Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Rainsticks to Sing With!


Rainsticks have become very popular as classroom instruments in the past 25 years.  You can find them at powwows, in music stores, in international craft stores and at educational conferences.  They are fun, really do sound like rain, and whatever their origin, they’re a delightful addition to world music.

Where do rainsticks come from?  The Aztecs?  Africa?  Ecuador?  No one is really sure.  My 4’6” rainstick is from Chile – signed and numbered – made by the Diaguita Indians and used to thank the gods for rain.   When turned, the pebbles inside cascade past thorns, making a tinkling sound.  My students smile, then giggle, then sit open-mouthed in wonder at the sound.  With such a large rainstick, it takes almost a minute for the last “drop” to fall!

What is a rainstick?  Authentic rainsticks are the dead stalks of a cactus with the thorns that once stuck outward hammered INWARD.  Filled with pebbles or seashells and sealed, it makes a magical sound very much like a rainstorm, starting softly, growing in volume and intensity, then tapering off to a pitter pat of the final rocks travelling from one end to the other.  The shorter the stick, the shorter the storm!

How can YOU make a rainstick?  There are MANY ways to make rainsticks – here’s my favorite.  Please let me know how YOU do it.  I’ve found this to produce a great musical sound, be sturdy, and my 4’s and 5’s really enjoy making them – and taking them home at the end of the year!

24” mailing tubes with end covers
1 ¾” roofing nails (about 50-60 per tube)
a hammer
white craft paper
hot glue
filling (I use rice, popcorn and assorted beans)
paint or markers
white glue
yarn for decoration

1. Pre-punch about 50-60 holes in each tube.  Yes, it’s time consuming, but worth it.  Watch a little Dancing With The Stars, and you’ll be done in no time!

2. Children put a bandaid on their thumb, pad of bandaid on pad of thumb.  Put out plates of nails, and have the children press a nail into each hole.  This usually takes about 20 minutes.
Be sure to take both ends off a tube and have the children look inside – it looks just like a cactus rainstick!

3.  Hot glue one end of tube shut.

4.  Children pour in about 1 ½ cups of filling.

5.  Hot glue the other end to seal.

6.  To make a Cover:  Cut craft paper into strips, 24 x 7”.  Children can decorate with paint or markers.  Dry.  With white glue, attach covers to rainstick – use enough glue so that it makes the nails inaccessible.

7.  Wind yarn around one end of tube, about 3” from the top for decoration.

Now you’re ready to do some “Singing in the Rain!”
      You can find this great action song on my “Dancing Feet!” cd.  If you know “Tootie Ta” – this is another take on an add-on song with silly, fun movements!  You may know the song, written by Freed and Brown in 1929!  It was a great movie, too!

Bottoms up!
I’m singing in the rain
Just singing in the rain
What a glo-ri-ous feeling
I’m happy again!
   Teacher leads, children echo:
Thumbs up!    (echo)
Shoulders back!  (echo)
          Repeat chorus, adding one movement with each repetition:
Knees together!
Bottoms up!
Tongue out!
Eyes closed!

With RAINSTICKS:  We pick up our rainsticks, turning them over and over during the choruses, putting them down to do the motions.  It’s a great exercise in anticipating sequence and pattern.  Without Rainsticks, sway hands overhead during the chorus.

     I’ve heard from students that rainsticks made this way are still making music 10 years later!

If you have questions – and definitely if you have a different way to make a great rainstick – spill the beans!

Yours for a Pitter Patter!
Miss Carole


  1. Rainsticks are lots of fun with all ages. There are tons of rain songs. And Lots of other instruments you can include when talking about rain. For more ideas, you can see my recent post:

    1. YES YES! I have about a dozen rain songs - and everyone's posts in April about Spring Rain made me think this would be a good idea for a post. Loved your song - and I did one in April, too!
      Thanks for reminding us of yours, JoAnn!

  2. I never realized what real rain sticks were made of until I read this. I also didn't realize young children could make them as I thought real nails and real hammers were needed. Thank you so much for enlightening me! Carolyn

  3. Hi Carolyn!
    Yes, I think everyone thinks it's a difficult project. It does take some planning and prep, but it's always been totally worth it for my students. I usually don't work with more than 12 children at a time. I split the projects into several days: Day 1 - Put in nails. Day 2 Add filling, glue ends. Day 3 Paint Covers. Day 4 Glue on covers, wrap yarn.
    Let me know if you make a rainstick. They can also be a class project - make several that can be used by the class for singing rain songs!

  4. Great post, Miss Carole! I loved reading about rainsticks and appreciated your clear tutorial. I pinned your post to my Kids' Music Activities Pinterest board at

    1. Thanks, Deb. And thanks for passing it on!


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