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Aboriginal Clap Sticks | Homemade Musical Instruments

Aboriginal Clap Sticks

Total Time Needed: 2-3 Hours

Here's a twist on the rhythm sticks that Australian aborigines use in ceremonial dances: decorated paint stirrers that let your child be a one-man percussion section, clapping along to his favorite music.


  • Four paint stirrer sticks
  • Acrylic paint (we used brown, white, black, and yellow)
  • Paintbrush
  • Cotton swabs
  • Tacky glue


1. To make a set, paint one side and all the edges of the 4 sticks with a base color (we used brown), then let them dry.

Aboriginal Clap Sticks

2. Next, use other colors to paint on decorative bands and animal motifs, such as the lizard and snake shown here. Use cotton swabs to add dot accents.

Aboriginal Clap Sticks - Step 3

3. Once all the paint has dried, glue the sticks together in pairs, painted side out, so that you have 2 double-sided sticks. Let the glue dry before clapping them together.

The Story of Dot Painting

The indigenous people of Australia, or Aborigines, use dot painting as a form of storytelling. With dots of paint traditionally made from natural pigments, they create patterns and images of plants and animals that represent their culture's creation myths, which date back tens of thousands of years.