Make your own straw pan pipes at home

Who knew it could be so easy to make your own musical instruments? And who knew it could teach you so much about what sound actually is? 

Well, we don’t mean to show off but…we did! We love making our own instruments at home. It’s easy and a good way to use recycled materials.

We recently had lots of leftover straws from our Straw Roller Coaster engineering challenge, so this activity was the perfect solution.

Grab some straws and tape and make your own homemade pan flute with straws! They don’t have a loud and clear sound like a real pan flute, but kids will be able to hear different sounds.

Check out the video above to see how to create a homemade paper pan flute.

If you prefer to read step-by-step instructions, you can find them below. You’ll also find a list of materials needed, a kid-friendly science explanation and a list of questions to help get your kids thinking.

Whilst you’re here, make sure you grab our popular eBook 21 Simple Activities Your Kids Will Love. You can get a copy for FREE here. 

straw panpipes

What you need to do this easy straw pan flute craft

This activity can be done with just a few basic materials:

  • Straws (paper or plastic)
  • Tape
  • Scissors
  • Decorations (optional)

Both paper and plastic straws will work for this activity. If you have both at home, your kids could make a pan flute out of each. That way, they can find out which material makes a better sound.

You can also decorate the pan pipes if you prefer. Ribbons and stickers are good options. If you use paper straws, kids can colour them in or draw on them too.

How to make your own straw panpipes

This craft is quite simple but does involve scissors. An adult might need to do the cutting part for younger children.

Follow these simple steps to do this fun craft at home.

  1. Decide how big you want panpipes instrument to be. Use at least 5 straws. 

    Kids could do research first by looking at pictures of panpipes online. They are also known as pan flutes.
  2. Line up the straws so they are side by side. Use the scissors to carefully shorten each straw. They should all be different lengths.

    You could use a ruler to help you with this, but it isn’t necessary.

    straw panpipes activity with preschoolers
  3. Make sure you’re happy with the lengths of the straws. They should be lined up from longest to shortest.

    Then, hold them down next to each other on a flat surface.

    Make sure that all the straws are level with each other at one end.

    straw pan pipes stem instructions for cutting the straws
  4. Tape them together using one or two long strips of tape. You can use any kind of tape for this. 

    Instructions for straw pan flute STEM activity at home
  5. Now try out your panpipes!

    Your pan flute won’t sound like the real thing because they’re usually made of wood. However, you should still hear the straws make different sounds.

    To play your panpipes, don’t just blow into the straws. Hold it up to your lips and try to blow across or over the top of the pipes.
  6. You can also compose some of your own music! See if you can make a tune, remember it and perform it again. 
straw panpipes craft with kids and toddlers

Questions to ask your kids about their homemade pan flutes

We’ve put together a few questions you can ask your kids to get them thinking.

Encourage your kids to to share their thoughts with each other. You can give your opinion too!

  • What sound do you hear when you play your panpipes?
  • Why do you hear this sound?
  • Why does each straw make a different sound?
  • Does it make a difference if you blow harder or more softly? 
  • What other materials could you use to make panpipes? (e.g. wood, metal)
  • Which materials do you think would work best? Why?

A simple explanation of the science

Here’s a rundown on the STEM behind this fun activity!

People have been playing different kinds of pan flutes for thousands of years.

When you blow into and across them, air inside the tubes vibrates. These vibrations make a sound. 

Shorter straws or tubes make a higher noise. This is because the air moves quickly through them, so the vibrations are quicker. They have a higher frequency.

The higher the frequency, the higher the pitch of the sound. Air takes longer to travel through long straws, so the vibrations are slower. They have a lower frequency. This makes a sound with a lower pitch.

If you blow harder, you will probably notice it makes a louder noise. This happens because blowing harder produces more energy. More energy means the vibrations can travel further.  

Sound vibrations travel through the air and reach our ears. When they get deep inside, our ears turn them into a message which is sent to the brain.

The brain reads this message and tells us we are hearing a sound! 

If your kids like this easy STEM craft, we think they’ll like making a tissue box guitar.

In this simple activity, kids can explore how sounds work by making their own stringed instrument! 

One of the best things about this activity is it can be done with any kind of cardboard box. Don’t have rubber bands at home? You can also use resistance bands for exercise, hairbands and even tightly tied string.

tissue box activity with kids at home