Backyard Music Makers

My child is obsessed with music.  I mean OB-SESSED.  There aren’t many problems in his three year old world that can’t be solved by playing his favorite music in the car or turning up some tunes and having a spontaneous dance party.  So, when looking for a weekend project that the he could participate in but might also produce something that would engage the kids for seasons to come, this music maker was just what I needed.

The key to success with this the backyard gem is providing a wide variety of ways to make music happen (mostly with objects found around the house, at a local thrift store, or from a hardware store) and then to step away and let the kids take over.  Let them play.  Discover.  Just be kids.  You’ll be surprised to see how much fun a few pots, pans, and pvc pipes can be when there are no rules.

To get started, head to a thrift store or yard sale and pick out several items that look neat, sound neat, make a funny noises, or just strike your fancy.  I went to goodwill with my mom and it was a big time!  We found a wooden pineapple plate on sale for $1.  Then we found a toy car that when rolled across an old oven rack sounded great.  And how about the metal vegetable steamer that folds in and out and can be “played” in countless ways.  With about $12 invested in the project we left the store with SO MANY odds and ends.  I’d suggest buying more than you need, as it’s hard to know how it will all fit on your music maker in advance and you can always donate the extras back in the end.

Next swing by the hardware store or lumber shop to pick up the boards, nails, and hinges for your project.  You’ll need:

  • 4 lengths of whatever wood you are using for your main supports.  I used 2x4s but they are admittedly pretty heavy (yes, dad, you were right.)
  • Approximately 12 lengths of wood for the slats that run down either side of the music maker.  You could certainly use more or less as you please, depending on how large you want your final project to be.  For the slats I’d suggest choosing lumber that is wide (providing you plenty of surface area to attach your objects) but thin, keeping the overall weight of the music maker manageable.
  • 2 hinges
  • 4 cup hook screws or screw eyes
  • two lengths of chain (this will be strung using the cup hook screws to keep the upside-down “V” shape structure’s base from sliding apart.

Armed with your drill and a handful of wood screws, assembly is pretty simple.  You can get out your measuring tape and perfectly space your slats, or you can remember that your tots are not the type to care about that and save yourself the trouble.  The only bit of precision and planning I used here you might be able to spot in the third picture above… I measured and pre-drilled a set of holes and installed a row of golf tees that I knew would be fun to run a wooden spoon against during future jam sessions.

Next, I primed the project with old house paint from the garage, handed off some sample sized paint cans and a foam craft paint brush, and let the little guy GO. TO. TOWN.  And boy did he!  I had an idea of how the painting may go.  Turns out, he had a different idea.  His was much better than mine.

I’m in love with the final product.  Everyone in the family contributed to the painting and it is whimsical in every way.

The next step is to affix all of your found items to your slats.  Some will require nails.  Others may need screws, glue, velcro, or, in some cases all of the above.  We laid out the items in a variety of configurations until settling on our final layout.


Be creative and have fun.  Here is a magnetic bar (meant for hanging knives in a kitchen)  that we used to attach baby food containers filled with a variety of noise making fillers.  One has coins.  Another is filled with sand.  One is filled with golf tees.  One had marbles but they broke the glass jar (duh) so maybe don’t go that route.  The shakers can be removed, played, and put back however you like with their conveniently magnetic tops.


And here we are preparing PVC pipes to make an organ that will later be played with the sole of a foam flip flop sandal.

After all of your objects are affixed, hang some “instruments (think spoons, spatulas, drumsticks…) from your structure and get ready for a show.

You guys: I can’t wait to see what you come up with because really anything (that makes noise) goes!


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