Chilean Rain Sticks

This project requires a bit more prep than most, but it’s not difficult and so worth the extra time it takes! Your students will LOVE creating these colorful, authentic sounding rain sticks! Be sure to show students where Chile is located on a map or globe, and talk about its unique geography and weather!

Chile is a country in South America, occupying a long narrow strip of land between the Andes Mountains and the Pacific Ocean. It is almost 3,000 miles long, yet averages only about 100 miles wide. Northern Chile is home to the world’s driest desert, where the rain stick is believed to have originated. Rain sticks were made from long, hollow cactus tubes that were dried in the sun. Then the spikes were removed and driven back into the cactus like nails. Small pebbles were then placed inside and the ends sealed. A sound like falling rain was made as the rain stick was turned, making it useful in desert ceremonies where it was believed to bring rain.

Materials (per rain stick)

  • 18″ x 2″ cardboard mailing tube (You can find these at office supply stores or wherever commercial paper products are sold in your area.)
  • 2 – 2″ cardboard circles (I cut them from empty cereal boxes. If your school has a die cutter, this would be a good time to use it!)
  • 18″ x 8″ brown grocery bag paper
  • 6″ x 6″ brown grocery bag paper
  • YES! Paste and stiff glue brush or a good quality glue stick
  • markers (assorted colors)
  • 4 – medium size beads
  • 2 – 12″ pieces twine
  • 4 – feathers
  • 3′ x 12″ aluminum foil
  • masking tape
  • 1/4 cup pop corn
  • 2 – rubber bands

1. Glue cardboard circles (centered) onto the squares of brown paper and set aside.
2. Lay out the long strip of aluminum foil and carefully “scrunch” it into a long skinny “snake”, but don’t squeeze it too tight! (See photo below.)
3. Now, twist your foil snake into a loose coil about the length of your tube.
4. Next, slide the coil into your tube and secure with masking tape at each end.
5. Spread some glue around one end of your tube.
6. Place one of the papers (with the cardboard circle facing inward) over the end of your tube and press the edges down. Hold in place with a rubber band until dry.

7. Pour 1/4 cup popcorn or rice into the tube and seal the other end in the same way. (Your rain stick will sound different depending on what you fill it with, so it helps to have a sample of each and let students choose!)
8. Now, draw a colorful pattern onto the 8″ x 18″ brown paper.
9. Then scrunch up and carefully smooth out your paper about 8 times, until it has an evenly bumpy texture to it, resembling the texture of a cactus branch.
10. Spread glue over the back of your paper and roll it around your tube, overlapping itself and covering the loose edges of the paper you used to seal the ends.
11. Wrap a piece of twine twice around each end of your tube and tie in a knot.
12. Add a bead to each end and secure with a knot.
13. Spread a little glue onto the end of each of four feathers and stick them up into each of the beads. Let dry completely.

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20 Responses to Chilean Rain Sticks

  1. Swati November 10, 2010 at 3:07 am #

    Wouldn't the empty cardboard tubes from paper towels or foil rolls do as well? I think I will be trying this with my kid :) Thanks.

  2. Fine Lines November 10, 2010 at 8:17 am #

    We did these as one of several family night art activities last year and used paper towel tubes. They worked great, too, and the families loved the project! I wish I had thought of adding the feathers and beads. Oh well, next time. Thanks for sharing.

    • anthony January 30, 2015 at 12:02 pm #

      this help me a lot thanks.


  3. TeachKidsArt November 10, 2010 at 8:37 am #

    The paper towel tubes will work, too. I like to use the mailing tubes because they're bigger and a lot sturdier! The longer the rain stick, the better the sound, too.

  4. Phyl November 10, 2010 at 10:29 am #

    We've made them a number of times, but instead of using the foil inside, we punch or hammer zillions of nails into the tube. The nails slow down the flow of lentils, pinto beans chick peas, popcorn, etc to give a nice sound. We then tape over the nail heads and papier-mache over the whole thing. They turn out fabulous.

  5. TeachKidsArt November 10, 2010 at 6:56 pm #

    The paper mache sounds like a fun twist! That would give a nice texture, too. I've used nails before, but had issues with kids getting poked. Plus the heavy weight tubes are hard to get the nails into safely. But if you're working with very small groups of kids or one on one, you can do anything!!

  6. Swati November 11, 2010 at 6:10 am #

    Oh yes, of course the longer tubes will sound better. Thanks.

  7. Nancie Kay November 14, 2010 at 7:51 am #

    I've tried this with plastic tubes donated to the art room, putting toothpicks thru that plastic in a spiral pattern. It took FOREVER! I'm tempted to try it again w/the spiral of foil…Thanks!

  8. Gail November 16, 2010 at 7:04 am #

    Although I have a rain stick I never thought to try making them! Thanks so much for this, I can see doing this at school especially after Christmas…with all those cardboard tubes from holiday gift wrap…I like the paper mache idea too.

  9. Elizabeth @ Ucreate with Kids November 19, 2010 at 1:48 pm #

    Love this idea! This would be the perfect addition to our musical instruments!

    Just featured this:

  10. Art Project Girl January 14, 2011 at 6:01 pm #

    I love this. I did a rainstick project with my kindergarteners and it was WAY more prep then I would've liked. I won't do it again with kinders. The foil did work that well (it works a little bit but I think my paper towel tubes are too heavy and short.) I saw at Joanne fabrics the inner tubes to the fabric and I think I'm going to ask them to save them for me if they don't reuse them. They are huge and would have to be cut down on the saw in the summer time. Yours are awesome with the bags and feathers!

  11. volvomom March 12, 2011 at 10:57 pm #

    I did this with my daughter and we used a Pringles can. For a whole class I guess you would have to store these up gradually as you eat the chips :). Not quite as long and impressive looking as the mailing tubes, but it worked very well and had the ends already covered. We did have to make a few modifications to get a nice, rain-like sound–we used 3 foil snakes instead of one (but she loved doing that), we used rice and black beans inside, and we put a round piece of construction paper to fit on the inside of the bottom of the can since it was metal. Very fun and turned out great!

  12. TeachKidsArt March 13, 2011 at 2:03 pm #

    I love hearing all these great ideas and adaptations! Thanks for sharing, everyone!!

  13. Mindy March 21, 2014 at 9:48 pm #

    Haven’t tried it with my kinders yet, but the one I made at home was simple and great! I love this craft! Thank you!

    • Cheryl Trowbridge March 23, 2014 at 9:46 pm #

      Thank you, Mindy! If your students are anything like mine, they will love it, too!


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