“Today, let’s make something together!”
This is what we say at the start of every Yo Re Mi class. It’s an invitation to imagine. Our classes sometimes venture into far-flung territory, because we use everyone’s ideas to create our adventures. As a result, the children have incredible ownership of the class, and can’t wait to share it with others.
Like great works of art,the greatest learning and discovery come from unique circumstances. But as parents or caregivers in these stressful times, we might be less inclined to “make something together” than to just “make it work.”
How on earth can we be creative, when the worries, anxieties, and pressures of parenting through COVID-19, systemic racism, financial worries, and the immersive political climate are stacked high around us?
We have to lower the bar. And when I say that, I mean: take the pressure off and start simple.
In our house, we love to sing, and our six year-old loves playing percussion. He’s gotten pretty good at making a drum out of anything. It turns out that everything is drummable, and you don’t have to have it all figured out before you start making. It’s an adventure.
Since every family and every class is unique, who knows what discoveries and creations will be revealed during this unique time together.Provide safe and open-ended materials, and let the budding innovators take it from there. Here are several ideas for DIY, fun and easy musical instruments that you can make anywhere!
1. Find These 5 Musical Instruments in Nature (and more!)
Take a mindful walk out in nature for not only peace of mind, but a plethora of musical instrument choices! A recent nature hike turned up the following items:
Small rocks and gravel
Perhaps you find two sticks around the same size, and start to tap on a big rock. Does scratching sound different than tapping? Tap your name, maybe letter-by-letter. Create a rhythmic pattern of taps and scratches that you can repeat. Perhaps it becomes a sing-along or story song; try a familiar tune or make one up yourself:
Take up a fistful of small stones or acorns and cup them between two hands. Move your hands to hear the stones bouncing against each other. Try different movements and hear the different sounds.
Seed pods make great maracas! Every fall in Brooklyn, I look for the Honey Locust seed pods that fall in Prospect Park. These have the greatest sound! Any seed pods - long or short, round or skinny, will make a super rattle. If they’ve just fallen, you may have to dry them out for a day or two to hear the sound
Consider shaking your seed pod shaker while you try Tree Pose below!
2. Create DIY Musical Instruments From Your Kitchen
Sometimes a rainy day can feel like limiting factor — what will we do INSIDE, ALL DAY!?
Of course, you can watch your favorite Yo Re Mi adventures to help break up the time - but how about celebrating the terrific feeling of “making something out of nothing?”
How to make a DIY Drum Set from Kitchen Items
Step into the kitchen and look for safe, non-breakable items that might make a great DIY drum set for kids (nothing glass, breakable, or of sentimental value). Some ideas include:
Plastic food containers
Ceramics that don’t scratch or crack easily (mugs or bowls)
Grab a set of chopsticks and let the fun begin. It is not unusual for this activity to last for 30-45 minutes at our house!
How to make a “kitchen shaker”
If you’d like to expand your kitchen band beyond drumming, add FOOD to the mix to make it even more interesting. Take a small plastic container (yogurt cups with lids work great) and add some small dry cooking ingredients.
Some suggestions for food materials are long grain rice and dried beans and popcorn kernels. We stay away from nuts, chocolate chips, and seeds because there is more likelihood of this project becoming an EATING project instead of a music-instrument making project!
This kind of “kitchen shaker” can be taped up to stay closed, as children will throw and drop them. It’s also interesting to try different shakers with a combination of ingredients, or seeing how different ingredients sound in different containers.
Use your shakers with our shaker song below for some kitchen instrument fun.
You can also try these kids sing-along songs in Spanish that use percussive elements popular in Latin music, like shakers! Here’s one of the sing-along songs included in that series, below — you can find the entire Sing in Spanish series on the Yo Re Mi App.
Watch the Sing in Spanish Series on the App
3. Make Your Homemade Musical Instrument an Arts & Crafts Project
Have spare balloons from your last birthday party? Instead of using kitchen containers for shakers, place some materials into a deflated balloon. Then, blow it up and tie it closed. The balloon blowing can provide a moment to practice breathing exercises together, and you now have a large maraca with a booming sound!
My favorite summer camp project from several years of instrument making is a simple coffee can drum. To start, you need two new, deflated balloons and a coffee can or similar cylinder (you can use a regular sized tin can - great for small hands - but not as impressive a sound as a coffee can)
With a can opener, cut the bottom off the can so you have two open ends.
Using scissors, snip the skinny part of the balloons off, about one inch down.
Stretch the cut balloon around the rim of the cylinder, creating a drum head.
Repeat on the other end with the second balloon.
Decorate your can with paper, markers and crayons!
**note: some children will experiment with taking the balloons off, and adding materials like beans and rice inside the drum. This is a wonderful exploration, just be sure to do this before you decorate your drum!
Need more ideas?
Everyone’s an expert at something. Should you ever search online for tips on “how to make a trumpet out of a cucumber” you will learn that people have been inspired by an exciting group called the Vegetable Orchestra to make instruments. Here’s one fan’s Cucumber Trumpet:
How to Create a Lasting Effect
Like a yoga class, or a bad mood, or a rainbow, all these musical instruments are temporary. Making them can be a fun adventure, without putting any pressure on anyone.
Activities like these are a terrific way to build some collaboration into your at-home family time. And, increasing that vocabulary can have a terrific effect.
Think about including more of that inventive spirit as you work from home, learn from home, or find yourself wondering, “how can I change things up today?” A quick, momentary leap into instrument making might be a fun start. Take good care of yourselves and each other!
Save this article for later and don’t forget to download the Yo Re Mi app for children’s mindfulness and musical yoga videos.
About the Author
About the Author
Dan Costello is a professional musician, music educator and certified Children's Yoga Instructor (KAY), specializing in early and elementary education. A music teacher for ten years, Dan developed music education curriculum combining movement-based activities, joyful sing-alongs, and songwriting. Dan plays piano, guitar, clarinet, drums, ukulele, and just about anything he can find. He plays in bands and writes songs for children and adults. His favorite songs are the ones we sing together.
About the Author
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