Holidays Month in Genius Tangram: Meet Songwriter Johnny Marks and Make Your Own Instrument at Home

November 16, 2021 / DIY & Printable

Genius content refreshes every month! This December, dive into the world of winter holidays—Christmas, Diwali, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa—and the geniuses who’ve helped us celebrate them.

We’ve compiled limited-time game updates, real-life genius stories, and educator-approved activities into interactive printables, designed to enhance your little kids learning. Access this week’s printable by clicking the button below:

Game Update

Check out Osmo Tangram for six Holidays-inspired puzzles for kids and new character outfits to unveil. Only available this month!

Genius Spotlight: Johnny Marks

“You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen…”

Johnny Marks always had a knack for writing songs. In 1947, this gave his brother-in-law, Robert, an idea. Having published a short children’s book, called “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” in 1939 that was now quite popular, Robert asked Johnny to turn it into a song.

Johnny agreed, coming up with some lyrics and a melody based on the booklet. When it came time to record, however, Johnny kept getting turned down by vocalists who didn’t think a so-called children’s song could be successful. Finally, the singer/actor Gene Autry agreed, thanks to his wife finding the outcast reindeer storyline endearing.

Released in September 1949, “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” rose to #1 on the radio within a month. Johnny, who was Jewish, wrote many more Christmas songs through the years, like “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” “Run Rudolph Run, and “A Holly Jolly Christmas.”

In 1981, 32 years after writing “Rudolph,” Johnny was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. His ability to conjure up the holiday feeling in song form will no doubt “go down in history,” like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer himself.

Real-World Activity: DIY Shaker Instrument

Try this educator-approved activity at home. This week’s printable (button above) has instructions with photos!

Play along to a favorite holiday tune (or two!) with your very own shaker instrument.

Grab an empty cardboard toilet paper tube, glue, tape, wrapping paper, and two spoonfuls of something “noisy” to put inside (like rice, lentils, etc).

  1. Cut a piece of wrapping paper the width of your toilet paper roll, and glue it all around.
  2. Apply glue along the inside rim of one of the tube’s ends, and pinch it closed. Reinforce it on the outside with tape.
  3. Fill the tube with two spoonfuls of your “noisy” objects.
  4. Glue the other end of the tube, but pinch it the other way. Reinforce the outside with tape.
  5. You’re ready to make some noise!