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Making Handmade Instruments

2015-01-16 by Julie Kieras
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These crafty ways for kids to make handmade instruments are shared by our Guest Blogger Julie Kieras of Happy Strong Home.

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We have a piano in our home. And as noisy as it gets, nothing is more thrilling to my heart than to hear my toddler and preschooler banging (gently!) on the keys and singing at full volume.

Watching my children develop their musical abilities brings me great joy. Music, whether played by the child or listened to, has a positive impact on a child’s development in literacy, math, social, and physical skills. Not to mention the creative aspect.

We do love our piano, but not everybody has one handy. Plus, sometimes I need them to play their music a little quieter (yes, that starts at such an early age!).

boy playing harmonica

Another way my kids satisfy their need for noisemaking is with their toy musical instruments. A band in a box is a handy way to introduce music-making to your kids.

If there aren’t enough musical instruments to go around, it’s easy to make handmade instruments of their own! We enjoy coming up with new “instruments” with found objects around the house.

Beyond the simple banging on pots and pans, here are a few ideas for handmade instruments:

Straw Pipes



Bind together 8-20 straws with colorful tape. Then use scissors to trim the ends off at varying lengths, tapering smaller and smaller as you go. Now you have a set of pipes. Show children how to blow across the pipes to create music.

Box Banjo

boy with handmade toy

Get a rectangular tissue box with the large opening and empty it out. Be sure to remove the plastic film sometimes over the opening. Let your child decorate the box with colored tape, markers, or stamps. Perhaps glue on a mosaic of torn paper strips. Or, kids could decorate with glitter stickers for a glam effect. Sometimes the tissue box is already pretty enough!

Then stretch three to four sturdy rubber bands around the box going up and down the longest side, making sure the bands stretch over the opening. Tape a ruler or paint stirrer to the back!

Strum away!

Shaker Stick


crafting instruments

boys making instruments

Decorate a paper towel tube: tape, stickers, markers. Seal off one end with a rubber band around a piece of wax paper, then secure further with packing tape. Take a foot-long sheet of aluminum foil and crumple it along the length, so you have a long wrinkly stick of foil. Insert this foil into the paper towel tube. Then add about a half cup of small items like dry beans or rice – parents will have to supervise young children with the small pieces. Seal off the other end of the tube securely.

Show your child how to shake the stick or turn it up and then down to hear the objects inside rattling against the foil. If your stick isn’t rattle-y enough add a second stick of foil.

Bongo Boxes


All you need are some cardboard blocks or boxes. Line and stack them up in a semi-circle and you have an instant bongo drum set! Let the beats begin!

Kids will love making instruments as much as they love to play them. Keep their handmade instruments with their wooden ones for a house of musical entertainment and learning!




Some ideas for musical play:

  • Play along to the beat of a song you play.
  • Play fast or slow.
  • Teach the instrument names, and have children identify each one you hold up.
  • Play musical chairs while one child plays their instrument.
  • Play the instrument with your back to the children and see who can shout out the correct instrument name first.

How does your child explore music? Share your comments below!

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Julie Kieras

Julie Kieras mothers two inquisitive boys with the support of her husband in the lovely four seasons of New England. She is often found at home interpreting toddler-speak, elbow deep in Play Dough, or behind the pages of a book. She blogs about her family life at HappyStrongHome.com.

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