3 easy-to-adapt musical instruments that aid kids’ development

Today I’m pleased to introduce guest blogger Ryan Judd, a board certified music therapist specializing in helping children with special needs.

Adapting Musical Instruments for Kids from the The Rhythm Tree

by Ryan Judd, MA, MT-BC

We all know that kids love music, but many of us just don’t know how to engage children in musical activities and have them play along with instruments. This can be especially challenging for children who are still developing their motor skills. Today I’m going to share three instruments that are easy to adapt for little hands, and in a future blog post I’ll teach you some fun, easy-to-learn interactive songs you can play with them.

  • Tambourine. Tambourines come in all sorts of sizes and shapes. My favorite style of tambourine is about 4 inches across and doesn’t have a head (that’s the skin stretched over one side). I prefer using a tambourine without a head because that means it can be slipped over a child’s hand like a bracelet. You can also slip a thick rubber band over this tambourine—I prefer those wide, colorful rubber bands used with produce in the grocery store. With this simple adaptation, you can slip a child’s hand between the rubber band and the tambourine, allowing the child to play the instrument without having to continuously grasp it. Bonus: with the rubber band on you can even slip the tambourine on top of a child’s foot and sing a fun song about kicking or stomping.
  • Maracas. I like maracas that are about 4 inches long. If your child has a tough time hanging on to these instruments, take two pieces of electrical or duct tape and one of those thick rubber bands I mentioned above. Cut the rubber band in half, tape one end to the base of the handle and the other end to the base of the round part that contains the beads. You just made yourself an easy handle that you can slip a child’s hand through.
  • Rhythm sticks. The rhythm sticks I like are about 8 inches long. These kid-friendly sizes are perfect for little hands. If you think a rubber-band handle might help, too, use the same method I suggested for the maracas, except tape the rubber band to the top and bottom of each rhythm stick.

For more help, watch this video of me adapting musical instruments myself:

Also consider signing up for my free newsletter. I’ll be publishing another post here soon (in early April) with suggestions of how to use these adapted musical instruments with songs. There is so much you can do with some simple songs and simple instruments—stay tuned!

If you’re curious about your child’s development and if they’re hitting their milestones on schedule, take our free, simple Ages & Stages Questionnaire®.


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