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colorfully decorated rain stick made from potato chip tubesIs all of this spring rain getting to you? If you have a three-year-old, you are probably outside in it everyday like I am, enjoying projects like making a rain gauge ruler and a rain book. But if your older, slightly more rational children prefer to stay indoors on torrential days, you might like making a rain stick with them.

What is a rain stick, you ask? It is simply a long tube filled with various noisemakers that make the tube sound like a rainstorm when tipped end over end. It has been used in different cultures -- invented in Chile -- to attempt to make the rains come.

This is an easy project that leaves the creativity window wide open, so every rain stick really comes out a unique expression of each creator. You'll need a mailing tube, some dried rice and peas, plastic drinking cups to cover the ends of the tube, aluminum foil and the odds and ends of art supplies, staplers, etc.

Artistically, your children can shine when they decorate the outside of the tube. Provide paints, markers, crayons and whatever else your child loves to use to express themselves artistically. You can even teach them some ancient and cultural symbols to use to decorate their rain sticks, like the ones here for rain, rain clouds, and rain showers.

When complete, it is the rice, peas and tiny bits of aluminum foil inside the tube that mimic the musical sound of rain falling. Part of you will wonder why you ever make another noise-making toy, but it will be the most soothing one in the house, by far. And you didn't have to go out in the rain; quite a coup!

It is not only a creative art project, but you can discuss the science of sound and culture with your kids using these thoughtful questions:
  • How do the beans, peas and rice work together to make the rain sounds?
  • How does it differ from real rain sounds?
  • How is it the same?
  • How does real rain make sounds?
  • Why does quiet rain sound different than heavy rain?
  • What makes the rain stick sound different at different speeds of motion?
  • Why do you think ancient people thought they could conjure rain with the rain stick?

Dick Blick has even aligned the learning that can be had from creating rain sticks with national education standards. Making connections between art and other disciplines and using symbols that communicate meaning in art are just two of the learning standards that can be fulfilled with the rain stick project (Teachers, are you reading this?). Heck, you could even choreograph a rain dance with your kids.

Art and science in the same day and you didn't even leave your house. The neighbor kids will be knocking down your doors, or at least their moms will!



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