Instruments for Learning: Veggie Shakers

A new series of posts, inspired by my friend and colleague Rachelle Norman (see her “Tools of the Trade” series here). I plan to write posts on various instruments and tools I use in my music therapy practice to give you other therapists some ideas, or reiterate your own ideas, and give you laymen an answer to the question “just what DOES she do with those?” This is post #1 in the series.

The “veggie shakers” shown above are my new favorites. Produced (ha, pun intended?) by Nino Percussion, they are technically called “Botany Shaker Set, Vegetable Assortment” and can be found here. How appropriate they are for the season, when everyone is out planting their gardens, and later in the spring and summer when farmers markets are popping up everywhere! My clients, children and adults alike, love these instruments! Not only are they fun to play (each one has a different level of tactile stimulation), they’re fun to look at and stimulate great discussion about gardening, foods, nutrition, and the like.

Recently I took the folk song by Pete Seeger, “Garden Song,” (known by many as “Inch by Inch”) and modified it to fit my needs with individual clients as well as in the group setting, while highlighting these instruments. Not only does the intervention stimulate seasonally appropriate discussion and reality orientation, but it gives me the opportunity to work on object identification, matching through use of picture cards and creative expression through songwriting. The sound clip below is my version of the song, as modified for each vegetable used. Notice how I alternate the line “God bless the seeds we sow” on every other verse in the recording. I don’t do that in my session, but I wanted to show how you can modify it to say “someone bless the seeds we sow” in the event that you need to.


I use the same format for songwriting purposes, and tailor it to the needs and abilities of my clients. One example, written by a group just yesterday, is as follows:

“We plant seeds and watch them grow. Vegetables come from the ground below. Potatoes, Celery, Corn and Cabbage, all veggies for me and you.”

Obviously this was presented in a fill-in-the-blank format, with each group member being encouraged to think of a vegetable (different than those represented by the shakers) to add to the list. For one, I was encouraging appropriate nonverbal communication (via sign language), as she’s deaf and is being encouraged to increase meaningful communication. For another, I was encouraging spontaneous speech. For another, I was working on increased feelings of self-worth and independent thinking (she typically needs much reassurance and has a difficult time voicing her own opinions). Who knew 4 cute veggie shakers could do so much?!?

Nino Percussion also makes Fruit Shakers which I use a lot as well. While I sometimes use the same melody as you heard above, substituting words as appropriate or turning it into a songwriting intervention in itself, I am partial to Rachel Rambach’s “Shaky Fruit” song (find it here). I’m giving you fair warning, though, because once you sing it, you’ll be singing it ALL DAY. 🙂

While searching for the link to place on the veggie shakers above, compliments of West Music, I stumbled upon Basic Beat’s Corn Shaker. WHAT?!? How did I not know about this? Definitely purchasing this! I love it! When I was in college at the University of Evansville (Go ACES!), our music therapy department had an awesome set of shakers that consisted not only of these fruits and vegetables, but several others (including a tomato, potato, and kiwi, among others). I have searched long and hard for this set, only to find that (gasp!) it is no longer being made. If anyone knows of any more botany shakers, please pass the word. I’m currently brainstorming on ways to make some. After all, why do I have an eggplant, of all things, but not a tomato or potato?

In any event, I hope I’ve enlightened you somewhat on the therapeutic use of produce (in shaker form). Happy playing!


About therapeuticharmony

I'm a music therapist with a private practice, Therapeutic Harmony, L.L.C., providing services to children and adults with disabilities in Barry and Lawrence counties, Missouri.
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7 Responses to Instruments for Learning: Veggie Shakers

  1. soundscapemusictherapy says:

    Nice post! (Thanks for the mention, too!) Incidentally, I’ve been playing a recording of the “Garden Song” at the end of several older adult sessions in recent weeks, and I haven’t yet found anyone who recognized it. I think that’s kind of odd, but it does mean it could make a nice melody for a simple songwriting intervention. Thanks for the idea!

  2. You’re welcome, Rachelle! 🙂 I’ve noticed that many of my staff members don’t know it, which surprised me as well. I think I knew it before, but I learned it well during my internship. Strange how songs circle back around.

  3. I was also going to say that it is a great song for reminiscence in itself. I used to do it with my geriatric hospice patients and ended up learning the best fertilizer to use, the best time to plant many vegetables, and just how possible it is to dry EVERY kind of vegetable on a rooftop in Oklahoma in the middle of August. 🙂

  4. Susan says:

    So funny that you posted this last week – two weeks ago I used “The Garden Song” and Veggie Shakers in my large group sessions with adults with disabilities. In the same session, we wrote a piggyback song “If I Had a Garden” to the tune of “If I Had a Hammer”. It is amazing the variety of fruits and veggies that we listed in our song – everything from carrots and lettuce to okra and parsnips!

  5. Pingback: An Intergenerational Flower Sing-along « Music Sparks

  6. Pingback: Fruit Shakers | Therapeutic Harmony, L.L.C.

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