Anyone who has ever dropped a pie tin into the recycling bin knows that it makes a satisfying "clang" when it hits the bottom. In fact, pie tins make excellent musical instruments, especially if you are on a budget. The round shape, small size and distinctive sound make pie tins the perfect choice for a kid-sized banjo.
As you make the banjo with your child, teach him a little bit about its history. Start with the fact that the banjo is one of the oldest instruments known to man, as it is a modification of a drum. A banjo, in its simplest form, is a drum with three strings stretched across the top of it, and a handle attached to it. The history of the banjo dates back to the beginnings of modern civilization in the Middle and Far East, and in Africa. African-American slaves brought banjos with them to America, but it wasn't until the first World War -- when jazz grew to popularity -- that banjos became familiar to the general population.
You will need two pie tins for the "drum" portion of the banjo, and something for the handle. A paint stir-stick works great, or even a stick taken from your own backyard. Use your imagination -- pretty much anything goes, as long as it is flat, long and wide enough to hold the strings. Rubber bands or elastic shoelaces all work well enough as strings for most kids to be satisfied with the sound. Finally, you will need something to fasten the two pie pins together, such as hot glue or a stapler. And don't forget the fun part -- decorating the banjo! Stickers, glitter glue and similar items can be used to personalize the instrument.
Attach the two pie tins together at their rims with your choice of adhesive or the stapler. Slip the handle in between the rims before you fasten them together if it is slim enough, or simply hot glue it to the back of one of the tins. If very young kids are making the banjos, be sure to supervise the use of the hot glue gun, as some get hot enough to cause burns. Or, just use a low-heat hot glue gun. Help your young child wrap the rubber bands or elastic shoelaces around the pie tins. If your kid is a bit older, you can hammer pushpins into the sides of the handle, and then wrap a couple of the rubber bands around the pushpins to make the banjo appear a bit more like a real one. Older kids may also make a bridge out of stiff cardboard, and slide it under the strings in the middle of the pie tin.
Creating a banjo out of recycled materials is fun, and your child will likely have a wonderful time making and playing her instrument. But what she doesn't know is that when kids are involved in making music, their brains are creating new pathways between cells. Studies show that when children are exposed to and interact with music, they do better in school academically and socially.
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