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Instrument Spotlight: Rhythm Sticks

Mar 05, 2020

If you’ve been following along with our free music time videos on Facebook and YouTube, you’ve probably seen us pull out our rhythm sticks a few times! Rhythm sticks are some of our favorite instruments to use with little ones making music. They are simple and satisfying to play! 

Benefits of using rhythm sticks

  • Easy to hold
  • Simple and satisfying to play
  • Clear, distinct sound
  • Helps to engage an active child
  • Activates creativity by exploring many ways to play with them
  • Develops fine and gross motor skills
  • Develops hand-eye coordination
  • Works on sense of rhythm and steady beat
  • Develops body and spatial awareness

This instrument is perfect for 3-5 year old mini musicians! Some 1-2 year olds may be able to play rhythm sticks successfully too, especially if you get creative about how you play (with) them! These younger toddlers may do well playing one rhythm stick rather than two - tapping it against the floor, or against a parent’s stick, “stirring” with it, etc. 

Whatever age your child is, you’ll want to set up some clear rules about the sticks, modeling and discussing what is appropriate to do and not to do with them. (For example -- Yes! You can tap them on the rug. No! You may not tap them on the hard wood floor. Yes! You may tap them gently on your own body. No! You may not tap them on your brother.)

We’re sharing a few great rhythm stick songs/activities on today’s video. The first is a simple steady beat activity with Handel's "Water Music". Working on steady beat is something that you cannot do too much with young children! Steady beat is the foundation of their developing rhythmic sense, and studies have even connected steady beat skills with improved language skills. Rhythm sticks are especially great for steady beat practice, because of their crisp sound -- different from the less distinct sound you get when you shake a shaker or a bell. Besides tapping the sticks together, encourage your child to have fun finding other ways to create a steady beat with their sticks. Tap the floor, tap other objects, tap your shoulders, etc. For even more variation, change the volume - tap softly, tap loudly, etc.

The next is a song called "What Can I Do With My Sticks," that encourages some creative exploration with rhythm sticks. We are often surprised and delighted by the things that children come up with when we ask, “What else can you do with your sticks?” We won’t even list them here, because we know your child will have his own great ideas!

Finally, we jump in to a more challenging (but fun!) activity for older preschoolers. This one is called “beat vs. rhythm” and challenges children to learn the difference between keeping a steady, unchanging beat during a song, versus tapping the rhythm of the words themselves.  In the video we use a song everyone knows- the ABC song.

What else can you do with rhythm sticks? There is no limit! Try tapping them on objects made from different materials, and of all different sizes, to notice how the sound changes (pots and pans are fun for this!). Make up your own “stick choreography” to go with a favorite song (we like using sticks with “Wheels on the Bus”!). Use your sticks to create shapes, letters, etc.

Types of rhythm sticks:

Household objects -- A great place to start: use what you have! You can use wooden spoons, use markers or paint brushes, or any 2 stick-shaped objects that you can tap together

Wooden - Buy these, or make your own from a simple dowel, cut and sanded. We love the sound that is created by wooden sticks especially!

Plastic - lightweight, more likely to come in bright colors

Ridged edges - some sets come with both ridged, others have one stick ridged and the other smooth

If you'd like to see another video where we used rhythm sticks, check out this one.

If you liked the instruction in this video and would like more Clap for Classics! in your life and in your home, please check out our "Flight" themed at-home music course.  We think you'll love it!


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