Shakers

These are essentially some kind of unbreakable, safe container containing rattle material. (They may be called cioccolos if they are long and cylindrical; marraccas if they have handles and come in pairs.)

Suitable containers include strong scouring-powder canisters with all trace of powder removed and covered with vinyl wallpaper stuck on with Copydex after the rattle material has been put in. Coloured wrapping paper covered with transparent plastic film or Fablon will do equally well but is more expensive. Special care should be taken to cover the perforated end very firmly. Treat the sides and ends separately leaving the metal rim visible as it is impossible to cover this neatly. Soft-drink cans, well washed and dried, can also be treated as above or they can be painted with primer then gloss paint. Or try using pairs of tops from aerosol cans or pairs of large lids from bottles, stuck together with coloured plastic insulating tape. This tape stretches and can be made to fit well even on curved edges if it is pulled while it is being put on. Use plenty to allow for shrinkage.

Suitable rattle material includes rice, dried beans and peas, coffee beans (make sure the containers are perfectly dry), wire paper clips, small pebbles, small round beads, fiat buttons, lead shot, foil milk bottle tops well washed and lightly scrunched, milk bottle tops squashed into as small a ball as possible, matchsticks, lids from toothpaste tubes or other small bottle tops. The noise each shaker makes will vary according to the size of the container, the material it is made from and the type and amount of rattle material in it. Anyone who makes a set of shakers from metal containers and hard material such as pebbles will rue the day. It is worth experimenting before finally closing and covering the container.

These shakers can be used to produce a rhythm, sound effects or for listening and guessing games. They can be shaken loudly or softly and will make a different noise depending on how they are tipped – from side to side or end to end. A circular movement may be too difficult for the children but this rolls the rattle material round and round giving a continuous noise.

Marraccas are scarcely worth making as most young children can use a pair of improvised shakers to just as good effect and in any case they can be bought relatively cheaply from music shops.