Kids love to make noise, and a do it yourself kalimba is a quick and super simple way to hear different notes and experiment with pitch.

Kalimbas are a traditional folk instrument of Western African which use metal keys of varying lengths to make different sounds. This is a far simpler form of the kalimba using cardboard and bobby pins that can be made in minutes.

Here’s What You Need

  • 1 cardboard box
  • 2 pieces of cardboard (1″ x 1″)
  • Bobby pins (start with 3)
  • Rubber bands (start with 3)
  • 1 glue stick
  • 1 roll of scotch tape

How to Build the Kalimba

Step 1: Each camper clips a bobby pin onto one 1″ x 1″ piece of cardboard, then places another 1″ x 1″ piece on the bottom (see below).
DIY: Build a Kalimba Step 1aDIY: Build a Kalimba Step 1bDIY: Build a Kalimba Step 1c

Step 2: They wrap elastic bands around the cardboard on both sides of the bobby pins (see below).
DIY: Build a Kalimba Step 2

Step 3: Next, they unbend the bobby pins (see below).
DIY: Build a Kalimba Step 3
Step 4: Campers pluck their bobby pins and observe the sound. They move the bobby pins in and out and observe how the pitch changes (see below).
DIY: Build a Kalimba Step 4a

Low Pitch

DIY: Build a Kalimba Step 4b

High Pitch

Step 5: Lastly, follow the instructions below to add a cardboard box to your kalimba and experiment with different sounds.

Experimenting with Different Sounds

Step 1: Remind your child that when a vibration is transferred to a large chamber it can increase the volume of the sound, then have them grab their sound box (cardboard box).

Step 2: Ask your child to glue their kalimba tightly to the box so all the vibrations are transferred to it. If your child is having trouble using the glue stick, demonstrate gluing a cardboard square.

Step 3: Use tape to secure the kalimba to the box even more tightly.

Step 4: Make kalimba music!

Can’t get enough hands-on and DIY? Join us for a week (or more) at Camp Galileo (Pre-K – 5th grade) or Galileo Summer Quest (5th – 8th grade). Ready to enroll? Find a location in your neighborhood today.