Use Recycled Materials to Create Musical Instruments (Art Lesson)

Project Title: Recycled Musical Instruments 

Description: Use recycled materials such as plastic containers to make instruments.

Author: Mary Hager

Grade level or Target Age Range: Preschool

Vocabulary: band, music, individuality, uniqueness, rhythm, sound

Materials: Recycled containers, such as plastic soda bottles, coffee to-go cups and lids, plastic containers, small cardboard boxes etc., crayons, colored pencils, markers, tape, crepe paper streamers, rice, pasta, coins, and bottle caps


  1. In order to prep for this project, collect as many recycled plastic containers as you can.
  2. Clean them and cover them with white paper.
  3. When you begin the project, teach the students what a band is and how each member of a band plays a different instrument.
  4. Ask the students to decorate their musical instrument with crayons, markers, and streamers.
  5. Test the different sounds you can make by putting different objects inside the containers.
  6. Have each student share with the class what their musical instrument sound like.


Tip: Something fun and interactive to do for this project is to create a marching band! As the teacher, I pretended to be the “musical conductor” as we marched around the classroom in a line playing the musical instruments!

Discussion: What types of instruments do people play in a band? Do they sound the same?

Instructional Reflection:
When I began the lesson, I started by showing my students a painting of a jazz band that included many different instruments.  We talked about what the different instruments were called and to my surprise, they knew them all!!  Then we talked about how each musician in a band plays a different instrument that is unique and different. This was a great discussion to encourage individuality. Once we had finished the discussion, each student was given his/her own container that I had already covered with white paper. They were allowed to decorate their container however they wanted. I also provided streamers that they taped onto the instruments to create a visual effect. After the students finished decorating, we experimented with the different sounds we could create by adding certain materials to our containers. The students enjoyed this part the most. They had fun discovering the different sounds they could make and how their individual instruments sounded different from others. One of my students decided to keep her container empty and instead decided to draw buttons on her box that represented different keys (like a saxophone or a recorder).  It was great to see that some of them were thinking outside of the box and taking their creativity to another level.

We also learned what it means to recycle because we were using recycled plastic containers. They learned that recycling is when you take an everyday object and turn it into something new (for instance, one student had an orange juice container that is now his instrument).  During the decorating process, some of the markers ran out of ink and instead of throwing them away I asked the students what I could do with them. They all agreed that I could recycle them and turn them into something new, so we put the caps inside some of their containers to make sound.

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