Equipment in the Early Childhood Classroom – Tapping Sticks

The way you can measure a society’s soul is by the way that it treats its children.
Nelson Mandela

Issue No. 5 – 28th July 2005

Welcome to Kidz Newz especially to all new subscribers.  This is a regular newsletter with information and teaching tips for anyone involved with young children.  Please forward this to anyone you feel it may be of interest to.

Feedback is welcome.

Inspirational Message of the Week

“Don’t be distracted by criticism. Remember the only taste of success some people have is when they take a bite out of you.”   Zig Ziglar

Equipment in the Early Childhood classroom – tapping sticks

When conducting PDs I am often asked where I get my equipment from so I thought I’d do a series of articles on using equipment and also, where to access it or how to make it. 

Your school may not have a well equipped selection of musical instruments nor a budget for them, so you may not have claves (pronounced clah-vays).  Tapping sticks work just as well and are considerably cheaper.  Despite what some people may tell you, the sound is pretty good too.  As a general rule, never compromise on quality of equipment and especially on the sounds they produce. You want to introduce the children to the magic of music, not the annoyance of noise.  A beautiful sound from a musical instrument is magical.

However, if you can’t afford the real thing, buy broom handles from Bunnings or any large hardware chain.  You can probably negotiate a cheaper deal being a school, daycare etc.  Alternatively, if one of the parents is in the building trade they can probably get a trade discount for you.

One broom handle will produce 2.5 sticks, each measuring approximately 27 cm in length.  It is essential that they be well sandpapered to prevent splintering and that the edges be slightly rounded off.  It is not necessary to make them rounded like a clave.

Finally, paint them or varnish them or treat them with polyurethane.  It is essential that they be finished, not only because they look and feel better but because it seals them and prevents splintering.  Put several coats on so they are well sealed and durable.  They will last you for years and will produce the most wonderful sound. Mine are brightly coloured and some are multi-coloured with stripes, including barber-shop stripes.  The children have to match the colours or the patterns when choosing.  This is where the patterned ones are especially very good for visual discrimination.

Because you have only taken off the sharp edges, the ends will still be flat enough for a child to try to balance one on the other vertically.  The child can also sit with knees raised, creating a tunnel effect and have one stick pushing the other through the tunnel, as if a train.  The other hand pushes it back the other way. 

Other suggested activities before you even start using them as musical instruments – Have the child pick one up with the toes, then with the other foot.  Try picking one up using both feet with a stick in between.  Can they balance on their bottom with the stick held up off the floor?  What letters of the alphabet can they make with their sticks?  What do I have to do if I want to make a letter A or a letter M or W?  The children will soon get together with another child to solve this problem. Have them roll the stick between the fingers, up and over starting with thumb and index finger.  They will manage reasonably well, after some practice, with the dominant hand.  Change hands.

Hold them approximately in the middle with an overhand grip but not tightly.  Get them to change dominant hand occasionally while playing.  Use them for story-telling as well as in the music session.  There are some great pieces of music to use these creatively and incorporate perceptual motor development.  “Happy Sticks” is an old favorite from back in the PMP days.  Let me know if you’d like details of where to get this and other pieces of music for use with tapping sticks.


This is not exactly entertainment but I found it inspirational.  I pass it on for what it’s worth.  I am reminded of Somerset Maugham’s “Razor’s Edge” (and films of the same name) which has a similar theme.

From The Maverick Spirit Newsletter 11th July 2005 ( –

The core to success in life and business is knowing what you want. And then setting a path to achieving it. You must allow for the bad things that will happen in an instant and not let them distract you from the ultimate goal.

Sean D’Souza from New Zealand writes in Why Small Business Fails: The Myth of Things Getting Easier that this is part of life:

“And yes, the wind will come.
Yes the rain will fall.
Yes, there will be days and nights of bitter cold.
But the sun will rise. There is always a summer.

And even in the summer, you need to work. You need to grow.

Life, work and business doesn’t get easier. That’s what life is about. Like a marathon runner, you struggle to run the first few miles. Then after a year or two of constant practice. Of constant persistence; Of learning what to do; and more importantly what NOT to do… you complete your first marathon.

Then the second and the third.

And completing the course is victory in itself. And rankings don’t matter.”


“My kids love doing the relaxation activities.”   Jude Tupman, Geraldton

“They are always asking to do ‘Giants & Fairies’ – they love it.”  Donna Marwick-O’Brien, Perth

Many thanks for a great magazine.  We love reading it.  Janine Goldberg, Mt Sinai Pre-school NSW

About The Author

Marlene Rattigan B.A., Dip. Ed. (ECS), CELTA

Marlene Rattigan is an Early Childhood teacher, a teacher of English as a Second Language, and from 1987-2000 was a nationally accredited fitness leader. Her background is in music education. A keen interest in motor development in children led to the creation of Kidz-Fiz-Biz which she has taught successfully for 13 years. Marlene also conducts workshops for children, teachers and parents at schools, in the community and at festivals. She has produced teaching manuals complete with audio CDs which are an extension of her ‘Kidz-Fiz-Biz’ program.

57 Henry Lawson Walk, East Perth WA 6004
T: +61 8 9325 1204 M: 0410 64 2781 E:

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