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Build a rainstick

This is a South American or African instrument which amazingly mimics the sound of a tropical downpour. It can be very effective for creating a tropical atmosphere at the beginning of a story. Traditionally, rain sticks are made from the wood skeleton of a cactus. First, the thorns are pulled off and pushed back through the soft flesh of the cactus. Then the cactus is left in the sun to dry—with the thorns on the inside. Later, the hollow cactus is filled with beans, seeds, beads, or small stones, and the ends are sealed with pieces of wood. When tilted, the seeds cascade through the tube, bouncing off the cross-spokes creating a sound remarkably like rain- both realistic and musical. Here’s a version you can make at school / home.


2 or 3 paper towel tubes
100 or so round toothpicks
masking tape
paper or plastic wrap
          multicolour rubber bands
wooden ice lolly sticks
¾ to 1 cup lentils
Markers, paints, crayons, yarn, ribbon, glitter etc

Tape tubes together to make one long tube. Reinforce joints with a couple of ice lolly sticks, taping securely. Decorate tube with markers, paint, etc. as desired. Cover one end of tube with plastic wrap or paper held in place by rubber bands or masking tape. Use a drawing-pin to poke holes in the tube. Start at one end, spacing holes 1/2 inch to 1 inch apart, spiraling up to the other end of the tube.

Blunt one end of toothpick by pressing points on table. Insert pointy end through pin hole and press into tube as far as it will go. Repeat this process for the entire length of the tube.

Remember, the more toothpicks, the more convincing the rain sound. Pour in the lentils and cover the open end of tube with plastic wrap or paper and secure with tape or rubber bands. Experiment with different tubes and fillings to change the sound.

Make Recycled Musical Instruments

You could make your own percussion instruments from empty containers by filling them with small particles such as little stones or old shirt buttons, and then secure the contents by securing some paper over the opening.

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