Here’s a list of rhythm stick activities for preschool and kindergarten music class. Some of the activities can even be used with toddler classes. It’s great for having a rhythm stick day where you’ll only need to pass out rhythm sticks instead of multiple instruments. You can also use an activity here or there to supplement your music lessons. The songs are short and can easily be added to your lesson if kids are already going to have the sticks on hand for something else you’ve planned.
“Introduction to Rhythm Sticks” by Little Ditties Music Academy
Here’s a fun way to make sure your youngest students don’t poke each other in the eye! The trick is to make a bubble and glue elbows to knees.
Ian’s Music Room demonstrates how he introduces rhythm sticks with this versatile song. I really like how he incorporates all of the students’ names into the lyrics. I looked up the song and it seems to be based on the African American spiritual, “Somebody’s Knocking At Your Door.” The key is a bit difficult so I would drop it from F to D.
“Tap Your Sticks” by Makin’ Music Rockin’ Rhythms
My classes are mesmerized by this one. It’s sung to the tune of “Skip to My Lou” and the class uses their rhythm sticks to make a pizza! You can adapt this song to make a dish of your choice. For a peanut butter jelly sandwich, the class can knead the dough, put it in the oven, slice the bread, spread the peanut butter, spread the jelly, and slap the pieces together. You can get even more detailed by having them crack peanuts, smush grapes, etc. To make a soup, chop various veggies and stir the pot. Disclaimer: there is a comment at the very beginning of this video mentioning the use of chopsticks as rhythm sticks. In order to avoid this suggestion, I’m starting the video after the first 27 seconds.
“The Toolbox Song” by Rachel Rambach
I was recently introduced to Rachel Rambach on Instagram by Jenny Focht. Both women compose great songs for early childhood. Here’s one that transforms rhythm sticks into a hammer, paintbrush, saw, and drill. You can also download the music on Rachel’s website. It’s in C major and very easy to accompany with a uke, guitar, or piano. The link is in the YouTube description.
Rhythm Stick Activities by Jbary
Ah, the librarians of Jbary. They have preschool chants and fingerplays for almost any topic. Here’s their playlist of 13 chants and songs using rhythm sticks.
“Tap Your Sticks” by Hap Palmer
This song explores multiple ways that sticks can be played such as tapping, rubbing, and hammering. Have the kids think of ways to play the sticks before playing this song. I’ve found that the younger the kids are, the more creative they are with their instruments, however, this song may be a little complicated for the littles. A teacher has edited the original and simplified it here. I would use the simpler version for tots before moving on to the original below.
“Tap Tap (Your Rhythm Sticks)” by We Kids Rock
The sticks are used for marching, rolling, tapping, and zipping in this Ramones-style song. For zipping, you can let the kids decide how they will zip. Some examples could be to fly the sticks like a rocketship, slide one stick down another, or move it along the floor like a car. This song allows for some wiggle room between directives for you to get creative so why not have a student show-off with a drum solo.
Turn rest position into a game. First, go over a few ways to put your sticks in rest position, then, have students come up with new ways. You can practice the different positions by having them copy what you do in the song “Tap Our Sticks Together” by Rahel (Ann Rachel). Then you can choose student leaders.
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“Edwards Rhythm Sticks” by Franklin Willis
End your lesson with a book all about rhythm sticks! There’s a repeating, rhythmic phrase that is chanted and includes a cue for kids to click their sticks to the beat throughout the story. Buy the ebook or paperback version here. Click the upper image for the ebook and the lower image for the paperback. I also really enjoyed listening to an interview of Franklin Willis on Missy’s Strong’s Music Ed Amplified podcast. His advice to “find your teacher voice” brought new joy to my teaching day.
Cleaning Up with “Oh My Goodness, Look At This Mess!”
Recently, I used the Song “Oh My Goodness, Look At This Mess” by Sweet Honey In the Rock with scarves. I did the same thing with rhythm sticks and near the end of the song, when the singers clean up, I start calling on rhythms sticks to put their instruments away in a basket. I call them by colors like, “If you have one red stick and one blue stick, put your instruments in the basket.”
I hope this list is helpful if you are in need of a handful, or just one rhythm sticks song. If you are looking for more Preschool and K activities, you can find them in my shop. My Boom Cards are especially great for distance learning assignments!