Tot Tools ~ Musical Instruments


I am hoping to make some tools of my own to use for Tot School and Preschool, and I thought I would share some of my ideas. Here is my first Tot Tool ~ homemade musical instruments!

I will share what I did, but for more detailed instructions see DK's 101 Great Science Experiments, A step by step guide.

Build a Banjo!

I attached a length of wood (that I let Malachi paint) to a plastic container by cutting two "I" shapes under the rim of the tub opposite each other. I bent the flaps of the "I" shapes out and pushed the end of the wood through the holes. I then used colored tape to decorate the tub and make the lines on the wood. Originally, I stretched a balloon over the tub and taped it to the sides, but the balloon broke. So I took the lid to the tub and cut it to fit inside and taped it to the wood. Then I took eyelet screws and partly screwed them into the wood - four at each end. Then I made two triangular bridges of card stock. I made four strings from fishing line and tied them to the two sets of eyelet screws. I inserted the bridges under the strings and turned the eyelet screws to tighten the strings. I added colorful ribbon and stars to decorate it. I taught the little ones how to hold a string down to change its note and that the lines are where you press the strings.

Strike a Tune!

For the xylophone, I cut out 2 zig zag patterns out of cardboard 8.5 inches long, and 2 flat ends, one 6 inches long and one 4.5 inches long and fitted the pieces together. I had Malachi paint it and then glued felt to the top once it was dry. Finally, we glued colored pencils, sharpened to size, to the frame. (They made a prettier sound when they were just rested on the frame, but I knew we would lose them.) I made beaters from wooden skewers and beads.

Blow a Horn!

For the horn, I pushed a funnel into 30 inches of plastic tubing. I put tape around the end for a mouthpiece, and looped the hose and added strips of tape to hold and decorate it. I added a cord with tassels for decoration.

Beat Some Drums!

For the drum, I decorated a cookie tin with colored tape, stretched a giant balloon (I used a punch ball) over the tin and taped it. I taped a thick cord with tassels on the opposite sides of the tin for decoration.

More Drums!

For the tom-tom, I took two plastic containers (I used bowls because I could not find plastic flowerpots) and using one, I drew two circles on a piece of muslin. Then I drew two larger circles around each one. I taped the pots together with colored tape. Then I cut out the circles of muslin and cut slits in each edge, as far as the second circle. I folded in and glued the flaps of both circles. Then with a hole punch, I made evenly spaced holes around the edges. I then thread thin cord through the holes and placed a circle over each pot. I then pulled the cord tight and tied it. I zigzagged more cord through the cords at the edges of the circles, pulled it tight and tied it. Then, I was supposed to spread glue over each circle, but I forgot this part! When the glue is dry, the tom-tom is ready! Tightening the cord stretches the muslin and gives the tom-tom a higher note.

These were fun to build and the kids love them! I am hoping to make a song notebook like the one that Carisa has here. Check out her Tools for Tots posts for more Tot Tool ideas!


  1. These are awesome, thanks for sharing, I have added them to the Tool for Tots webpage! :) Carisa

  2. The xylophone was great. My eight year old used it for his science project on sound. They had to make an instrument, and then explain, in writing, how his instrument made sound using the science vocabulary he had learned in class. It was simple, yet not the usual shaker, or rubber band project.
    Thanks for sharing.

    1. You're welcome! So happy to hear how that worked out ~ what a fun alternative!

  3. Does the horn make a sound? We are looking for instruments to make for a class to do a performance using them. Great ideas here thanks

    1. It does make a sound, but I'm not sure how well it would do for a performance! It's hard to remember how well the sound was!


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