Play & Learn: Mini Maestros with Shakers

Songs, rhymes, and music are all fun to share with your child, but did you know that music can also get your child ready to read? Explore music at home with simple shakers!

Singing (and music) is one of the Every Child Ready to Read program’s five early literacy practices that build valuable skills. We know that singing slows down language so children can hear the different parts of words. This helps them notice how those sounds are alike and different. Making music together is a great way to reinforce those concepts, but it also builds other early learning skills, too.

Songs and rhymes have predictable rhythms and repetition that help slow down language, teaching your child different letter and word sounds. Moving around during songs and rhymes helps develop motor skills and delivers motor skills and delivers oxygen to your child’s growing brain.

Shakers are a great way to introduce musical concepts to your child. Shakers reinforce motor skills, are tactile, and area easy for children of all ages to manipulate. Children learn through their senses, so the sound and feel of shakers, plus exploring movement, helps build brain connections. Practicing opposites like fast and slow or high and low teaches your child listening skills and self control. As they listen to and follow along with rhymes, your child can explore musicality and self-expression, while the shakers emphasize the sounds and rhythms you’re sharing. Acting out the rhymes together also build your child’s gross motor skills, imagination, and curiosity.

Playing musical games and sharing stories with rhythm is a great way to build your connection with your child. After all, you are your child’s first and most important teacher. The person they learn most from is you!

If you don’t have any shakers, you can make your own. Try using:

  • Rattles
  • Maracas
  • A jar of seeds or nuts
  • A small plastic dish full of beans, pasta or rice with a lid
  • A plastic egg filled with rice or sand

Just be sure to watch for choking hazards. You can always tape containers shut if you need to. Experimenting with different shaker fillers lets your child experiment with different sounds, too.

Check out our Instruments episode of Library Make to learn how to make a shaker with various supplies around the house!

You can also incorporate music and rhythm into your regular reading time. Here are a few books that work well with shakers and other instruments. Shake out the rhythm in the story as you read, change the speed of your shaking to match the action and practice different sounds together. Explore, experiment and most of all, have fun!

Extended Reading

Tanka Tanka Skunk by Steve Webb Request

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin, Jr. Request

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen Request

Preschool Junior Rhythm Band (STEAM Kit) Request


For more early learning activities, check out our Early Literacy in Action page.

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