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Learn how to make a rainstick using a cardboard carpet tube, nails and sunflower seeds.

By Andrea Mulder-Slater

Legend has it that the Chilean Indians invented the rainstick to make rainy weather. The rainstick is a type of tubular rattle that throughout the ages, has been used by many cultures in various ways. The rainstick has an unusual internal structure. An interior maze formed of either cactus spines, wooden pegs, bamboo or palm slivers distinguishes the rainstick from other tube rattles. The cylinder is filled with pebbles, hard seeds, beans, sand, rice, or tiny shells. One traditional method of making rainsticks is to use cactus. The spines or thorns are “hammered” inward and lava rock is poured inside the hollow tube. The sounds created when the lava rock hit the many thorns inside the cactus tube, mimic the sound of rain falling on the leaves. You can make a rainstick using materials you and your kinderartists can find around the house.

What You Need:

  • Cardboard tubes in a variety of sizes. Eg: Toilet paper rolls, paper towel rolls, gift wrapping, mailing or carpet tubes.
  • Corrugated cardboard
  • Packing or masking tape
  • Hot glue or white glue
  • Drill (only necessary if using carpet tube)
  • Flat head nails or toothpicks
  • Hammer
  • Scissors
  • Acrylic paint or poster paint
  • Paintbrushes
  • Fabric (a small amount of burlap, cotton, etc.)
  • Decorations to glue on the rainstick (leaves, jute, twine, shells, yarn, sand etc.)
  • Objects to put inside the rainstick (rice, corn kernels, sunflower seeds etc.)

What You Do:

  1. Try to use 3″ to 4″ in diameter carpet tubes that you can find at any carpet and flooring store. If you are lucky, the stores will give you the tubes that they would otherwise throw away. The first step is to cut the tube to an approximate length of three to five feet. You can also use smaller tubes such as paper towel rolls.
  2. Next, you should drill tiny holes (smaller than your nails) around the entire area of the carpet tube. This will make hammering the nails much easier and safer. Note: If you are using smaller tubes from toilet paper or wrapping paper, then all you need to do is poke holes with an awl or other sharp instrument.
  3. Using a hammer, insert flat headed nails into the holes that you have drilled. When you look into your tube, you should see an absolute maze of nails. Note: If you are using smaller tubes ie toilet paper or wrapping paper, then all you need to do is stick toothpicks through the holes you poked earlier.
  4. You are now ready to “plug” one end of your tube. You can use many different things but we find that the best material is corrugated cardboard. Simply place the tube on a piece of cardboard, trace around the tube and cut out the circle. Repeat the process so you have a circle for both ends. You can attach the cardboard circle using hot glue, white glue or tape.
  5. When one end of your tube is sealed, put a few cups of sunflower seeds, rice, corn kernels or a combination of all three, into the tube. You will start to hear just how many or how few cups it will take achieve the desired sound. Remember, you don’t want to make the rainstick too heavy, so take it easy on the filling.
  6. Once you are satisfied with the sound, you can seal the other end of the tube with the second circle.
  7. OK, now you are ready to paint using acrylic paint. The designs are entirely up to you. The key is to keep it simple and to repeat patterns and colors.
  8. When the paint is dry, you might want to add some decorations using hot glue or white glue. Sand, shells, raffia or material are all good ideas.
  9. All that’s left to do is to play your rainstick and wait for the thunder.

Make a rainstick with


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