Shake, Rattle, & Roll – Bay Area Discovery Museum

Shake, Rattle, & Roll

Children learn about cause and effect as they experiment with materials and containers to design, build, and play their own unique shaker!

Materials Required

  • Containers:
    • Recycled metal cans with lids (ex. coffee cans)
    • Plastic bowls/containers (ex. yogurt container)
    • Wooden or cardboard bowls/containers (ex. shoe box)
  • Materials for filling containers, such as:
    • Pebbles
    • Short, thick twigs
    • Loose buttons
    • Pom-poms
    • Chunky wooden beads
    • Jingle bells
    • Dry pasta
    • Dry beans
  • Baskets or bins for sorting materials
  • Tweezers and scoops


  1. Before the activity starts, sort materials neatly into baskets or bins.
  2. Ask children to pick a container to make a shaker with and to use the tweezers or scoops to fill their container with their chosen materials.
  3. Encourage children to try out different combinations of materials and containers and to compare and contrast the sounds they hear.
  4. Let children enjoy shaking their shakers and dancing to the music they make!

Additional Tips

Try these add-on activities:

  • Encourage children to walk around and collect their own natural materials to include in their shakers.
  • Make a shaker for someone else, then ask them to guess what is inside by listening carefully to the sound it makes.
  • Ask children: “How can you make a loud sound? A quiet sound?”
  • Ask: “How many shakes make your name?” Say the child’s name and shake the shaker for each syllable. Continue to model syllable counting using familiar names and fun words.
  • Play your shakers together! Encourage children to mimic your rhythmic patterns.
  • Lead children in a sing-along with the shakers providing the rhythm. Start a dance party!

Links to Creativity

Younger children start to empathize with others through physical means. For example, they are more likely to perceive similarities with others through musical attunement (Nachmanovitch, 1990) or rhythmic interactions (Rabinowitch & Knafo-Noam, 2015). While the construction of the shakers is likely to evoke creative designs, the spontaneous collaboration and improvisation when making music is a wellspring of creative potential (Sawyer, 2000).

Supporting research includes:

Nachmanovitch, S. (1990). Free play: Improvisation in life and art. New York: Penguin.

Rabinowitch, T. C., & Knafo-Noam, A. (2015). Synchronous rhythmic interaction enhances children’s perceived similarity and closeness towards each other. PloS one, 10(4), e0120878.

Sawyer, R. K. (2000). Improvisational cultures: Collaborative emergence and creativity in improvisation. Mind, Culture, and Activity, 7(3), 180-185.


This activity was contributed by the Bay Area Discovery Museum. ©2017 Bay Area Discovery Museum. For more information and resources see

Shake, Rattle, & Roll

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