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Instrument Play: Tips for using rhythm instruments in class and at home!

Babies and toddlers love to explore and make noise with musical instruments. Playing musical instruments, such as the maracas, helps babies and toddlers strengthen fine motor skills, hand eye coordination, concentration, memory and audio development. Instrument play is one of the first tools used to help develop listening skills.

Maggie Rife

  • Infants have the ability to grasp small objects and mini maracas are the perfect tool to help babies develop their fine motor skills and over the first year help them to develop the coordination to pick up and hold things securely in their hands.
  • At 3 months babies aren’t necessarily able to grasp the instruments, but they can bat at them. As they develop hand eye coordination they begin to reach for them.
  • By 4 to 8 months babies can pick up instruments and begin to hold them more securely. Placing several instruments just out of reach, can entice your baby to reach for and rake the instruments toward themselves.
  • By 9 to 12 months babies have begun to master their fine motor skills and can pick up instruments with little effort to manipulate and shake them to make sound. As your baby plays with the instruments, you can begin to see whether they have a right or left hand preference. They can begin to work on their pincer skills with small instruments such as the castanets.

Instrument play can also be used to encourage Gross Motor development. Toddlers should be able to hold two objects in their hands and shake them simultaneously. Instrument play can encourage toddlers to work on transferring objects from hand to hand. As they develop their gross motor skills they will begin to use their entire body to make large movements and will pull themselves up on the drums, pound with drumsticks and walk while shaking the instruments. Instruments such as the cymbals, that require the simultaneous movement of both arms are a great tools to encourage coordination of their limbs and hand eye coordination.

Use instruments to encourage forward thinking by placing two instruments in their hands and one on the floor in front of them. Their initial reaction will be to try and pick the one on the floor up without putting something down. After several attempts they will realize that it is much easier to put one down before attempting to pick the one on the floor up.

Fostering your child’s early interest in music by playing with instruments both at home and in class can have a dramatic impact upon your child’s cognitive and physical development. I encourage parents to bring music into their home with a small selection of instruments to help them reach developmental milestones and to build a foundation for their child’s early learning skills.

You can find some of our favorite instruments from class on sale at Bubbles Academy or in our online store.



Kim Schiefelbein

Kim Schiefelbein is the Senior Director of Music at Bubbles Academy. A certified fitness instructor, Kim also leads the Stroller Fitness program.