Four Simple Sound Activities for Early Elementary

In early elementary, students explore sound. They learn that sound is vibrations that travel through the air, or another medium, and that sound can be heard when it reaches our ears. As it’s not something we can see, sound is a bit of a mystery. You can unravel this mystery with these simple experiments you can enjoy together.

What are sound waves?

The first hurdle for kids to tackle is understand what sound waves are. In elementary school, students learn that it is a wave that is formed when a sound is made and that moves through the air and carries the sound to your ear. In later years, students learn that sound waves can also travel through solids, liquids and gases.

Water xylophone activity

Using equipment you can find in your kitchen, you can make a water xylophone to explore sound.

Water zylophone sound activity

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Drinking glasses or mason jars of the same size
  • Measuring cups
  • Food coloring for some fun colors
  • Wooden sticks, such as bamboo skewers or chopsticks

Instructions:

To get started, fill the jars with varying levels of water. We suggest you use measuring cups for a more scientific approach.

If you have some at home, add different food coloring to each glass for the different “notes”.

Now hit the side of the glass or jar to find out what sound it makes.

Hit the next one. Is the pitch higher or lower? Is the pitch higher in the glass or jar with more or less water?

Findings:

Your kids will discover that more water equals a lower sound, or pitch, and that less water equals a higher sound.

For those of you with a musical ear, you could try creating notes for each glass/jar and then play a tune, such as twinkle twinkle little star.

Spoon and string activity

This is a good example of how sound travels through solid materials, not just air.

Spoon and string sound activity

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • A ruler (a wooden or heavy plastic ruler works best)
  • Two different size metal spoons (try using a teaspoon and a serving spoon)
  • About 4 feet of string (the length depends on how tall your child is). You want the spoon to hang at or just below their waist when conducting the experiment.

Instructions:

Create a loop in the middle of the yarn/string and insert the handle of the spoon.

The spoon should in the center of the string and you have two long pieces of approximately equal length.

Take each string and wrap them around your pointer finger on each hand.

Then push the string against each ear; not right into the ear but just outside.

As mentioned above, you'll want the spoon to hang just below the waist once both ends of the yarn are placed near the ears.

Once your child has the string pushed against the ears, you gently hit the ruler against the round part of the spoon.

Findings:

Hitting the small spoon, your child should hear a bell sound, and with a larger spoon, it will sound like a gong.

Rice dancing activity

The puzzling thing is that we cannot see sound. But, with a little help, we can see the vibrations that create sound transmitted between surfaces. Equipped with some plastic wrap and rice, let us show you how.

Dancing rice sound activity

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • A big bowl
  • Some plastic wrap
  • Uncooked rice
  • A metal pan
  • A metal spoon

Instructions:

Wrap the plastic wrap tightly over the bowl.

Put a 1 teaspoon of rice on the plastic.

Hold the metal pan close to the bowl and have your child hit it with the spoon.

The harder they hit the metal pan the better.

Findings:

Enjoy watching the rice dance. As the pan vibrates from your child hitting it, it creates sound waves. These waves cause the plastic wrap to vibrate and makes the rice jump up in the air.

Paper cup phone activity

This is a classic. You probably remember making cup and string phones when you were a child?

Paper cup phone sound activity

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 2 paper cups
  • A long piece of string, like a kite string
  • A sharp pencil or needle to poke holes in the cups
  • A pair of scissors

Instructions:

Cut a really long piece of string. We would suggest 50 feet.

Poke a small hole at the bottom of each cup.

Thread the ends of the strings into the bottoms of the cups and tie a large knot so the string doesn’t fall out of each cup.

Now you take one cup and your child the other and start walking away from each other, go as far as the string will let you. Make sure the string doesn’t touch anything and is suspended in the air.

Now you talk into the cup, whilst your child puts the cup to the ear to listen.

Findings:

Similar to the spoon and string experiment, when you speak the sound waves travel down the string and amplified by the cup.

Sound worksheets

We have created a series of worksheets for students to practice sound and you can find them in our grade 1 science section.

Practice loud and soft sounds

In these worksheets, students are asked to classify sounds show in pictures are either loud or soft.

Loud or soft sounds worksheets

Sound and pitch worksheets

Similar to the above worksheets, these ones focus on low or high pitch sounds.

Sound and pitch worksheets

Sound words exercises

These worksheets have students practice inserting the correct sound words in sentences.

Sound words worksheets