they can also help provide the beat on another instrument.  If the client has difficulty strumming, the therapist may use their free hand to strum “hand-over-hand” with the client so that they can still feel the strings and experience making the music.


Of the disabilities listed in the Target Population for this intervention, the common factor among all of them is a weakness in muscles in all or just some of the body.  People with these disorders often experience uncontrollable movements and spasticity to varying degrees.

This activity helps to strengthen the muscles in the arm and hand while the child simply has fun and creates their own way of playing guitar.

If blues inspired music is used, the moderate tempo “12 bar blues” style of accompaniment is fast enough so that the child is excited and wants to participate, but not too fast so that they feel that they cannot keep up.  Since treatment for these disorders often includes physical therapy, this activity is a great addition as it stretches the muscles without the child even realizing it.

By using the child’s name and giving them a great deal of encouragement, this activity is also beneficial for boosting self-esteem levels.


Did all of the clients seem to react to playing the guitar?

What were the different reactions?

Did the clients wait patiently for their turn?

Did the clients focus on the person who was playing?

Did any of the clients play without assistance?


About Laurier MTSA

We are a student association at Wilfrid Laurier University and most of our members are students in the Music Therapy program. We exist to educate about, promote, and support the work of music therapy, and to support the academic, career, and personal needs of the Music Therapy Students. Our mandate is to unite prospective, current and alumni students while promoting our profession in the larger community.
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One Response to Intervention Inspiration Series: Fine Motor Activity

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