Rainstick Instructions

1.5 Hours | Beginner | Ages 6+

Materials Needed:

poster mailing tube
tempura paint sticks 
hammer and nails (I used 1-1/2″ nails)

decorative papers, handpainted papers, or these: ( https://roylco.com/shop/r15256-amazing-animal-paper/)

dried beans, rice, corn

beads, feathers and other embellishments of your choice

low heat glue gun or white glue

In many cultures, summoning rain often included the use of musical instruments. One well-known example is a rainstick, an instrument that mimics the sound of rain. They are traditionally made from dead cactus tubes with cactus spines hammered to the inside and filled with tiny pebbles.

Since the dawn of civilization, humans have relied on rain so they could grow crops and have drinking water. But as important as rain is, we humans haven’t had much knowledge of how weather worked for most of our history. Without scientific knowledge or instruments, people came up with other solutions. Rituals and superstitions were all we had for thousands and thousands of years.

The origin of the rainstick is not fully known, but many people think that it probably came from a group of indigenous people known as the Diaguita from the deserts of northern Chile. The ancient Mayans had ‘rain-makers.’ According to information found at  www.climatekids.nasa.gov , these important members of society were thought to have special knowledge of the ways of the rain god, Chaac. In times of great drought and famine, they created elaborate banquets for Chaac in an effort to persuade him to bring more rain. Native American tribes of the Southwestern United States, are known for performing elaborate rain dances in an effort to bring water to their dry lands. The Guajiro people of South America are known for shooting arrows at the clouds to pierce them and cause them to spill rain over their land. Many cultures still practice these traditional rituals today, either to stay connected to their heritage or as a way to hope for rain.

A rainstick seemed to be a likely craft when thinking of projects for my Rainforest theme last fall. After all, we hope our rainforests continue to have heavy rains to keep their myriad of life forms alive and thriving. Follow along to learn the steps my young artists, ages 5-9 took to complete these fun, musical toys.

How We Made Them

Despite the fact that we were working in the garage (thanks to Covid-19) the artists seemed enthralled with this quick project and definitely enjoyed the noise that they were able to make!

1) To begin this project, I recommend having an adult hammer nails into the poster tubes. Space out the nails along the seam of the tube creating a spiral of nails the whole length of the tube. 

2) Open one end cap of the tube. Fill the tube halfway with a mixture of dried beans, birdseed, and pumpkin seeds. Replace the end cap to the tube and secure both ends with clear packing tape before kids start decorating.

3) To decorate, use a variety of papers for collaging material. We were working with a jungle theme and used several animal print papers to cover our tubes. Glue the papers securely with Elmers or Tacky Glue. Use and assortment of embellishments such as feathers, ric-rac, yarn, tassels, ribbons, and beads to layer and add interest to the rainstick. Allow children the freedom to design their own tube. I encouraged my students to let their ideas lead their designs, and no two sticks were alike.