Marvelous Mobiles

Children will make a mobile by reusing materials.

Lesson Objective

Children will explore the concept of reusing or repurposing items by creating a mobile with discarded materials.


What You'll Need

  • Wire clothes hanger  – 1 per child
  • String or yarn cut in 10” to 12” lengths – 4 per child
  • Small, clean lids from containers, plastic forks and spoons, yogurt containers
  • Scissors – 1 per child
  • Glue – 1 per table
  • Hole puncher – 1 per adult
  • Paper from the recycling bin (used drawing paper, construction paper, newspaper)
  • Toys that are going to be discarded, such as puzzles with missing pieces, game pieces like checkers and Legos, dried markers, broken or unwanted costume jewelry, etc.

What To Do

  1. Tell the children they are going to use a very special kind of art style to make a project called a mobile. A mobile is a piece of artwork that can be made with materials like paper, wood, plastic, metal, string, and wire. It hangs from the ceiling and it moves when air blows on it.
  2. Display the variety of items and explain that they will be making mobiles from them.
  3. Talk about some of the items by asking what they are, what they were used for, and why they think the items were in the trash or the recycling bin.
  4. Provide each child with a hanger and some precut strings. Support the children as they explore the variety of items to think about in deciding how they want to assemble their mobiles.
  5. Encourage the children to be creative. They can cut them, color them, and use the glue to change their form.
  6. As the children are tying things onto their hangers, show them how to hold up the hanger and see how the items hang and sway.
  7. Hang their mobiles around the classroom and remind the children to recycle any leftover scraps.

Guiding Student Inquiry

  • Tell me things that you use every day and throw away when you are done. Do you put any in recycling containers? Could you?
  • We made mobiles from recycled materials. Can you think of other things we could make?
  • What do you think we could do with toys/books/art supplies/furniture when we no longer need them?
  • Can you think of other things that we recycle that we could use for our mobiles?

Explore, Extend & Integrate

  • Let the children take their mobiles outside and see how they move when the wind blows or when the children gently wave them around.
  • Encourage the children to experiment with the length and position of the strings while keeping their mobiles balanced. 
  • Explore other ways to create mobiles. Use something other than a hanger on which to attach the pieces. You could use sticks gathered outside, straws, or paint stirring sticks from a paint store. You could use a hula hoop and create a single, large mobile all together.
  • Put a variety of plastic containers in your discovery area. Include magnifying glasses, paper, and crayons or markers. Encourage the children to look at the bottoms of the containers. What do they notice? What are the numbers for? Are the numbers the same on each container? Can the children draw and compare the symbols and numbers that they see? Explain that the numbers are a code that tells what kind of plastic is used to make each container. This information helps to sort the containers when they get to the recycling center.

Check for Children’s Understanding

  • Did each child understand that they were reusing materials (using an old object for a new purpose) as a form of recycling?
  • Did the children understand that the mobile was art?


Did You Know?

Creating less waste, trash, and garbage is one of the best ways to help our environment. One way to do that is by reusing things rather than buying brand new products. There are many ways to reuse something. You can sell or donate things that you are done using. Appliances, tools, clothing, books, furniture, and toys are easy to sell at a yard sale or donate to a charity. Making and transporting a new product requires a lot of natural resources and energy. By reducing waste and reusing products, we can reduce pollution and the amount of trash that accumulates in landfills.

A mobile is a form of moving sculpture invented by an artist named Alexander Calder. A mobile is typically made from materials or objects balanced on the ends of pieces of wire so that the mobile, when hung up, can move naturally in currents of air. Alexander Calder created mobiles in a range of sizes, from very small to some weighing hundreds of pounds and spanning more than 25 feet. His mobiles are displayed in many museums in the United States, including some in Philadelphia and Washington D.C.

Vocabulary: Child-Friendly Definitions

  • mobile – a kind of artwork that hangs and is made of objects that are balanced on lengths of wire so that it moves when air blows around it.
  • reduce – to use less or to make smaller.
  • reuse – to use something more than once.
  • hang – to put up or fasten something to a wall or ceiling.
  • sway – when something swings back and forth or side to side, it is swaying.
  • balance – the state of being steady; not leaning.

Lesson Tips

  • The end of a wire hanger can be sharp; you may want to wrap it with a piece of masking tape. Or you can use plastic hangers.
  • For children who have difficulty tying, you can tie some pieces of string onto their hangers before you begin the lesson.


  • Stuff!: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle by Steven Kroll
  • Alexander Calder and His Magical Mobiles by Jean Lipman
  • Sandy’s Circus: A Story About Alexander Calder by Tanya Lee Stone

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