How to: Make a Musical Maraca at Home

On June 6 and 7, almost 6,000 visitors attended Jazz n’ Families Fun Days, the Phillips’s annual family festival in partnership with DC Jazz Festival. Families decorated maracas, listened to live jazz music, played instruments, and joined gallery tours. In preparation for this big event, Phillips Education staff spent the last couple months collecting thousands of water bottles and toilet-paper rolls for the Family Fun art project – musical maracas! Check out these before and after photographs showing the innovative and creative ways visitors transformed recyclable materials into instruments that were as artistic as they were musical.



View from above the mass of recycled water bottles during preparation for Jazz n’ Families Fun Days. Photo: Hayley Prihoda


The expansive assortment of recyclable goods collected by the staff. Photo: Hayley Prihoda















Young visitors showing off their wonderful creations! Photo credit: Joshua Navarro

Young visitors showing off their wonderful creations. Photo: Joshua Navarro

Visitors of all ages enjoyed creating their musical maracas in our art studio. Photo credit: Joshua Navarro

Visitors of all ages enjoyed creating their musical maracas in our art studio. Photo: Joshua Navarro

















You can make a musical maraca at home with your family! This project is fun, engaging, and accessible for all ages.

Select your favorite color beads for your maraca! Photo: Joshua Navarro

Select your favorite color beads for your maraca. Photo: Joshua Navarro



  • Toilet paper rolls or water bottles (you can use both, or one or the other)
  • Beads or any dried food in your kitchen pantry, such as beans, pasta, or rice.
  • Decorative materials (colorful duct tape, tissue paper, scrapbook paper, pipe-cleaners, etc.)


  • 4 and up (possible for younger ages with adult supervision)


  • 30 minutes – 1 hour







There are two easy ways to construct your musical maraca.

Option 1

Step 1: Clean, rinse and dry plastic water bottle. Any size bottle will work!

Step 2: Select beads or dried food for the inside (beads/food may be visible so think about the colors you want to choose)

Step 3: Pour beads/dried food into the water bottle

  • Tip: Use a piece of paper as a funnel to make this process easier and cleaner
  • Tip: Fill up halfway to allow room for beads to shake

Step 4: Close water bottle cap

Step 5: Decorate the outside of your maraca!

To further extend your project, create two maracas and attach a toilet paper roll in between to form a handle. Duct tape is recommended.

(Option 1 examples) Two decorative water bottle maracas. Photo: Hayley Prihoda

(Option 1 examples) Photo: Hayley Prihoda

A large maraca with a toilet paper handle. Photo: Hayley Prihoda

(Option 1 extended example) Photo: Hayley Prihoda












(Option 2 examples) A triangular maraca made out of a toilet paper roll (on left) and a rain stick made out of a paper towel roll (on right). Photo: Hayley Prihoda

(Option 2 examples) A triangular maraca made out of a toilet paper roll (on left) and a rain stick made out of a paper towel roll (on right). Photo: Hayley Prihoda

Option 2

Step 1: Select a toilet paper roll or paper towel roll

  • Tip: A toilet paper roll will create a hand-held maraca; a paper towel roll will create a rain stick

Step 2: Pinch one end together and seal by stapling

Step 3:  Pour beads/dried food into the tube

Step 4: Close other end with staples

  • Tip: You can either pinch the edges together in the same direction as the other end or in the opposite direction to create a triangle shape (see photograph below)

Step 5: Decorate the outside of your maraca!



Re-purposing materials is a great way to save money, think creatively and reduce waste! Here are a few more ideas for reusing your recyclable goods this summer:

Check back soon as we begin our Phillips-at-Home Summer Series, bringing our collection to you through art-making activities inspired by our artworks!

Hayley Prihoda, K12 Education Intern 



Nordic Wonderland Family Program

Photos: Andrea Kim Taylor and Brooke Rosenblatt

Photos: Andrea Kim Taylor and Brooke Rosenblatt

As a part of our Nordic Cultural Initiative, the Phillips recently hosted our first Nordic Wonderland family program in collaboration with the embassies of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden. Over 120 guests created art activities from Denmark and Norway, experienced storytelling from Iceland, viewed a Moomin cartoon from Finland, and watched a St. Lucia parade from Sweden.

During the program, we debuted our new Winter Warm Up “Art-Venture.” The digital scavenger hunt is a fun way to navigate the Phillips. You can play with your family, friends, or even by yourself! The Winter Warm Up “Art-Venture” is available to visitors all season long and can be accessed using your mobile device, or you can access it here:

One family described the “art-venture,” saying “The questions were good ones and a great way to learn about art and the museum.” Another said, “The event was wonderful… For the older kids, the scavenger hunt was really fun!”



Family Nordic Art-Venture: Part 2

This weekend, the Phillips is hosting a Nordic Wonderland family program in collaboration with the embassies of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden. To help us get ready for the celebration, we asked staff to share important Nordic winter traditions from their countries. Read Part 1 here and learn about traditions in Denmark, Iceland and Finland.

Snow fun and ice fishing in Finland.

Snow fun and ice swimming in Finland.


Holiday Season in Finland

It is the end of one year, the beginning of another, and usually also the beginning of the proper winter. It is the time to relax, be with family and enjoy outdoor activities like skiing, skating, or playing ice hockey, after which it is a perfect time to enjoy a cup of hot chocolate by the fire. For those brave enough, try one of the favorite activities of Finns in the winter: there are around 180,000 lakes in Finland, and we use them in the wintertime simply by making a hole in the ice for winter swimming. At first, winter swimming can sound crazy (even scary!) but combine a warm sauna with the dip and you will experience relaxation beyond your dreams. Trust us Finns, take a chance.

In the morning of December 24, Joulupukki (Santa Claus) starts his journey from Korvatunturi and brings presents for children. He must visit every home in one evening so logistically it’s quite a challenge but he knows how to do it. Santa spends a little time in every household and enjoys some gingerbread cookies before continuing his journey.

Fireworks are an integral part of the New Year’s celebration, but the best firework display one could have is seeing the Milky Way above you in a crisp January night. Traditions also include predicting the future from tin figures which you make yourself by heating tin and pouring them in cold water. What will 2015 have store for you?

We hope everyone has a beautiful Christmas and a happy new year. Or as we Finns would say, Hyvää Joulua ja Onnellista Uutta vuotta!

Keijo Karjalainen, Cultural Counseler, and Pauliina Pennanen, Culture and Media Assistant, Embassy of Finland

Photo: Lena Granefelt/

Photo: Lena Granefelt/


Lucia in Sweden

The Santa Lucia celebration on December 13 is one of Sweden’s most cherished cultural traditions. Legend claims that Lucia was a mythical figure with the role of light bearer in the dark Swedish winters. In the old almanac, Lucia Night was the longest of the year.

The Santa Lucia procession is a line of girls and boys in white gowns singing Christmas carols. The boys are usually dressed as tomtar (Santas) or stjärngossar (star boys); girls are tärnor (Lucia’s handmaidens). Each year in every town and village around the country a Lucia is selected, and there is even a National Lucia in Sweden. The Lucia celebrations are enjoyed with Swedish holiday delicacies like pepparkakor (ginger snaps) and lussekatter (saffron buns) that are usually accompanied by glögg (hot mulled wine) or coffee.

To learn more, watch, “Swedish Lucia For Dummies.” 

Linda Tocchini-Valentini, Communications Officer, Embassy of Sweden