Friday, July 31, 2009

Calling for Rain

In my opinion, there is no better use for a paper towel tube than a homemade rainstick.

You will need:

  • paper towel tube

  • wide needle (put a bunch of tape on the back end so it can be handled comfortably)

  • white glue

  • flat toothpicks

  • masking tape

  • 2 cupcake papers (any paper will do if you don't have these)

  • uncooked rice

  • paper mache glue (flour and water will do--more details later)

  • colored tissue paper

Wrap the eye end of a thick needle with masking tape so that it can be held comfortably. Poke holes all over the tube. The more the better. This can be a counting game, try to count and poke 100 holes.

Squeeze a dot of glue onto each hole and insert a toothpick until it hits the other side of the tube. Do a few at a time so you don't end up with a sticky mess. Part of the toothpick will be sticking out so that eventually you have what looks like a cactus.

Even the baby wants to help!

Your child will like to see the tube from this angle as it fills up with toothpicks. The more you use, the better your rainstick will sound. Try to fill 100 holes. Now, let the glue dry for a few hours then cut or break off the pieces of toothpick that are sticking out of the tube. An adult will have to do this part. This sounds tedious, but it goes quickly. I have found this method to be the best way to make rainsticks. Traditionally, rainsticks are made by pushing in the needles on a dried out cactus and in a sense you are recreating just that.

Cover up one end with a cupcake cup. They fit just right. Tape it on nice and tight. You can use any paper, but I like using the cupcake paper because kids think it is funny and they can handle getting it to fit really well. Get your dustpan ready, you will need it for the next step!

Pour about half a cup of uncooked rice into the tube then cover up the other end with the other cupcake paper. Wrap the entire tube in masking tape. This will cover up the prickly toothpick stumps and make the tube stronger. You can stop here and listen to the sound of rain as you slowly tilt the tube back and forth. You could just decorate it with paper and stickers or markers, or you can decorate using paper mache glue and tissue paper (described below).

Cover your workspace and tear up some pieces of newsprint or paper towels. Have some squares of colored tissue paper handy, but don't put them out until the plain layer is done. Mix flour and water together, about 50/50 until you have a gluey consistency. I like to add a big squirt of Elmer's too. Mix it up. Get your hands wet and goopy and rub the rainstick. Cover it with newsprint being sure to cover it with a layer of goop. Do a bout 2 layers. Encourage your child to rub it smooth and flat.

Now put out the tissue paper. The process is the same, you are simply using colored paper now.

Allow it to dry overnight. You can add feathers or string and beads. You can add a clear acrylic coat for a little shine. We kept ours simple. It really will sound like rain, especially if you have a group. Hmm, I just heard some thunder. I am always amazed at how making rainsticks or even talking about them brings the rain! I better go get the clothes off the line!


  1. So funny! We just did a much more primitive version of this tonight! We used a toilet paper roll, no toothpicks, no papier mache, no cupcake cups. Yours is much better… We'll try that version sometime when we're more ambitious.

  2. Let me know how this version comes out:)