Recycled Instruments That Children Can Make

by Joan Collins

Teaching your children about recycling is important for every parent. The lessons will have an impact on the environment as children grow up looking for a way to recycle and reuse items. Teach your kids to create musical instruments from items that would end up in the landfill. In no time, the kids will be able to play along with their favorite songs or make up songs of their own.

Oatmeal drums

The oatmeal drum is an old standby that children have been enjoying for decades. To make a drum, each child needs an empty, round oatmeal container, a balloon, scissors and duct or masking tape. Each child will cut the bottom opening off of the balloon. The cut should be about one and half inches from the mouthpiece of the balloon. Next, the lid should removed from the oatmeal box and so the remaining section of the balloon can be stretched over the open end of the container until it is taut. Help hold the balloon firmly on to the container with one hand while she uses tape to hold the balloon in place.Tap gently on the stretched balloon with a hand or drumstick to make music. Old chopsticks also make good drum sticks.

Shoe Box Guitar

Guitars are simple to make and easy to play. Remove the lid from a shoe box. Paint the box and decorate it with stickers. Find several rubber bands, each with a different thicknesses. Place them on the box, starting with the thinnest rubber band and ending with the thickest band. Stretch each band until it fits over the end of the box. Leave a small space between each band. The guitar can be played by strumming or plucking the rubber bands.

Rain Stick

Recycled wrapping paper rolls work well to make a South American rain stick similar to the instruments that were thought to be used in Chile to remind the gods that rain was needed. Every paper roll has a seam that curves around the tube. Use a straight pin to poke a hole along the seam every inch. Press a toothpick through the hole; make sure it does not poke through the other side of the paper roll. Cut the outer ends of the toothpick off and cover the seam with duct tape. Trace the end of the tube on a piece of tag board twice. Cut out the two circles. Place a circle on one end of the tube and tape it securely in place. Add dried beans, rice or small pebbles into the tube. Tape the second circle over the remaining hole. Cover the rain stick with wrapping paper or postal paper that has been decorated. To play the instrument, slowly rotate it, tipping it from side to side. Watch the video in resources for a demonstration on playing a rain stick.


Wash two empty potato chip canisters. Once they are dry, decorate the cans by covering them with wrapping paper or decoupaging pictures all over the sides of the container. Fill each container with one-fourth cup of rice or popcorn. Paint the inside of the plastic lid. After the lid dries, add a little glue around the outside of the lid and place it on the maracas. If necessary, reinforce the lid with colorful tape. To play them, hold one maracas in each hand and shake them in a slow, even motion.


Make your own water xylophone. Collect several different jars with lids and wash them thoroughly. The jars can be the same size or different sizes. Line the jars in a row and pour water into each jar. Start at one end and add more water to each successive jar. Place the lids on the jars and tap them with a stick or a butter knife to make music. To make your xylophone fancier, add a couple drops of food coloring and/or glitter to each jar.


The kazoo, first patented in 1902 and the subject of a museum, is easy to make. All you need is an empty toilet paper roll, wax paper, a rubber band and a hole puncher. Remove all excess paper from the empty roll. Punch a hole about one inch from one end of the tube. Cut a circle of wax paper that is a little larger than the end of the paper tube. Place the wax paper over the end of the tube with the punched hole and secure it with the rubber band. Hum through the open end of the kazoo and make the wax paper vibrate. Play along with your favorite songs.

About the Author

Joan Collins began writing in 2008. Specializing in health, marriage, crafts and money, her articles appear on eHow. Collins earned a Bachelor of Arts in education from the University of Northern Colorado and a Master of Arts in instructional technology from American InterContinental University.

Photo Credits

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