Homemade Instruments 
by Nancy Stewart
(206) 232-1078

Here are some musical instruments you can make
with your child from everyday item
Click HERE for Song of the Month to use with these instruments
and HERE for even MORE songs!

Plastic Egg Shakers  

Materials :

  • plastic Easter eggs

  • filling - rice and barley are recommended, but you can also fill different eggs with different things and have children compare sounds

  • hot glue gun, and hot glue

Put a couple of tablespoons (you can experiment with sound before sealing) of rice or other filling in bottom half of egg. Run a bead of hot glue along the inside edge of the TOP of the egg. Carefully place top on and check to be sure it’s on straight and tight.

Comments: The larger size egg is fun, but if you use eggs the size of real eggs, you can store them in egg cartons painted to match the egg colors, and children can sort them when putting them away.

Paper Mache Fruit Shakers 


  • vegetable spray or cooking oil

  • pieces of fruit

  • newspaper torn in to small pieces

  • large tray to catch mess

  • paste made of 3 parts water to 1 part white glue

  • acrylic paints and clear finish material (water-based Polyurethane is recommended)

  • paint brushes

  • disposable gloves (optional, but very nice to have!)

Put a thin coating of vegetable spray or oil on piece of fruit. Dip pieces of newspaper in glue or starch, removing excess by pulling paper between fingers. Completely cover fruit with several layers of newspaper. Allow to dry for a couple of days. Cut fruit in half with a serrated knife, and remove fruit and skin. Discard or compost. Put rice other filler in paper fruit, and use small amount of masking tape to seal halves together. Repeat with several more layers of glue-dipped newspaper, and again allow to dry. You can lightly sand any rough edges before painting. Paint with appropriate fruit colors, and seal with Polyurethane.

Comments: find songs that mention the fruits you are using, and fruit can be played every time that fruit is mentioned. example: I Like to Eat Apples and Bananas (traditional, can be found on Raffi recording), and Mango Fandango ( can be found on Rhythm of the Rocks, by MaryLee and Nancy, available in our Online Shop), and of course, Shake, Shake, Shake Your Apples, the September 2002 Song of the Month!

"Sand Blocks"



These "sand blocks" are made from inexpensive "swimming noodles," which are available just about everywhere now for a couple of dollars. They are brightly-colored 6 ft long pieces of foam used for flotation. In my town they are even available at the supermarket and drug store! If you can't find these (because it's not summer where you are, or they just aren't available where you live), you can use the gray foam pipe insulation tubes available at hardware stores. Not as colorful, but fully functional and still inexpensive.

Instructions :
To cut the noodles, you can use anything from a saw to a utility knife. The best tool is
an electric knife. It makes a clean cut and you can make 30 pairs of blocks in just a few
minutes! Be aware that if you use a saw, you will have rough pill-y edges which will
shed for a while as the children are playing them. So if you have a choice between a
saw and a utility knife, a utility knife makes a cleaner cut. Just be very careful, and you
might want to mark a circle around the noodle before cutting, since the knife won't go
all the way through.

So, once you have selected your cutting tool...
Cut the noodles in about 3-4" pieces, then cut each piece in half lengthwise. When
children rub them together they make a wonderful sand block sound. And when they
"clap" them, as children will inevitably do, they will make a very nice (quiet!) muffled
clap, unlike wooden sand blocks that are very hard on the ears! Also, they won't cause
injury when thrown ( another inevitable occurrence when working with young children!).

They are washable, inexpensive, colorful, and musical! What more could you want? I
use them with train songs and any song that has wheels, as you can rub them around
in circles. When playing train songs, you can make a train and walk around the room
while playing.

Jingle Sticks 

Materials :

  • six metal bottle caps for each stick

  • six inch dowels or sticks

  • common nails, approx. 1 3/4" long

  • one nail larger in diameter, to use to punch holes in bottle caps

  • Polyurethane or other clear finish

  • optional: different colored electrical tape, and permanent black marker

Instructions :
Coat dowels with 2 coats of polyurethane, and allow to dry.Using larger nail, hammer holes in the centers of the bottle caps.Using common nails, hammer 3 sets of 2 bottle caps each along one side of the dowel, leaving enough dowel for handle.If desired, decorate handle end of dowel with bands of electrical tape, and draw design on tape with maker


African Tambourine  

Materials :

  • jar to set balloon in while forming paper mache

  • 12" balloon

  • masking or other tape

  • awl or ice pick for punching holes

  • hot glue and glue gun

  • newspaper torn into 1" strips

  • white glue and water mixture (1 part glue to 3 parts water)

  • acrylic paint

  • 1 3/4" wide cloth or duct tape (vinyl or electrical tape won’t stick well)

  • yarn or string

  • cowry shells, buttons, or beads ( shell necklace is less expensive than individual shells)

Instructions :
Blow up balloon to about 2/3 full size (this is arbitrary). Set the balloon in jar, and lightly tape it to keep it from rolling around. Dip strips of newspaper in glue and water mixture, and pull off excess by running paper through fingers. Cover top half of balloon with several layers of newspaper, and allow to dry for 2 days. When paper mache is dry, remove balloon from jar, and pop it.Using scissors, cut an even edge around the bottom so you have a bowl shape. Fold cloth or duct tape over the cut edge of the bowl.
Using an awl or an ice pick, punch holes all around the bowl, just below the cloth tape, and a couple of inches apart.Thread yarn or string through the holes, and attach shells or buttons on the outside of the bowl, allowing them to hang loosely making a sound when the tambourine is moved back and forth.

Comments: to play the tambourine, hold it in both hands, with fingers up, and twist wrists back and forth. Once you have mastered this, you can gently toss it while twisting your wrists.

Juice Can Shakers  

These are fun ethnic-looking shakers– very easy to make!
Juice cans with paper labels (Dole Pineapple is the only one I have found, but you may find others).
Duct tape
Waxed paper
Rice or other similar filling
Hot glue
Electrical tape in different colors (available from hardware stores for under $2 )

Drink the juice, remove the paper labels and pull tab, and wash and dry the cans. Put a small amount of rice in each can. You can hold your finger over the top and shake it, to see if it seems like the right amount. Place a strip of duct tape on waxed paper ( the waxed paper us just to act as a backing for the tape while you cut it). Trace a circle using the bottom of the can, and cut out enough duct tape circle to have one for each can. Peel the waxed paper off, and carefully apple the tape over the top of each can. Then make a ring of hot glue around the edge of the duct tape to further seal the top. Lastly, put one piece of electrical tape around the middle of each can. If you use all four colors, red, blue, yellow, and green, and have 12 cans, you will end up with 3 cans of each color. You can then use the songs to learn colors in Spanish (or other languages), such as Tocan Las Maracas (on Rhythm of the Rocks CD), or try using some of the egg-shaking songs.


Jingle Bracelets  


  • elastic ponytail holders or Chinese jump rope (one jump rope will make 7 jingle bracelets)

  • elasticized gold thread

  • scissors

  • jingle bells (available by the handful at craft and fabric stores, or on cards at variety stores)

If using Chinese jump rope, cut into seven inch lengths, and form form bracelets by tying ends in a knot.
Using elasticized thread, tie 4 jingle bells on each bracelet, Space them equally around the bracelet.

Comments: Songs which use hand movements are quite fun when using these bracelets. examples: Tingalayo (can be found on Raffi recording), and A Rum Sum Sum (can be found on Rhythm of the Rocks, by MaryLee and Nancy)


Quilting Hoop Drum 

Materials :

  • 14" quilting hoop (available at craft and fabric stores)

  • white glue

  • heat-shrink nylon fabric (sold at airplane supply stores- you can order from
    Aircraft Spruce & Specialty Co. PH. 1-877-477-7823.
    Specify item # 09-00500. One yard of fabric will be enough for 8 14" drums, and is under $4 a yard).

  • clear polyurethane and brush to apply it

  • acrylic paint or permanent markers for making design on drum

  • wooden dowel

  • wooden ball with pre-drilled hole the same size diameter as the dowel

Cut a 17" square of dacron. Spread a bead of glue on opposing faces of the two hoops. Place the inner hoop on a flat surface and overlay the fabric square so that the sides overhang evenly. Loosen the nut on the outer hoop so you can spread it enough to fit it over the inner hoop. Tighten the wing nut as you adjust the fabric, working out any wrinkle and puckers. Let glue dry. Heat-shrink the fabric by running an iron at the nylon setting repeatedly over the fabric. (each drum will tighten a little differently and have a slightly different sound).Trim the excess fabric with an exacto knife. Paint a design on the drum, if desired, and finish by sealing all surfaces with a coating of clear polyurethane.

Make the drumstick by cutting a dowel in 8" piece. Glue small wooden ball on the end.