Kids are natural-born percussionists. Infants delight in slapping their hands together, while their older siblings stomp their feet and create complex, rhythmic hand-clap games. The human body is one big instrument of percussion for kids, from finger snapping to belly slapping. For parents with truly musical spawn, other kid-style percussive instruments include wood blocks, tambourines, and all types of drums.
It’s hard to find a child who doesn’t respond to rhythm. Simply walking across a room can become an elaborate military march or balletic sweep with rhythmic accompaniment provided by burred lips, clapped hands, and foot sounds ranging from deep thuds to tippy-toed triplets. Teaching even the youngest learners about percussion for kids isn’t only good for their musical education, but it’s good for language development as well because language itself is based upon the rhythms of syllables. A youngster who learns about rhythmic patterns will discern them in music, in a story or poem, and even in the tooting of horns in a traffic jam.
Handing a child a set of wood blocks gives birth to a musician. Children don’t have to read music to understand rhythm, and one of the simplest ways to teach the lesson is by suggesting the wood blocks "say" the child’s name. If the first, middle, and last name are just a single syllable each, that child has just learned waltz time. If any of the names marry two or three syllables, the rhythmic pattern increases in complexity.
There’s a world of drums that make percussion for kids. The least expensive is made by stretching waxed paper across a round oatmeal box and securing it with rubber bands. Child-sized, small hand drums are available at music and education stores. Larger drums like West African djembes can be worn so the percussionist can dance and drum at the same time. When a child has reached a level of coordination, a drum set played with sticks and foot pedals provides a new level of challenge.
Perfect percussion for kids is found in music around the world. Shakers can be gourds containing pebbles or dried seeds, or they can be dressed up in strung beads that beat against the gourd’s dried skin. Rattles can be hand instruments or worn as ankle bracelets. A tambourine provides a very smack-able surface along with a chiming resonance. Rain sticks are a child’s idea of percussion heaven as they tip one way or another to allow a cascade of shimmering sound.