Ok, maybe not a million, but there are a many, many different activities to do with shakers. Shakers are probably one of the best first instruments. I mean, we give infants rattles as soon as they can hold onto something, and then they are shaking away. Before we get into the activities, here are a couple of tips when it comes to infants/toddler/preschoolers with shakers.
- Hand-sized is a good rule of thumb (haha! get it?) for this group. If the shaker is at least hand-sized, they might be able to get it in their mouth, but they shouldn’t be able to choke on it. If they can wrap their hand around it, the more proficient they will be at shaking it on (or around) the beat. If it is top heavy, they will be more likely to drop it and it will impede their ability to play on the beat.
- Try shakers of different materials/ textures/ timbres. Shakers are more interesting when they can make all sorts of different sounds! There’s plastic, wood, gourds, wicker, long, short, big, small…
- Plastic or wood shakers for those that are putting instruments in mouths. Unfortunately, with kids, this is a fact of life. For some children, putting things in their mouth extends beyond infanthood into years 3, 4, and even 5. This is not necessarily a bad thing; some children are just more connected to learning through that route. Once they can understand you, try to discourage them putting instruments in their mouths, without being too harsh. Replace instruments with choke-able parts with safer ones.
- Show them, don’t do it for them. You should show them how to hold or play the instruments, but do not shake them for them to the beat. They will learn from watching you. While doing it for them gets them on beat faster, it does not help them develop beat competency in the long term.
- Don’t forget to move! Shaking shakers while moving keeps children interested and is great for developing rhythm!
There are many, many different ways that you can use shakers. They are great at keeping the beat, but it can get boring if you always do it the same way. Get creative!
- Count the beats- I like to beat them on the floor in front of me from left to right. You can count the beats, “1-2-3-4,” or just show them with the shakers. It doesn’t really matter if the children can count with you or not.
- You can also draw a circle to show the beat.
- Shake to show volume. Start down low and quiet, and get louder as you raise the shakers!
- Hide the shakers behind your back.
- Play freeze! Have your children watch whoever is the conductor and stop when they stop!
- Pick different body parts, maybe ones that go with your song, or just pick any one!
- Play copy-cat. Play a rhythm and have everyone else repeat it. I suggest doing the listen-repeat several times to ensure that even young musicians can catch on.
- Pass the rhythm or beat- pass a shaker on the beat by placing it in the hand of the person next to you or in front of them. You can also have the first person play a rhythm and the next repeat it. Then they make up a different rhythm for the person next to them.
- Roll the shakers on the ground, like you’re cracking a hard-boiled egg or like you’re rolling dough (this get’s the core of the body in on the action, which is good for internalizing the beat!).
- “Fry” the shaker like an egg in the palm of your hand.
- Move the shakers to the beat while showing fluid movement, like a figure eight pattern in the air
- For a challenge, move your shakers without letting them make a sound! Perfect for practicing audiation!
- And many more! If I think of more, or if I get ideas from readers, I’ll add them! Send me your great shaker activities that you do at home!