Drinking coffee can be very beneficial for the young children you teach. No, I don’t mean they should drink coffee! But if you do, you can get a free set of fantastic musical instruments for your whole class.
Coffee cans! If you’re not saving them and repurposing them to be children’s drums, you should. Here’s why: Coffee cans are actually better for playing in large groups than commercially-made children’s drums, since their sound is softer and more muted. Another musical advantage is that coffee cans can be turned upside-down and played on the metal side for a different sound, which encourages auditory discrimination and improvisational flexibility.
You may wish to make a class project out of collecting coffee cans and decorating them with paint, construction paper and crayons, or other materials. This makes the drums more individual, and children enjoy taking out their own drum when it’s music time. Be aware, though, that paint and paper will change the sound of the instrument – uncovered metal has a sharper, brighter sound.
I also like the fact that coffee cans are familiar household objects to most children. When I bring one out, someone is sure to say, “My mom drinks coffee!” or “We have coffee at my house!” very excitedly. It starts a meaningful, engaging conversation among the children. And using coffee cans to make music promotes the idea of repurposing objects rather than throwing them away. I always tell my students that before I throw anything away, I ask myself, “Could I make music with this?” The answer is often yes!
One helpful tip: Before you pass out coffee cans to the group, bring out one and ask them to guess what’s inside it. Then remove the lid to show them – it’s empty! So there’s no need for them to open it up themselves. This reduces the number of children who take off the lids in the middle of an activity and then can’t put it back on.
Watch this blog for upcoming posts on ideas for music activities using coffee-can drums!
(Adapted from my recent book “Shake, Rattle and Roll: Rhythm Instruments and More for Active Learning” (Gryphon House, 2015).