Changing SoundBackyard Xylophone

Last week I shared that I am starting our own back yard summer camp as our last hoorah before Kindergarten. The girls are pretty on board with this idea and I am looking forward to saving some money. It gets expensive sending two off to camp at once. Plus, I just want to squeeze out as much time as I can from what is possibly our last summer together. We still have a few more weeks of school left, and summer hasn’t “officially” begun, but we have already started on our list of fun camp projects.

Music is one of our favorite ways to play, connect and relax. We always have the radio on, or a kid favorite CD playing (yes we actually still use those), we are singing or we are making music out of pots and spoons. Music is really everywhere and I love when my kids find ways to create music on their own. This week we discovered outdoor xylophones using glass jars. That’s it. Glass jars we already have on hand. (If you have a really tiny tot you can use various sized plastic jars, or cardboard containers, or small boxes).

I simply removed the label and took them outside!

Start by finding a level safe spot to line up your jars. We chose the rock wall in our garden. You can use as many jars as you like, but we kept it simple with just three. When you use a variety of jars with different sizes and thickness you will get a more interesting sound.

Xylophone jars

You can’t play a xylophone without a mallet (I actually knew it is called a mallet!). Help your little one find a stick, or a wooden spoon to use as your mallet. You can even bring out a variety of mallets to sample. Each one will make a different sound.

We used various sized sticks and then the girls realized perhaps their magic wands would help make an interesting sound. I love that this got the girls thinking about what they could use to create a new sound. They immediately noticed the different pitch each glass makes. And of course being the overly ambitious bunch we are, we tried to play songs we already know like “Twinkle, Twinkle.” Did not work, but it was a good effort.

xylo jars with magic

Try turning the jars on their sides to hear how they make a different sound. It is definitely a heavier sound than the slight “plink” when the jars are standing.

xylo side

We played for a short time for the “fairies” hiding in the garden before my girls brought out the big drums. Yes, I actually gave my kids a kid sized drum kit complete with cymbals, and a kick pedal for a nice booming bass. I am sure our neighbors know how much we love music by now.

Xylophone mallet

You can change the pitch and sound of each jar by adding water, rocks, glass beads or pine cones and flowers to the jars. The desired effect is to hear how sound is changed. This is a great project for toddlers (with supervision of course) and older kids. Let your kids fill in the jars and give them space to jam away with a mallet they choose.

Trust me any kid is going to love to bang around and make some noise. This is such a minimal and simple way to engage your kids in a new way to create music. Forget those Fisher Price toys, use what you have. Much like playing with a cardboard box, kids will enjoy anything you give them to play and create!

I hope you enjoy this super easy and cheap project! I wonder what we’ll do next!?


The Whatever Mom is a full-time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here. You can also find her musings and popular shares on Facebook and Twitter. Stay up to date with her creative ideas and outings on Pinterest.