Category Archives: Special Needs/Kids of All Abilities

28 Kids Crafts To Reuse Plastic Straws

drying strawsAre you trying to use less plastic?

I meet more and more parents who are striving to use less packaging and plastic products.  And it’s really encouraging to even see big companies – like Starbucks and the entire Marriott hotel chain – phasing out plastic straws altogether!  But even if you are the most recycling-conscious family, you’ve probably ended up with some of those pesky plastic straws and wondered what to do with them.

Instead of tossing them into the waste stream, here are a host of great activities that reuse these not-so-disposable items and are fun and productive kid’s crafts as well.

Clean Your Straws

If you’ve ended up with straws from juice, smoothies or soft drinks you can easily clean them off before you craft with them.  Rinse them in soapy water and let them stand them in a jar or glass for a few minutes (as seen above).  In no time at all, they’ll be clean and ready to be used in any of the crafts below!

Straw Rattles Completed On YellowA Quiet Rattle

We love this craft!  It is fun to make, also reuses plastic bottles and creates a quiet rattle that is never too loud, even when playing with bunches of friends!  And if the straws you’ve used are colorful, they make wonderful patterns of colors as you shake them along to music.

What To Do

Cut the straws into small lengths, anything the size of a small bead to about an inch long.  Cut them all the same length or mix up the sizes.  And if you have straw pieces left, they are perfect for the sensory bins listed below or even the friendship bracelets!

To create the rattle, simply allow your child to drop any number of their favorite colors and sizes into the plastic bottle.  When it looks and sounds perfect to your little one, put on the cap and seal with a sturdy electrical tape.  This keeps the contents inside the rattle and makes the end-product child-safe.

Note: while creating any of these crafts, make sure the small pieces of straws don’t go in a child’s mouth.

More Musical Straw Crafts!

josef playing straw zamponasPanpipes Made From Straws
http://www.tinytappingtoes.com/early-learning-with-music/make-your-own-simple-panpipes/

Use straws as the contents to a “Roly Poly” Thing
http://www.tinytappingtoes.com/babies-and-music/make-a-roly-poly-musical-thing/

Use straws as the contents to an ocean drum
http://www.tinytappingtoes.com/babies-and-music/make-an-ocean-drum-for-world-oceans-day/

maracas - back to schoolUse straws as the contents to a set of maracas
http://www.tinytappingtoes.com/uncategorized/an-easy-musical-craft-for-young-children-back-to-school-maracas/

Other Straw Crafts You’ll Love!

Sensory Bin With Straw Pieces – From Teaching Mama
https://teachingmama.org/plastic-straw-sensory-bin/

20 Assorted Drinking Straw Crafts For Kids- From Meraki Lane https://www.merakilane.com/20-drinking-straw-crafts-for-kids/

Simple Friendship Bracelets Made with Pipe cleaners and “Straw Beads” – From Kiwi Co – https://www.kiwico.com/diy/Arts-and-Crafts-Ideas/1/project/Straw-Bracelets/1169

More Crafty And Elegant Straw Bead Bracelets – Tutorial below and here’s hoping you reduce, reuse recycle and rock out with any of the crafts you’ve found here!

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Play Music On The Porch – This Saturday!

Porch day music iconWe’re excited to share news of a great new day and a great way to bring the family or community together – through music! Check out this guest post from the good folks at Play Music on the Porch Day.

What if for one day everything stopped…and we all just listened to the music?

Imagine, if you can, one day where the sounds of arguments and fighting are replaced with sounds of unity.

One day where those who normally build walls against each other, instead build bridges; note by note.  One day where common ground can be found regardless of your race, religion, culture or differences. For there is a sound that rises above it all.  One day where language is not a barrier. For, what is being communicated porchmusic pixtranscends our many different languages and each person feels in their heart what is understood by all.

A day where all can find shelter, unity and a greater understanding of each other. Where we can celebrate the diverse sounds our world holds.  Play Music on the Porch Day is offering a platform to do just that.  We believe everyone has their own unique sound, let the world hear it.

Join us and share your music and let yourself shine! Together we can light up the world with music!

Register to be added to the map:tinyurl.com/Register4PMOTPD and you can join this amazing group of people ready to make some great music on the 26th!

porch music map

Take A Nature Walk – Make An Instrument!

sistrums-sticksAutumn is such a great time to take a nature walk with your child!  Maybe you have a wooded backyard or a park nearby?  Or perhaps there is a natural area near your home where you can enjoy the changing seasons.

As you take a walk in nature, look for any stick or small branch that’s formed in the shape of a “Y”.   If you find one, you can take it home and make a wonderful little musical instrument that actually dates back to ancient Egypt.

What Is A Sistrum

sistrum-posterSistrums are rattles that are found all over the world.  This clever little percussion instrument starts with some sort of forked object and then has a string or wire running between the two forks. On the strings or wires are objects that rattle and clank, making a lovely noise when shook back and forth.  In ancient Egypt, sistrums was used as part of the Pharaoh’s court and can even be seen pictured in hieroglyphics!

Supplies

Small stick or branch
Sand paper (optional)
Sturdy twine or floral wire
Colorful yarn
Noise-making Objects – buttons, beads, jingles, paper clips,
Recycled noise-making objects – soda tabs, bottle caps, compressed bottle tops (our next post will show you how to make and use these safely to avoid sharp edges).

Start with the Stick!

Once you’ve found a sturdy stick or branch that’s shaped like the letter “Y”, you making-sistrums-peace-valleymight want to take a bit of sandpaper and sand down any rough edges.  Then take the sturdy twine or floral wire and secure it to one side of the “Y”.  Now add any of rattling objects and hold the wire in place without wrapping it on the other side.  Check to see if you like the sound it creates.  If you do, then wrap the wire or twine securely in place.  If not, experiment with adding or removing objects to get the sound you like.

Here’s a hint, less objects often make a more pleasing sound!

Add extra strings of noise-makers if you like.

wooden-sistrumMaking It Unique

After creating the noise-making part of the rattle, you may wish to decorate the handle or the sides with colorful yarn, woven bands, electrical tape or even painting or adding other decorations. This is a very open-ended project and you can be very creative with it!

Learn About The History Of The Sistrum

If you want to tie this project into a study of world cultures, you can check out the Ancient Instruments of the Middle East kids music mini-course.  Or simply have fun with the Egyptian coloring page.  Links and other resources are below.  Happy crafting and music-making!

Links and Resources

Free Coloring Page – Egyptian Sistrum  https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Color-An-Ancient-Egyptian-Rattle-The-Sistrum-2166721

Ancient Instruments of the Middle East  kids music mini-course https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Ancient-Instruments-From-The-Middle-East-Mini-Lesson-2127995

Free Doumbek (Middle Eastern Drum) Poster and Coloring Page https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Middle-Eastern-Drums-Doumbek-Background-Coloring-Page-2049118

Kaleidoscope Rattles

kaleidoscope rattle and shayHave you ever looked through a kaleidoscope to see an ever-changing array of beautiful colors?

Here’s a fun little rattle that creates a lovely flow of colors when it’s played. And it’s nice and quiet so it’s perfect for music-making with a large group of children or for kids who have noise sensitivity. It’s also one of our favorite projects for creating with kids on the autistic spectrum as it’s fun to make, easy to control and the sound is soothing and not harsh or abrupt.

Here’s what you need to make your own kaleidoscope rattles.

Supplies

Clear Recycled Plastic Bottles (like from water or juice) with a lid
Q-tips
Washable markers
Electric tape (for sealing the rattles)

What To Do

Clean and dry the plastic bottles thoroughly. You can do this easily by rinsing them out and placing them upside down in a regular glass or a jar.

Kaleidoscope Q tipsNext take the washable markers and color the tips of the Q-tips any color that you like.  Color as many as you like and drop them into the bottle.

Every so often, shake the bottle to see if you like the sound. The tone of the rattle will change each time you add another Q-tip to the container!

When you’re satisfied with the array of color and the sound of the rattle, put the lid on and seal it up with electrical tape to keep the contents inside.

Time To Play!

kaleidoscope tableShaking the rattle around in a circular motion displays a wonderful changing series of colors.  But since this is a rattle, you can play it any way you like. Shake it up and down, side to side or get up and dance with it!

Shake it along with a favorite song that you love to sing. Or play along to recorded music. Make several and compare the sounds as well as the colors as you enjoy your handiwork.

Have fun and keep making music!

Ocean Drum From A Pie Box – A Thanksgiving Music Craft

Ocean drum completeWho doesn’t love the soothing sound of the surf?  And who doesn’t have too many pie boxes around this time of year?

Combine those two things and you can have a handy, functional ocean drum made from a few materials found around your home.

What Is An Ocean Drum?

If you haven’t already fallen in love with an ocean drum, it’s a simple frame drum with small round objects between the two heads.  (You’ll get a chance to see and hear one below! ) When you tilt it from side to side, the little objects roll and the sound created is like waves lapping against the shore.  And even our craft version can create the relaxing and hypnotic effect of this quieting drum.

apple pie ocean drum suppliesGather A Few Supplies

Make sure you have a sturdy pie box, then look for whatever you have around your house that is small and round.  Almost any item will work, but objects like seed beads or round “acini de pepe” pasta will sound remarkably like the ocean.  Remember, the smaller and rounder the object, the more it will sound like the surf!

Then check your craft area for any supplies to decorate.  You can leave your pie box plain or feel free to make it unique by adding paint, stickers or other creative design ideas.  In the image at the top of this post, you can see that we painted the sides and added our favorite fishy stickers to keep with the ocean theme.

Add It In, Seal It Up!

ocean drum contents 1When you’ve completed your decoration, add your filling to the drum and see how it sounds.  The sound will change when you add more or less of what you’ve chosen to use, so adjust the contents until you’ve found the perfect sound for you.

Last, seal up with clear tape – packing tape works the best to keep all the tiny objects secure inside the box.

Check out the Real Thing… And A Sturdier Craft Version

Love this drum?  Here’s a short video of a real ocean drum demonstration.  And below is a link to a step-by-step tutorial for a sturdier version made with a packing box.  The larger size and the stronger cardboard make for a more resilient version of this enjoyable musical craft.

Special Kids and Adults And the Ocean Drum

This is one of our favorite crafts for creating with kids and adults of all abilities.  There are dozens of ways to personalize and play it, so these crafty oceans drums have been a bit hit when we are asked to do workshops with our special friends!

polka dot ocean drum kimbertonWe hope you love them, too!

Links and Resources

Ocean Drum Tutorial From The TeachersPayTeachers Site: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Ocean-Drum-Craft-1567951

Earth Day Craft E-Book With 10 Green Crafts (Including The Ocean Drum)  https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Reduce-Reuse-Recycle-Rock-Out-E-Book-With-10-Musical-Activities-653502

Turn a Milk Jug Into a Recycled Shekere

recycled shekeres in classDo you know the three R’s? Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.

How about the four “R’s”?   Reduce, Reuse, Recycle… and Rock Out! While you’re going greener and thinking about reducing or reusing plastic, here’s a fun way to turn large containers into child-size versions of African shekeres.

What’s a Shekere?

I wonder if shekeres were “original recycling projects”. Perhaps someone looked at dried gourds and decided they could be made into musical instruments. To do this, a netting of beads (called a skirt) was crafted around the gourd and small beads, seeds or shells were strung in the fiber to create the sound of the instrument. Most music historians believe the shekere began in West Africa but can now be found with variations in size, beadwork, shape and manner of playing throughout the African continent and around the world.

A Milk Jug Shekere

Since you probably have more plastic containers than cleaned and dried gourds, start by finding an empty milk jug, large water bottle or similar item from your recycling bin. Before you begin, make sure it fits nicely into your child’s hands.

Recycled shekere plus paper to beadBeading With Stickers or Markers

Doing intricate crafts like beading is great fun but takes practice and patience, plus motor skills that can be a difficult for small children. Here’s an easy alternative.

If your container is clear and clean, you can place stickers directly onto the plastic bottle or draw “beads” with markers, making colorful patterns or shapes. If there’s a label on the container, you can cut out a piece of poster board or construction paper to fit the container and lay the paper flat. This makes for easy “sticker beading” and a fun way to explore patterns, shapes and colors with your young child.

If you’re working with a classroom of kids or have a limited time to do this project, you can skip the aspect of trying to “bead” the shekere and allow the kids to simply decorate the outside of the container.

Sounding Good!

mini shekere for storeIn traditional shekeres, the sound comes from the beads or seeds rattling on the outside of the gourd. In our recycled version, we’ll need to add something inside the container to create the sound.   Here are some suggestions for a quieter recycled shekere: sand, salt, sugar, tiny pasta (like acini de pepi), seed beads, Q-tips and paper clips. Here are some fillings you can use to create a louder instrument: pebbles, dried pasta, dried beans, popcorn kernels, marbles or pennies.

Once you’ve filled your shekere and you like the sound it makes. Put the cap on and seal it into place with heavy duty tape to keep this project child-safe.

plastic shekereTime to Play

Although a shekere is a rattle, there’s a lot of different ways you can play it. Here are some playing suggestions:

Hold the handle and shake.

Hold both sides and rattle the contents back and forth.

Hold both sides and toss it gently while twisting it.

Hold it vertically and toss it gently from hand to hand.

Peru_Preschool_ShakureSit a short distance from a friend and toss it back and forth.

With a group of children, sit in a circle and toss it from child to child around the circle.

Try any of the above ideas while singing or while music is playing. Try to shake along to the beat.

Links and Resources

Hear A Shekere

http://www.dariamusic.com/shekere.php

Color a Shekere Online

http://www.dariamusic.com/color_Shekere.php

Bead an African Shekere

https://makingmulticulturalmusic.wordpress.com/2013/12/04/bead-your-own-african-shekere/

2 recycled smilk jug shekeresMake a Classroom Shekere (From A Gourd)

http://tinytappingtoes.wordpress.com/2013/08/05/easy-gourd-shekere-for-a-child-or-a-classroom/

An Alphabet Shekere Game

http://www.trueaimeducation.com/2012/10/guest-post-learning-letters-with-an-alphabet-shekere.html

Sekere.com – Beaded Sekeres from Master Craftswoman, Sara Fabunmi

http://www.sekere.com

Cultural Value of the Shekere, Article By Sara Fabunmi

https://makingmulticulturalmusic.wordpress.com/2011/10/25/the-cultural-value-of-the-sekere/

Make An Earth Day Nature Walk Rattle!

Earth Day Rattle Finished

Take a nature walk and make a musical instrument! Here’s an easy and fun way to recycle a plastic container and spend some quality time outside all at the same time!

Supplies

Clean plastic container (wide-mouthed plastic bottles work best)!

Small amount of sand (or salt or sugar)

Tape (to seal the rattle)

Find A Great Green Space

Can you connect with nature in your front or backyard? If so, head on out and enjoy. If not, there are always parks, play areas, nature sanctuaries and arboretums within a short distance from most homes. And even if you think you know your area, a quick internet search will probably turn up some new places to discover where you can have a picnic or snack, do a nature craft or simply enjoy the great outdoors!

Collect Your Treasures

Bring a small bucket or container to collect your treasures. As you walk, keep an eye out for interesting items such as acorns, nuts, leaves, seeds, seedpods or pinecones. You might come across a feather or small shells if walking by a lake or stream. You may find beautifully shaped rocks or pebbles or smooth sticks that you’d like to collect.

Earth Day Rattle ContentsIf you’re walking at a local park, there are often naturalists who can help you identify what you’ve found or tell you more about what you’ve just collected or discovered.

Make Your Rattle

Start each rattle by pouring in a small amount of sand (or salt or sugar). Then, carefully add each item you’ve chosen to the container. Although you can do this craft without the sand, it will add a soft whooshing sound and then each treasure you add to the bottle will appear and disappear into the sand as you shake the container.

Seal It Up!

Once you are finished, seal up your rattle with a sturdy tape, such as colorful duct tape or electrical tape. It adds a nice design element and keeps small hands from opening the lid and creating a safety hazard.

Play Along To Some Some Earth Day Music!

What does your rattle sound like? Is it soft or loud? Did a friend, sibling or parent make a rattle, too?  Do their rattles look and sound, alike or different?

You can explore all kinds of listening skills with these quiet rattles and they are perfect for paying along with your favorite music. If you’d like some green musical inspiration, play along to the Earth Day anthem on the video below or click the link below for a free download of “We’ve Got The Whole World In Our Hands”.

Links and Resources

Free song download - “We’ve Got The Whole World In Our Handshttp://www.dariamusic.com/earthday.php

14 World Music Instruments That Can Be Made From Recycled Materials https://makingmulticulturalmusic.wordpress.com/2012/04/10/14-world-music-instruments-that-can-be-made-from-recycled-materials/

A Child-Safe Version of Easter Shaker Eggs – Directions in English and Spanish

hands with shaker eggs

Nothing is more fun then playing with those cute little colorful plastic Easter eggs you find at this time of year.

But if you’ve ever tried to reuse them for musical “shaker eggs”, you’ve probably noticed how easily they break or come apart to reveal the tiny items inside that make the percussive sound. The small materials found inside could easily be eaten or become a safety concern for toddlers and young children.

Well, don’t give up on the idea of recycled Easter shaker eggs just yet.  Here’s instructions in Spanish and English on how to create simple hand-held shakers that won’t ever spill or open and can be a part of your family’s musical fun!  The easy step-by-step instructions can be found at the links below.

Still wondering what to do with those plastic egg shells?  We also love this PBS parents post from Salsa Pie that adds two plastic spoons to recycle them into a much safer set of egg maracas.

Make Your Own Recycled Shaker Eggs
http://www.tinytappingtoes.com/babies-and-music/make-your-own-recycled-shaker-eggs/

Haz Tus Propios Huevos Sonajeros Reciclados
https://creciendoconmusicblog.wordpress.com/2013/08/13/haz-tus-propios-huevos-sonajeros-reciclados/

Egg Music Shakers From Salsa Pie (Via PBS Parents)
http://www.pbs.org/parents/crafts-for-kids/egg-music-makers/

Best Instruments For Young Children – A “Play By The Numbers” Dulcimer!

can and picks yellowThis simple and satisfying “first instrument” is a lot of fun and  introduces any child or grown-up to the basic skills needed to play any fretted, stringed instrument such as the guitar, ukulele or mandolin.

Play For A Child, With A Child, Or Let The Child Play!

Learning an instrument with a child is a great way to teach them about the learning process.  It can be helpful for a child to see that every person continues to learn throughout their lifetime and how that process works.  Watching you try to play and struggle a bit, then persist, and succeed teaches persistence, patience and determination.  Learning a simple instrument – even with the ups and downs involved – is a great way to bond with a child while building musical skills at the same time!

josef and dulcimerPlay By Numbers

Play-By-Numbers song sheets for the tin can dulcimer or any dulcimer are just as easy as they sound.   Each number corresponds to a “fret”, one of the long spaces you’ll find on the fretboard of your instrument.  To play, push down gently but firmly at the center of each fret and then strum or pluck the string with the other hand.

If the songbook says 2, then press the 2nd fret in the middle and strum until you get a good sound.  Get the picture?  And if you see a “0”, that simply means to pluck or strum the instrument without holding down any fret.

Play By Numbers Songs

Want to start with an easy song?  How about “Mary Had A Little Lamb”?

5   4   3   4   4   5   5    5             4   4   4        5   7   7
Mary Had A little Lamb, Little Lamb, Little Lamb

5   4   3   4           5   5    5
Mary Had A little Lamb,

5        4      4           5      4     3
It’s fleece was white as snow

“Happy Birthday” By The Numbers

Here’s “Happy Birthday” on the Appalachian lap dulcimer.  Numbers for both “Happy Birthday” and “Feliz Cumpleaños”, a Spanish version of that song, are below.

0               1      0      3   2        0           1   0          4    3
Happy Birthday to you.  Happy Birthday to you.

0              7    5          3       2      1                         6     5        3         4     3
Happy Birthday, dear (add their name), Happy Birthday to you.

0             1  0   3  2      0      1   0    4  3
Cumpleaños feliz, te deseamos a ti.

0               7 5  3  2  1   6     5   3  4      3
Cumpleaños felizes, te deseamos a ti.

Have any questions about these instruments?  These are two instruments I really enjoy playing so I’d be happy to answer your questions.  Drop me a line in the comments section below.

Links And Resources

Post On The Tin Can Dulcimer
http://www.tinytappingtoes.com/classroom-music/best-first-instruments-for-kids-a-tin-can-dulcimer/

Hear A Dulcimer   
http://www.dariamusic.com/dulcimer.php
Hear A Dulcimer Song   
http://www.dariamusic.com/dulcimer.php
Color A Dulcimer (Online)  
http://www.dariamusic.com/color_Dulcimer.php

Musical Water Play – A MYO Gourd-Style Water Drum

ghana water drumHow often can you imagine someone saying: “Now it’s time to pour water into our drum”.   Although it might seem unusual, at least two cultures from around the globe have discovered that you can make an amazing  drum by overturning a gourd and playing it while it rests gently upon the surface of the water.   In fact, the sound is so deep and resonant that there are claims it can be heard for miles!

Playing water gourd drumDon’t have dried gourds from Ghana or a time machine to travel back to Mayan days and play a bubulek water drum?  No worries. In fact, here’s a simple version of this instrument that also works wonderfully as outdoor water play for kids.  It’s a good way to combine messy or wet play with creativity and music!

Gather A Few Supplies

First you’ll need a shallow container to hold the water. We’ve used a plastic “under-the-bed” storage container box, but a kiddie pool or similar container will also work perfectly.  It helps to have a jug for water so you can vary the amount of water used beneath your “drum”.  Then you need the floating “gourds”.  Circular materials plastic water drumitems (like sturdy round mixing bowls) work best but explore whatever you have that will stay afloat when placed up-side-down in the water. You might be surprised at what sounds each different item will create when tapped or touched.

Lastly, you might want to have a few beaters such as unsharpened pencils, chopsticks or wooden spoons. Then it’s just a matter of pouring and playing away.

Play Gently

With this drum, like many others, less is more.  If you like, start by tapping your “gourd” with the tips of your fingers and see what sounds are created.  Try quietly rapping the plastic water drum playingtop and the sides.  Add a pencil or a beater and see if the sound changes.  Add a different container and play two or three together for different sounds or sound combinations.

Getting Serious?

If you take a look at the video below you can see the musician is doing a few different things. He’s knocking on the top of the gourd (like you might knock at a door), tapping and rapping and creating some really neat patterns. He’s playing an actual “jicara de agua” water drum from Mexico, but the same techniques work perfectly on any homemade drum.

You can use this video for inspiration or create your very own unique way to play.

What will your water play sound like today?