Rhythm sticks are a must-have for a preschool program! As long as you have enough dexterity to get your two hands to come together in the same general area (a fantastic feat for very young ones) you can play this instrument! Use them as part of a percussion band, or for specific rhythm stick activities. They magically turn any chant or song into a fun phonological awareness building activity! You can have children tap and count, or tap parts of the body. Switch up old favorites, like, “If You’re Happy and You Know It” by adding the sticks (“If you’re happy….tap your toes”). Use them with tempo songs like Hap Palmer’s Slow and Fast, or practice beating rhythm patterns (floor, floor, together…) to incorporate both music and math concepts. Or simply explore the sounds you can make by tapping the floor, your shoes, a bell, or your other stick. Try to sound like the rain, builders, or anything else they bring to mind! They really are so simple, but their uses are essentially limitless. Every time I bring them out for music time, I have a room full of excited children with eyes beaming! In addition to their great musical and creative qualities, rhythm sticks are great for redirecting those children that just need to hit things together, or simply work out some energy.
You can buy rhythm sticks for a lot or a little, but if you’re pinching every penny (and who isn’t these days), or if you are susceptible to sudden flashes of inspiration, requiring that you must have these fantastic instruments for tomorrow’s activity and can’t possibly wait for shipping, you can make them yourself, quickly and inexpensively.
First off, go on down to your helpful hardware place like Home Depot, or a craft store, or even the old Wally Mart, and get wooden dowels. (I know for sure that the Depot sells carpentry-grade hardwood dowels, I can’t vouch for the others.) I used the 5/8″ size, which comes in a 48″ length for about $2. You’re going to cut them into 8″ lengths, so each dowel will make about 3 pairs of sticks. Now, when I say “you’re going to cut them”, I mean that very loosely. If you’re not so handy with a table saw, find a friend who is and who is nice enough to help you out. My husband happens to fit this criteria fully, and did my dirty work for me. You may even ask around at a hardware store or lumber yard and find that they do cuts for free or for a minimal fee. You can make your sticks longer if you like, but I don’t think I’d go much shorter. You can also get thicker dowels if you prefer. Maybe make a few different sizes and see how their sounds might differ!
After cutting the sticks, inspect the ends. You may need to do some sanding to make sure you don’t have any splinters or rough edges. If you’re lazy simple like I am, leave them natural. If you’re feeling a bit more ambitious, you can paint them or decorate them anyway you want.
So there you have it! In less than an afternoon, and for under $1 a pair, you have a class set of rhythm sticks! I’ve found that at the 8″ size they store very handily in an old plastic zipper case for a set of sheets I had bought, or you could easily use a shoe box or a small storage bin. So get your sticks ready, I guarantee you’ll get your mileage out of them!