How does all this banging and shaking help? Toddlers and percussion

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Have you ever left your child alone for a brief moment only to find she’s pulled out the pots and pans to bang away on them? Or perhaps your child literally dances to the beat of his own drum that he’s made out of a box? Mine have! But there are great reasons for it and benefits from doing it. Toddlers have an innate drumming ability. And it’s one of the easiest instrument types for them to explore at such a young age. Rhythmic music and drumming have been the foundation of music since before written history. It’s a universal language! You see pictures of it on the walls of caves and still see it as fundamental to popular music. We are born with an appreciation for percussion. And listening to and performing percussion actually helps your child’s brain and body development.


We know that music has so many benefits for the brain. Scientists have been studying the benefits of listening to rhythmic music and actually drumming. It affects both the body and mind in its own unique way that other musical instruments and genres do not. And it teaches children about the world around them.

It helps your toddler’s physical development

Scientists have found that we have a physical reaction to rhythmic music. You know how it’s hard not to quietly bop along to a song with a good beat. But did you know that drumming increases your heart rate and blood flow? If you direct children to pay attention to how they feel while listening to music that has a good beat, they begin to learn about their bodies and how music makes them feel. Additionally when they’re drumming, they use their entire little bodies. Many toddlers will lean into each beat as they play it. Almost throwing their bodies toward the drums or along with their shaker. They begin to understand the rhythm of their hearts and breath, and how it’s necessary for their well being. And you can encourage fine motor movement by playing a quiet drumming game where you use just your finger tips. This will engage and strengthen their wrists and elbows, along with their fingers – control and strength that they need later when they begin to write.

It helps the toddler brain

In addition to the physical effects of percussion, scientists love to study the effects of music on the brain and how it might affect development. We’ve been drumming for thousands and thousands of years. So what benefits does it have for us, if any?  Well, we know that the right side of the brain controls the left side and vice versa. Drumming engages both sides of the brain. It helps create and deepen neural pathways. And it helps your child form a deep understanding of rhythmic patterns that will help them with other instruments and math. Additionally, drumming allows your child’s brain to learn how to focus and concentrate on one thing. Another skill they’ll need once they enter into school. So maybe we’ve kept drumming because we’ve somehow, inherently knew that it makes us smarter.  Here’s a quick, fun little overview video of what drumming does to the brain.



It helps them understand their world

But studying the effects of drumming isn’t just for the scientist – it’s for your toddler too! Through all this banging and shaking of their instruments they develop their understanding of materials and sound. They can observe, like the little scientists that they are, that each material has a different sound. They may not be able to put the words to it to explain what they’re noticing, but you can help them. By saying things such as “You’re right, the wood sounds different than the metal when you hit it.” Through their interaction and your feedback they’re learning about the physical world. You can also show them with metal percussion instruments what vibration looks and sounds like and what happens when you stop it. These are their first steps in physical science – all presented in a fun and playful way!

So what instruments do toddlers play at My Little Conservatory?

While in class at My Little Conservatory, we guide your toddler in learning how to bang and shake to the rhythm of the music we play. Here are some of the instruments they’ll be able to explore through the various levels in our studio:

  • Shakers -Maracas, egg shakers, shekere, cabasa
  • Metal – Tambourines, jingle bells (child safe), cowbells, triangles, finger cymbals, hand cymbals
  • Wood – Wood blocks, tone blocks, sand blocks, rhythm sticks, castanets, xylophone, guiro
  • Drums – Hand drums, bongos, lollipop drums, frame drums, gathering drum
  • Barred Instruments – glockenspiels, xylophones, metalophones, resonator bells, resonator bars
  • Other Instruments – Handbells, rainsticks, train whistle, slide whistle, frog guiro

What can you do at home?

Kids love DIY. And these are some easy, and not so messy, ways to create your own percussion instruments at home. You can start with these and then as your little one gets more interested in music you can upgrade to manufactured, more durable instruments.

Use shipping boxes – By making their own drum, they get to personalize it and feel ownership of it. As well as exercise those creative muscles. There are so many things around the house that you can easily turn into a percussive instrument. Happen to have a few Amazon boxes lying about? Pull out the crayons, markers, and paint and let your kid personalize their “drum”. You could even use construction paper to cover it so that they aren’t fighting to cover the print on the box.

Save those toilet paper rolls – Fold over and staple one end of the roll. Decorate. Fill with dry rice. Folder over and staple the other end. And voila! You have a shaker. Play along with music. Play stop and go games

Another use for plastic Easter eggs – These are probably the easiest egg shakers to make. Grab a plastic Easter egg. Fill it with dry rice. Close and tape with washi tape.

There are so many things you can create at home, but just letting them bang away on their own will bring just some benefits. The real benefits come when you can play with them and guide them along the way. Introduce them to different types of music styles and genres from around the world, like we do at My Little Conservatory. And they’ll get the full benefit of percussion playing.

If you want to learn more about how music helps your child’s development, these articles on our website will help: