Make Your Own Musical Instruments

  • Children icon Age: 0 to 8+
  • Clock icon Time: 1 hour+
  • Leaf icon Materials: various recycled and household objects and objects from nature
Humans, just like many of our animal friends, generate sounds to communicate. And, from the beginning of time, music has allowed us to communicate a wide range of things—ideas, emotions and even cultural heritage. Plus, making music provides kids with a form of creative self-expression from a very early age. And, music can be made anywhere with anything you can find in your outdoor or home space. Here are some of our favorite musical instruments kids can create using just what you have on hand:

The Guide

Shaker: Put rice in a recycled container, secure the lid, and shake! Experiment with different sizes of grains and containers and see what that does to the sound they make. 

Guitar: You’ll need a paper towel tube, a rectangular tissue box (if not, any rectangular cardboard box), rubber bands, scissors and tape. Trace a circle end of the paper towel tube onto one of the short sides of the tissue box. Cut out the circle. Stick the tube into the hole far enough that it will stay (use tape if necessary to hold it firmly.) Take five rubber bands and string wrap them around the tissue box so that they all lay across the hole where the tissues come out.

Drum: We know that kids come into the world as natural drummers so channel that energy into the creation of their very own DIY drum ...or even drum set! Use a variety of containers and then a variety of sticks to create different timbres and sounds.

Kazoo: You need a cardboard tube, wax paper, a couple rubber bands and something to use to poke holes in the tube. Cover one end of the tube with wax paper and secure it with a rubber band. Poke a few holes along the tube. Put your mouth to the open end and hum. A kazooist is born!

Xylophone: Use glasses, water, and a metal soup spoon to create an amazing art-meets-science musical experiment! You can use the same glasses but filled with different amounts of water, different glasses with the same amount of water, use different implements to hit the glasses with, the list goes on and on! (Add color for extra fun!)

A Musicalala? A struminator? A Zound? Think up an instrument and build it! Use recycled materials you have around the house, in the recycling, or maybe from the art center, and see how inspiration strikes! 

Sound Wall: Feeling crafty? Attach an assortment of kitchen and recycled materials (metal bowls, plastic containers, kitchen utensils) to a fence or secured piece of wood. Offer a stick or kitchen utensil and invite your child to explore the sounds they can make.

"Buzzmaker" (as seen in Lesson 4 of Tinkergarten Anywhere): Want to make a simple tool that makes a vibration that sounds like the buzzing of winged insects? You'll need to gather the following: a 3x5 notecard; a pencil or popsicle stick; tape or stapler; rubber band; and two pencil cap erasers. Then, follow these simple steps:
  1. Tape or staple the 3 inch edge of the note card to the center of the pencil. If taping, use just enough  to secure the edge to the pencil but not to wrap around the card (we want the card to be free to flutter).
  2. Tie the twine around one end of the pencil.
  3. Place eraser caps over the two ends of the pencil.
  4. Stretch the rubber band across the pencil/eraser caps, end to end. Go slowly and beware flying rubber bands during this step!
    1. Note: If your rubber bands are too small, you can cut the pencil down or use a popsicle stick instead.
  5. Draw stripes on the card to give it a more "winged" feel (optional).   
  6. Go outside and twirl! Be careful to give your buzzmaker plenty of space to fly (and not hit friends!). If the notecard comes off, just retape and keep going! [See a buzzmaker in action here!]

Want more activities like this? Try out our Bird Song DIY or our Hide and Sound DIY.

Why is this activity great for kids?

Using everyday objects to create musical instruments is a super way to support kids’ creativity and problem-solving skills. Music making is also a terrific way to help kids practice listening, turn-taking, sound-making and self-expression- all important components of communication.

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