music educationEvery parent knows that making music can be one of a child’s favorite activities. But did you know that musically trained kids also perform significantly better on a variety of intelligence tests—including math, reading, vocabulary, memory, general IQ, and more? That means engaging your children with music at a very young age will not only bring them joy in the moment, it will also nurture a love of music that may encourage them to participate in band, chorale, and orchestra when they’re older, potentially giving them a leg up on the competition.

Here are some ways to get your child involved with music before he even knows what a quarter-note is. These easy crafts allow you and your child to explore sound, rhythm, language, and world cultures. Almost everything described here is made from recycled materials, so while you’re having fun, your child will be learning, and you’ll be saving money and the planet at the same time. 

Learn how to make your own instruments with some around-the-house items—>


Recycled rattles

If you’d like to start with one of the simplest instruments found around the world, make your own rattles. Take a look in your recycling bin for any type of plastic bottles. After they’re clean and dry, check out your kitchen shelves and fill the bottles with what you find. What will they sound like? It depends on what you put in. Here’s a list of “around the house” items that make great-sounding rattles:

Quiet rattles

  • sugar
  • confetti
  • craft puff balls
  • cotton swabs
  • seed beads
  • tiny pasta

Medium rattles

  • paper clips
  • small pebbles
  • birdseed
  • small beads
  • small dried beans
  • rice

Loud rattles

  • dried macaroni/pasta
  • large pebbles
  • large beads
  • coins
  • large dried beans
  • large buttons

When you’re done, seal the rattle with sturdy tape to keep the contents inside. And decorate the outside with stickers and colorful tape, or make a handle of yarn or pipe cleaners. (Note: Remember to keep an eye on small children when working with items that may be choking hazards.) 

Find out how to make your own drums and a Latin American guiro—>


Make a guiro

Ready to try something a little more complex than a basic rattle? Try scraping out rhythms on a guiro. A guiro is a Latin American instrument that has a series of ridges on it; it’s played by rubbing a rasp or other object against it for a unique “rrrrrrrrrrrrrr” sound. You can create a guiro from a plastic water bottle (with ridges) and use an unsharpened pencil, a plastic spoon, or a chopstick to rub against it. To get fancier, change the sound by using a hair pick or an egg whisk as your scraper. Play your guiro by “scratching” back and forth or playing with patterns, such as “scrape down, scrape down, scrape up.”

Rock out on drums

You’d be surprised at how many different kind of drums can be found the world over—from easy steel drums made out of trash can lids to a pow-wow drum made from a tent tarp. When you think about how much fun it is to bang on the drums, it’s easy to see why almost every culture has embraced some form of the instrument.  

A great choice for learning to “hand drum” at home is the cajón, a box drum that originated in Peru. A simple version can be made from a cardboard box. With the addition of a sound-hole and some decoration, you’ll be ready to tap out rhythms on this box drum in no time.

Explore global cultures

Almost every instrument has a special place in its own culture. You can learn about these countries and cultures while you explore the music and the instruments you find most appealing. Interested in ancient history? Make your own version of an Egyptian sistrum, a rattle pictured in ancient hieroglyphics. Check out African shekeres and thumbs pianos, called kalimbas and mbiras. Create your own ankle bells like those worn in styles of Indian dance. You can even turn a length of PVC piping into a real, working didgeridoo. 

Daria Marmaluk-Hajioannou is an award-winning children’s performer. For detailed instructions and photos for all projects mentioned in this article, visit World Music with Daria.

What kinds of household items have you and your children used to make musical instruments? Please share below!