Lively Lungs

Children will learn about their lungs.

Birds Nest

Lesson Objective

Children will learn where the lungs are and what our lungs do when we breathe.


What You'll Need

  • Turkey basters – 1 per child
  • Drinking straws – 2 per child; 1 should be cut in half
  • Modeling dough – 2 golf ball–sized pieces per child
  • Cotton balls – 1 per child

What To Do

  1. Discuss information about the lungs with the children (see Did You Know?).
  2. Using a turkey baster, demonstrate how the lungs work by pressing and releasing the bulb on the end of the turkey baster. Have the children feel the air coming out of the narrow end.
  3. Explain that our lungs work similarly to the turkey baster. When we inhale, our lungs expand like the bulb. When we exhale, we can feel the air coming out of our nose or mouth just like we can feel the air coming out of the end of the turkey baster. Distribute turkey basters, and let the children play with them.
  4. Explain to the children that they will be using their lungs to blow through a straw to move a cotton ball.
  5. Tell them they will need to put one hand on the straw and one hand on their chest to feel their chest moving as their lungs fill with air and then release it.
  6. Demonstrate creating the goal by making two balls of dough and inserting half of a straw into each. Then, use the straw to blow the cotton ball through the goal.
  7. Distribute modeling dough and the straws that have been cut in half.
  8. Assist children with making and placing their goals on the table.
  9. Distribute cotton balls and full-size straws. Allow each child to blow through the straw to make the cotton ball move across the table and through the goal.
  10. Tell the children to place one hand on their chest as they blow through the straw so they can feel their chest moving.

Guiding Student Inquiry

  • Tell me where your lungs are.
  • Explain what happens when you breathe.
  • If you can’t see your lungs, how do you know they are working?

Explore, Extend & Integrate

  • Place turkey basters and cotton balls in the science center for further exploration.
  • Place modeling dough goals, straws, and cotton balls in the play area so that children can continue experimenting.
  • Provide stethoscopes, oversize white shirts (to use as lab coats), clipboards with paper, and pencils in the dramatic play area for children to play “doctor.”

Check for Children’s Understanding

  • Could children describe where their lungs are located?
  • Could children explain how their chests expand when they breathe?
  • Could children describe how they know their lungs are working even though they can’t see them?


Did You Know?

Breathing is something you do all day, every day, without even thinking about it! You have two lungs, one on each side of your body, and they are large organs in your body. They help you take fresh air into your body and get rid of old air. Your lungs take up most of the space in your chest. Because your heart takes up some of the space on the left side of your chest, the lung on your left side is a little smaller than the lung on your right side.

Your lungs are an important part of your body. Air comes in through your nose or mouth and travels through your windpipe and into the lungs. The lungs take oxygen out of the air and pass it to the parts your body. You cannot see your lungs, but you can feel them in action. When you breathe in, or inhale, your chest fills up with air and expands. When you breathe out, or exhale, your chest returns to its normal size. Exercising is important for keeping your lungs healthy. Your body needs more oxygen when you exercise, so your lungs get filled with more air, and that lets them do their job better. They work harder to get more air to the rest of the body. 

Vocabulary: Child-Friendly Definitions

  • breathe – to take air into and out of the lungs.
  • lungs – either of two organs in the body that control breathing.
  • inhale – to breathe in.
  • exhale – to breathe out.
  • oxygen – the gas that is part of air; it has no color or smell; all living things need oxygen to live.
  • organ – a part of animals that performs a special task; for example, heart, lungs, and skin.

Lesson Tips

  • Caution the children not to share straws.
  • Allow the children to try moving the cotton balls using the turkey basters.


  • Breathe In, Breathe Out: Learning About Your Lungs by Pamela Hill Nettleton
  • My Lungs (What’s Inside Me) by Dana Meachen Rau
  • The Three Little Pigs by Patricia Seibert
  • Breathe by Scott Magoon
  • Dog Breath by Dav Pilkey

Home School Resources

Home educators: use these printable lesson PDFs to teach this lesson to your home schoolers. They're available in English and Spanish.

Home/School Connections

Las Conexiones a la Casa

While we believe that the books and resources recommended may be of value to you, keep in mind that these are suggestions only and you must do your own due diligence to determine whether the materials are appropriate and suitable for your use. PNC has no sponsorship or endorsement agreement with the authors or publishers of the materials listed.

Content Provided By

Common Core State Standards Initiative – These lessons are aligned with the Common Core State Standards ("CCSS"). The CCSS provide a consistent, clear understanding of the concepts and skills children are expected to learn and guide teachers to provide their students with opportunities to gain these important skills and foundational knowledge [1]. Visit the CCSS