Best Small Percussion Instruments for Special Needs


Over the years I have tried a range of instruments with the children with special needs. Today I want to share the “small percussion” instruments that I have found have worked best.

Instrument Suggestions

Plastic Fantastic

Yes, I know plastic hasn’t had the greatest rep in society… but for our needs, it works great. Why? Because it is light and easy to clean! An important concern when sourcing instruments for kids with special needs is that often their grasping skills could be weak and if we want them to independently hold onto the instruments, we have to assist the best we can. Plastic instruments are usually lighter than their wooden counterparts and so help in this area. Also, instruments often get “mouthed” as the child explores the new toy using their taste senses. Therefore cleaning instruments is a important task. Again, plastic is easy to clean.


Bells which are light and have a small grip as the best to use. Being light they require minimal hand strength to be supported independently by the child. Also having a small grip allow their hand to grasp the bells easier. Photo 1: Ideal: Light easy to grasp. Photo 2: Not ideal: The long length means the weight of the bells is more likely to cause instrument to tip out of a lightly held grasp. Photo 3: Not Ideal: The grip is made of wood and can result in the bells being too heavy to grasp effectively.


With shakers, being able to grip them and have a balanced weight is important. Photo 1: Appropriate small plastic egg shakers with easy to grasp handles Photo 2: Not ideal as egg shakers are too wide to be easily grasped Photo 3: Not Ideal as wooden shakers can be heavier and therefore require more strength to grasp


With castanets, the focus is on ease of playability. Photo 1: Ideal: Plastic castanet Photo 2: Ideal: Great for use with children with complex needs as easy to sound Photo 3: Possibly allright: Wooden castanets Photo 4: Avoid!: Its sound cant be controlled, they just flap around, more like noise than music

Songs to Accompany Your Instruments

My music album “Music Therapy Songs for Special Kids” has instrument playing songs. Try the Ring Those Bells along with your bells and Castanet o Castanet along with your castanets. Happy Playing!


This blog post has been written to share my personal experience and does not constitute me supporting any particular brands of musical instruments. I have not received any payment and/or any promotion for the comments I have written on this blog.

Published by Ajay Castelino

Ajay Castelino is an Australian and New Zealand registered music therapist.

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