Chase away the bordom from winter

Cold winter days can be a challenge for adults caring for young children. One way to help expend all that energy and get rid of boredom is to make oatmeal box drums with kids and dance and sing around the house or put on a family show.

For other activities to help families cope with winter days see the website,, “Learning Through the Seasons” or Interest.

The columns are archived at Mary Davis, educator, is the guest writer.


Oatmeal or other boxes, construction or wrapping paper, markers, tape, children’s scissors, and white glue.

What to do

Help children make their own drums. Depending on a child’s age and skills, they can do most of the work with a little help. Cut a strip of construction paper two inches taller and one inch longer than the distance around the box. Hold the paper tight for very young children while they cut. Show them the correct way to hold the scissors with their thumb up.

Children can decorate the paper now or after it is glued on the boxes. Practice with markers to make circles, zigzag lines, swirls, suns, squares, triangles and other geometric designs. To insert a little teaching, count the number of sides of different shapes.

Wrap the box in paper and leave one inch at the top and bottom. Tape the sides together. Cut slits into the paper at the top and bottom of the box to help the paper fold better. Fold and glue paper down all the way around the box for a drum.

If you like, thread a ribbon through holes cut into the top and bottom of the drum and tie the ends together. This can be a safety hazard for very young children and is not required. They can simply hold the drums or keep them on the floor.

Children may play the drum with their hands or make a simple drumstick out of a twig or wooden spoon.

Put on some music in which drumming is featured. Have a conversation about drums as you and your children play together. What do drums look like? What do they sound like? Discuss the pattern of rhythm and drumbeats. Can children repeat the rhythm of a favorite song? Can they create our own rhythms? Does nature have any rhythms? What would a deer running through the woods sound like? A gentle stream?

What else can we do?

Make drums of different materials, sizes and shapes. How does the sound change?

There are many library books about drums. Children will enjoy accompanying you on drums as you read library books aloud like “Jungle Drums” by Graeme Base and “Drum, Chavi, Drum!” by Mayra L. Dole.

Go to a parade, Pow-Wow, or concert and hear drums in live music. Take children to visit a drummer after the concert.

Editor’s note: Grandparents Teach ,Too is a non profit organization of elementary and preschool teachers from Marquette, Michigan. Writers include: Jan Sabin, Mary Davis, Jean Hetrick, Cheryl Anderegg, Esther Macalady, Colleen Walker, Fran Darling, and Iris Katers. Their mission since 2009 is to help parents, grandparents, and other caregivers of young children provide fun activities to help prepare young children for school and a life long love of learning. They are supported by Great Start, Parent Awareness of Michigan (PAM), Upper Peninsula Association for the Education of Young Children (UPAEYC), Northern Michigan School of Education, UP Children’s Museum, and NMU Center for Economic Education.