Musically Montessori: "Percussion Family" Instrument Fun with Preschoolers


Photo by Amanda Cuartas

The 4-year-old in the above photo is part of my favorite "musically Montessori family" and he certainly is enjoying this wonderful percussion instrument. In my video below, his little brother is the baby who is playing the chime bars in his high chair while waiting for his dinner!

Over my many years of playing music with young children, I have discovered time and time again that the drum is one of the all-time favorite instruments that little ones like to play. So, when my Montessori music groups get their first introduction to the Percussion Family instruments of the Orchestra, I like to start with drums.

Percussion Family of Instruments from the Orchestra
Photo from Wikipedia: Percussion instruments

Recently, I created this musical video that gives a whimsical introduction to THE PERCUSSION FAMILY of INSTRUMENTS at my Youtube Channel.

Here's a sampling of "Percussion Family" musical activities you might enjoy with your group:

I've always enjoyed warming up with the children at the beginning of our music circles. We start with exercising the muscles of our hands and arms for playing instruments later. After that, we do some simple breathing so we can build up the muscles of the diaphragm.  
Then, the children like making funny sounds to warm up our voices. 

Here is my own mp3 recording for a sweet little warm-up you can use with your group:
2. Listen to the preview by clicking the play button 
3. Here is how to DOWNLOAD the mp3 to your computer:
  • Go to the dots (... ) in the upper right corner
  • Click on the dots for the drop down menu
  • Click "download" and the mp3 will download to your computer

You can check out more of my warm-ups for kids at my website HERE: Fun Stuff

We always have a short movement activity at the beginning of music time. The one we were doing in the video is a very fun "Stand up and Sit down activity" from my favorite Music Curriculum, "Music Room" from Bushfire Press. When the music moves up to a high pitch, we stand up, and when the music moves down to a low pitch, we sit down. You can use any sort of recorded music for this activity, or you can play up or down on a pitched instrument such as a Xylophone...or better yet, the Montessori bells

In the above video, we were doing a little variation of moving up and down by playing our percussion instruments up high or down low along with the music. (We were playing castanets in the video)  The children spontaneously stood up or sat down when they heard the change in the pitch of the recorded music, because they love moving their entire bodies to the music!

After some musical movement fun for a minute or two, the children are ready to sit and focus on listening. This is when I introduce them to "The Percussion Family" Instruments of the Orchestra. 
I first show the children a picture of an Orchestra in concert.

Photo from Adobe Stock

As I show the picture, I explain to the children:
  • "An Orchestra is a big group of musicians who play songs together for people sitting in the audience and listening to the music." 
  • Next,  I tell them that the people who play the Percussion instruments, like the drums, all sit next to each other in the Orchestra. I explain: "We call this the Percussion section and the instruments are called the 'Percussion Family'"
  • Then, I show them the picture of the instruments of the Percussion family. (see the above photo of the "Percussion Family of the Orchestra")

Now, it's time to prepare our ears for focused listening. 
  • I invite the children to rub their ears gently around the edges to get them sensitized for listening. Then I explain that I am going to play them a recording of music played by the timpani. 
  • I warn the children that the sound may be a surprise, because the timpani drum makes a very low sound! 
  • We listen carefully to a recording of a timpani drum. Then I show them the picture of a Timpani drum and give them the vocabulary: "Timpani Drum"

Timpani Drum

Photo from Adobe Stock

Here is a link for a recording of a Timpani Drum: Timpani Sound on Amazon

Next, we follow the same procedure with the recording of the "Bass Drum" and its photo.

Bass Drum

Photo from Adobe Stock

Here is a link for a recording of a Bass Drum: Bass Drum Sound on Amazon.

We continue the same process and feature the "Snare Drum" this time.

Snare Drum

Photo from Adobe Stock

Here is a link for a recording of the snare drum: Snare Drum Sound on Amazon 

The Bass drum has the lowest pitch of the three drums and the Snare drum has the highest pitch of the three.

Extension #1: Invite the child/ren to play "The High and Low Pitch Game"

  • Play the recording of the bass drum and say: "This is low. Let's put our hands down low on the floor." 
  • Play the recording of the snare drum and say: "This is high. Let's put our hands up high in the air."
  • Say: "Here's the game. When you hear the low sound of the timpani drum, put your hands down low and when you hear the high sound of the snare drum, put your hands up high."
  • Then, play the recordings and encourage the children to move their arms up high or down low according to the pitch of each recording you play for them.

You can reinforce the sounds of the instruments and their names by using a fun game that resembles the second period of The 3-Period Lesson.

Extension #2: Invite the child/ren to play the "Which Sound Is It?Game"
  • Lay out the 3 pictures of the drums saying the name of each as you place each before the child/ren in a left-to-right progression. Say: "Timpani Drum"..."Bass Drum"..."Snare Drum" (this is the 1st period) 
  • Play the recording of one of the drums and say: "Which drum makes that sound?" and invite the child/ren to point to the picture of the drum they hear. (this is the 2nd period)
  • Proceed in the same manner by playing a different recording and asking the child/ren to point to the drum they hear. Continue the game as long as the child/ren are interested.

Yes, young children love drums, but I find it a bit too noisy to have everyone playing drums at music circle. This is a time when I pass around only one drum (or two), and each child has a chance to play it. First, I show them how to use their strong hand and finger muscles to play the drum so that it is not too loud and not too quiet...more like a nice medium touch!

Photo by Jeri-Jo Idarius

After each child has had a turn at playing the drum, then we proceed with our usual instrument exploration and the children all have the same rhythm (or "percussion") instrument. In the above video we were all playing castanets.

Photo by Jeri-Jo Idarius

As you can imagine, the weeks that we explore the Percussion Family are some of the very favorites for the children...and me!

Looking for some fun activities with rhythm instruments?
I have lots of Musically Montessori Lesson Plan Activity Packs at my TpT Store.  I just put 2 of my new ones on sale for 1/2 off the regular price!

I'm so happy to have you visiting my Blog today and I hope that you found some fun ideas for music with your group! If you'd like to have a wonderful sequential Montessori Music curriculum for your group, then you might like my on-line Musically Montessori eCourses.  CLICK HERE to learn more!

If you haven't joined my email list, then I invite you to do that!  Just sign up on the sidebar of this blog and you'll receive my complimentary eBook, "Musically Montessori, The First Lessons" Retail price: $12.99! 


Once again, I have linked this post to the Montessori Monday Link-up at Living Montessori Now. Deb Chitwood and Montessori educators from all over the world offer lots of information and resources and many are FREE!   

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