DIY Chinese Rattle Drum to Celebrate the New Year

With Chinese New Year round the corner, my head is swimming with a thousand and one Chinese New Year inspired toddler activities to get Miss 21 months into the festive mood!

Chinese New Year isn't celebrated much over here in the States and we aren't traveling back to Singapore for the holiday this year so I took it upon myself to hype up this occasion for Miss 21 months lol. My intent for the Chinese New Year inspired activity goes beyond fun and laughter, I hope the activities would be a good introduction for Miss 21 months to the Chinese traditions and she'll look forward to the fun ways we prepare for Chinese New Year every year.

Crafting a Chinese rattle (pellet) drum makes for great open-ended play and music exploration, so I was really excited to get started on one!

DIY Chinese Rattle Drum for Toddler Music Play!

Origins of the Chinese Rattle (Pellet) Drum

Rattle drums, or pellet drums, are a class of membranophone or drum, characterized by the way they are constructed and how they are played. Rattle drums have two heads and two pellets, with each pellet connected by a cord to the drum.

According to the Beijing Tourism website, the earliest form of the rattle drum appeared in China in the Warring States Period and was used as a percussion instrument. In the Song Dynasty, the rattle drum found its way in rites, music and business. Street peddlers used the rattle drum to attract customers to check out their wares. Subsequently, the rattle drum became a toy for children and became hugely popular because of the ease of playing and the loud, rhythmic sounds it produces.

Tutorial for DIY Chinese Rattle Drum

Materials needed:

  • Paper cup with lid (Recycle used ones by washing and drying them)
  • Red paint
  • Paintbrushes
  • Penknife and scissors
  • String
  • 2 beads (or bells/buttons)
  • 1 thick recycled straw
  • (Optional) Red packet and tape

DIY Chinese Rattle Drum to Celebrate the New Year


  • Paint the paper cup red with your toddler
  • Wait for paint on paper cup to dry
  • Use penknife to make 2 small incisions on the sides of the paper cup
  • String a short piece of string through each incision and tie a big knot on the inside so the string cannot be pulled out of the cup. Alternatively, tape the ending of the string to the inside of the cup to secure the string.
  • On the other ends of the string, tie a pellet (bead/bell/button)
  • Place the paper cup lid on and make a small incision in the middle of the lid
  • Stick a thick straw through the paper cup lid incision and secure the straw to the lid with tape
  • Cut out an ornamental Chinese character from a red packet and stick onto the paper cup for decorative purposes
  • Hold on to the straw of the inverted paper cup and shake it from side to side for the pellets to strike the cup and make interesting sound effects. Make sure everything is secure and the rattle drum works fine ;)

Demonstrate how the rattle drum works to your toddler and let her freely create music (or a ruckus!)

Learning Benefits of this Activity

Crafting the rattle drum with your toddler provides these benefits:

  • Art projects encourages self-expression and creativity
  • Painting boosts fine motor development
  • Co-creation of artwork with caregiver enables the child to feel that her input is valued, building a sense of self-worth and accomplishment

Playing the rattle drum helps the toddler with:

  • Motor planning and hand-eye coordination
  • Exploration of a new musical instrument
  • Problem-solving to figure out how best to work the new instrument
  • Invent new ways to play and utilise the new instrument

DIY Chinese Rattle Drum to Celebrate the New Year

Other Creative Rattle Drum DIY Tutorials

Apart from a paper cup, you could use paper plates and even cardboard to make your own rattle drum! The possibilities are endless. Here are a couple of DIY tutorials using a different set of materials:

To follow our play adventures, check out @miraculove_sg (Instagram), save our pins or join A Toddler Activity A Day Facebook Group.

DIY Chinese Rattle Drum to Celebrate the New Year

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Hi! I am Yunnie. I am the newly minted mama to a little baby girl and a mum friend to everyone on this special (and many times scary) journey of motherhood. Also a graduated bride with a penchant for weddings.

Hi! Thank you for taking time to read my blog. I am a stay-home Singaporean mama living in Seattle who is passionate about child-led and open-ended play for children in a conducive home environment.

Discovering Montessori and Reggio has been a life-changer for me. It made me an empathetic and mindful parent who follows my child’s needs and interests in the activities I plan at home. I hope the Montessori-friendly and Reggio inspired baby and toddler activities I share here inspire you too.

Happy reading!