Outdoor Musical Instruments and Music Therapy For Children With Special Needs

Outdoor learning can make for happier, healthier, well-rounded children and students – particularly for those with special educational needs (SEN). However, practitioners looking for innovative ideas and activities that engage all pupils and children with SEN sometimes need more active, out-of-the-box ideas. Outdoor musical instruments are a wonderful solution - using music and the great outdoors to combine firing creativity and sensory stimulation with building the independence and wellbeing of pupils.


Music in the Great Outdoors


Outdoor Musical Instruments in an inclusive playground or setting provide a non-threatening and fun outlet for creative and emotional expression and through the medium of music many essential life skills can be learned. Music can have a profound effect on anyone, but the benefits of exposing a child with special needs to music can be huge. Playing music outdoors is enjoyable, stress-relieving and calming and giving SEN students that feeling of space, combined with the sensory stimulation that comes with being outdoors, is a powerful combination.

Socially, music is a great leveller. There is no right or wrong in music, so it holds no fear for children, who feel safe to experiment with self-expression. This leads to a sense of achievement and pride that may be difficult to find elsewhere, particularly for those with low levels of motivation. The subsequent increased self-esteem and confidence can then be transferred to other areas of their lives. Through music a child can express their emotions, develop a sense of rhythm (which will in turn support their physical development), develop their communication skills, benefit from auditory and tactile stimulation (through the vibrations of the music) and relax. Every child can be helped to learn to enjoy and to become involved in music to some degree and because most of the instruments from Percussion Play are tuned to a harmonic pentatonic or simple scales, they produce a soothing sound straightaway, which makes them instantly enjoyable.


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Images: Playing the Babel Drum | Non-Verbal Expression (Conga Drums) | Using the Pentatonic Scale (Freechimes) | Wheelchair Accessible (Papilio)


All children have the same need to express themselves and outdoor musical instruments are ideal for use during Music Therapy sessions. Music therapy can be of inestimable value for children who have difficulties in hearing, seeing, moving, thinking or responding; each can experience the music in their own unique way.

Music Therapy has proven to be a very effective method in dealing with autism and Asperger’s syndrome. Most children diagnosed with Autism or Asperger’s lack the social skills that enable them to participate fully in play and other social situations. Interestingly, many children with autism show a heightened interest in music and Percussion Play instruments possess qualities of sound and tone irresistible enough to reach a child in a direct, uncomplicated manner. While they may be unable to easily communicate verbally with others, music is an avenue for many autistic people to express themselves and communicate in a non-verbal, non-threatening manner. Playing music puts the individual at ease, allowing for strides in social interactions to follow.


Outdoor Musical Instruments for Emotional Expression


Easy access to outdoor musical instruments may provide an outlet that encourages children to use music to deal with emotional issues, especially when they are unable to express them through speech. Where words fail, music may be a medium through which to explore one's inner world and experiences. Often people with developmental delays and learning disabilities such as Down's syndrome will respond to music. The responses may range from a small smile, a ‘yeah!’, a little singing or even some dancing. The easy, non-challenging way in which Percussion Play instruments can be played offers opportunities for response and expression to children and adults with such developmental delays.


Outdoor Musical Instruments for Sensory Disabilities


Outdoor Musical Instruments in the playground offer blind or partially sighted children the opportunity to explore musical sound and awareness. The instruments are simple to play and enable creative experimentation and tactile exploration. They encourage the use of motor skills, developing coordination whilst stimulating the imagination. For children with very limited movement, the placing of their hands on the vibrating lids of our drums or anywhere on the Emperor Chimes or Tubular Bells, can elicit a positive response as the vibrations travel through the child's skin. Varying the pressure and volume of the beat will enhance the sensory experience for them. For children and adolescents with cerebral palsy, playing music may be an effective way to stimulate speech development and communication skills, express emotions, develop a sense of rhythm and provide opportunity for physical, cognitive and motor development whilst creating an environment for socialisation and fun.


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Images: Playing the Rainbow Cavatina | Playing with Rhythm (Conga Drums) | Using the Rainbow Scale | Building Confidence Through Drumming


Outdoor Musical Instruments for Healing


Music is a tool that is used in pain management and healing for children undergoing medical procedures and as a comfort for those who have suffered a traumatic experience, making Percussion Play ideal for the gardens and outdoor areas of hospices, hospitals and therapy centres. Music is a healer and the enjoyment and stimulation of music, either as a participatory activity, or as relaxation, provides a wonderful, albeit temporary, distraction from the daily pain and discomfort of their condition.

Outdoor Musical Instruments for Socialisation


Percussion Play outdoor musical instruments can be installed individually or in groups. So, in addition to musical benefits, playing in an ensemble is useful for working on concepts such as cooperation with others, coordination, and a sense of accomplishment. Making music and singing songs together in a group can build a harmonious cooperative spirit of support and encouragement for everyone. Children who experience severe obstacles in forming relationships with other children, adults and their environment can achieve security and joy in making music.

To see, hear and play musical instruments is an important cultural experience for every child. We aim to make Percussion Play accessible to all and try to consider the individual needs of all players including wheelchair users and those with special needs. The outdoor musical instruments can be installed at varying heights and in numerous arrangements, can be supplied with beaters to suit individual needs and are available in bright stimulating colours.

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Images: Feeling Vibrations (Tubular Bells) | Making Music Together (Duo) | Wheelchair Accessible & Inclusive (MyTunes) | Expression Through Music


We are always happy to discuss individual needs or specific requirements – so please call or email the Percussion Play team - we’d love to talk to you.