Make a Lung Model out of a Plastic Bottle, Straws & Balloons!

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It’s funny how this thing has become a toy to her. This morning she was in her room explaining the respiratory system to Scooby Doo and the Gang!


It’s anatomy time, and the human body unit is in full swing at The Cabin. In learning about the respiratory system, we created a simple lung model that has been a hit in our household. I doubt Captain will ever forget how this system works!

You’ll Need: A plastic 2 liter bottle cut in half, two straws, two balloons, masking tape (or black electrical tape as that is what we had around and it worked great!) a rubber band and a piece of plastic bag.

* As you are creating this model with your kids, be sure to use the proper terminology. Explain that you’ll be making a model of the lungs to show how the respiratory system works. Let them know that the plastic bottle represents the rib cage, the straws represent the trachea/bronchi, the balloons represent the lungs and the plastic bag represents the diaphragm. While assembling, use only the anatomical names! For example: “Can you hold the ribcage while I slide the trachea and lungs in?”

Step 1: Put a straw down into a balloon, almost to the bottom. Securely tape the top of the balloon to the straw so that it is air tight. Go around with the tape a few times to be sure it is sealed. Do the same to the second balloon and then secure the two straws together with more tape.

Step 2: Put the straws down into the bottle top and tape around and around the rest of the bottle-opening to be sure that it is air-tight. If air gets in, the model won’t work.

Step 3: Place the bottle onto a piece of plastic bag and use a rubber band to secure it tight to the bottom. Trim off the excess bag, if needed.

Step 4: It is helpful to tape a little piece of paper, or a string, to the bottom of the diaphragm to pull it up and down.

That’s it! Now the child can pull the diaphragm up and down and see the lungs expand and contract! In the human body, the trachea goes down and splits into the two bronchial tubes that go into the lungs. We weren’t able to show this extra step in our model, but we looked at pictures and learned how it works. Here is a good explanation to share with your kids, if you don’t have other learning materials handy:

“Your body needs air to live! Air is a mixture of many things, but the oxygen in air is what your body needs most. Oxygen is a gas that your body combines with the food you have eaten to make energy. When you inhale, or breathe in, air goes in your nose or mouth, down a cool tube called a trachea and into your 2 lungs. Your lungs are big bags made of a bunch of tiny bags that fill with air.Oxygen from the air goes into the blood and carbon dioxide, a waste your body makes, comes from your blood and goes into the air sacs. When you breathe out, the carbon dioxide leaves your body. Ya-hoo!”

You take about 20,000 breaths a day and sneeze at about 100 miles per hour! Lungs weigh about 1 pound each and adult lungs are each about the size of a football! Your right lung has 3 regions, or lobes, while your left lung has two lobes and each lobe has its own blood supply. That way, if one part is damaged, the other 4 keep working! How cool is that?

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One more note: It is very beneficial to have kids draw a picture of what they learned, coloring the balloons, straws, etc. Help them label the simple parts.

The human body is amazing! Happy breathing into all of those lovely lobes!

Cheers, Karen

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