From an early age, kids and music are a natural fit. Your little one falls asleep to a classical melody, sings a happy song in the morning and dances to the beat of a rock tune in the afternoon. It's clear that your toddler or preschooler loves music. And music is good for her, too! Music creates neural connections between cells in kids' brains. And, while listening to music has benefits, actively participating is even better. So, why not create a family bluegrass band, starting with a simple, homemade banjo?
1. What Is a Banjo?
Banjos are like drums with strings stretched across them. This style of instrument goes way back in history, with ties to Africa, the Middle East and the Far East. The banjo as it is in America today can be traced to African slaves. They made instruments -- with names like "banjil," "banza" and "bangoe" -- from a gourd with a wooden stick neck. In 1781, Thomas Jefferson spoke of a "banjar" that slaves brought with them from Africa. Today, the banjo has four to six strings and is made from plastic or animal skin stretched over a circular frame. It is often used in folk, country and bluegrass music.
2. The Body
Your toddler or preschooler will be proud to help you make a simple banjo. Use two disposable aluminum pie plates for the banjo head. Have your little helper paint and decorate the back of one plate and the inside of the other. Banjos don't have to be boring brown and white. Paint yours pink and add glitter glue, or paint it green and add music-theme stickers. Hot glue the plates together, one inside the other. Glue a paint can stir stick to the bottom plate to create a handle.
3. Pretty It Up
Have your toddler or preschooler pick out colored beads to create banjo pegs. Glue the beads to the sides of the wooden handle, near the end. Wrap four thick rubber bands around the pie plate body, starting where the handle meets the body and stretching them across to the other side of the pie plates. These are the strings -- a necessity for your little music lover. Tape the rubber bands in place at the back of the banjo. Now, grab some ear plugs, because a kid doesn't tire of noise as quickly as Mom does. Your little one can play her banjo all night!
If you haven't eaten any pies lately, use a couple of heavy-weight paper plates for the body of your banjo. For an even more unique looking banjo, use colored plastic flying discs. You can also use a shoe box or a tissue box for the body -- this will make for a completely different addition to your family bluegrass band. String rubber bands or yarn across the box and use drum sticks tied together for a handle. Your toddler or preschooler will have some ideas. Include her in on the planning and watch those neurons fire!
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