Introducing your children to music when you don’t know much about music (Part 2- percussions)

how to introduce children to music when you are non-musician? (part 1)
June 2, 2017


If you want to read the first part of this article click here
i vous voulez lire ce texte en français cliquez ici

If you have read the first article and hopefully gotten some instruments in a real music store. If this was not possible, it might just be a little bit less fun, but you can use cooking pots and pans, or anything you can “tap” on (e.g., your hands on your lap)

So, here are as promised, some of the activities I’ve mentioned in my previous post to develop awakening to music, but in better details.

Let’s start with some drumming games. I am keeping the activities more ” melodic ” for the next article. Perhaps you are wondering what the connection between the “noise” of hitting a drum and the Beethoven sonata that you have always wanted to play on the piano is? This is an introduction to rhythm and pulse. The goal is to begin ”feeling” it in a relatively natural way. I hope to convince you that it’s easy and pleasant. However, I would tell you it’s not going to be noisy.

Don’t escape! I promise it will be easy.

No rhythm to read I assure you, and no need to count 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 while playing!

Even if the words to describe what you are doing seem out of reach, it is not so important. As a bonus, I will give you a bit of vocabulary.


Without going into the explanation of all the benefits of drum circles because it would be too long and theoretical, I would like to say one thing: Drumming or hearing a drummer is an outstanding way to access all parts of your brain. In addition, if you are playing with people, you will probably, at some point, feel a connection, a synchronicity with them. It’s normal and very cool.

Remember this when you are going to start thinking that all of this sounds funny and that you should come back to Play Dough: Keep playing. Eventually, you will sync naturally. It’s called sensory-motor synchronization. As a bonus, it apparently develops linguistic abilities. Moreover, this synchronization between people who make music together extends even beyond musical activities and promotes cooperation.


But I did not invented that, it comes from here:
and also here
Diamond, John, The Way of the Pulse-Drumming with Spirit, Enhancement Books, Bloomingdale IL. 1999

3 rhythm activities, (and one in bonus)

These activities have been adapted from some of the games presented in this book:

Group Rhythm and Drumming with Older Adults: Music Therapy Techniques and Multimedia Training Guide 1st Edition by Barbara Reuer (Author), PHD (Author), NMT (Author), MT-BC (Author), Barbara Crowe (Author), MM (Author), Barry Bernstein (Author), Barbara Else (Editor), Tawna Grasty. Grass T Design (Illustrator)



Experiment different types of rhythms, pulse.

Play with the length of the rhythms.

Facilitate social interaction among participants.

Create rhythms and develop attention to rhythmic changes.

Explore the possibilities of some instruments.

Feel the pulse of ternary and binary rhythms

You will need:

Hand drum or any drum, with or without mallots. Or, you can tap your hands on your lap.


3 to 10 years old children (see possible adaptations)

The rhythmic Sentences

Choose a song or phrase that your child knows well (adjust the length according to his/her age and abilities) Here are some examples:

  • Hello, how are you?
  • Baah baah black sheep, do you have any wool?
  • Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall…
  • Good night, sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite
  • How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

The goal here is to represent the rhythm of the sentence with the drum as in the following example. Rhythm-wise, you will typically strike at the beginning of each syllable, but it could also be at the beginning of a word. Use what seems/feels best for you. Here is an example of both possibilities, the dots under the words represent when you should hit the drum:

                                          Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall

possibility one                      .             .           .             .

possibility two                      .       .     .      .    .    .    .   .

When you have chosen the perfect length for your sentence, it’s time to play with it:

  • Separate the sentence into two parts and play Part 1, your child will then play Part 2, exchange roles every to 2-4-6 times.

  • If your sentence is longer, you can take each turn and say selected sentences while the other person improvises a rhythm.
  • It’s normal that it sounds a bit cacophonic at first if you’re not used to it. After a while, the brain gets used to recognizing the pulse or the rhythm naturally. The Pulse is the accent that cyclically returns at the beginning of each beat. You know when you are at a concert, and people start clapping their hands, well it’s supposed to follow the pulse. This will be the beginning of the sentence in your case. If the sentence is long, it will probably be naturally separated into equal parts. The regularity of the pulsation will guarantee the equality of the beats, and consequently, the regularity of a certain tempo. You will, therefore, learn to anticipate the pulse and thus organize your rhythmic improvisation according to this one.

Here is also a variant of these activities:

  • Use a song you know such as ”Old Mc Donald had a farm, ” but instead of using the proper lyrics, use some sounds, your instruments could make.  For example, if you have a triangle and a tambourine, your song could be like this:

            (on the melody of Old Mc Donald had a farm)

  • ting ting ting ting boom boom ching hee-i, hee-i-O.
  • In this case the ”ting” would be the triangle, the ”boom” would be the sound of strikes on the tambourine and ”ching” would be shaking it. One person would create the lyrics while the other one plays the proper sounds.

The ”call and response” games

Here, the type of ”call and response” will depend on the age of your child. It consists of playing on a percussion instrument a ”call”, the other person must ” answer it. ” Here are several ways to do it, they are placed in order of complexity starting with the easiest. Even if this is not necessarily the purpose of the activity, I must say that this game is amazing if you wish your child learns how to take turns

Call (vocal or instrumental)                                                             Response (instrumental)

Perform a simple rhythm pattern and wait for the ”answer.”

Then follow it with another rhythm

Hit the drum one time loud when you think that the rhythm of the other person is over            
Create a simple rhythm pattern on the drum (e.g., ta-ta-ta)

Play the same rhythm a few times and then, increase the length and speed of it.

Echo/Imitate the rhythm you just heard
Create a simple rhythm orally (e.g., la-la-la)

Play the same rhythm a few times and then, increase the length and speed of the rhythm

Echo/Imitate the rhythm you just heard
Create 2 or more different rhythm patterns and play them in different order Create a rhythm pattern in response to each of the rhythms that the other person plays.

Open Exploration

These are free exploration ideas because there are no specific drumming rules as for the last two activities. Improvising will help you become aware of the pulse. Here are a few ideas that can be adapted according to the level of your child. I am still putting these ideas in order from the easiest to the most difficult ones.

Discuss it a little afterward as it forces reflection to store new knowledge in long-term memory. You can ask questions such as: “What rhythmic did you like the most between this one and that one?” “For what reason?” Or: “What rhythmic is the easiest to follow and why? etc.

You can also change the instrumentation from time to time if it’s possible.

  • Use a metronome and play following the speed, you can increase or decrease it to experiment different speeds. Google has an online metronome.  You can also try 3 beat rhythm patterns with the metronome. This way you can explain to your child that the beats can be subdivided naturally into two or three. This is called ternary and binary rhythms.
  • This is a reading suggestion here to understand the whole ternary and binary thing. Read it, so you’ll seem to know everything also it’s a good conversation for starters.
  • Put on music in the background and drum following the pulse. You can use different types of music to experiment different types of rhythms.

Bonus: Body percussion

If you are doing body percussion, it means you are playing with the sound that your body can make by hitting on different parts of it. The possibilities are endless, and there are several tutorials online to create your rhythm patterns. However, this is more appropriate for older children (from age 7 and over)

Here are some tutorial links that you can visit and practice with your children.

Body Percussion-Basic Routine

Splash Games: Hands Games

Splash Games: BIM BUM

I sincerely believe that all these activities are good Sunday night family moments. Since playing music together is supposed to improve cooperation between individuals, please let me know if your ability to cooperate afterward while doing the dishes has improved. 🙂



  1. Great post! My daughter loves music and I need to get her into a class!

  2. Mica says:

    So many great ideas in this post! It reminds me I need to rotate the toys my boys have out again so I can get their little drums out! 🙂