Larger than jingle bells, there are Small bells of many sizes that are unique in their ability to show how size and shape effect the pitch of an instrument.  In this posting, we focus on train bells, handbells, and bells you might find on playgrounds.  The videos will provide a good start in recognizing the different bells and their sounds.

I also recommend going on an outing to see many of the bells you DON’T have at home.  These small bells may be easily available to you in your community  Real and live experiences offer so much MORE than recorded music.  Here are just a few of the benefits.

  • Young children, even infants, are establishing a base of knowledge and only learn from REAL experiences that engage their minds and bodies.
  • REAL instruments resonate (vibrate) through the body in a way that recorded music cannot match, no matter how old a person is.
  • REAL experiences lay a foundation for recognizing the many different timbres of sound, and strengthens their abilities to hear differences in all sounds.


Most young children will like and relate to the train bell.   This awesome video compares the sounds of different train bells.  Be aware that the sound is made by hooking the bell up to an air compressor.  The older locomotives had a string that went all the way from the cab to the bell.   But these clackers are moved by the power of pressured air, which would be more consistent, and overall easier for the train driver.

There is a wonderful train station in Parrish, FL if you’d like to take a old time locomotive train ride with your child.  Get the details on the website for the Florida Railroad Museum.   My family has really enjoyed the North Pole Express, as well as an Easter train ride that takes us to an open field where the children participate in many fun activities.  Sometimes, even Thomas comes to visit the station.  Tickets for these train rides sell quickly, so purchase well in advance.

Joshua’s homemade hand bell

Hand bells are simply bells that have a handle attached to the top, and a striker on the inside that makes the sound when shaken.  Here is a picture of one of my students and the hand bell that he made to complete an assignment from an Imagine That! Class.

Of course, handbells have been an amazing way to make music for centuries.  Each bell is designed to sound a certain pitch, and it takes a full set of bells to play songs – and a lot of hands.

This video features an amazing SOLOist will allow children to hear the bells and see how the bells work.  Help point out that the larger bells have a lower pitch, and the smaller bells have a higher pitch.


This video features a large GROUP playing the whole range of handbells in the classic music of “Carol of the Bells”.  Your child can see how these people have to work together as a team and follow the director.

During the holiday season, there are often local groups that perform with hand bells.  Check online or in your paper to see if there is an appropriate recital for you and your child.  It may be a bit of a hassle to arrange, but the experience will be memorable.  The real sound of these bells makes music that resonates in your mind and heart.

You can even buy colorful handbells for your child to enjoy at home.

In Lakeland, at Common Grounds playground, I recently discovered a set of pitched bells with nice long sounds.  They are dark green and are located on the South side of the park under the large playset nearest the wall.  Most of them are pitched to harmonize with each other, but there is one bell that causes a dissonant sound.  That means that it sounds great by itself, but when played with another bell there, it sounds out of balance.  This was a specific choice made by the designer to allow children to hear BOTH harmonizing and dissonant sounds.  One of the bells has actually come loose, so it has a short muffled sound.  Have your child find the “broken” bell, and the bell that sounds “off”.

What kind of bells can you find in your community?  Please Share !!!