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Shaking Instruments: Rattles

You can make different types of rattles -- meant for children of all ages -- with these easy ideas.

Shaking Instruments: Rattles

Crafty Clues

Make several rattles with different-sized beans or other small objects inside. See how they sound. Try different weight and size paper plates, too. Use two aluminum pie plates to get a different sound.

One of the earliest "instruments" most of us get a chance to play with is a rattle. Even a baby who can barely hold a rattle in his tiny hand can make noise and make everybody clap. (If we could just keep this attitude into adulthood, and forestall the development of performance anxiety, we'd be in great shape.) Simple shaking instruments can be made out of any variety of materials.

Project: Paper Plate Rattle

Level: Easy

Age: 5 and up

Materials needed: Two paper plates, some dried beans (about 1/2 cup), one paper towel tube, markers, crayons, rubber stamps and inks, paints, stickers, stapler, scissors


  1. Decorate the bottoms of both plates, the brighter, the better (makes the rattle sound better).

  2. Put the plates on top of one another, tops together, and staple around,leaving about an inch between each staple. Before you completelyclose the circle, put the beans inside, then finish stapling.

  3. Cut the paper towel tube to about six or seven inches, then make two 2-inch slits at one end opposite each other. Slide the plate rattlebetween the two slits and staple the handle to the rattle. You candecorate the handle, too, if you want.

  4. Try using this rattle to add rhythm to music someone else is making (recorded or live) or just make rhythms with it alone. Try starting withthe rhythm and adding a made-up song.

Bonding Experiences

Learn more about gourds and their uses in crafts. Gourds have been used by many ethnic groups throughout civilization for bowls, cups, drums, rattles, and lots of other useful things. Grow different kinds of gourds and experiment with them. Find out from your local nursery which ones grow best in your area and the things you need to do to grow them successfully.

Other rattles can be made using dried gourds. This summer, plant some gourds. Some may grow their own handles; others may need to have a stick pushed through and secured at the top and bottom for a handle. The dried seeds inside will make their own sound.

To make a rattle from papier-mâchè, blow up a balloonand tape it to the end of an empty toilet tissue tube. Tear up newspaper in 1 × 4-inch strips. Mix one cup of flour and one cup of water in a bowl to make a thin paste. Saturate the newspaper strips in the paste and layer over the balloon, smoothing them out as you go. Cover the tube, too, and don't forget to cover the end. Cover both balloon and tube with three to four layers of paste-saturated newspaper. Let the rattle dry and poke a hole through the rattle at one end. The balloon will pop and stay inside.

Add some dried beans or pebbles until you like the sound and paste a few more strips over the opening to seal. Decorate with bright colors using tempera paints.

Other shakers or rattles can be made from plastic milk jugs (keep the jug intact and put beans, pebbles, marbles, screws, nuts, seeds, rice, or whatever you can think of inside, screw on the cap, and use the handle to shake), small plastic food containers, metal molds or tins, oatmeal boxes, and coffee cans.

By encouraging your children to create these simple rhythm-makers, you will begin to instill an uninhibited appreciation of music.

For another instrument-building craft, check out Percussion Instruments.

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