This month’s spotlight is turned onto another untuned percussion instrument, the rainstick.
What is a rainstick?
A rainstick, traditionally, was an instrument made from a hollow wooden or plant based tube (in Chille, hollow cacti are used to make rainsticks) partially filled with small objects like small pebbles or beans. The tube would have spikes pushed into it. The rainstick would be held vertically and then turned over so the small pebbles or beans inside would fall from one end to the other, bouncing off the spikes inside producing a sound like falling rain, hence the name.
We have a rainstick as part of our music box, a box in our playroom with various musical instruments in which are generally inexpensive. Our rainstick is not a traditional one, but rather a brightly coloured plastic instrument aimed at children.
How do you play a rainstick?
It is easy to play a rainstick. As described above the most basic way to play is to hold it vertically one way and then turn it upside up down.
- Hold the rainstick vertically, and turn it upside down, then back over, then over again very quickly.
- Hold the rainstick vertically and turn it the other way up very slowly.
- Hold the rainstick vertically and shake it up and down.
- Shake the rainstick from side to side.
Rainsticks and young children
While traditional rainsticks are a rather different kettle of fish where small children are concerned, these plastic ones are perfect for entertaining even small children.
They are brightly coloured, which is always appealing to young children, and as they are made of plastic with no detachable parts, you do not need to worry about what would happen if the rainstick went into their mouths. Toddlers will enjoy shaking the rainstick and getting it to make a noise by themselves, and even quite small children will enjoy pushing and rolling the rainstick on the floor.
Developmentally, for young children, using a rainstick in this way, and especially getting them to do as much as possible for themselves can help teach your baby about cause and effect – I push this object and it makes a sound.
I bought my rainstick from ELC about 6 years ago when my eldest saw it and didn’t want to let it go. A very similar one is available on Amazon at a price of £7.95 at the time of writing.
This is an instrument, and toy, that I would highly recommend having in your music box at home. It’s fun and easy to play, and (as long as you get one like the one we have at home that is made from plastic) can be used by even very small children.