Toddler Games with Musical Shakers, for Speech and Language Development

Photo of author

By In The Playroom

Making musical shakers with little ones is such an easy activity with lots of play and learning potential. We have made many of these throughout the years, since Z was a baby but this week R and I made some musical shakers using pasta as the filler.

My focus with these toddler games with musical shakers was speech and language, although picking up the pasta pieces one by one and filling up the bottle is also great for developing fine motor skills and precision.

Games to play with musical shakers to help develop speech and language skills. Ideas for songs and games plus making your own DIY shakers and instruments with kids

 To make a basic musical shaker at home you will need a choice of container such as:

You will also need a choice of fillings such as:

  • Dry uncooked pasta
  • Lentils
  • Uncooked Chick Peas
  • Uncooked Rice
  • Uncooked dry beans
  • Small pebbles
  • Beads (large ones if you are worried your child will put them in their mouth)
  • Marbles
  • Glitter or sequins

The list of fillings could be really endless, you can try whatever you think would be good – and mix and match fillings within your musical shaker or stick to just one. You could make different musical shakers and compare their sounds. Of course, you will need to fix the lid on tightly once your toddler’s musical shaker has been filled.

making home made musical shakers

I gave R pasta for his shaker, because the pieces are large enough for him to easily pick up by himself and place into the container. If you are using smaller items, like grains of rice or lentils you can set up the area with a funnel to pour the filling in to make the musical shaker.

filling home made musical shakers for toddlers

While filling the bottle, you can use this as an opportunity to reinforce turn taking. We do this by saying out loud “R’s turn” & “Mum’s turn”. If your child is quite young and still developing very basic language it’s also a good opportunity to teach language like “more” while they add more filling to the shaker.

Learning the rhythm of turn taking is important in speech and language because in a conversation, each participant takes their turn to speak in a back and forth. So getting in to that routine of making a sound with the shaker, then waiting for the other person to make a sound, and then making your own sound again – this mimics conversational turn taking and can be helpful for a child’s early speech and language skills. 

As parents, we do this naturally even with babies. We listen to them coo and babble, then we respond. Listen again, and respond again, and so on. This is turn taking in communication. 

toddler games with musical shakers

Once the shaker is made, you can have lots of noisy fun with it! (The tongue is R’s concentrating face! πŸ˜€ )

You can also add these to a nursery rhyme treasure basket.

We use the shakers to practise listening, by having R listen out for “Ready, Steady…GO” and then listening and responding to “stop” too.  You can make this into a game, and sometimes use different words like “ready…steady…bananas!” to check if the child is listening.

We use the shakers to practise shaking fast, slow, noisy, and quietly.  You can also use this to practise position words: shake high, shake low.

A fun song that you can use for shaking fast and slow is Twinkle Twinkle Traffic Lights.

Twinkle Twinkle Traffic Light Rhyme for Toddler Speech and Language

twinkle twinkle traffic light rhyme for kids speech and language

(try this fun traffic light craft with the kids too!)

Twinkle twinkle traffic light

On the corner shining bright(shaking normally for these two lines)

Red means stop (stop shaking), Green means GO! (shake fast)

Yellow means go but very slow (slow shaking)

Twinkle twinkle traffic light 

On the corner shining bright. (shaking normal or fast for these last two lines)

You can also use shakers to make noise while you dance around or listen to any music that your child likes, using simple language to comment on what is happening.

How do games with musical instruments help your child’s speech and language development?

Language development is an important part of early childhood and impacts a child’s ability to learn in the future. So, how can playing with musical instruments help? 

Making basic shakers as shown in this blog post gives a great opportunity for connection and communication with your little one, as well as encouraging listening skills which is really important for speech and language. 

child using a xylophone

A toddler’s brain is in a critical stage of development, which means they need stimulation from many different sources to stimulate their brain. Studies have observed the effects of musical instruments on toddlers with speech and language delays or disorders with results showing that toddlers who used musical instruments had an overall better sense for phonetics (which is the study and analysis of speech sounds).

When children learn phonics, to get ready to learn how to read, the first phase focuses on listening and sounds before even touching on the concept of letters – because these skills are the foundation of everything that comes afterwards. 

Music provides early developmental opportunities for the brain to learn and practice skills in an engaging way. Playing music with a toddler can also teach them about how different sounds go together to create melodies, as well as the importance of following a certain sequence of events or steps.

The exciting thing about this is that it’s not just about listening to music; it’s about creating it too!

More Music Activities for Toddlers

For more ideas have a look at these articles about making music with toddlers:

Chinese New Year Shaker

Pot of Gold Rainbow Shaker for Sensory Play

Loom Band Sensory Bottles

Syllable Sticks : a craft to help with clapping out syllables

Making a drum with your toddler

Egg Shaker Activities (these are a little more advanced)

Using Musical Instruments in Creative Play

You may also be interested in:


Helping your child’s speech and language development

For more simple speech and language ideas, follow our Pinterest board

Follow Anna – In The Playroom’s board Speech and language on Pinterest.

And don’t forget to pin this post for later

games to play with musical instruments for speech and language development
toddler games with musical shakers for speech and language development

image credit: colorful maracas for sale Shutterstock

Website | + posts

Anna Marikar, mum of four and seasoned blogger, has spent over a decade sharing her parenting journey and passion for kid-friendly crafts and free printables.
Her easy-to-follow craft ideas and practical parenting advice have transformed In The Playroom into a cherished resource for parents.

45 thoughts on “Toddler Games with Musical Shakers, for Speech and Language Development”

Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge