Teachable Moments

DIY Music Activities for Child Development + Bonus Tips for Toy Organization

Importance of Instrument and Rhythm Play for Child Development

Music can be soothing or energizing. It can uplift your spirts and set your soul on fire.  There are so many benefits of music activities for children! Instrument play for children, ignites all areas of developmental growth. Listening to music, moving to music, and playing music all have brain benefits for child development.

Music activities for children activate the auditory, motor, self-appraisal, and emotional regulation areas of the brain, leading to increased brain development. The Southern California’s Brain and Creativity Institute describes that experiences with musical instruments sky rockets brain development in children. They found that this is particularly true in the developmental domains of language acquisition and reading skills. In addition, according to the National Association of Music Merchants Foundation, play with instruments is beneficial to children’s skills for mathematical learning.

Other ways instrument play sparks healthy child development….

Temporal Processing: Pattern and rhythm learning are important developmental milestones for young children. Experiencing rhythm nurtures temporal processing, which refers to the ability to understand auditory information.

Fine Motor Movements: Music activities for children require the use of fine-motor movements (movements involving the fingers and hands). Practicing fine-motor movements is an important stepping-stone that will eventually lead to children’s ability to hold a pencil and write.

Brain Alignment: Playing with musical instruments aligns the body and mind, inviting authentic action and creativity. It also helps to strengthen the corpus callosum, the bridge made of nerve fibers connecting the two brain hemispheres.

Creative Expression: Music’s essence is self-expression. Children love to express themselves in creative ways, it is how they begin to form a sense of self.

Memory: According to the Portland Chamber Orchestra, music activities for children can lead to beneficial changes in the brain. One such change is in the hippocampus, contributing to improved learning and memory.

Free Play: Having a basket of instruments available for music activities for children can be a great way to encourage your child to enjoy free play. Free play, in which children choose what they want to play and how they want to play, promotes many aspects of empowered child development. Free play does not include unsupervised time with electronics.

Benefits of free play…

• Encourages creativity and imagination
• Invites instances for the creation of ideas and motor planning
• Fosters decision making
• Nurtures independence
• Supports social skills and abilities for collaborative play
• Provides special time for children to discover their skills and interests

How to Keep Musical Instruments and Other Toys Organized

I have never known a child who thoroughly enjoyed cleaning and organizing (although I imagine such a child exists, somewhere). It can be a challenge for children to stop playing, let alone put away their play things and tidy up! This can be difficult for adults who, for the most part, have already learned to clean up after themselves and expect the same of their children. On the flip side, helping keep things organized with children present can be a struggle if you, as the caregiver, have a hard time keeping things organized yourself.

It is important to have an awareness that children will need to be reminded to clean up and put their toys back. This is absolutely developmentally appropriate. As a general guideline, it is extraordinarily helpful to have a designated spot for toys that is clearly labeled with both words and a picture. Having a label for toys is a beneficial tool for organizational purposes and for children’s budding love for literacy. The toys need to be put back in this spot every time.

Make it your priority to help your child do this by offering as many reminders as is necessary. If your child is expressing challenging behavior when you say it is time to clean up, start offering an earlier warning so he or she has time to finish up. This will also prime your child’s brain to be ready when it is time. This warning can be paired with a noise or music. For example, a 10 minute clean up warning can be given with a bell, a 5 minute warning can be offered with a triangle, and a final 2 minute warning can be signaled with the start of music. Alternatively, you can use a timer. Sand timers are a fun option to use because children can watch the sand moving to the bottom.

Get Creative! DIY Musical Instruments

The following are simple DIY ideas for instruments made with materials that can be found in most houses. These ideas invite creativity and opportunities to brainstorm with your child. You can make a game out of finding new things in the house or outdoors to make into a musical instrument. You can go on a nature walk and collect items that may make a fun sound.



The Kitchen

Creativity can start in the kitchen. Brainstorm different ways to use pots, pans, and utensils. You will be surprised at how magically musical an overturned bowl sounds when a beat is tapped with a wooden spoon. Experiment with all of the sounds that can be created in your enchanting kitchen orchestra.

The Body

The rhythm of life flows within us. Encourage your child to find new and unique ways to use the body to make music. Clap, stomp, snap, pop, and whistle. There are so many sounds that we can create.

This can be a fun game to play in the car. Before beginning the game set a rule that each person can only make up to 10 sounds per round (or whatever number you like). This will allow for the game to be ended easily when you are ready for some silence or music.

Using the body to make music is also a great strategy to employ if your child is having a challenging time waiting. Moving the body to create music is engaging and fun.


Practically anything can be used as a drum. Play around with empty disposable containers that once held items such as coffee, nuts, macaroons or whatever else you can find.

Musical Rain Sticks

Take toilet paper rolls, paper towel tubes or any other type of tube you have around the house. Put tape over one end, making sure it is sealed completely. Then you can pour any materials you have that you would like to experiment with. Some suggestions are beans, rice, small pebbles, buttons, wine corks, bottle caps, sand, and shells. Do not fill it completely, the sound comes from the materials moving around inside the tube. Once you have filled your stick, tape the other side and test it out!

If you would like to decorate the outside of your rain stick, you can cover it with white paper before or after and allow your child to be creative. Rain sticks are also fun for collaging projects. Offer some magazines or images to your child to paste onto the rain stick.

Movement Bells

Select a ribbon or string and tie a knot at one end. String on however many bells you would like and then tie another knot to keep them from sliding off the string. You can also use buttons, although the noise will be very different. This can then be tied onto your child’s wrist or ankle.

Rattles and Shakers

Almost any container can be used as a musical shaker when filled with rice, beans, or buttons. Plastic Easter eggs are wonderful because they fit easily in little hands. Yogurt tubs and metal canisters work well too.


Children and Music: Benefits of Music in Child Development

The Benefits of Preschool Music Lessons

Every Brain Needs Music – What Happens When the Brain Plays a Musical Instrument?

The Benefits of Music Education