Let Musical Creativity Flow… Start with a New Pencil

A Brand New Pretty Pencil has so much potential !    There may be stories to write, or pictures to draw, or songs to write, or instruments to make.  What kind of instrument can be made with a pencil???  It is likely for a child to get a colorful  pencil as a Valentine’s gift these days, esp. from teachers.  But, there are many creative ways to use it.  It can be a fun challenge to design and create a unique instrument with one or more pencils.


For Valentine’s Day, I love to hand out a Valentine’s PENCIL to each student from 18 months old up to 7 years old.  They, and their family, are challenged to make an instrument, of any sort, using this pencil (leaving it UNsharpened).   A few examples are demonstrated, and most of the students leave the classroom explaining their creative ideas in detail to their parents.  They are so excited to be given this project.

Since 2008, my Kindermusik students and families continually surprised me with their creativity.  This slideshow brings back such great memories of each of these children and the families that opened the door to let their creativity flow – in their own unique way.

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Watching the slide show with your child may jump start their creativity by seeing so many examples.  I suggest watching it together, and making a list of all the different types of things that were used.

Divide your sheet into 4 categories.

  • Containers (milk jug, water bottle, toilet paper tube…)
  • How to attach (rubber bands, tape, glue…) or use pencil (tap, shake, rub…)
  • Sound makers (bells, shaker materials, drum head material?)
  • Decoration Options

This is an excellent way for a child to see the importance of words on paper, leading to an interest in literacy.  It also can be helpful in setting them up for success in letting their creativity flow.

Read over the lists, talk about what you have around the house, and gather several options from each category.   Lay them all out on a table – easy to see and reach.

At this point, you may just sit back and relax, and OBSERVE your child as they enjoy the process of creating something truly their own.  Describe the objects and what they are doing, but don’t judge.  Ask them what they think about it.

If the child is younger, or if they need a little more guidance, simply ask open ended questions, like:

  • What is your favorite thing on this table?
  • How can we use it to make a sound that you will like?
  • How shall we use the pencil??  tap with it?  rub it over a bumpy part?  attach it and use it to shake or twist it?  (Demonstrate each type.)
  • What do we need to do to put it all together?
  • How would you like to decorate it?

Really observing and describing their actions and choices without judgement helps them recognize that you value their efforts each step along the way, building their confidence as independent thinkers, and DOers.  Let them ask you for help if they need it, or if they seem frustrated, offer 2 – 3 different options to resolve the next step.

Do they want to make more than one?  Would they like to see something that the parent may create?   Their answers may surprise you.

Once completed, put on the tunes and have a parade.  Call Grandma and let them share their enthusiasm about the new instrument – letting them tell the story to describe how they made it.  (Here is a great opportunity to see how much they listened to your descriptions of them, and how much they use their own words to describe what they did.)  This is EXCELLENT for language skills, and eventually make much better writers!

I suggest video taping everything in that last paragraph !  Then share with as many people who will listen !  The child will be so proud.

If your child is too young to describe it, then have them play the instrument for a family member, then point to the different parts as YOU describe in detail how the child created this special instrument.  In their minds, it’s as if they are doing the whole thing themselves, AND it helps make connections as they listen to the description so they can point to the correct part.

I look forward to seeing what my Kindermusik students and families will create this year.  Perhaps I’ll make a new slide show with the results !

If you DO enjoy this activity, we’d love to hear about your creative ideas.  How did YOU and your child make an instrument using a pencil?

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