Tunes of Trash – Bay Area Discovery Museum

Tunes of Trash

Make music with trash! Hang plastic bottles filled with water and objects from tree branches (or the ceiling) to make musical instruments. Tap and drum on the bottles to explore different sounds. This activity challenges children to reuse products and transform them into something else to make music.

Materials Required

  • Plastic bottles (ones with handles work best)
  • String
  • Cotton balls
  • Scissors
  • Rice
  • Beans
  • Pennies
  • Water
  • Sticks
  • Tape


  1. Fill plastic bottles with water and other objects like rice, beans, or pennies to make the bottles make different sounds. Leave some bottles empty.
  2. Cut pieces of string. Tie string around the handle or neck of the bottles and hang them from tree branches or hooks in the ceiling.
  3. Arrange the bottles with style, and decorate or fill with colored liquids.
  4. Make a drumstick by taping a cotton ball to the end of a stick.
  5. Hit the bottles with the drumstick and explore the different sounds they make! Play around with your new musical instrument.

Additional Tips

Try these add-on activities:

  • Get familiar with the sounds the bottles make. Now close your eyes while someone else hits a bottle. Guess which bottle made the sound.
  • Pair up. Play a simple rhythm for a partner. Challenge the partner to copy the rhythm.
  • Explore pitch. Which bottle makes the lowest pitch? The highest?

Links to Creativity

Creating music and meaning through playing with materials to make sounds is challenging. Children seek challenges, which advance skills, and so often results in the experience of flow.

Supporting research includes:

Custodero, L. A. (2002). Seeking challenge, finding skill: Flow experience and music education. Arts Education Policy Review, 103(3), 3-9.

Nakamura, J., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2009). Flow Theory and Research. In C. R. Snyder, & S. J. Lopez (Eds.), Oxford Handbook of Positive Psychology, (pp. 195-206). New York: Oxford University Press.195.


This activity was contributed by the Center for Childhood Creativity at the Bay Area Discovery Museum. For more information and resources see

©2014 Bay Area Discovery Museum.

Tunes of Trash

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