Rain Sticks – Kids Can Create the Sound of Falling Rain!

How to make a rainstick with a cardboard roll and some basic materials.  Pretty, easy and inexpensive!  Ideal for toddlers and preschoolers.

You’ll find lots of super spring crafts for kids here, and today’s rain sticks are no exception!  They’re easy to make, the kids loved decorating them, and they sound great!  Before we get started though, you might be wondering…

rain sticks

What IS a rain stick?

Traditional rain sticks are instruments made with hollow cacti, thorns and lava pebbles, and are used in some cultures to invoke the rain spirits.  Ours are simplified rain sticks, and I’m not sure how effective they’d be for calling up any spirits but they were fun to make, and they sound lovely when you up-end them.

When I say ours our “simplified”, I mean that we didn’t put nearly as many nails (or tacks) into them as we should have.  Pop over to Planting Ideas to see how to make a real rainstick.  It requires many more nails than what we used, which would slow the flow of the materials inside, producing a longer and gentler sound.

I think ours turned out just great for the hooligans though, and the process was easy, using materials we already had on hand.

To make our rain sticks, you’ll need:

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I suppose you could use a paper towel roll for this project, but I’m thinking it might be too flimsy.  We used some sturdy rolls that had once held plastic wrap (i.e. Saran Wrap) and aluminum foil, and I also had a long, sturdy tube that a poster came packaged in.

Because some of our tubes were too small in diameter to insert nails into, without them poking out the other side, I brainstormed up a couple of alternatives:  thumb-tacks and brass-tacks.


How to make a rainstick:

Push, hammer or tap your tacks and nails into the tube.  (I made small cuts with an exact-o knife to insert the brass-tacks into).


Once you have all of your nails and tacks in, (remember: more is better than less), roll your tube up in aluminum foil.


Give a good squeeze all the way around so the foil is tight to the tube, and stuff the excess at ONE of the ends into the the tube, plugging that end good and tight with foil (see the cover photo for this post).

Now, pour your filler items (beads/rice/small corn kernels etc.) into the open end of the tube.  Keep your items small (rice is ideal) so they don’t get jammed between the nails and tacks.  Now seal up the open end just like you sealed the bottom.

To decorate our rain sticks, we brushed then with some watered down white glue, and then covered them with squares of coloured tissue paper, giving the tissue a light coating of the watered down glue.IMG_9496

When they were dry, we jazzed them up with covered them craft-foam stickers.  The hooligans love these things because, well, what kid doesn’t love a sticker?  And I love them because peeling the backs off the stickers gives little fingers a real fine-motor work out.

When you’re finished decorating your rain stick, tip it end to end, and hear how the rice, cascading through the tube, sounds like the soft, soothing pitter-patter of rain.   IMG_9566

Looking for more Easy and Inexpensive Springtime crafts?  How about our:

 Styro-framed art

 rainbow collages

Paper Plate Birds

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  1. says

    Jackie – these are wonderful! I love the foam stickers on the outside for decoration. They look so fun and inviting. I’m definitely going to put this on my to do list. My son would have a great time with this activity.

    • happyhooligans says

      Thanks, Sam. I didn’t realize how pretty they’d be until they were finished. I love them too!

  2. says

    They came out super pretty! I love the addition of the tissue paper…..if it had been just stickers, they wouldn’t have been nearly so appealing (or you would have had to triple the number of stickers :)).

    • happyhooligans says

      Thanks, Erin. We were actually going to paint them, and then I spied the bucket of stickers my mom had dropped off for us last week, and I thought “heyyyy, that will be easier than hauling all the paints out!”

    • happyhooligans says

      Actually, I thought about using one myself, Jennifer. It can’t hurt to try. We didn’t measure our rice at all, I’m guessing we might have used a quarter of a cup all-together of beads/buttons and rice. You can just keep adding rice until you like the way it sounds.

  3. makingboysmen says

    Such lovely pictures, I remember doing this as a kid, but we’ve not yet done it with the boys. Pinning it for the reminder! Thanks for stopping by the Outdoor Play Party

  4. says

    These are awesome! What a great idea. My Little C would just love one of these, so we’ll probably make one this week. :) Thanks for the great tutorial. I love your blog, and I’m following you on Pinterest. You always have such fantastic ideas for DIY kiddo activities!

      • Anna says

        Thanks Lee-Ann for the question, I also was wondering about that but was to shy to ask…..silly me! The idea is soooo great, doing that today PM!

      • happyhooligans says

        Aw, Sorry, Anna. I did mention in the post that the tacks or nails slow down the flow of the rice, but I guess it doesn’t really stand out if you’re skimming. Maybe I should go back and highlight it.

  5. Brad says

    Just to let you know Melissa Marie Eckhoff has stolen your images and uses them on her website unless you provided her permission. I figure the original creator of this great idea should know when their images and ideas are stolen. Thanks and keep up the good work.

    • happyhooligans says

      Thanks for the heads up. I just popped over and checked out the rainstick post, and I’m fine with someone sharing my images that way. You’re so thoughtful to let me know. A lot of websites will copy and paste an entire post into their own site, or use all of the images, and give their own instructions, thereby basically “stealing” the post, and getting all the glory and traffic for it, but Melissa has shared only one image, and provided her readers with a link so they can visit my site for the details, which is A-ok in my books. :) I love it when people share my stuff in that fashion. Thanks so much for taking the time to let me know though. There are lots of times, when my things haven’t been shared in an acceptable way, so I appreciate having the chance to check into this one!

    • happyhooligans says

      Not sure what the printable part would be, Mandy. It’s a paper towel roll covered in tinfoil and stickers. You need a printable for that?

      • happyhooligans says

        I’ve been thinking about your question, Mandy, and maybe I just misunderstood what it is you’re looking for. Can you re-phrase your question so I know what part of the project you’re looking for a “printable” part to?

  6. Rosalind says

    This looks awesome and I will make one this week for my wee one (only 6 months but he will love the sound and I will always be present when he plays). What did you seal up the end with? You say it’s visible in the cover photo but I can’t see that or am not looking in the right place. Could you describe how you are sealing the ends, please? Thank you!

  7. Lynn says

    pounding nails would be a little hard for toddlers and some preschoolers and they get tired of it quick. I have found if you use packing peanuts and rice it is a completely child done activity and sounds great. Just another idea.

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