Joey School

Fun and Creative Ways to Teach with Rhythm Sticks

Fun and Creative Ways to Teach with Rhythm Sticks

Rhythm sticks are one of our all time favorite instruments to use with preschoolers. Not only do they love to play with them, but they can be used to teach so many concepts. Just to name a few, there's rhythm, beat, hand eye coordination, patterns, counting, taking turns, listening, directions (forward and back, up and down, side to side), and creativity.  

Sometimes we use them to play along to music and sometimes we use them to make our own. In this article, we’re going to cover some fun ideas for teaching concepts with rhythm sticks along with some of our favorite activities and songs. 

Teaching Concepts with Rhythm Sticks

So what exactly can you teach with rhythm sticks? Well, they are a great tool for teaching, directionality, patterns and beat!

Before diving into how you can use the rhythm sticks, first, explain to your preschooler the various ways they can be used. 

Move them in different directions:

  1. Tap in front
  2. Tap behind
  3. Tap up in the air
  4. Tap down low
  5. Tap to each side

Make different sounds: 

  1. Tap them fast
  2. Tap them slow
  3. Rub together
  4. Hold them together and roll them in between hands
  5. Tap them on the floor
  6. Hold in the air (rest)  
  7. Tap them on your knees

Pretend they are tools:

After students have learned all the different things they can do with their rhythm sticks, you can teach them how to make patterns.  

Examples of patterns: 

  • “tap, tap, rest, tap, tap, rest” 
  • “tap, rub, tap, rub, tap, rub” 
  • hammer, drill, saw, hammer, drill, saw

After modeling a few of these patterns and allowing students to practice, we always invite them to come up with their own. We let each student take a turn demonstrating the pattern, then we invite the rest of the class to follow. Sometimes they need a little guidance with their moves (some of the moves they come up with don’t make complete sense)! 

Teaching kids to tap to the beat

When teaching kids to tap to the beat, generally, modeling it for them and inviting them to follow works best. Start by tapping the two sticks together and counting slowly to 8, tapping the stick with each number. When they kids can follow confidently, move on to any of the other movements or patterns listed above.  

If using a pattern it would look something like this: 

tap rub tap rub tap rub tap  rub
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8


Have a little fun!  

In addition to learning meaningful concepts, rhythm sticks are also a great avenue for fun and creativity. Here are a few of our favorite songs that use rhythm sticks to inspire creativity and include the learning concepts we listed above.

Tick Tock Goes the Clock - From Joey School 

Tap Tap - From We Kids Rock

Tap Your Sticks - From Hap Palmer

This Old Man 

Sing each verse. Instruct your child to use the rhythm sticks to lightly tap the item in each verse. 

When singing each verse, replace the bold words with the words below. You may need to pretend your pointer fingers are rhythm sticks and show your child what to do. 

This Old Man, he played one,
He played knick knack on my thumb
With a knick knack paddywhack give a dog a bone,
This old man came rolling home (roll sticks around each other) 

Two - shoe

Three - knee

Four - door

Five - to a jive

Six - stick (hit sticks together) 

Seven - to eleven (pretend you are beating on a drum while counting up to eleven)

Eight - plate

Nine - spine

Ten - in my den (Make a den in the air, by holding the sticks above your head and forming a rainbow shape down)

We cannot wait for you and your preschooler(s) to grab your rhythm sticks and start making music! Have fun!