Discover the 11 Best Musical Instruments
For Babies

Babies have a natural desire to grasp things, pick them up, shake them, and bash them with their hands and fists. When your baby discovers that performing these actions causes the object of their attention to make a noise, they go all out to repeat the effect and intensify it.

So, the best we can do as parents is to provide our little ones with great resources for the job, which is how we come to be discussing the best musical instruments for babies.

musical instruments for babiesPlaying the xylophone with big sister

We’ve already explored electronic musical toys (check out my article on the best musical toys for babies if you’ve not read it yet), and it’s now time to go unplugged with traditional musical instruments that allow your baby to create their own sounds and experience the tactile nature of sound creation.

Okay, so they won’t be ready to take up the violin or the saxophone any time soon, but they can start where you and I probably started, with shakers, rattles, drums, xylophones, and other similar instruments.

Those around today are a lot cooler than the ones I remember from childhood, and I’m looking forward to sharing my list of the 11 best musical instruments for babies to give you lots of great options to check out.

7 Benefits of Musical Instruments for Babies

Musical instruments offer your baby far more than the joy of creating sounds. Here are 7 important benefits they bring:

1. Improved Motor Skills

Grasping a shaker, tapping a bell with their finger, or pushing a key on a piano will help your baby learn how to coordinate their fingers and develop their fine motor control. Producing a sound from an instrument like a rattle or a drum requires the use of the larger muscles of the body and gives them a good body workout.

2. Cause and Effect

Cause and effect is a vital skill that babies start to learn very early in their lives. It essentially means, “When I do x, y happens.” For example, “When I shake the rattle, it makes a sound”. As they get a little older and you introduce their first pitched instrument such as a xylophone, cause and effect becomes more complex, e.g. “When I hit the blue bar, it makes a different sound to when I hit the red bar”.

Playing musical instruments is an excellent way for your little one to explore cause and effect and learn from it.

3. Concentration

Because musical instruments are so engaging, largely due to this cause and effect element, they are also great for developing focus, concentration, and attention span, life skills that are also hugely important.

4. Hand-Eye Coordination

Hand-eye coordination, that is, the ability to perform an action where our hands and eyes work together, such as picking up a cup of coffee, is something we take for granted. Most babies develop the skill naturally but playing with even simple instruments will accelerate the process because it gives them lots of practice. For example, hitting a drum or tapping the bars on a xylophone, both rely on the eyes accurately guiding the hand.

5. Midline Crossing

You may never have heard the phrase “crossing the midline” before but it’s another essential skill for your baby to learn. It refers to an arm or leg crossing over an imaginary line down the center of the torso, such as happens when we reach across our body.

That might not sound significant as we all do it naturally, as your baby will. It becomes significant to our baby’s development when we understand that midline crossing helps to get both sides of their brain working together. This is essential both for walking and other gross motor skills, as well as reading and writing.

Even the simple action of, say, shaking a marimba to one side of their body and then the other, or reaching across to press piano keys with their dominant hand can encourage your baby to cross over the midline and get the two sides of their brain working together.

baby with shakersIt's fun to make music

6. Language Development

Musical instruments and toys play a significant role in developing a baby’s auditory discrimination skills which have an important role to play in language acquisition. I’ve covered this topic in detail in my article on musical toys for babies so won’t repeat myself here.

Here’s a short extract as a quick introduction to the topic:

“Auditory discrimination skills are closely linked to language acquisition. Babies begin to recognize and differentiate the sounds of their native language even before they start speaking. Being able to distinguish between different sounds, including musical sounds, will help your baby identify speech sounds (phonemes) that form the building blocks of language.

This skill is fundamental for later stages of language development, including forming words, understanding sentence structures, and expressing themselves.”

Check out my article the Best Musical Toys For Babies to learn more.

7. Creativity and Expression

Making sounds with musical instruments is a wonderful way for your baby to express themselves and create freely. They’ll soon learn how to better control the sounds they make and will later combine sounds to invent their own musical compositions. Their compositions will, of course, be very simple at first, but as their skills, curiosity, and imagination develop so will the music they create. By providing them with appropriate musical instruments for babies, you will be giving them the chance to experiment to their heart’s content and become true creative thinkers.

11 Best Musical Instruments for Babies

1. Ocean Wave Bead Drum

This brightly colored Ocean Drum with its sliding beads and fun underwater scene is an engaging musical instrument your baby will love. It’s a drum and noise shaker all in one and can be banged, shaken, or tipped from side to side to create different sounds. Lightweight and around 6 inches in diameter, it is easy for a baby to handle but also super durable.

2. Hape Mini Wooden Rainmaker

Rainmakers are wonderful musical toys. This one, with its easy-to-grip design and rounded wooden ends, is ideal for young babies. As your little one turns it over and over, they’ll be captivated by the vibrant trickling beads and soothing raindrop sound they create. They can also use it as a rattle for a different sound and visual effect. It’s an excellent instrument for “making music” and for overall sensory development.

3. Fisher-Price Soft Rattle 'n Rock Maracas – 2 Pack

These soft pom-pom maracas are a genius idea for babies. No matter how wild they get in their musical play, they’re not going to get injured if they accidentally bash themselves on the head with them. The rattle sound comes from the colorful beads embedded in the opposite end of each maraca to the pom-pom. Being able to watch the beads swirl as they rattle gives added interest. Playing with the maracas will help develop your little one’s fine and gross motor skills, as well as give them the joy of musical expression.

4. Bloobloomax Wrist and Sock Rattles

How adorably cute are these bug themed wrist and sock rattles? Each of the four designs – bee, butterfly, dragonfly, ladybug – has a bell inside, plus wings with crinkle paper to encourage your little one to reach and grab them for sensory experience and sound creation. They’re made of high-quality cotton so they’re soft and comfortable to wear and safe in the mouth for teething babies. The wrist rattles attach with adjustable Velcro for easy put on and take off. When they get dirty, just pop them in the washing machine.

5. Poplay Wrist Bells – 6 Pack

Babies love jiggling sounds and there’s plenty of opportunity for them to create these sounds with this set of six brightly colored Velcro wrist bells. They can be attached to your little one’s wrists and/or ankles to jingle as your baby moves, or be placed within their play area for them to pick up and freely create music. As soon as you hear them, you’ll feel the urge to start singing “Jingle Bells”, so go ahead, let your baby play along with their bells and have musical fun together.

6. Taggies Chime Ball

When you and your baby have had enough of jingling bells, offer them this tactile chime ball which gives a much gentler ringing sound. It’s soft and cuddly and is covered in bright fabric tags for little fingers to explore, or to grasp to roll or shake their toy. This plush ball is also perfect for little feet to kick allowing your little one to exercise their legs while making music. There are three cheerful colors and designs to choose from.

7. Hape Wooden Tambourine

This is another musical instrument for babies that enables your little one to make more than one type of sound. It’s heavier and more chunky than the Ocean Wave Bead Drum, a similar type of instrument, so most suitable for older babies. Your baby will soon learn how to make sounds by banging the drum with their hand or fist, tapping it with their fingers, and making a rattling noise with the metal discs by shaking the tambourine or manipulating the discs with their fingers.

8. Fisher-Price Classic Xylophone

Every baby needs a xylophone in their music box. This classic musical instrument has been a firm favorite with children for decades and hasn’t lost any of its appeal in the face of stiff competition from the myriad of exciting electronic musical toys available today. The 8 colorful keys provide plenty of notes for your baby to create little tunes, or just bash away to create as much noise as possible as they’re likely to do at first.

As they develop more control over their motor skills, and begin to understand the possibilities their toy offers, their music will become more tuneful as they learn to play both loudly and softly and to distinguish between the different notes of the 8 keys. The mallet is attached by string so it will never get lost and can’t be thrown, and, because it’s on wheels, the xylophone is also a pull-along toy.

9. Skip Hop Egg Shakers – 3 Pack

These colorful, engaging egg shakers will have your baby reaching out to play with them. Imagine their delight when they discover the cheerful owl, fox, and hedgehog characters are not only cute but also rattle when shaken, each making its own unique sound. The shakers have textured tummies for tactile exploration and to aid grip, and are small and light enough to be easily held by little hands. They’ll make a great addition to your little one’s music box.

10. Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Baby Piano

I’ve tried to avoid electronic musical instruments in this article but the final two items in my list of the best musical instruments for babies are an exception. They are too good not to include and non-electronic versions we tested weren’t ideal for babies.

We begin with a mini piano. As with most such toys, it’s way more than a conventional piano as it plays other sounds (duck and cow), and songs, and lights up when buttons are pushed. However, it can also be set to play real piano notes having 8 colored keys, plus 5 sharps and flats. This is the ideal instrument to introduce your baby to pitch as they explore the different sound made by each key. As they get older, you can teach them to play simple tunes and encourage them to compose their own musical compositions

11. Baby Einstein Strum Along Wooden Guitar

The ingenious Baby Einstein Strum Along toy guitar doesn’t have real strings yet produces a realistic strumming sound when your little one runs their fingers over the string pattern on the fretboard. This is really a toddler age toy but simple enough to play for your baby to have lots of interactive fun. I particularly recommend it if anyone in the family is a guitar player as young children from babies upwards love to mimic what they see their parents or older siblings doing. The guitar, which can be changed to banjo mode, also plays upbeat songs to play along to, produces a range of other sounds, and also has a whammy bar for more fun sound effects. I bet you’ll want to play with it yourself!

7 Ways to Support Your Baby’s Musical Playtimes

As a parent, you can play a pivotal role in nurturing your baby’s development through playing with musical instruments.

Here are a few tips to help you:

1. Provide Safe and Age-Appropriate Instruments – Choose instruments that are safe for your baby to handle, with no small parts that could be a choking hazard. Opt for instruments that are suitable for their motor skills and developmental stage.

2. Encourage Independent Exploration – When introducing a new instrument, help your little one hold and explore it. Guide their hand to tap the drum or shake the shaker to encourage sensory exploration. Then allow them to explore the instruments independently, inspiring curiosity and creativity.

3. Gentle Guidance – Once your baby has had time to engage with their instrument on their own, gently show them other ways to create sounds that they’ve not yet discovered.

With any new toy, there’s always a delicate balance to be struck between showing your little one how to play with it and allowing them to work it out for themselves. The greatest learning will come from independent exploration, whilst gentle guidance and demonstration will enable them to get the most from their toy.

4. Incorporate Movement  – Integrate movement into musical play. For example, sway to the rhythm of a shaker, tap a drum while gently bouncing your baby, or wiggle your fingers to the tinkle of bells. This multisensory experience adds a layer of engagement.

5. Imitate and Respond – Imitate the sounds and rhythms your baby makes with their instruments with another musical toy. This back-and-forth interaction encourages communication and helps them feel understood.

Babies thrive on repetition and predictability so, having copied them, turn things around and play simple, repetitive rhythms for them to imitate. This will help them to anticipate and engage with the music.

6. Sing Along – Sing your little one’s favorite songs and nursery rhymes and play along with one of their instruments to demonstrate the rhythm and beat. Then let them accompany you themselves. Singing songs while playing instruments adds a dynamic element to music playtimes. The combination of music and vocals also promotes language development and emotional connection.

7. Include Social Interaction – Play music together with other family members or friends with babies. Get out the guitar, keyboard, or any other instrument a member of the group plays, and have a jam session, encouraging your baby to play along too. This fosters social skills and exposes your little one to collaborative play.

baby playing xylophoneCreating music with Dad

Final Words

Music has an almost magical ability to captivate our hearts and minds. For babies, this magic takes on a special form, weaving into their sensory experiences and influencing their development in remarkable ways. When tiny hands shake a rattle, tap a drum or jingle bells, they aren't just creating sounds; they're setting the stage for sensory exploration, cognitive growth, motor skills development, and emotional expression.

Fill your little one’s music box with toys from my list of the best musical instruments for babies and they’ll be all set for hours of magical musical fun.

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Best Musical Instruments For Babies


About Jacky Spear

Jacky Spear passionately promotes learning toys for child development. With 30+ years of teaching experience, she understands the power of play in engaging and nurturing children, including those with special needs. Drawing from personal experience in both the school and home environment, Jacky helps parents to select the best learning toys to unlock their children's potential and create a lifelong love for learning. Learn more about Jacky >>

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