Let's Make Music

Children will reuse materials to create musical instruments.

Lesson Objective

Children will creatively repurpose or reuse a variety of used or discarded items to make musical instruments.


What You'll Need

Note: Let available materials guide your creativity. The children do not have to make a specific, recognizable instrument. An instrument is anything that can be used to make a rhythmic sound.

  • An assortment of used materials from the recycling bin: paper towel rolls, long tubes from gift wrap, bottle caps, tennis balls, craft sticks, yogurt cups/butter tubs/oatmeal containers/plastic water bottles with lids or caps, plastic spoons, ribbon, etc.  – at least 1 per child
  • Nut shells, dried peas, rice, bird seed, or other items that can be placed inside a container to make noise – enough for each child to place in their container
  • Scissors – 1 per child
  • Masking tape – 1 roll per table

What To Do

  1. Begin a discussion about musical instruments (see Did You Know?).
  2. Explain that a musical instrument is something that can be used to make sounds. Share instruments that are in the classroom.
  3. Explain that lots of things end up in the trash. We also recycle many things, which helps the environment. Reusing or repurposing things is another great way to help the environment. Explain that they will reuse items to create instruments.
  4. Have the children look at the materials and discuss how to create something to make music.
  5. Guide the children as they experiment with different materials. There are many ways to produce sounds. They can shake things, tap something with their hand or a stick, blow through something, or strum an object. Encourage their creativity – anything that can be used to make a rhythmic sound is an instrument!

Guiding Student Inquiry

  • How can you create sound with these things?
  • Can you make the sound louder/softer; quicker/slower? What did you do to change the sound?
  • Tell me about the things that you used to make your instrument. Where did they come from? What were they used for before you used them to make an instrument?
  • Can you think of another sound that you could make with your instrument?

Explore, Extend & Integrate

  • After the children complete their instruments, let them join small groups and play their instruments together. Give them time to create a “composition” or song together and let the groups take turns playing for each other.
  • Place the leftover materials in the discovery center or the art center and let the children create additional instruments.
  • Turn your dramatic play area into a recycling center. Provide an assortment of bins, paper, and crayons to make labels for the bins, several pairs of gardening gloves, an assortment of recycling items, clipboards, etc. You could include child-sized shopping carts for the children to transport the different items.

Check for Children’s Understanding

  • Did children understand that they were repurposing or reusing a discarded item when creating something new, which is good for the environment?
  • Did children understand how the different sounds were made?


Did You Know?

Musical instruments have been a part of human society for much of our history. Cultures all over the world use music as a way to communicate, celebrate, worship, entertain, and express emotion. Historians are not sure how long ago the first instrument was invented, but they have found “flutes” made from animal bones that are over 30,000 years old. 

People tend to be familiar with the recycling of paper, plastic, glass, and aluminum into a variety of things we use in our daily lives. Many items can also be recycled to create musical instruments. Certain types of wood can be recycled to produce guitars. Recycled plastic can be used to create recorders, and brass (a type of metal) can be recycled to make trombones and tubas.

Vocabulary: Child-Friendly Definitions

  • reuse – to use something again or use it more than one time.
  • recycle – to put used items through a process that allows them to be used again.
  • rhythm – when sound or movement is made in a repeating pattern.
  • instrument – something that is used to make music, like a piano or a guitar.
  • music – when voices or instruments are used to produce rhythmic sounds, they are making music.
  • environment – the natural world including air, water, and soil that surrounds people and animals.

Lesson Tips

  • Even though you are reusing materials, remind the children that they should still recycle their instruments when they are done with them.
  • Be careful with the items that you use to fill some instruments. Rice and bird seed can be slippery if it gets on the floor.


  • Zin, Zin, Zin! A Violin by Lloyd Moss
  • Meet the Orchestra by Ann Hayes
  • Caillou Learns to Recycle by Kim Thompson
  • Recycle Every Day by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace

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

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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