It Ain’t Just Christmastime: Non-Holiday Winter Songs for Sessions with Kids, Adults, and Older Adults
by Jen Wilson, Music Therapy Intern
As the holidays approach, it can be easy to fall into the same cycle of holiday-themed songs and activities. While this is festive and provides a break in the usual routine, once December 20th hits you may get tired of singing “Jingle Bells.” You may also come across people who don’t celebrate holidays during this time of year, but still want a change in normal routine or something that coincides with the season. These songs for children, adults, and older adults can be fun additions to your repertoire that allow all clients to enjoy the winter season in music therapy.
Songs for Kids
“In Winter” by Kath Bee
This song describes things that happen in winter and can address selective memory or sequencing.
“The Mitten Song” by Lorraine Nelson Wolf
This song exudes cozy lullaby vibes, and movements can easily be added to match the lyrics for an additional fingerplay aspect.
“Penguin Song” by The Learning Station
This song adds body part movement as the song continues (think “Tooty Ta” or “Father Abraham”) which can be great for sequencing and body part identification.
“Snow (Yuki)” is a Japanese children’s song
A fun bilingual addition to winter repertoire. Elizabeth Mitchell’s recording has both Japanese and English verses included.
“Snowflakes” by Kathy Reid-Naiman
You can add gross body movements or hand motions, or as a listening break if your clients need a minute to calm down.
“Snowflakes, Snowflakes” by The Kiboomers
This song has the tune of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” and can address following one step-directions or fine motor skills in the form of a fingerplay.
“Snowflakes Song” by The Learning Station
This song can address body part identification and has a music video with simple movements kids can follow.
“Snowman Freeze” by The Learning Station
Another great song for movement and following directions through freeze dance.
“Winter” by Lorraine Nelson Wolf
Another lullaby song that has lots of visual language (“crows and squirrels” and “river”) that can be made into a visual or sung storybook.
“Winter Hokey Pokey Dance” by The Kiboomers
A winter twist on a classic tune, this version of the “Hokey Pokey” can address sequencing, body part identification, and gross motor skills
Lyric Analysis Songs for Adults
“Flowers in December” by Mazzy Star
This songs has themes of unhealthy relationship dynamics and heartbreak, and can be excellent for discussions of processing relationships that have ended or for recognizing unhealthy aspects of relationships
“Forever Winter” by Taylor Swift
This song talks about communication breakdowns in relationships and the dynamics of having a relationship with someone who is struggling. It can be turned into a lyric discussion about setting boundaries and improving communication in relationships.
“Hazy Shade of Winter” by The Bangles
This song opens with “Time…see what’s become of me,” which can be an excellent tool for reflection of how clients have grown and changed over the course of the year. This song also talks about hopes and how they may fade, which can be helpful for discussing how clients’ hopes have changed and what they hope for in the coming year.
“A Long December” by Counting Crows
This song has language that can make it a songwriting activity about experiences clients have had either over the course of the year or just over the month (“The smell of hospitals…”, “All at once you look…”). This can also be another self-reflection activity.
“My December” by Linkin Park
This song has themes of loneliness and regrets, which can be helpful for clients to process these feelings and to discuss coping strategies when they have these experiences. It can also be a song rewriting opportunity so the client has an opportunity for emotional expression.
“Snow” by Zach Bryan
This song does have religious themes and mentions religious figures such as Jesus and God, so please use at your discretion. However, it can be used to discuss interpersonal relationships and healthy/unhealthy romantic relationships.
“Winter Song” by The Head and the Heart
This song has themes of change and uncertainty, and music therapists can use it to help clients process complex feelings that accompany transitions.
“Winter Song” by Sara Bareilles & Ingrid Michaelson
The chorus for this song repeats the line “Is love alive?” which touches on themes of hope and the concept of love in its many forms. This song can also be helpful for those who are missing families or those close to them in a season where many gather together.
“Wintertime” by Norah Jones
This song mentions how emotions can change from season to season, which can be an opportunity to process how colder weather can affect emotional functioning. It also has elements of unhealthy relationship dynamics as evidenced by lines like “I know I’m leaning on you” and “…there’s a candlelight I only get from you.”
“Winter Winds” by Mumford & Sons
This song can be used to discuss inner conflict; its chorus is essentially a fight between the singer’s head and heart. It can also help teach the difference between what someone wants versus what is best for them.
Reminiscing Songs for Older Adults
“Dance Mr. Snowman Dance” by Crew-Cuts
This song is pretty much just telling a snowman to dance, but you can use it as a jumping off point to talk about whether clients have any winter formal or dance memories such as who they went with, what they wore, if they danced or stayed off the dance floor, and what dances were popular in their high school or college years.
“The First Snowfall” by Bing Crosby
This song is about exactly what you would expect: the first snowfall of the season. This song can be a prompt to talk about experiences with snow like the first time they’ve ever seen snow, their favorite things to do in snow, and whether they preferred to go out in the cold or stay bundled up inside.
“I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm” by Frank Sinatra
You can use this sweet love song to reminisce about memories winter traditions clients had with their sweethearts or families.
“Little Jack Frost, Get Lost” by Bing Crosby and Peggy Lee
This one is for summer lovers. Ask your clients or residents if they even like the cold or if they would rather have summer back and what they do while they wait out the cold weather or what they would do if it was summer right now instead.
“Looks Like a Cold, Cold Winter” by Bing Crosby
This song can be used to discuss favorite activities to do outside in winter like skiing and building snowmen, as well as indoor winter activities like building gingerbread houses or drinking a warm drink. Since it also has the theme of spending time with loved ones, you can also discuss their favorite people to do these activities with.
“Moonlight in Vermont” by Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong
This song uses a lot of visual language and describes sights you might see in Vermont. This song can be used to reminisce about favorite places to be or things to see in winter and can even be used as a song rewriting activity if appropriate.
“Sleigh Bell Serenade” by Bing Crosby
This song can be helpful for reminiscing about different sounds that clients remember hearing during the winter, like sleigh bells, or sights, like snow or lack thereof.
“When Winter Comes” by Joanie Sommers
This one is another summer loving song that can be used to compare summer to winter and to discuss client preferences between warm and cold weather.
“Winter” by Spike Jones and The Mellomen
This is another winter themed love song, so it can be used to discuss favorite winter memories with loved ones similar to “I’ve My Love to Keep Me Warm.”
“Winter Weather” by Benny Goodman & Peggy Lee
Reminisce about whether their loved one kept them warm in the winter and if they had other things that kept them warm like a favorite scarf or sweater. You can even ask if someone like their mother or spouse ever made them something to keep them warm and go further into detail about it, like what it looked like or when they wore it.
Enjoying the winter season in music therapy should not be limited only to holiday songs. Expanding your repertoire to include non-holiday winter songs can make clients feel included while still changing up regularly scheduled routines!