Exploring Tone (Timbre)

From the beginning children are interested in sound. They love to listen to their parents voice. They like to listen to the rhythm of the sound of words. They are fascinated with music. So, it is important for adults to provide them with lots of opportunity to listen to speech, music, and sound, as well as to experiment with making sounds.

The materials below help draw children's conscious attention to the different attributes of sound.

Sound Cylinders

Children have always enjoyed shakers and rattles. Therefore, a set of shakers is provided to the children in the form of a set of sound cylinders. Each shaker makes a different sound. One shaker may contain rice, another salt, or beans, etc. In order to keep the children's attention focused on listening to sounds, each cylinder is sealed so the children don't get distracted taking the shakers apart. Initially, six shakers are provided in a box. Children can take out the shakers and listen to the sounds that each makes.


After listening to the sounds of the various shakers, children can be given two matching sets of shakers. The two sets are distinguished by color. Usually, one set is color coded red, while the other is color coded blue.

With two mactching sets of sound cylinders, the challenge is to find the cylinders in one set that match the cylinders in the other set. For example, a child tries to find a blue cylinder that sounds like a red cylinder. Having found two cylinders that make the same sound, the child then places them together and tries to find two other cylinders that sound the same.

In the beginning a child is usually given only three cylinders out of each set so as to not become overwhelmed. After the child gets the idea, more cylinders can be introduced and the child can work with a set consisting of six blues and six reds.

Loud and Soft

When children can discriminate and match sounds successfully, they enjoy taking one set of cylinders and attempting to place them in a sequence from loud to soft.

The Silence Game

Children also enjoy playing a game called "The Silence Game" in which they try to see how quiet they can be. A group of children all try to be real quiet. They then listen to see if they can hear any sounds. They then can share with the group sound they may have heard. They may have heard each other moving slightly. So, they will probably enjoy trying again and attemtping to be so still that they don't make any sounds.

Children always enjoy challenges. Once they are attending to sound, they will enjoy attempting to carry things like chairs without making a sound. It is very hard to lift, carry, and the place a chair without making a sound. This can be a fun activity for a small group of children.


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