Families often ask me for recommendations for at-home music instruments that they can use with their young children. This is a great question!
Children love musical toys and props and there are tons of great options that will enhance your at-home music environment. They really don’t need a lot, but there are a few staples I’d make sure to have on hand to give your kids a well-rounded music experience at home.
The instruments and props are listed below in order of importance. If you only want a few items, I’d recommend scarves, egg shakers and a small hand drum. If you want more variety, keep moving down this list.
(This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase using these links, you will pay the normal price and I will earn a small commission.)
Scarves are so fun and the perfect way to encourage creative movement and imagination in children. Children are very intuitive about how to move to music and children naturally come of with tons of ways to play with scarves to music. I recommend medium sized square-shaped scarves that are very light.
Here are ways children love to use scarves:
- Wave them
- Twirl them
- Circle them
- Throw them
- Play peek-a-boo with them
- Wear them over your head like a veil
- Wrap them around your shoulders like a cape
- Spread them on the floor and sit on it to pretend your in a boat or car
- Wrap them around your waist like a skirt
- Tie them around a belt loop to make a tail
This is just the beginning! You’ll be amazed by all of the creative ways kids will find to use their scarves.
There are a lot of options for shaking instruments, but I love egg-shaped shakers because then fit really nicely into hands of babies, toddlers and preschoolers. Most egg shakers have a pretty gentle and pleasing sound.
When purchasing egg shakers, don’t try to cut corners and buy inexpensive shakers. A cheap egg shaker can break easily and send all of the little pieces inside flying. Not only is it messy, it’s also a big safety hazard.
I recommend buying at least 2 egg shakers for each person. Most children will naturally take one shaker in each hand. They love to tap them together and will alternate hands when shaking them. You’ll want to make sure you have 2 shakers as well so that your child can mirror what you are doing.
Kids of all ages LOVE hand drums! Hand drums can be a little more expensive, so starting with one will work. I’d recommend getting an actual musical instrument drum as oppose to a toy drum. You will hear a big difference in the sound. A real drum has a little bounce to it when you tap it and the sound of it resonates really nicely. You can get a variety of sounds out of hand drum depending on where you tap it. A toy drum will like have only 1 consistent sound that will mostly sound like banging plastic.
A xylophone is great addition to at-home music props. It’s a simple instrument that can create a melody so it’s great for kids ages 3 and up. Babies and toddlers will probably use it more percussively, but older kids will hear the differences between the different pitches. Plus, they are developing the fine motor skills to play the independent keys rather than playing random keys.
I suggest getting one like this that has removable keys. With removable keys, you can leave either 3 or 5 keys in place which helps children to find simple tunes within smaller parameters.
Sand blocks are a fantastic addition to your musical instrument collection because they offer some really great variety and they are wonderful for developing coordination.
Sand blocks create a really pleasant sound when they are rubbed together, but there are tons of other ways to use them too. Kids can clap them together or they can tap them on the ground, on their knees or on another surface. They can make the blocks “march” by tapping them with alternating hands.
A really great activity is for an adult to create a pattern of taps and claps and have the child repeat it. For example, the adult could tap-tap-clap the blocks, then the child would mirror it back. You could do this over and over with different patterns or find a simple pattern to repeat over and over again to music.
Bells are another really simple instrument to add to the mix that will add a new timbre of sound. Bells are mostly used similarly to egg shakers, but they add some variety and work really well with certain songs.
Kids love rhythm sticks, but I use them cautiously with young children and teach them from the beginning the the sticks only touch each other and not people. Most rhythm sticks create a nice crisp sound. They can tap them together or tap them on the floor. They are also helpful for mirroring activities or to create patterns and interesting rhythms.
A guiro (pronounced wee-ro) is such a fun addition to music. Guiros are a more unusual instrument and kids are so intrigued by them. Like several other instruments, they offer some variety in how they can be played. The most obvious way to play them is by scraping the stick along the bumpy side. This makes are really interesting sound that kids can’t get enough of! You can also tap them with the stick and they make another sound different from most of the other instruments.
Castanets are a good way to develop finer motor skills since they require the use of individual fingers as opposed to the whole hand. The make a lively clicking sound that kids enjoy.
A triangle is a neat little instrument to introduce to children. It’s shape and sound are enticing for kids.
Maracas mostly function a lot like egg shakers except that they have a handle on them. This makes them easier for some kids to hold and allows them to tap them on different surfaces.
You can always build your collection slowly over time, but if you prefer to buy a set that includes a good variety of instruments, Amazon has tons of options.
Remember that with young children, less is more. They don’t need tons of props and instruments in order to have a meaning musical experience. Enjoy making music at home with your kids!