A couple years ago, we made some really awesome rainsticks out of cardboard mailing tubes and a LOT of nails. They were fun to make, and we still have them and play with them. The other day, I was thinking that it would be fun to make a rainstick that was open at the top and bottom so that it could be used to add a fun sound element to sensory play. Owen (age 4) has always loved things to touch, squish, and pour, and we haven’t done much of that type of thing lately. This child ends up finding his own sensory fun if I don’t provide some, so it’s always best to stay ahead of him!

Anyway, we didn’t have any mailing tubes, but we had lots of paper towel rolls. I decided to try making a rainstick with bamboo skewers and a paper towel roll.

The blue one is the rainstick, and the green one is just a plain tube. It was fun to pour beans through both and compare the sounds!

Turn a paper towel roll into an open ended rainstick for sensory play

To make one you need:

  • A paper towel roll
  • Bamboo skewers
  • Scissors and/or a gardening trimmer
  • A nail
  • Duct tape

Here’s how to make one:

Step 1: I used scissors (junky ones – cutting skewers is probably hard on good scissors) to cut bamboo skewers into 3 pieces each. Cutting with gardening clippers would be even better.

Step 2: I poked holes in a paper towel roll with a nail. I made sets of 2 holes across from each other so that a skewer piece could go all the way through. I used the pointy end of a skewer to make each hole larger and then slid the skewers into place. The more skewers you use, the better the sound will be!

Step 3: I used gardening clippers to trim off the excess bamboo skewer ends.

Paper Towel Roll Rainstick Step 4: Since the gardening clippers didn’t cut super close to the paper towel roll, I covered the whole thing with a generous layer of duct tape to get rid of the poky edges.

Paper Towel Roll Rainstick Here’s a view of the inside:

Paper Towel Roll Rainstick Then I set up a tub for Owen and Jonathan with pinto beans, black eyed peas, and green split peas. I put in two plastic flower pots (from the Target dollar spot back in the spring), a couple of little shovels, an ice scoop, some little baby formula scoops, and plastic spoons.

Paper Towel Roll Rainstick The beans made a really nice sound when the boys poured them into the rainstick and into the flower pots! We have had a rice tub for digging and scooping for quite a while now, but the beans were a fun change since they make more of a sound.

Paper Towel Rainstick Jonathan (18 months) got in on the fun since he didn’t put any beans in his mouth for the first time! He was very focused on this tub for about 20 minutes – which is really long in toddler time!

Paper Towel Roll Rainstick

Be sure to check out this post on ideas for playing with rice. When it’s too hot to dig outside, it’s fun to have something to scoop and dig inside!


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  1. Jessica Jul 8, 2013

    Thank you so much for all your posts. I love this idea! I have used quite a few of your ideas and we've loved each one. I love getting the e-mails from your blog. I always know there will be a great idea.


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