Can you believe that Hispanic Heritage Month is almost here?
It’s celebrated every year from September 15th – October 15th and it’s a great time to connect, explore and enjoy the beauty and diversity of Hispanic cultures around the globe. For the past several years, I’ve been adding free items to my TPT store to share with teachers, parents and homeschoolers who want to have some hands-on fun as part of their HHM experience.
Here’s our most recent list of HHM freebies that share the culture and musical traditions of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Columbia, Cuba, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru, Puerto Rico and Spain.
We’re proud to be part of the Middle Eastern North Africa blog hop. Naturally we have a post about music, but make sure you check out all the other related posts (listed below) to learn more about this beautiful and culturally rich part of the world.
Crafting is a great hands-on way for kids to learn about world cultures, so our post shows you how to make a sistrum, a unique rattle that was used in the courts of the Pharoahs of ancient Egypt.
What is a Sistrum?
You can see images of sistrums in hieroglyphics found in the pyramids. A bit of study of the courts of the Pharoahs reveals that the sistrum was played mainly by women or priestesses and that it was played by moving it back and forth from side to side so that the metal bangles create a unique sound and distinctive rhythms. It was often part of ceremonial or the sacred/religious music of the time.
Make Your Own Sistrum From a Tree Branch
If you take a walk in a wooded area, it’s easy to find a tree branch that is shaped like the letter “Y”. You can use the branch “as is” or cut and sand it down, if you like.
Next, you’ll need a bit of floral wire or craft wire. Wrap it around one side of the Y, then add whatever bangles you may have. Below we have a post showing how to safely make bangles from bottlecaps, which is a fun recycling project. Instead – or in addition to bangles – you can also use things like beads, jingle bells or bits of jewelry to add to the bling of your sistrum. Be as creative as you like!
Playing A Sistrum
Although the traditional way to play a sistrum is to move it back and forth only, it’s a rattle so feel free to use it as a percussion instrument any way you like.
One of my favorite instruments to bring around to schools is a water drum made from a gourd. Kids and adults are often shocked when I pour water into one of the gourds and float the other on top to create the drum. Then they are amazing by the deep, resonant sound. But where did a unique and creative instrument like this come from? Interestingly enough, gourd water drums are found in both African cultures and in the indigenous cultures that inhabit present day Mexico and the Southwestern United States.
We caught up with a talented musician from Los Angeles named Christopher Garcia who not only plays them, but has thoroughly researched their background and shares these traditional instruments with audiences around the world.
And, at the end of this post, you’ll find our DIY water drum craft. Although our plastic water drum doesn’t sound exactly like the real thing, it does produce great drum sounds and is a fun way to encourage sensory play with water and sound.
Christopher Garcia – Teaching About Indigenous Meso American Instruments
Before Spanish Conquistadors arrived in present day Mexico and the Southwestern US, indigenous cultures such as the Yaqui were flourishing with rich music and cultural lives. Many of these indigenous groups trace their history to the civilizations of the Mayan and Aztec peoples. Beautiful and unusual instruments used in their music include the water drum, singing stones, unique flutes and a marimba made of turtle shells. Christopher details many of these unique instruments at his website below, but here you can see him playing the gourd water drum and the gourd water drum plus the turtle shell marimba and singing stones.
Turtle Shells, Singing Stones And a Wooden Drum
Make Your Own Version Of A Gourd Water Drum
We’ve done a whole post on taking various sized rounded plastic containers, floating them on the surface of the water and getting some of the same tones you’d hear on gourd water drums. You can get creative and try it yourself in a bucket, kiddie pool or basin of water, or check out that full post at the link below.
If you lived in ancient times or tribal days – what would you use to make music? You’d probably look around you for sticks, stones, bones or even seed pods that fell from trees! These would make excellent percussion and if you’re lucky enough to live in a tropical region, there are several trees that actually grow very cool seed pod rattles such as the pacay shaker seen on the colorful Peruvian cloth above. You can learn more about seed pod trees here or in the more detailed links below.
The Pacay “Ice Cream” Tree
Isn’t that a cool name for a tree? The tall and lovely pacay tree got this name because the soft white pulp between the seeds in the seed pods is delicious and a favorite among kids dating back to the Incan times in South America. In fact, the earliest story of this seed pod comes from when the Spanish invaded South America and the last Inca gave a basket of pacay seed pods to Pizzaro as a gift. Now grown as shade trees near coffee plantations in Peru, this giant 60 foot tree is also found throughout Central America and the beans (seeds) are eaten as well. In Mexico, the beans inside the seed pods are roasted and served on the streets as a snack!
The Flame or Flamboyant Tree
Although the seed pods to this tree appear similar to the pacay shakers, the trees they come from are really different. The flamboyant tree is native to Africa but found throughout tropical regions around the world. In some locations, such as Puerto Rico, it’s a beloved and iconic image seem in everything from photos to folk art!
The tree itself is ornamental, smaller in size, has fern-like leaves and bright, beautiful red flowers so it’s easy to see how it got it’s name. Although the seeds here are not edible, the seed pods still make nice natural percussion instruments to use as shakers.
How Do You Make A Seed Pod Shaker?
That’s a trick question – you don’t! They work as rattles directly from the tree. Well, when dried, of course. If you’re in an area where these trees grow you’ll probably find seed pods that have fallen and are hard, dry and brown in color. At that point, pick them up and shake them and they are instant rattles!
Will each seed pod sound the same? Try several and see for yourselves!
How Do You Play One?
Although this is a really basic and simple instrument, there are several ways to get different sounds from a seed pod rattle. Try any of these:
Rattle it back and forth or up and down.
Rattle it slowly then build up a crescendo.
Hold it in one hand and tap it against the other.
March or dance while shaking it, letting the beat become part of your movement or music!
Have you heard of World Oceans Day? Celebrated annually on June 8th, it’s an internationally recognized and celebrated day to learn, share, preserve and promote one of our most magnificent resources, the oceans and seas.
The World Oceans Days website (link below) is a wealth of information – including research on pollution, posters in 15 languages, and a variety of action steps that anyone can take to make a difference. Visit the site to learn how oceans regulate our climate, generate most of the oxygen we breathe, clean the water that we drink and so much more.
Want to combine your learning with a fun recycled music craft? Here’s a way you can reduce, reuse, recycle and make a great homemade drum that sounds remarkably like the sea!
What Is An Ocean Drum?
If you live near the sea or have visited an ocean, you know the wonderful, relaxing sound of waves coming and going along the seashore. An ocean drum is a 2 sided hand drum that – when played – sounds just like the surf. In fact, if you close your eyes, you can imagine you are right there on the beach, hearing the waves as they come and go.
Above is a picture of a traditional ocean drum.
Make Your Own Recycled Ocean Drum
Check your recycling bin. Do you have a sturdy pizza box or a mailing box with dimensions somewhat like the one seen here? If you do, you can fill the bottom of the box with sand, salt, seed beads or any tiny pasta (like acini de pepe). There’s also some great ways to create a window to the drum, decorate the outside and seal the box so the contents don’t escape and you can use it for weeks to come.
Ocean Drum Tutorial Free
Want a step-by-step tutorial plus other great info on this drum and world music instruments? Until June 16th, we’ve reduced the price of this great kids music resource to – free! (Note: If you read this post after June 16, 2017 and need a free educator’s copy, just contact daria at dariamusic at yahoo dot com for more info).
Cinco de Mayo is a wonderful time to learn more about Mexican history and culture. Making and playing simple instruments from Mexico is great fun for even the youngest child. Here are three easy music crafts that will let your little one try their hand at joining in the musical fun of this special holiday!
Make Some Maracas!
If you have two small water bottles and two toilet paper rolls, plus a bit of filling and tape, you can make a sturdy pair of great-sounding maracas. Basically, maracas are two rattles held by the handles and played with both hands. Imagine the fun you can have with music and with music and movement with these!
Professional maracas have different sounds in each of the containers and you can try that as well. You can fill your recycled instrument with combinations like beans and rice, paper clips and erasers or smaller and larger dried pasta pieces. That way the left and right maraca will make different sounds when shaken and you can create even more the rhythms with the pair!
Even if you don’t recognize the word “guiro”, you’ll know the sound right away! It’s the instrument that makes the “b-r-r-r-r-r-r” sound often heard in Latin American and Caribbean music. And it’s really fun for kids to play!
The sound is achieved by rubbing a stick, a scraper or a rasp over a series of ridges – and any plastic water bottle with firm ridges makes a fantastic guiro. Filling the water bottle with colorful shredded paper, confetti or similar items makes it even more fun to play. When I do this project with kids or classes, I like to use an unsharpened pencil attached to the bottle with colorful yarn as my scraper, but there are lots of other items you can use as well and each one produces a unique sound. Try whisks, hair picks, chopsticks or even plastic spoons, forks, or sporks for percussion play!
This is another creative project for discovering rhythms or developing fine motor skills. Castanets originally came from the European region of Spain and Portugal and some historians believe they were actually made from tapping together walnut shells before they were crafted out of wood.
Our recycled project doesn’t include nuts or carved wood. We create fun little workable castanets out of sturdy paper and buttons or various sizes. You make them in pairs and – you guessed it – each different set of buttons makes different sounds.
Playing suggestions? Get the hang of tapping them together and separately. Then play along to your favorite songs or try singing and tapping at the same time. Often played as part of the flamenco music tradition heard in Spain and in Mexico, you’ll be amazed at how a talented castanet player can use this tiny instrument as part of a breath-taking performance.
Here’s an example of a well-known flamenco dancer and castanet player named La Emi from Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Is Cinco de Mayo Mexican Independence Day (Spoiler Alert – No!)
In 2017, the Chinese Lunar New Year begins on January 28th and we welcome in the year of the fire rooster!
Over the past years, we’ve shared some of our favorite music crafts that are easy to make for all ages and use recycled and “on-hand” materials. This year we decided to do share our 3 most popular music crafts as well as share our favorite Chinese New Year Pinterest Board, so you can explore a world of great crafts, foods, books, games and activities and related Chinese New Year Kids activities.
So bang a gong, make a paper lantern,color a New Years greeting and celebrate a beautiful Chinese Lunar New Year!
A World Of Great Crafts And Activities – Via Pinterest!
I’m proud to be part of the Multicultural Kid Bloggers networks who hosts a Chinese New Year Pinterest board. Visit here for an ever-expanding collection of great crafts, activities, coloring pages, books, foods and more. Some of our favorite are the pretty paper lantern craft, fortune cookie activity, the Chinese zodiac matching cards and … so … much … more!
Many new parents – or tired parents – opt to stay home on New Year’s Eve and ring in the New Year with the kids! Even if you won’t stay up until midnight – you definitely need some fun noise-makers to mark the coming of a new year!
Here is a new New Year’s Eve project – big bottle shakers – as well as a list of favorite noise-making crafts from the past few years. Monkey drums and vuvuzelas, anyone?
Oh yes, and a very happy new year to all!
Big Bottle Shakers For New Year’s Eve!
Kids like to make lots of noise and these big rattles are perfect for safe and easy noise-makers. Start with a large recycled bottle (with a lid or cap) that’s clean and dry. Gallon milk jug containers and liter soft drink bottles work well for this craft.
Step One is to fill with whatever you have on hand. For louder rattles, add items like extra jingle bells, buttons, pebbles, dried macaroni or paper clips. For quieter rattles, add things like birdseed, sand, salt or sugar. Before you close the cap and seal the rattle, consider adding a bit of bling. Maybe some glitter that you have on-hand or some MYO confetti? (BTW, Our next post is MYO confetti – it’s messy but super simple!).
Step Two. Once you’ve filled your bottle with things that jingle and jangle, close the lid and seal with a sturdy tape, such as colorful electrical tape. This keeps the contents inside and makes the project more child safe.
Lastly; if you like, you can decorate the outside. You can add stickers, colorful tape or draw with permanent markers. You can also adorn the handle with streams of ribbon or yarn. This is a great way to recycle extra holiday wrapping and put it to a good use!
What else can you make? Check out these favorite posts from New Year’s Eves past.
If you’ve ever made a homemade tambourine or sistrum, you’ve probably wanted to use bangles like those seen on traditional middle eastern drums or instruments. Technically, these round thin mini-cymbals are called zils. You can see some lovely large zils on this antique tambourine from the Middle East.
If you’re crafting an instrument that uses these bangles, it’s easy to make a simple version of zils out of recycled bottle caps using a few tools that are handy around any home or garage.
What You Need
Metal bottle caps
Piece of Wood
Large nail with a head
Although this is a reasonably safe and easy project, it’s always a good idea to use caution. Wearing safety goggles means that your eyes and face are protected if you accidentally hit the cap too hard and it bounces off the wooden work surface. In general, a good tip for this project is to use the hammer slowly and gently, tapping repeatedly until you get the desired results.
Set Up A Work Area
Set the piece of wood down either on the floor, the ground or a sturdy table. Place the metal bottle cap (cap-side-up) and then position the large nail above it, directly in the center. Gently tap until the nail has pierced the cap and reached down into the wood. This creates the hole that will allow you to thread it onto whatever you are making.
Next, With cap-side-down, next gently strike all the edges of the bottle cap until it slowly flattens. This can take 15, 20 or more gentle taps with the hammer.
Next, turn the bottle cap over. Continue to tap the outer edges and the inner circle until all the sharp edges are flattened and pressed into the cap’s surface. Although some recycled projects use the bottle caps in their original form – such as the wooden sistrum from Africa seen below – flattening the bangles makes them safer to handle and use in any project.
If you’re doing this project with very small children, you might wish to create the bangles in advance and focus more on how the children can string the bangles plus other rattling objects onto their craft instrument.
Wondering what else you could add to a tambourine or sistrum project? In addition to bottle cap zils, you can add paper clips, buttons, jingles, beads or pull tabs from soda cans. Remember, while you’re reducing, reusing and recycling, you’re also teaching kids to limit their use of resources but never limit their imagination or creativity!
Autumn 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
Sistrums 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!
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 might 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.
Making 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!