Instrumental sounds: create a cacophony with your grandchild

With a third lockdown in place in the UK, following a period of tiered restrictions, we’re all trying to find new ways to interact with and educate our young children.

Many grandparents – myself included – have had to return to virtual contact with their grandchildren. Painful though this has been (especially after weeks of patient anticipation in the run up to Christmas) our family has managed to find a new normal in the past two weeks, by scheduling daily video calls with our increasingly tech-savvy four-year-old granddaughter, Daisy.

These calls have often been scheduled around Daisy’ meals, so that we can enjoy virtual family time at the dinner table – but, as far as my granddaughter is concerned, just because it’s mealtime doesn’t mean it can’t also be playtime!

Picking up the baton

During one recent dinner call we all found ourselves taking part in Daisy’s impromptu ‘orchestra’. Daisy drummed on a shoebox, with her drumstick doubling as a baton during the activity. We all found similar percussion ‘instruments’ in trays, lids and bowls so that we could join her. 

My instruments, much to Daisy’s delight, were a set of sleigh bells I still had lying around after planning a Christmas edition of Kim’s Game, the memory activity that I outlined in a recent blog

A young girl holds a baton aloft
Daisy was ready to conduct!

Taking her lead from one of her favourite episodes of Sarah & Duck, Daisy was ‘conducting’ with her baton and she called us her ‘orchestra’. Together we had to play in time with Daisy, watching the conductor so that we knew when to stop. Although we were many miles apart, we were able to follow her lead and join in the play. 

Quiet and loud, fast and slow

There were moments when Daisy asked us to copy her, making a quieter sound and then getting louder. Following Daisy’s instructions, the play continued and in the ‘orchestra’ we played quietly or loudly, slowly and then fast; all the time we had to watch the conductor to see when we had to stop.

Although the sound we produced was more of a cacophony than a symphony, this was the perfect activity for a family video call and one which Daisy initiated. 

A girl holds a baton aloft as if about to conduct an orchestra
Daisy decided whether we’d play fast or slow

We made the impromptu orchestra using whatever was nearby. On another occasion, we might find a variety of household containers and make shakers together and see how each container and the different contents can make different loud or quieter sounds. 

These ‘instrumental sounds’ activities at home also reflect some of the activities that preschool children may do in their nursery environments. In Early Years the focus is on pre-reading skills, which concentrate on developing a child’s speaking and listening skills.

The instrumental sounds activities encourage children to listen, to begin to distinguish the sounds that they hear and to remember those different sounds and the patterns of sounds. 

Granny Smith says…

As a family we have very few instruments at home (xylophone, tiny tambourine and sleigh bells) so we have to rely on noise makers for this kind of activity. To introduce Daisy to other musical instruments we could watch a video on You Tube together. This would give Daisy an opportunity to see and listen to different instruments, which would help to develop her recognition of the sounds made by those instruments. 

Alongside the play, I would encourage Daisy to listen to the instrument sounds and to try to find words to describe the sounds that she’s hearing too.

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