For babies, it's all about percussion. While lots of everyday kitchen items can be utilized as a percussion instrument, musical toys are designed with safety in mind (and they'll prevent your kitchen from becoming a playpen). We asked Ali Wing, founder of Giggle, to share her top choices for kid-friendly instruments:
Mini maracas or egg shakers
Maracas have a handle while egg shakers don't, but both are easy for little hands to hold onto and play. Babies as young as 10 months old can enjoy shaking them back and forth like a rattle, encouraging early rhythm and motor skills, but toddlers love them too. Giggle.com, $4; Target.com, $10
Who doesn't love the happy, jingly sound of a tambourine? They're also incredibly easy to play—no skill required. Some have drumheads in the middle and some don't, but the most important feature is that they're junior-sized so they fit comfortably in baby's small grasp. Giggle.com, $12
Anyone can have fun with a train whistle. And it's more versatile than you’d think: Even the simplest train whistles change in pitch with different breaths. (They're also a great way to get a kid who’s otherwise more interested in trains and cars focused on music class.) MusicTogether.com, $7
A fun, simple tool for learning rhythm—and you might just create a little flamenco dancer in the process. Grown-up versions are complicated, but these kid-friendly castanets come in cool animal shapes and are a snap to play. Amazon.com, $8
Drums and mallets
Kids love the gratification of banging on drums. The best versions have cloth heads for safety. I love this drum set that incorporates multiple surfaces for a variety of sounds. It's great for teaching rhythm and a lot more fun than a single surface. Yoyo, $60.