How to Disinfect Instruments the Quick & Easy Way With Hula Hoops

One particular week this past winter, I caught some of my preschool kids sucking on their sit spots. Ew!! The classes were also getting smaller and smaller, from kids staying home sick. Then COVID-19 came. We closed mid-March, but before that, I was wondering how to sanitize instruments and manipulatives during the few minutes I have between classes?

Then, it hit me… hula hoops! I was already using hula hoops to collect materials. For example, we were doing a lesson on parades and marching bands, and each child had an instrument for marching. As we wrapped up, they walked past the hoops and put their instruments down. Collecting them this way was such a timesaver.

Break Out the Lysol Spray!

After the class left, the generic Lysol spray entered. I made a sweeping motion over the instruments, flipped them over, and sprayed the other side. I also did this when using Beat Buddies, which can’t be wiped down with wipes or other cleaners. Now, they were all ready for the next class to use. This is especially helpful when I used scarves and Beat Buddies since I can’t wash them between classes.

From my Instagram

Don’t Touch Your Face

Now for a disclaimer. It is currently the end of May 2020. The current CDC guidelines state that transmission of COVID-19 from touching objects is rather low. The risk of transmission becomes higher when people touch something with the virus and then touch their face, mouth, eyes, etc.

It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes. This is not thought to be the primary way the virus spreads, but we are all still learning more.

This is why I had a giant pump of hand sanitizer waiting for kids at the door while they lined-up. The real issue moving forward next year is person-to-person spread via respiratory droplets. I’m waiting to see what schools will look like in the fall and how this will be addressed. In the meantime, at least you have a new tip for sanitizing your materials.

Instrument Specific Recommendations

If you are looking for a list of which cleaners are best for classroom instruments, check these guidelines from West Music.

  • They say most instruments can be wiped down or sprayed.
  • Piano keys will crack, so use mild soap and water and microfiber cloths. Make sure the cloths are not very wet before wiping.
  • Recorders can continue to go in the dishwasher.
  • Be mindful of residue that may be left behind with metal instruments.
  • Do not soak most classroom instruments.
  • Orff bars can be wiped with disinfecting wipes, but if you don’t allow touching the bars, only mallets need cleaning.
  • Other wood instruments may not be able to withstand regular disinfectant use.
  • If you are using wipes on drum heads regularly, you will likely start to see markings (such as the Remo crown) fade and eventually disappear. It won’t affect the sound of the drum.
  • For band instruments, I have experience using Sterisol to disinfect mouthpieces and recommend it. I used to clean 30 trumpet mouthpieces a day by soaking them in a mixture of water and Sterisol for at least 10 minutes. Then, I would rinse them out in a bucket of clean water and air dry on a clean towel.
  • CDC guidelines for how long COVID-19 can last on surfaces:
    • Brass – 5 Days
    • Wood – 4 Days
    • Plastic – 3 Days
    • Strings – 3 Days
    • Cork – 2 Days

I hope these tips were helpful. Leave your tips in the comments!

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What are Boom Cards? A Quick & Easy Overview!

What the heck are Boom Cards? If you’ve seen Boom resources floating around as a way to teach music virtually but have never tried them out, here’s a quick and dirty overview that will set you up to start playing in 5 minutes.

What are Boom Cards?

Physical task cards are like index cards with a question or directive. As students work their way through numbered cards, they write their answers on an answer sheet.

A deck of Boom Cards is a set of digital task cards. They are similar to PowerPoint slides, but after the student answers (by typing, tapping, or dragging and dropping), they hit the “submit” button. If the answer is right, they hear a bell sound, and the slide advances on its own. If they are wrong, they hear a “whoops” and have the opportunity to try again.

Here’s an example from my FREE Animal Rhythms deck:

Better yet, try one yourself by clicking the Fast Pin link below!


Fast Pins – the easiest way to BOOM

Boom Learning’s Fast Pin feature is basically like having an interactive PowerPoint game but better. Why? Some great features are that the slides advance by themselves, students can’t edit the files, and it works on any web browser. There’s no need for special (and expensive) software that you will always have to upgrade. All you have to do to get kids playing is to send a hyperlink. Kids click on it and, ta-da, the game opens in their browser. Students could even play this on a cell phone if they wanted to, making it handy for secondary.

Here’s a 2-minute tutorial on Fast Pins:

Steps from the Video Above

  • Go to LIBRARY at the top and choose the deck you want to use.
  • Click the blue ACTION button.
  • Click FAST PIN and copy & paste the URL at the bottom of the pop-up window.
  • If you want to print the cards for centers, you can do that here as well!

Points to Consider

  • PowerPoint still has one benefit over Boom, you don’t need an internet connection to use a PowerPoint, but you do with Boom. If you are looking for a no-tech way to use them, there’s a Boom feature that allows you to print the cards. Just provide an answer sheet and you could easily use this with a sub.
  • This was created with the general classroom teacher in mind. As you can see below, even their top tier membership level isn’t set up to handle the volume of students music teachers see every week. However, it’s free to use Fast Pins, the only thing you’re missing out on is Boom keeping track of student responses. I’ve used systems like Class Dojo in the past, and because my school was very transient, I abandoned it quickly as I had to update the roster constantly. For this reason, I would stick to the free Fast Pins feature regardless of Boom’s ability to grade.
  • Each student needs a device. I never had a classroom set of Chromebooks or ipads so one workaround is to make Boom a centers activity, or play as a whole class. Kids could answer in teams to make it more interesting. It’s even more fun if your whiteboard is touch-sensitive.

Free Ultimate Accounts for Schools Affected by COVID-19

Boom wants to help during this crisis. You can get a free ULTIMATE account through June 2020 by going to

Want to Learn More?

Boom will start sending tutorials on how to use their more advanced options once you create an account, but they also have lots of tutorials on their YouTube channel. Here’s one that I find helpful: The Library

I hope this helped show you how to get started with Boom Cards. As you can see, Boom is an extremely versatile tool, great for individuals and groups, compatible with all kinds of learning platforms, and easy to access. I hope that becomes a tool that you can use to make distance learning less stressful. I also hope you, your families, and your students are safe and well.

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8 Easy Music Ideas To Send Home When School Is Cancelled

With cancellations occurring across the country, there are still ways your youngest music students can stay musical while school is out. You could also send this out at the beginning of the year for parents or caregivers to refer to during snow days. I teach ages 2 – Kindergarten, so I like to keep things engaging, yet simple. Below are some suggestions you can send home to parents in a note or email. They are also great ways for parents to bond musically with their children.

You can also find the examples below compiled into a parent letter that you can send or email home for free here!

 I Can Sing A Solo 

Have your child sing a song from music class to you. The more chances they have to learn a song and sing it by themselves, the more independent they will be as musicians. Younger children will need more time, simpler songs, and repetition but will look forward to singing songs they’ve heard before.

Sing Me A Song

Sing one of your favorite songs from childhood to your child. It would be wonderful if a grandparent could do the same! Sing the new song to them several times before they try it on their own. Singing (or chanting nursery rhymes), while bouncing, rocking, or tapping your child will also help them develop their sense of a steady beat. Fingerplays and songs with hand motions like “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” or “This Little Piggy Went to Market” are also great. If you are working with babies, echo their sounds back to them. Babies love higher pitched voices, especially mom’s.


Find a book to sing to your child, such as “The Itsy Bitsy Spider,” or “There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly.” Find a book in your home with various characters and change the pitch and tone of your voice to represent the different characters. If there are repeated phrases, pause and have your child speak or sing them. Be patient as they may take a little longer to respond than an adult. Find opportunities to read loud or soft, slow or fast, low or high, etc. Children love hearing the same book told over and over.

Listen And Draw

Have students listen to music that conjures up specific images that correlate with the music (program music) such as “Flight of the Bumblebee” and draw what they hear. You can also use soundtracks to movies such as Star Wars or The Incredibles. Try to vary the genres as well.

Moving To Music

Have students move silently around the room to a few movements from Camille Saint-Saens’s “Carnival of the Animals” as if they were the animals portrayed in that movement.

Make An Instrument

Make percussive instruments from things found in the house or outside that you can hit, shake, or scrape. For example, you could make a shaker by putting rice in an empty spice container. Play the instruments to your child’s favorite playlist. If you make several instruments, play some behind your child’s back to see if they can guess which instrument you played.

Singing Squiggles

Draw, or have your child draw some squiggly lines and trace them with their fingers while having their voices go up and down along the lines. You can use a neutral syllable like “oo” or “wee.” You can also bend pipe cleaners into squiggly shapes to sing. This is a basic form of graphic notation that leads to a smoother transition into reading music.

I Made It Up

Have your child tell you about what they did today, what they ate, who they saw, etc. but in a singing voice where they improvise the tune. Sing back to them! You are their favorite musician. 🙂

Hope these ideas help!

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A Marching Band Fingerplay Lesson for Toddlers & PreK

My toddler and Preschool music classes love this fun fingerplay lesson on marching bands! It includes singing, movement, and playing instruments. They'll all want to join the band after these activities! Even though they were made for Pre-K, tots and Kindergarten enjoy theses lesson plan ideas!

Here are some fun activities for toddler and PreK music lessons I’ve used this month. I start by having the kids make some music with their hands and feet, then we talk about marching bands and watch a short clip of a band. With it being Black History Month, I wanted to showcase an HBCU marching band. Next, we sing and perform the motions to “The Fingerband” and then play actual instruments.

Making Music With Our Bodies

First, we listen to Ella Jenkins’ “Follow the Leader.” I tell kids that we are going to make music with our hands and feet.

Marching Band Visual

Then, I ask them if they’ve ever been to a parade and if they’ve seen marching bands perform there. I wanted to show a video for the kids who may have never been to a parade or football game. After some searching, I came across a video where students can see closeups of the band, drum majors, and color guard. The video and sound quality is impressive for a marching band show. There’s great playing, dancing, and even singing from this video of Florida A&M University’s band at the Rosebowl Parade Bandfest.

Since the video is 20-minutes long, and I only see classes for 25 minutes a week, I only show a short segment. The spot that I use to teach is 15 minutes into the video. I ask students to notice how they march, their tall hats, to listen for the drums, whistle, etc. I only show a minute or so, but if you watch it to the end, there’s a fun surprise with the sousaphones!

The Finger Band Is Coming to Town

Next, we move on to the fingerplay, “The Fingerband.” It’s sung to the tune of “Here We Go ‘Round the Mulberry Bush” and goes like this:

The Finger Band

1. The finger band is coming to town,
Coming to town, coming to town,
The fingerband is coming to town,
So early in the morning.

Additional verses:
2. This is the way they wear their hats...
3. This is the way they play the drums...
4. This is the way they play the cymbals...
5. *Add verses based on what the children said they saw in the video
6. The finger band is going away...
7. The finger band has gone away...

Motions for each verse:
1. Bring hands out from behind back, move to beat (crescendo optional)
2. Make a tall hat with hands and sway bodies
3. Pat knees (or floor)
4. Clap
5. *For any wind instruments - sing on the syllable "doo" while
miming playing the instrument
6. Bring hands behind back (decrescendo optional)
7. Whisper, you can even get to the point where they are mouthing the words silently.

Break Out the Instruments!

Lastly, have the class play instruments to a march. If your classes are big or the kids are harder to manage due to class size or age, have them sit around the hula hoops and explore instruments that you’ve set in the middle. If they can handle it, you can hand each child an instrument to march around the room in line with. The child in the front can be the drum major and lead the line while holding a rhythm stick or pointer. I march to whatever songs we’ve been working on, but Sousa marches or a New Orleans style brass band would be great to use. Rebirth Brass Band’s, “Do Whatcha Wanna” is a really fun one!

I hope your classes have a lot of fun with these activities! If you are looking for more Preschool activities, I’m currently working on adding more resources on TpT.

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