There is an updated version of this post at https://inventorsoftomorrow.com/2017/03/13/hear/

We did all five senses in one session of Family Inventor’s Lab. It would have been easy to come up with a full day’s worth of activities for most of the senses, but especially for hearing, there was so much more we could think of to do.

Musical Instrument “Petting Zoo”: One of our teachers brought her harp to class, and played on it and allowed children to play on it. They discussed the sounds it makes, and noticed the vibration of the strings. They saw that the thin short strings played higher notes than the long thick strings.

We have many more instruments we could have brought and explored: an accordion, a guitar, recorders, drums, and so on. Each has interesting characteristics to discuss.

Make your own instrument: We made shakers. We used small plastic containers with lids from the dollar store. (We have also used the plastic salad dressing size takeout containers in the past, but their lids were not as secure.) We had a variety of things to fill them with: salt, popcorn kernels, pasta, jingle bells, marbles. Children could choose which to use. (We also had samples set out that they could test before deciding what to put in their own shaker.) We used these during circle time, along with drumming on plastic (Tupperware-like) containers.

Other ideas for instruments to make:

  • A drum – use containers from the recycling bin, wrap shrink wrap plastic (like you use to insulate windows) across the ends. Tape it down, then use hair dryer to shrink it tight. Test the tone of the drum as you shrink…. when it’s first applied, it won’t be taut, and may not make a sound or will make a dull thudding sound. As you heat shrink it, the smaller it shrinks, the higher the tension on the plastic, the sharper the sound. Directions can be found here.
  • A rainstick: can use two tennis ball containers, the plastic rings from a six pack of soda, and plastic pellets or beads – here’s a kit for one, but you could gather your own materials. Or use paper towel tubes, or ideally poster tubes. Put toothpicks or nails or something through the tube to obstruct the path of falling objects. Then add objects – beads or rice or beans. Tutorials on Free Kids Crafts and Happy Hooligans.
  • A stringed instrument. From basic to complex: 1) Stretch rubber bands around a margarine or yogurt container. Strum across the top – the container acts as a sound box. 2) Cut a hole in a box (or use a Kleenex box that already has a hole in it). Stretch rubber bands around it and strum over the hole (like a guitar). If you want to get fancy, tuck a pencil under the bands to act like a guitar bridge. 3) You can make these into guitars if you want a more elaborate end product. Learn how here.

Telephones: Take a long tube, put a funnel at each end – have kids take turns talking and listening. Or, take 2 plastic cups or yogurt containers – poke holes in bottom, run string between them (tie knots in the ends of the string so they don’t slip through the hole). Kids stand as far apart as they can, and take turns talking and listening.

What’s that sound? You can blindfold them or have them close their eyes, then make sounds – see if they can identify them. Or put a variety of items inside opaque containers (like yogurt containers or cardboards boxes.) Have kids shake them and try to identify what is inside. You can have pictures of the items and they can place each item on its matching picture. Or you can make two of each shaker, and their job is to find the matching shakers.

What’s that sound effect? Play sound recordings and see if kids can guess the sound.

Active listening games: The teacher beat out a rhythm on a drum and asked them to copy the rhythm. You could also sing note patterns and ask them to copy. Counting beans: students close eyes. Drop one bean, then two beans in quick succession. Ask how many beans you dropped. Continue with a variety of patterns, up to several beans.

Silly sound game: Go around the circle. Ask each child to make a sound with their mouth (whistle, hum, blow a raspberry, click tongue, and so on.) Other children try to copy.

Outside: When we were out on a hike, we listened and described what we heard. Then we practiced deer ears – cup your hands behind your ears and notice how much you can hear. Read more here.

Whistle hide and seek: Give kids a whistle. They go hide, then blow whistle while others try to find them.

Snack time: Have loud foods (carrot sticks, apple slices, tortilla chips, cheerios). What do they sound like when you eat them?

Listen through walls: Use a glass on the wall to listen to noises in another room. Learn more here.

What if your sense of hearing didn’t work? Have them try on noise-cancelling headphones (if you don’t have those, even regular headphones or earmuffs will muffle sound) or ear plugs and see how differently they experience the world.

Introduce some basic sign language and talk about how people can use it to communicate.

For more sound-related experiments and activities, click here or go to Paso Partners.


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