How does air flow into your lungs? What happens when a person has trouble breathing in air? These are common and important questions about the human body. Thankfully, kids can make a simple lung model that’s very helpful for answering these questions! With a DIY lung model, kids can see lung anatomy in action. They can understand how the lungs are important for breathing in fresh oxygen and breathing out carbon dioxide.
Although the lung model is a classic craft for preschools and elementary schools, it’s also easy enough to make at home with materials you already have.
Parts of the respiratory system in the DIY lung model
Did you know that your breathing team hangs out in your face, neck, and chest? The main members are these body parts:
- Larynx (voicebox)
- Trachea (windpipe)
First, air gets into the body through the nose and/or mouth.
Then it flows down your throat, through your larynx (voicebox), down your trachea (windpipe), and through each bronchi.
Finally, air makes its way through tree-branch like tunnels – the bronchioles – and throughout the lungs!
How to make a lung model with kids
After looking at the picture of the respiratory system, it’s time to bring amazing lungs facts to life!
When kids make their own lung model, the science of breathing will make a lot more sense.
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Tip: Instead of getting brand new supplies, see what things you can reuse and recycle from your home!
- 4 silicone straws
- 4 small brown paper bags
- Masking tape
- Marker or crayon
- Nose and mouth template: sign up for Human Body Learning updates in the form below to instantly receive the printable!
After you hit submit, a copy of the PDF file will be sent to your email. Then you can download the template onto your computer and print it out.
Instructions for making a healthy lung model
Kids can make their own lung model in just 6 steps!
Print template and cut out one nose and mouth.
(Cut out more if you want to make more lung models!)
Put the straws together to make an upside-down “Y” shape.
Tape the long part of the straws together.
Tape the nose and mouth to the straws.
This is where air first enters the human body.
Doctors call this area the “upper airway” or the “upper respiratory tract”.
With a crayon or marker, draw bronchioles and alveoli on the brown paper bags “lungs”.
(Tip: If you have long bags, cut them shorter. Most kids will have an easier time blowing air into “smaller” lungs.)
Your lungs have lots of little bronchioles and alveoli. Bronchioles are the smallest airways in the respiratory system. Alveoli are the small bags of air at the end of each bronchiole.
Doctors call this area the “lower airways” or the “lower respiratory tract.”
Tape a brown paper bag around each straw end. The paper bags are the lungs of the DIY lung model.
Make sure there are no gaps for air to leak out!
Blow slowly into the straws. What do you see? Are you able to blow air into the paper bag lungs?
Notice how both lungs fill up with air. Because the straw “airways” are open, the lungs can breathe in fresh air.
Now try squeezing air out of the paper bag lungs. What do you notice? Did the paper bag lungs get smaller? Did you feel air rush out of the open end of the straws?
What happens if air can’t get into the lungs?
This DIY lung model can show you where airflow sometimes gets blocked.
How to make a blocked windpipe (trachea)
With your fingers, squeeze the straws under the mouth in the “trachea” part of the lung model.
Now try blowing air through the straws.
What do you notice? Are you able to blow air into the lungs?
How do you think someone would feel if their trachea was blocked?
How to make an unhealthy lung model
Repeat steps 1 through 4 described above.
Then cover the end of a straw with tape to block the hole.
Now go back to step 5 and tape a brown paper bag around each straw end. Make sure there are no gaps for air to leak out.
When you get to step 6, what do you notice? Are you able to blow air into both lungs or only one lung?
When the straw “airways” are blocked, the lungs cannot fill up with fresh air.
In real life, when airways are blocked with snot and swelling, a person would have trouble breathing.
What happens if the DIY lung model has a hole?
With your lung model, you can cut a small hole in the brown paper bag. See what happens when you try to blow air in and suck air out.
Sometimes, the lung can get a hole when the chest gets hit or poked with a lot of force. When a person has a hole in a lung, doctors call this a “pneumothorax” because air from the lungs can leak out into the chesk. “Pneumo” means “air”, and “thorax” means” chest.
This can be very painful! Because the lungs cannot inhale and exhale properly, someone with a hole in the lung would have trouble breathing and getting oxygen.
Other ways to make a lung model with kids
- If you don’t have paper bags, you can use small plastic sandwich bags for this science project. Try to reuse and upcycle plastic bags to minimize waste!