If someone gave your child a drum for Christmas would you be pleased? I suspect not but the giver may know a thing or two that you don't. Drumming with your offspring can bring about new levels of communication between you and take you both on an exciting journey of exploration and discovery. Our feeling for rhythm starts early. Babies have been exposed to the beat of their mothers heart since conception.

Early music education has been shown to lead to better results in Reading, Math, Social Skills and Hand Eye co-ordination. Music stimulates all eight centres of the brain at the same time. Pat Gesualdo, who is himself severely dyslexic, has discovered that learning disabilities such as dyslexia and Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) can be greatly helped through drumming. His method involves isolating each part of the rhythm which is then taught separately. When the student can reproduce each part of the rhythm they are then all combined.

At approximately three years of age children start to show a real interest in music. This is a good time for adults to help children understand that music has its own structure. Children at this age are always moving about and love action songs and singing games. Children aged four to five are ready for structured experiences of playing instruments and making sounds.

A house full of music is a gift to a child. Dance and sing around the house. Bounce your child on your knee in time to the music, clap hand together.

I would suggest buying a proper instrument if possible. If not there are many simple ways of making a drum at home. For example, you could manufacture one from a cereal box, an empty coffee can or any sort of tin. Paint (make sure it is suitable lead free paint) and decorate the can as you wish. Then tie the plastic or metal lid in place using sticky tape.

Personally I would recommend a cajon or box drum as it is also known. These drums have a variety of tones, are sturdy, portable and with the cajon the player can sit on the box striking the surface between the player's legs. Where you hit the box determines the sound/tone you can create. Bass tones are found towards the centre of the playing surface while higher pitched tones are found towards the edges.

This instrument originated in Peru in colonial days, when slaves who were forbidden to play drums by their masters used boxes and overturned drawers to play their rhythms. In the early 1970's the cajon was adopted into Spanish Flamenco music.

The idea behind drumming with your child is to have a musical fun activity at which nearly all children will succeed and which will also deepen and strengthen the loving bond between parent and child. You do not need to be musically trained to produce very satisfactory results. Of course, I am not against professional tuition, or the many excellent DVDs which are on the market. To do rhythm work using percussion instruments with a group of children certainly needs someone with professional training.

Here are a few ideas to get you started. You tap out a specific beat, then have your child copy you. Keep repeating until the child can do it without problems. You can help by calling out the rhythm e.g slow, slow, fast, fast, fast or 1,2, 1-2-3.

Some children find it easier to follow the sound of the instrument while others find it easier with verbal clues.

Bring the difference between soft and loud to the child's attention by using descriptive language e.g " we are going to play like rain. After that we are going to play like thunder."

Encourage experimentation with making smooth and sharp sounds.

You can encourage your child to beat out the rhythm of their own name, that of friends or of nursery rhythms which they are familiar with. You can clap the rhythm and ask your offspring to guess which nursery rhyme it is.

Parent and child can sing and drum together. Help your child to be spontaneous and innovative. Teach him or her that every spoken language has its own characteristic rhythm and that this can be expressed through music. Think up phrases and sentences to drum or you could read sentences from his/her favourite books or songs.

Have a "conversation". One of you beats a rhythm and the other responds. For example: Three fast beats: How are you? (1,2,3) One slow beat: Fine. (1). You can progress to longer and more complex conversations as your child gets the idea.

Play "Follow my Leader" with your child taking the lead. This puts the child in charge, encouraging self-confidence and leadership qualities.

A final suggestion is the "Rhythmic Memory Game" Play some music and when the child is successfully drumming to the rhythm of the piece, stop the music and encourage the child to continue playing solo.

A relaxed and enthusiastic attitude is essential for all taking part. Don't forget though that you are not looking to produce a professional drummer. You want your child to understand the gift of the healing power of rhythm.

Author's Bio: 

Dzagbe Cudjoe is a Dance Movement Therapist and ethnologist with wide experience of Dance in Africa and Europe. As an ethnologist her main field of research was into West African traditional religion. As a Dance Movement Therapist her area of specialization is working with children who have challenging behaviour or severe physical and intellectual Special Needs. Dzagbe is now working on helping the parents of such children to appreciate the healing effects of dance. She is the author of the e-manual "Dance to Health - Help Your Special Needs Child Through Inspirational Dance."available at For more Information visit Dance to Health