Circle of Sounds

Have you ever had a moment where you suddenly regretted all the times someone has commented on your “leadership skills” or “strong” personality traits? If you’re anything like me, those phrases have probably come as compliments or maybe even validation in the past. But now as I sit here thinking about my darling 10-month-old challenging every boundary I set for him, displaying a mean set of *ahem* fearless leadership skills already, I realize I might now be able to understand where my own mother was coming from…Throw that into the mix of a major clingy stage (after being Mr. Independent for months), and this mama is tired, y’all. As you can imagine–especially if you are a parent already–exhausted/stressed mamas do not always make the best decisions. I’ll even be completely honest and say that I have been at my wit’s end trying to come up with ways to entertain my little guy the past few days…Summer, where ya at?

So yesterday morning, after Hassell wanted nothing to do with any of the toys I attempted to get him to play with, I had a sudden idea. I needed to stop thinking like a mama and start thinking like an infant/toddler teacher again. When I decided to stay at home, I didn’t automatically lose all my early childhood education skills…I’d just been tucking them away for awhile. Upon my revelation, I quickly realized that thinking like a teacher was a much better approach for me at this moment.

As most early childhood educators would agree, observation is the first (if not the most important) step. Instead of playing with Hassell from above and talking at/to him, all the while becoming more and more frustrated as he wasn’t entertained, I decided to try a different approach…


I quietly sat down on the floor with him (being on eye level is so important for young children) and simply observed.

Immediately, I noticed that he used his hands to bang/hit just about anything in his reach. Instead of trying to distract him from this behavior, I decided to embrace it. This is how our “Circle of Sounds Activity” came about.

Keep reading if you’re interested in the details behind this provocation and the research that influenced my decisions for the activity. I highly recommend trying it with your little, even if he/she is much older than 10 months. Be prepared, it will get noisy!

Children are intensely fascinated with the physical world and how it works. You can simultaneously honor childhood and promote a love of learning by adding different kinds of engaging attractions and discoveries to your environment. This is especially effective when you include things that provoke a sense of mystery and wonder so that children become curious about how they work, where they come from, and what can be learned by manipulating them. -Excerpt from Designs for Living and Learning: Transforming Early Childhood Environments



I pulled the direct quote above from one of my favorite books on early childhood education. This is a book one of our professors had us purchase in college, and I still refer back to it often today. If you work with young children, I highly encourage you to purchase it (or the more updated version) for yourself/your colleagues.



For me, thinking about invoking a sense of wonder and magic in my home is actually harder than in a classroom. Maybe it’s because of our home dynamic or maybe it’s my decorating scheme or maybe it’s just my mindset. Whatever the reason, I have to force myself to really step outside of the box. As I was brainstorming ways I could embrace the joy Hassell demonstrated while banging his hands on various objects, I first thought of grabbing his usual pot and spoon from the kitchen. (He loves to “cook” with me when I’m making dinner.) But that sounded pretty boring…even to me. After spending time thinking about materials I could add to make him want to engage in the activity, I decided to create a circle of various pots and pans. I also decided to include a choice of tools he could work with when making the different sounds.

Reasoning and Research Behind the Activity

During my observations (both that morning and knowing him as my child), I immediately noticed that Hassell seemed to be drawn to sound. Curtis and Carter (2003) note throughout their book that sound is an open invitation for children to explore. I find this to be very true. Just think: does your little one notice…

  • a faucet dripping
  • cars driving by
  • leaves rustling
  • the dishwasher running
  • a ball bouncing
  • his/her hands hitting an object

These are all sounds Hassell is obviously intrigued by. His little head turns toward whatever noise he hears, his eyes light up, and he typically takes off crawling in that direction. Although some children (including Hassell) can be frightened by loud sounds, I find it very interesting that he is not frightened in the slightest bit when HE is the one making the loud sound. When researching, I found the following quote…

Making loud sounds is a powerful experience, helping children feel big in their small bodies (Curtis and Carter, p. 123, 2003)

As I read that information, I vividly remember thinking, “Wow. That’s exactly what Hassell needs–a chance to feel powerful and ‘in charge’ in a safe environment.”

Once the provocation was set-up, I invited Hassell to choose any combination of materials he wanted to work with. His eyes lit up as he tried out smacking different pans/pots/bowls as loud as he could. He laughed as he swapped out the spatula for the spoon and the hammer. I couldn’t help bimg_0838ut notice the pattern of differing sounds that happened as he played, each muffin pan or bowl making a separate noise. This went on for about 20 minutes before he began to crawl away and move on to another activity.

As a teacher and a mama, this was a win. The invitation to play allowed him to stay engaged and focused on an activity for an extended period of time, feel in control in a safe space, expand his knowledge of sound, and (hopefully) fuel his love for learning.

Plus, it’s FREE. I guarantee you have the materials in your home to set up this activity! Is it rainy/cold in your area? Try it out and let me know how your little one responds! Or maybe you have beautiful weather. I can’t wait to experiment with sound outdoors at our house, also!

As always, I’d love to hear what you think of this post! Was it helpful? Do you want to know more? Did I ramble too much? Comment and let me know.

With Love,

Maggie Ricketts

Curtis, D., & Carter, M. (2003). Designs for living and learning: Transforming early childhood environments. St. Paul, MN: Redleaf Press.



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