Make and Play a Guiro

What is a Guiro?

A guiro, also sometimes called a “fish” is an instrument from Latin American that makes noise when a stick or a rasp is pulled over a series of ridges. Originally, guiros were made from natural objects such as bones or dried gourds that had ridges carved into them with knives. Later they were made from wood and metal as well. To make an easy version of a guiro, all you need are recycled water bottles, materials for decoration and filling and simple scrapers.

Materials Needed

Recycled water bottles with ridges (like Poland Springs) make excellent homemade guiros. You can use sharpies or stickers for decorating the outside and any materials such as beads, seeds, glitter, salt, pebbles or unpopped popcorn for filling up the inside. Use unsharpened pencils, chopsticks and egg whisks or hair picks for your guiro scrapers.

Making Guiros in a Group or a Classroom

Collect bottles with ridges in advance. Take the wrappers off and decorate the outside if your like or leave it clear. It helps to mark each child’s name on the bottom with a permanent marker. Then fill them with something that rattles and add a bit of glitter or confetti for fun, if you like. Put the cap back on your bottles and seal with electrical tape to keeps the contents in. If you like, add colorful ribbons to the top part.

When you are ready to play, give each child an unsharpened pencil or chop stick to rub on their guiro. Demonstrate the sound that a guiro will make when rubbing it. You can play it along with a simple song like La Cucaracha (The Little Cockroach), a fun song with Spanish and English lyrics.

Next, play a song with a Latin American rhythm and let the children play along. Ask them to listen to the song and see if they can make their instrument fit in with the beat. You can choose fast and slow songs so the children can try different beats and rhythms to play along with. For younger children or kids with differing abilities, they can also use their guiro as a rattle or shaker and play along with the songs you’ve chosen.

Play and Sing a Song in Spanish

Since the guiro is from Latin America, you may wish to try a simple counting song in English and Spanish. Each time a number is said, the guiro is scraped downward.

Counting Song (to the tune of 10 Little Indians)

One and two and three good friends      (scrape down with each number)
Four and five and six good friends
Seven and eight and nine good friends
Ten good friends are we         (scrape back and forth)

Uno dos, tres amigos         (scrape down with each number)
Cuatro, cinco, seis amigos
Siete, ocho, nueve amigos
Dies amigos son         (scrape back and forth)

La Cucaracha (Bilingual version by Daria Marmaluk-Hajioannou

La cucaracha, La cucaracha, ya no puede caminar
Por que le falte, por que no tiene
Dinero para gastar

The little cockroach, the little cockroach,
I saw him just the other day
I like him best when, he takes his things and…
He gets his friends and moves away!

The little cockroach, the little cockroach,
He likes to play up with the band
Upon the guiro, he is a hero
He’s got the fastest moving hands


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