My husband is extremely musical and it's very important to me and him to have our daughter be musical as well. In our family, we have a rule that she must play the piano until she is good enough to accompany others and she also must choose one other instrument to play.
While she's still a few years away from beginning piano lessons, we wanted to instill a love of music in her with an instrument she could play. That's where my crafty side came in. Rather than spend money on cheaply made and poor-sounding musical instruments, I decided to make a basic drum for my daughter – and she loves it!
Making a drum is really simple. Take an empty oats container and glue construction paper around the cylinder. This is a great activity for your preschooler to get involved with because you can talk about circles and cylinders and how they are similar yet different. Once the paper is fastened, allow your preschooler to color, giving them ownership of the instrument.
OK, so you've got a nice, crafty drum, but what's the educational value of it? Rhythm. Even if you're not gearing your child up to be a musical prodigy, teaching rhythm is a skill that will benefit them later in life in dance, athletics, math and science. Rhythm is really a study of numbers. This lesson will also enhance your preschooler's listening abilities, which supports language development.
To begin with, I showed my daughter how to alternate hitting the drum with the left hand and then the right hand. If your child doesn't know this difference, it's a great opportunity to teach and practice.
Next, we tied in our counting skills. I had her hit the drum four times in a row and count it. If your child is having a hard time with this, it often helps to clap with them. Once she mastered this, I had her do three sets of four and then wait quietly as we counted to four. This was her introduction to 4/4 time. If you're not musically inclined yourself, 4/4 time means there are four beats per measure (before the pattern repeats itself) and the quarter note gets the beat.
Teaching other time signatures and rhythms is just as easy.
3/4 time is three beats.
6/8 time is six beats.
2/4 time is two beats.
When drumming, it's good to have your preschooler hit the drum a littler harder when you get to one. This will reinforce the idea that you're beginning a new measure, or starting the pattern over again. Also, make sure you rest, or don't play, for the same number of beats you were drumming. This will help you see if they really grasp the rhythm or if they're just banging away and having a good time.
Drums can get loud and out of control really fast, but once your preschooler masters a rhythm, it sounds better and they get excited about music.