A fun, educational activity for kids that combines music and environmental sustainability is more obtainable than you think. If this sounds like the type of weekend adventure that you and your family seek, homemade musical instruments are for you.
Besides, when children repurpose and upcycle used items that would otherwise head to the landfill, they’re engaging both sides of their brains—all while fueling the emotions needed to care for the planet.
Let’s jump in. Here are a handful of items you can salvage and turn into homemade musical instruments for hours of fun:
Toilet Paper Tubes
Keep a stockpile of cardboard tubes from empty toilet paper rolls for your young percussionists to craft shakers out of. To make, simply cap one end of the roll with a lid from an old vitamin bottle and secure it with electrical tape. Next, have your kids fill their shaker with dry beans, rice, whole coffee beans, unpopped popcorn, pennies, or a mixture of all. Variations could include using more (or less) filler or adding a cotton ball to soften the sound. Finally, top the loose end with another discarded vitamin bottle cap and again secure with electrical tape.
Let your children decorate their personalized sound machines with stickers, markers, and even (like we did) metallic spray paint!
Most people wouldn’t look at a paper plate and think “music,” but kids are known for their imagination and often see potential where others may see trash. Next time you notice your kids’ post-meal plates are dry and clean, hang onto them. With your help, have your kids use a hole punch to poke holes around the edges.
Then, grab a few jingle bells leftover from the holidays (or found at the dollar store) and thread pipe cleaners through the bells.
Finally, thread those same pipe cleaners through the holes around the edges of the plate, and voila! You have an instant tambourine.
Let your child decorate his new instrument with stickers and drawings to add visual interest to his musical masterpiece.
When we don’t have paper plates, my daughter has used lids from various food containers. Think oatmeal, yogurt, and coffee tin tops. It’s thrilling to experiment with materials, as each lid produces a slightly different sound.
Not all homemade musical instruments are of the percussion persuasion, of course. Craft a simple wind instrument to show your kids they really can compose their own personalized tune.
To get started, run soapy water through eight used straws to clean them out and allow them to air dry. I use the strong, fat straws leftover from our breakfast smoothies. Once dry, cut your straws (each one should be two centimeters shorter than the one before). Line the straws up side-by-side, and use clear tape to secure them together so that they are all even at one end. Before playing, have your kids first guess what will happen when they blow into the straws. Which end do they think will play a higher note, and why?
Once you’ve crafted a number of instruments, research the best songs to play together. The National Institutes of Health keeps an updated database of silly, wacky songs to help drive home healthy points. Have one child drum or shake along to the Silly Brushing Song while the other brushes her pearly whites. Or let your new little flutist serenade your morning family yoga routine.
Working music into daily rhythms benefits everyone in the family, and kids will be especially motivated to create sweet music if they crafted the instruments themselves from salvaged materials.
Share your pictures of instruments from recycled materials with us by tweeting your pictures (and song ideas!) to @TomsofMaine.
Image source: Bethany Johnson
This article was brought to you by Tom’s of Maine. The views and opinions expressed by the author do not reflect the position of Tom’s of Maine.
Why It’s Good
You want your kids to care about the environment. You also want to teach your kids to learn resourcefulness. And while you're at it, you'd love to instill a love for music, too. What activity can do all this? Crafting homemade musical instruments from recycled materials!