I assume my son must have had a least a couple of rattles or shaky noise makers during his baby and toddler years. I don’t really remember them, though. What I do remember is the thing we created for him that quickly became his all-time favourite noise-maker. It was a pill bottle (with a child-proof lid) partially filled with dry, uncooked couscous.
Why did we pour dried couscous into a random Walgreen’s pill bottle for our one-year-old to play with? I have no idea. It must have seemed like a good idea at the time, and it was a good idea. He loved that thing. It was small enough to often get buried in the bottom of his toy bin only to bring him enormous delight the next time he happened upon it. It was the one thing I always made sure to toss into a bag for a road trip or an aeroplane ride or a doctor’s office waiting room. “Grab the couscous bottle,” my husband or I would say before walking out the door.
So when I happened upon this post on The Educators’ Spin On It, I recognised it for the genius it is. You do not need to buy fancy toy drums or colourful maracas to get your kids jammin’ to their own beat. You can make a whole bunch of them at home with stuff you already have that they’re going to love just as much. And they’ll look a little something like this:
All you need, author and educator Kim Vig writes, is:
Containers of varying shapes, sizes and materials. The sky is the limit here—empty water bottles, formula canisters, coffee tins, plastic tubs that once held your favourite blend of mixed nuts, reusable plastic containers from the local Chinese takeout restaurant. Anything durable enough to withstand powerful toddler grips.
Materials to put inside the containers to make different sounds when the “instruments” are shaken and rolled. Some ideas: Uncooked rice, short pasta noodles, beans, coins, a handful of loose Legos. Of course, the vast majority of those items are choking hazards, which is why you also need:
A way to seal the lids, either with hot glue or packing tape. (Even so, you shouldn’t fully trust your own sealing abilities; babies and toddlers should only play with these items when they’re being supervised by an adult.)
Colourful wrapping paper. This isn’t totally necessary, but it’s a nice touch.
After cleaning them out, Vig wrapped her partially filled containers with wrapping paper and then covered them completely with packing tape to seal the lid and prevent the paper from being ripped off in mere seconds. If the kids are old enough, they can also decorate the containers with stickers or markers for an extra-personal touch.
And now they’re ready to play some “music.” Hand over a wooden spoon to bang on the containers like drums, roll them on the ground at varying speeds to create different sounds and then grab one or two to shake to the beat during your next living room dance party.
Or just stack them up like blocks and knock them over to produce a cacophony of rattling, swishing and clanking. That’s fun, too.