I started using egg cartons in my early childhood music classes many years ago. They always interested me because they’re so light, yet because of their structure they can make sharp and impressively loud sounds. At first, I had my classes simply tap the cartons on the floor in time to music. But since then my students and I have discovered SO MUCH MORE to learn about the sounds of these interestingly-structured objects!
Here are my Top Ten ways to explore the sounds of egg cartons:
1. With rhythmic music playing, tap cartons on the floor, your knees, your head, your tummy, your toes, etc. Which way is the loudest? For this and each of these explorations, children may pass one carton around the circle, or if you’ve saved enough, each child can have one to investigate.
2. Try a styrofoam carton (or a cardboard one if you used styrofoam first). Play it in the same ways. Is the sound different? Why do children think the two kinds of cartons sound different?
3. Turn the carton “egg-side up” and play it like a piano, with your fingers. What does this sound like? Can you play as forcefully with your fingers as you can with your whole hands?
4. Tap two egg cartons together. Try to do this in different ways: like rhythm sticks, end to end, side to side horizontally, etc.
5. Tap two egg cartons together with a partner – each of you holding one of the cartons. Can you think of new ways to play?
6. Open the cartons up. How many ways can you make sound with the open carton?
7. Holding a styrofoam carton, give it a gentle squeeze to hear it squeak. What does this sound remind you of?
8. Rub the cartons (both kinds) on the carpet, then on a bare floor. Are the sounds different? How are they different?
9. With the flat side up, try playing the carton with a light wooden mallet or an unsharpened pencil. What does this sound like? What else could we use as a mallet?
10. With everyone standing, have an egg-carton dance where you dance around the room and tap the cartons of the other dancers. This activity will dent the cartons quite a bit even when done carefully, so you might want to save this one for last!