Plastic Bag Lungs – Hands on Activity!

Since my day job is to teach nursing students, I love finding fun ways to teach about the human body. I find it even more challenging to teach these concepts to a three-year-old, but this activity was a hit! Our last co-op with Mama’s Happy Hive was all about the human body, and I had so much fun coming up with activities to teach these concepts to my preschooler!

First, download this FREE printable: Lungs

The first time I did this activity, I did not cut out the lungs, but one of my friends cut out this drawing and I think it made it look so much better!

Here is my first attempt with my preschooler:


As you can see it wasn’t very sturdy and didn’t hold up well to my kiddos’s passionate use, lol!

Materials Needed:

  • Printed Copy of Lung Drawing
  • Clear Laminate (optional)
  • Two flexible plastic straws
  • Two sandwich bags
  • Two metal twist-ties
  • Printout or cutout of lips & nose (optional)

You can color the lung first as an additional creative step, cut it out (or not) or laminate as I did my second version. I like the lung laminated using a thicker paper, which held up much better to the rough handling of preschool & kindergarten kiddos at the co-op.

Next, take one of the sandwich bags and cover the top of the straw (the shorter part where it is flexible) – wrap a twist tie around the top of the bag to hold it in place. My first time I made this I used a hair-tie, and SOMEHOW it fell off and I was concerned it may be a choking hazard, so this seemed to be a better solution.

Once you have both bags attached to the straws, bend the straws outwards into the bag “lung” and attach to the lung printout with a couple pieces of tape. You will want the straw “trachea” to line up straight inside the drawing, with the top of the long end of the straw just over the top of the drawing.


You don’t need to add a mouth or nose, but I liked the look of it. I don’t have a printable to offer of these as I just printed these off the internet and do not own the rights to these. Sorry! You can also just cut out a mouth and nose out of colored paper too. These were just stuck to the top of the straw with tape.


Now for the fun part! Blowing into the straws inflates the bags. Inhaling causes them to collapse. For young children this is a great visual, but for older children, you could enhance this activity by discussing the following terms:

Total Lung Volume – How much air the lungs can hold.

Tidal Volume – How much air enters the lungs during normal inhalation.

Residual Volume – How much air is left after you breath out.

Vital Capacity – The most air you can exhale after taking the deepest breath you can.

DISCUSSION – do you know anybody that has to wear oxygen? Have you or somebody you know every had to do a breathing treatment after getting sick? Take a big breath of air, blow it out – how much air do you think was in there?


Take a picture of your lungs and share it in the comments! 🙂

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