Kids on Parade! Rhythm Stick Fun

Rhythm sticks or clave (klah-vey)—a Latin name for rhythm sticks—are indisputably one of the best first instruments for young children.

Rhythm sticks are members of the “percussion family” of instruments—which are musical instruments sounded by striking, shaking or scraping—and are tapped together to make a sound. Small percussion instruments are the most appropriate for children ages 2-7 and include the triangle, maracas, bells, tambourines, drums, cymbals and sand blocks.

Rhythm sticks are a natural extension of the sounds children make with their hands (clapping) and feet (stamping). Basic rhythmic concepts about beat, tempo and patterns are great for teaching to young children and can be experienced through a variety of fun activities, including playing rhythm sticks. When rhythm sticks are used in musical activities for young children, the process, rather than the product, is the important goal. Children thrive on the familiar; they enjoy the security of repetition and it’s an essential component for building basic skills and understanding.

It is important that rhythm sticks for the 2- and 3-year-olds be the appropriate size. Chunky Rhythm Sticks from Discount School Supply. are specifically made for little hands and fingers to easily grip and hold. This set includes 24 sticks or enough for 12 children with one for each hand.

Rhythm Stick Play: Objectives/Learning Outcomes
Playing and using rhythm sticks promotes and develops the following:

  • Small motor development—using the small muscles of the hands and fingers
  • Eye-hand coordination—eyes and hands working together smoothly
  • Dexterity—skill and ease in using hands
  • Eye tracking—eyes being able to follow an object as the object moves in space
  • Directionality—the inner sense and knowledge of where things are in relation to the body
  • Auditory discrimination—being able to hear and identify differences in sounds
  • Listening skills—ability to follow verbal directions
  • Coordination—parts of the body moving smoothly together
  • Rhythm—aspects of music having to do with time; patterns of sound perceived in relationship to a recurring beat
  • Beat—recurrent throb or pulse in music; important rhythmic skill to develop before the age of seven as the ability to keep a steady beat is linked to linguistic development
  • Tempo—the speed of music
  • Thinking processes—creative thinking and problem solving; develops memory (pattern and sequence)
  • Crossing the midline—occurs when left or right arms or legs cross over the center of one’s body and promotes communication between the brain hemispheres

Rhythm Stick Play: Rules
It is helpful to establish rules that will make the playing experience a happy and enjoyable one for both adults and children. As the teacher or leader of the activity, do not pass out the rhythm sticks until you have made clear what your expectations are regarding use of the rhythm sticks. The teacher or leader should demonstrate the activity first. If a child does not use his or her sticks properly or safely, an appropriate consequence might be to take them away for a short period of time, allowing that child to observe and rejoin when he/she feels able to follow the rules.
The following are some suggested rules and ideas for classroom and home activities using rhythm sticks:
1. Children sit cross-legged in a scattered or circle formation, ensuring that each child has his or her own personal space.
2. An adult or class helper is the keeper of the bin of sticks and walks around the group to allow each child to pick two sticks.
3. Rhythm sticks are passed out and children lay them on the ground in front of them and put their hands in their lap.
4. Upon teacher or leader instructions, or when the music starts, children can pick up their sticks and follow your lead.
5. When the music stops or the teacher says “freeze” and all activity ceases. If children are sitting, the sticks go back on the ground and hands go in their laps.
6. For organized clean up, an adult or class helper brings the bin around and instructs the children to put the rhythm sticks in the bin.

Rhythm Stick Play: Activity Idea
Pass out the rhythm sticks—, have children practice following a leader as they keep time to the music. Ask the children to stand up and get ready to march (a precise type of walk, accompanied by lifted knees and swinging arms) in the rhythm stick band! The teacher or a child can be the leader of the parade who marches in front, setting the direction and pace of the parade. Select a musical selection with a short, regular beat for a melodic and rhythmic background to accompany the sticks.

4 thoughts on “Kids on Parade! Rhythm Stick Fun

  1. Hello Sharron,I just found your blog randomly through google and I love it! I am an Occupational Therapy Assistant Student in my last few weeks of my Pediatric Fieldwork and your blog has given me some great activity ideas to do with my kids! Thanks!

  2. Hi Rose,I appreciate the feedback…thanks for the kudos! I know that we in early care and education love to find new activities to use with the children that "we touch." That is the purpose of my blog–to give practical and concrete ideas that are tried and true and "really work" with young children. I have learned so much from Occupational Therapists. You have my respect and admiration. Keep up the good work!Play more,Sharin' with Sharron

  3. Hello Sharon,I am the owner of a preschool gym called JuneBugs Gym. I look forward to your ideas and espertise. I love using Luumi Sticks but didn't buy them for the safety issues. I did no know that there was "Chunky Sticks" for the younger child. So I will look into buying some very soon! Thanks for your blog. Sincerely, June Ralston

  4. Hi Sharron,Thought I'd share another way to hold those rhythm sticks. Our children sit cross legged in a circle and hold one stick upright on each knee. This keeps the sticks apart until ready to be played. If we are going to do a rhythm stick activity standing, the children hold the sticks with one on each shoulder. Thanks for sharing all your good ideas.Naomi

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