When I heard the beat of the drums, I knew I was really back in Africa. It had been years since I taught in a secondary school in the remote Ubangi region of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Accessible only by boat or plane, I was fortunate to return last month to this tropical land of mangoes, butterflies and poinsettias as large as trees to see former students, and participate with Congolese women’s groups devoted to hygiene, finance, agriculture and clean-water projects.
It was the rhythmic welcomes in villages, each drum with its own sound blended with the tones and beats of rattles and voices, that got my feet stamping and hands clapping. The sounds are pervasive. All ages still beat drums to transmit messages, even while others simultaneously dial up their cellphones to do the same.
Percussion instruments are universal, really, and at their most basic level play an important part in a child’s development. A simple rattle sparks an array of sensory experiences for a baby. No wonder a growing toddler enjoys finding anything that clangs to bang together like cymbals. Later, their fascination may lead them to musical training, which has been proven to increase math scores and self-expression.
Here is how to assemble a mini drum set and shaker to further your child’s musical journey:
–Paint various sizes of clean, soup and vegetable tin cans in bright colors. Decorate with pompons and other favorite crafty charms.
–Wrap strong paper cut in circles over the open end of some of the cans. Hold paper in place with rubber bands. Turn remaining cans open-side down on a table.
–Use wooden and metal spoons to tap out a rhythm. The eraser ends of unsharpened pencils make good drumsticks.
For fun, play a game of “echo.” Hit the cans and challenge others to repeat what you have done.
–For mini cymbals, thread a bead 3-inches down on a wooden skewer. Glue in place, then thread a flat canning-jar lid with a hole poked through its center, onto the skewer. Add another bead and a second lid. Top with a bead and glue in place. Tape to the side of a can. Hit with “drumsticks” as you play on the mini drum set.
–Pour dry beans in a plastic bottle and glue the cap shut. Paint and decorate with colorful tape and stickers.