Forest Tots Week 6 – Outdoor Music Activities for Tots


With less competition from human activity, the sweet sounds of spring are deafening this year. Instead of traffic, I can hear birds singing, bees buzzing, leaves rustling and more! Tots love to explore sound, and lockdown is a serendipitous opportunity to experience the sounds of urban nature as if we were in the countryside! The following activities are to offer you inspiration for sound exploration with your tot and to get you thinking about the role that sound plays in nature, and all of life too!

Make a Sistrum

Make an ancient Egyptian sistrum

The sistrum is an ancient percussion instrument believed to have originated in Ancient Egypt. In this activity, your tot can make their own version of this instrument.

You will need: Y-shaped stick (roughly 30 com long and 2cm in diameter), secateurs, string or pipe cleaners, jingle bells, and scissors. Optional: potato peeler, wool, gardening gloves, and coloured pens

  1. Search with your tot for a Y-shaped stick. The task of searching for the right type of stick will develop their language and identification skills. Avoid very dry or rotten wood. If the stick is not available on the ground, you may need to use secateurs to take it from a tree.
  2. Older tots may want to peel the bark from the stick with a potato peeler. If so, make sure they wear a gardening glove on the non-tool hand and cut away from their body.
  3. Take some string (or a pipe cleaner for ease) and tie one end to the Y-shaped end of the stick.
  4. Thread jingle bells onto the string. Alternatively, you use anything that makes a pleasant sound, e.g. shells.
  5. Tie the other end of the string to opposite Y-shaped end so it is taut.
  6. Decorate the sistrum with pens, paints, or by wrapping more string around the handle.

Your tot’s sistrum is ready to play! You could encourage them by dancing along to the music they make or repeating back a rhythm they play.  If your tot is enjoying this experience, why not take them on a musical journey and make a music station?

Make a Music Station

Make a music station

So often we tell our tots to reduce the noise they make, so why not give them a thrill and create a music station to let them explore the world of sound without limits (neighbours and your sanity permitting)! I recently created one in my garden (see photo) using an old pallet as a table, but you could simply put down a blanket instead. Here are some ideas for your station:

Shakers – Put some dried beans, rice, or buttons in an old plastic bottle.  Remember to tape the lid down for safety reasons.

Drums – Put out a selection of overturned pans, plant pots, tin cans, or logs, and something to use as a drumstick. Place thick tape over the sharp edges of a tin can if using them.

Sound bowl – Fill a large pan with water. Older tots may love to hear that sounds are caused by sound waves formed when objects shake around (vibrate). Encourage your tot to hit the pan of water and watch how it moves as the sound waves travel through it.

Water xylophone

We filled glass milk bottles with water and food dye for this instrument. Blow into each bottle to make a unique sound.

For this you will need several identical glass bottles or jars. Arrange the bottles in a row and fill the first bottle almost to the top with water. Tap it with stick to make a note. Fill the next with slightly less water, and so on until each bottle has some water and you can make the first notes of a musical scale. You may want to add food dye (or watered-down poster paint) to each bottle so they look different. Older tots may love to hear that the water slows down the vibrations. The more water, the slower the vibrations and the lower the pitch.

Wooden xylophone

Different size sticks can make an experimental xylophone.

Collect a range of sticks and cut them to different lengths. Thicker sticks (3 cm diameter or more) work best. Arrange the sticks in size order over two larger branches so that there is   under each stick.  If you do not have two thick branches, you could use old shoe boxes, pans or other household objects. Have a selection of different sticks available for your tot to pick and mix as part of the xylophone and as a drumstick. The task of selecting each stick and trying it out for sound will help them understand how shape, size, texture, and density all affect sound production.

Being free to make their own sound will make your tot feel their ideas matter, raising their sense of self-worth and confidence. Talking about sounds can develop an understanding of the world around them. Encourage questions like: why do the birds sing, what noise does a frog make, and can we still hear underwater. Use your new instruments to be a thunderstorm, a buzzing bee or falling rain. Creating sound together will create a playful mood and is a joyful way to pass this lockdown time together!



Latest Offers

    Sign up for the latest offers, events and news.

    Be the very first to find out about that latest offers and what's happening at Manchester's Great Northern!