Shake It Up: DIY Musical Shakers to Explore the Science of Sound!

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Kids love making music, and this experiment will exercise their creativity and their science and technology skills.

Making musical shakers brings out a child’s creativity by making music and introduces them to the scientific and technological aspects of music, like how changing the objects inside of the shaker can change the sound.

Ready to mix it up? Let’s get started!

How to make the Shake It Up DIY Musical Shakers science and technology experiment

Supplies you will need

For this experiment, you will need the following:

  • Empty toilet paper rolls
  • Piece of paper
  • Pen
  • ScissorsOpens in a new tab.
  • Rubber bandsOpens in a new tab.
  • Small objects – rice, marbles, dry beans

Here’s a fun kid’s book about the five senses to accompany this experiment.

Supplies needed for the Shake it Up Musical Shakers experiment

Before you start

Please watch your child while you’re using scissors and playing with small objects.

Instructions

Here is how to do this experiment with your toddler:

Step 1: Gather objects

Each shaker should have enough small objects to cover the bottom of the toilet paper roll.

When you’re gathering objects, try to mix it up as much as possible:

  • metal objects
  • rice
  • dry beans
  • soft objects (like pom-poms)

Step 2: Place cover over one end of the roll

To cover the first end of your musical shaker, take your toilet paper tube and draw 2 circles onto the paper the same size as the tube opening. Make those circles at least 4 inches apart from one another.

Using the toilet paper rolls to draw circles on the paper

From there, cut out the 2 circles larger than your toilet paper roll opening (about 2 inches bigger).

Cut out of the drawn circle plus an extra inch or two

Cut small notches toward the circle’s center, but not past the circle you drew (see picture).

Cutting notches from outside of the cut circle to the drawn circle

Once you have the circles cut out, hold the circle you drew over the toilet paper roll opening and fold the notches down over the roll. Secure those notches with rubber bands.

Folding notches over toilet paper roll opening
Securing paper in place with a rubber band

Step 3: Place objects in toilet paper rolls

Objects for the musical shakers

In order to see what objects make what noise, try to keep the material the same for each shaker.

So, if you chose metal objects and soft objects, try not to mix them up at first so you can see what sounds they each make.

Then, once you’ve experimented that way, you can mix up the objects and see how the sounds change!

If you find that the object you placed in the shaker causes the paper to pop off, use some tape to hold the paper down.

Step 4: Seal your musical shaker

Sealed musical shaker

Place one of the pieces of paper over the end of the toilet paper tube and use the rubber band to secure it in place.

Step 5: Shake it up!

Have your child shake their musical shaker to see what noise each object makes.

See if your child can describe the sounds themselves. If they can’t, here are some open-ended questions you could ask them:

  • What do you think makes the sound change when you use different materials?
  • Can you describe the sound your shaker makes? How would you compare it to other sounds you know?
  • What other household items or materials do you think could be used to make unique sounds in a shaker?

Step 6: Try switching up the container!

If you have a container available that is made of different material (like metal, in my case), try switching it up to see how your objects sound in that container!

Using a metal container to see how it changes the sound

The science and technology behind the Shake It Up DIY Musical Shakers experiment

This experiment teaches:

  • Creativity and resourcefulness
  • The science of sound
  • Fine motor skills

How it works

This musical shaker science experiment is a great way to exercise your child’s creativity and talk about science in the process.

By allowing our kids to decide what materials we should try in the shaker, we are letting them do their own experimentation while we facilitate learning through open-ended questions.

We can use this experiment to talk about sound, vibrations, and music!

Creativity and resourcefulness

Creating musical shakers using items they can find around the house encourages kids to think creatively and use their imagination.

They’ll need to explore different objects and materials, considering their shapes, sizes, and textures to determine what will create the desired sound.

The science of sound

As kids experiment with different materials inside their shakers, they’ll learn about the basic principles of sound production.

They’ll discover that the sound a shaker makes depends on factors like the type and quantity of materials inside and the way they’re arranged. This hands-on activity provides a simple introduction to concepts such as vibration, resonance, and pitch.

Resonance

Resonance is like when you push someone on a swing. If you push them at just the right time, they go higher and higher.

When you shake a musical shaker, the materials inside (such as rice, beans, or beads) create vibrations. These vibrations generate sound waves that travel through the air. The toilet paper tube also has its own natural frequency at which it vibrates.

When the vibrations produced by shaking the shaker match the natural frequency of the tube, resonance occurs.

Vibration

In this experiment, when you move the shaker back and forth, the things inside it (like rice or beans) start moving too, creating a vibration.

When things vibrate, they push and pull the air around them. This pushing and pulling creates sound waves, kind of like ripples in a pond when you throw a pebble.

These sound waves travel to our ears, and that’s how we hear the sound of the shaker!

Pitch

The things you put inside the shaker, like rice or beans, can affect the pitch of the sound it makes.

If you put a lot of things in, it might sound lower, like a big drum. If you put just a few things in, it might sound higher, like a tiny bell.

You can also change the pitch based on how fast or slow you shake the shaker.

Fine motor skills

Making DIY musical shakers involves fine motor skills, such as pouring, filling, sealing, and decorating!

More sound experiments to try out with your child

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