Drums for Kids: 4 Games for Learning Rhythm

3499296495_e6583904f0_bAs a drummer, you need to be able to master and internalize different rhythms. Here, San Diego, CA teacher Maegan W. shares a few rhythm games for kids that both teachers and parents can try…


We all know that learning anything is much easier if it is fun, right? Well this is especially true for kids. In order to make learning to play the drums a lasting experience for kids, we need to come up with ways to make them WANT to play. So I’m going to share my top secret four rhythm games for kids that I use to keep my students interested and excited about learning. And parents, you can encourage your child to play these games in between their lessons, even if you don’t know the first thing about drumming.

1) The syllables and letters game

This is one that I discovered from a lesson I was teaching where my student was sharing the names of his pets. To keep him from getting to sidetracked, I asked him to use his pets’ names as rhythms. One was two syllables (Lucky) and the other was four letters (Gold).

We took Lucky and turned it into a note pattern around the kit. It replaced the counting 1+, and we took Gold and spelled it out around the kit to replace simple quarter note counting (1-2-3-4). He loved this and it got him to associate drums with something in his life he really loves, his best friends (pets).

You can come with a million different ways to use this trick and also let your students or kids be creative in coming up with ideas.

2) Gator mouse mouse mouse

Can you guess what this one is? If you said accents, you’re right. I’m a huge believer in getting my students to learn accents and dynamics right from the get-go.

The accented notes (played loud and about a foot off the drum surface) are the “gators,” and the unaccented notes (played quiet and close to the drum surface) are called “mouse.” You can use this to move the gator around to cover all possible accent patterns and create a fun and easy rhythm game for kids to remember them.

3) Slowest drummer in the world competition

This one is very entertaining, I must admit. Most kids’ natural tendency is to speed up while playing. But to master anything, we must first master it slowly. Our muscles and minds need to absorb the new information almost in slow motion to really have it sink in before we can expect to play it fast.

Thus “The Slowest Drummer in the World Competition” was born! In this game I challenge my student to a duel of who can play the new pattern the slowest (with a metronome). The result? Focus, laughter, and an effective practice session.

4) Find it in the song game

This one is great because it incorporates music, so the kids can start to feel time, understand phrasing, hear musical cues, apply rudimentary patterns to the drum set, and learn different subdivisions. The game is simple and has only three steps.

  • Let the student pick his or her favorite song, or suggest one.
  • Pick a rudiment or pattern that you want to learn. Examples: Single strokes RLRL / LRLR, Doubles RRLL / LLRR , or the ever-important Paradiddle RLRR LRLL.
  • Show the pattern first and then have him or her play the pattern for the entire song in time to the beat. If the song is slow enough, have him or her play different subdivisions using the pattern. Example: Play to the 1/4 note, then play it as 1/8th notes, then 1/16th notes over the beat.

I hope this was helpful and inspiring. Remember, drums are meant to be creative, expressive, and most of all FUN! Turning learning rhythms into games like these is not only a great way to keep your child excited about learning music, but also a great way for you to create a deeper bond. We are all naturally built to love drums and rhythms, and connect through listening or playing these. You don’t have to be an expert, just have fun with these and explore the many possibilities with your child.

Looking for more ways to make drum practice more fun? Try these easy drum songs for kids


Post Author:
 Maegan W.
Maegan W. teaches drums, songwriting, and more in San Diego, CA. She earned a degree in Percussion from the Musician’s Institute, and has been teaching private lessons since 2004.  Learn more about Maegan here!



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