It is tempting in today’s world of “hyper consumerism” to buy everything new and shiny. Especially for our babies. I know that I have fallen prey to the “my baby deserves the best so I must buy it brand new” mentality on more than a few occasions. There are endless ways to spend money on babies, from designer teething toys to framed baby hand and feet sculptures to baths that are baths, scales and thermometers all in one!
But there are also lots of ways to cut back on spending and keep things simple. Musical instruments, for example, can be expensive and although there are some beautifully designed instruments out there, your baby will receive as much joy shaking a homemade shaker constructed out of an empty bottle and some rice, as he would a pair of wooden lacquered eggs hand made by one of the oldest toymakers in Europe.
Save money and use household items for instruments!
Below are some ways to make instruments from basic, everyday household items (which you can use for my activities in The Bubble Box Babies Music Program). You can also gather the items together and let baby have fun exploring, manipulating the objects and making lots of noise.
The most important thing is to use materials that are safe for baby to play with and regardless of what instruments you give your baby, please make sure you always supervise music playtime!
This one’s super easy and you’ve probably thought of it yourself – the age-old pot turned upside down with a wooden spoon! Or you could use a variety of other materials turned upside down such as a metal bowl or lid, an empty cereal box, frying pan, cake tin, plastic ice-cream container or water jug. Use other kitchen utensils such as spoons and ladles as beaters.
“Just beat it, beat it…” Demonstrate hitting the “drums” for your baby to make a noise and give her plenty of encouragement to try it herself. This activity will help your baby develop a basic understanding of cause and effect, practice her developing hand-eye co-ordination and experience the different sounds that various objects make.
The easiest household item to use as rhythm sticks is a pair of wooden spoons (held by the scoop end). Another option is to fill two paper towel tubes (or tubes from plastic wrap/foil etc) with strips of newspaper and seal the ends with tape. If you’re feeling crafty, decorate them with paint, markers or stickers.
“Hit me with your rhythm sticks…” Rhythm sticks have been around since ancient times, when our ancestors sat around the fire tapping two sticks together. They are a simple percussion instrument that can be used to introduce beat keeping to your baby. If your baby has developed fairly good hand-eye co-ordination he will enjoy holding them himself. Otherwise you can play them with him hand over hand..
Fill small containers (ie. baby food containers, plastic bottles, yoghurt pots, baby bottles) with either sand, dried beans, rice, pebbles, pasta or popcorn (unpopped!) Use duct tape or glue to seal the containers – make sure that they are tightly shut!
“Shake it up, baby now…” Put on some music and shake along. If he’s new to the idea, show your baby how to shake it. He’ll feel very proud of himself once he masters the motion. It also encourages him to express himself rhythmically.
The simplest way to make a tambourine is to fill two paper plates with dry beans and tape them together tightly. If you have an older baby you might like to give her some crayons to decorate the plates.
For a more traditional sounding tambourine you will need to buy some bells from the dollar/craft store. Then simply cut out the middle of a paper plate and punch several holes around the outside of the plate. Thread a small piece of string through each hole and tie bells to the paper plate. Note! Please make sure that you supervise your baby closely with this tambourine in case the bells come off.
“Hey Mr Tambourine Man play a song for me…” There are so many ways to make music with a tambourine – shake it, bang it, tap it! Your baby will have lots of fun exploring and discovering this instrument.
Ok, so this one can’t be whipped up from a few household items. BUT there is an inexpensive option available to all smartphone/tablet users – a Xylophone App!
“Hear the silver tone of the xylophone…” Although an App can’t quite replace banging out a tune with mallets, it still introduces your baby to the concept of musical scales – the pitch of the notes going higher and lower in different directions. This will help develop your baby’s listening skills and sense of pitch.
Hang a metal cake rack on a string and strike with a metal spoon. You can also use a wire coat hanger. Bend the hook to make a loop (so it’s less dangerous) and tie a piece of strip in a loop to the hook, which serves as the handle. Strike with a metal spoon.
“And the old triangle, went jingle jangle…” Your baby will be fascinated by the high-pitched tone of the triangle. Hitting the rack or hanger with a spoon will help your baby develop his eye-hand co-ordination and gross motor skills.
I’ll be posting more articles on homemade instruments for those of you who enjoy a bit of craft, so keep an eye out.
So, what do they sound like?
As always, I’m happy to put my creations to the test. Have a listen to the audio clip below to see what the instruments sound like together in a simple rhythm. Thanks to hubby for recording it. (Though I’m not sure why he thought a funky tribal rhythm was the best option, but hey?)
What are you favourites?
I’d love to know what your bub likes to use for homemade instruments. I’m sure there are heaps of other great ideas out there, so please leave a comment below and share your ideas if you’ve got any tips!