Traditional Chinese Rattle Drums

The rattle-drum is one of the oldest and most traditional toys in China. It is a small double-sided drum with a handle and a wooden ball hanging from a string attached to each end of the edge to beat the drum. When swayed, the balls on both sides will beat the drum, sending out rattling sounds. The earliest form of the rattle-drum appeared in the Warring States Period, when it was used as a percussion instrument. In the Song Dynasty, the rattle-drum found its way in rites, music and business activities. It also became a toy for children, enjoying huge popularity, thanks mainly to its sound effect and recreational function.

For this activity, we painted red paper plates and attached beads to them to create the rattle drum. During circle time, we pretended to be peddlers crying their wares, shouting in cadenced voices to attract buyers. In China, the rhythmic sounds of a rattle-drum are easy to draw attention. This drum is not only practical to Chinese peddlers, but is invariably recreational and creates a happy, relaxed and fun atmosphere when it is shaken to drum up.

Most of us instinctually know that art is important for children; we simply believe it’s important because we’ve seen our children deeply involved in art. But beyond what we feel and believe, there is much factual information about why art is important in our children’s development that is both interesting and helpful to know. Creating art expands a child’s ability to interact with the world around them, and provides a new set of skills for self-expression and communication. Not only does art help to develop the right side of the brain, it also cultivates important skills that benefit a child’s development. But art goes far beyond the tangible statistics measured by studies — it can become a pivotal mode of uninhibited self-expression and amazement for a child. Art matters the same way language matters — or the way breathing matters! It is a fundamental component of what makes us uniquely human.

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