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7 Projects For Kids To Upcycle Jars And Bottles

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With more municipalities ending glass recycling, those jars and bottles can be upcycled into fun projects for the whole family to make.


Now that some municipal programs are no longer accepting glass in curbside recycling, I’ve been thinking more about what can be done with glass jars and bottles. The answer: Plenty!

I’ve used wine bottles for planters and vases , and jars come in handy as juice glasses or organizers. But with a little creativity, and a couple of pint-sized helpers, the glass that I don’t (or can’t) recycle can transform into a wide variety of artsy objects, both beautiful and functional. These projects are a great activity for the last few days of summer or for a weekend afternoon.

1. Stained glass jars. I bought some special glass paint to make faux stained glass on a window, and I’ve been casting around for ways to use what’s left. I just love the beautiful Mondrian-inspired stained-glass jars created with translucent paints by a blogger at Mason Jar Crafts. If you don’t have stained-glass paint you can get a similar effect simply with colored Sharpie markers. The jars would look great lined up in a sunny window, or as a candleholder for a tea light.

2. Glass-jar terrariums. A larger jar, such as for spaghetti or salsa, would be ideal for a miniature terrarium landscaped with moss, stones, and succulents. For terrariums with the jar on its side, some straight sticks could be hot-glued to either side of the jar to keep it from rolling. Just the right size for a desk or a windowsill, these projects would make for a good teacher gift on the first day of school!

3. Calm-down jar. I love the idea of glitter-filled jars that can help young kids reign in their emotions by watching the swirling sparkles settle. But since there has been a lot of press recently about the environmental damage done by glitter, I recommend using an alternative. I’m going to try it instead using some plastic beads saved from one of my kids’ favorite necklaces that broke. You could also try it with sand and small pebbles.

4. Jar aquariums. My fish-loving daughter will go crazy over these mini aquariums, filled with rocks, plastic sea creatures, plants, and blue-tinted water. They’re a fun project for a birthday party or an after school playdate. Look for small toys and trinkets to decorate the aquarium with. I can imagine other jar dioramas that could make use of plastic animals, dinosaurs, soldiers, or fairies that otherwise might get lost or tossed.

5. Wrapped bottle vase. If you don’t mind your kids turning last night’s wine bottle into today’s craft, making a pretty yarn- or string-wrapped vase is a fun and simple project. I like this one because it also upcycles the odds and ends from my yarn stash, none of which are quite enough for a whole knitting project.

6. Twinkly nightlight. The pretty blue, amber, or green of a bottle makes a nice nightlight. This project requires lots of adult involvement since it requires a drill and a hot glue gun, but the results are well worth it!

7. String holders. Perfect for kitchen twine or balls of gift-wrap ribbon, these painted string holders are so cute! Kids will have lots of fun panting a face onto the jar lid.

Repurposing glass jars for fun projects to do with the kids (or by yourself — no judgment!) should make it easier to transition to not having glass recycling in your area!



Do you have other cool ideas for projects with glass jars and bottles? Share your ideas in the comments below.

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About the Author
Jessica Harlan
Jessica Harlan
I love finding new ways to green my family's life as painlessly as possible, and sharing those ideas with folks who want to do the same. more
  • Lorraine B. 1 month ago
    I save all my glass jars
  • Mariana O. 1 month ago
    Use glass or plastic jars for storage of beans, nuts, candy, rice, small pasta and many other foods
  • Lynne H. 4 months ago
    Please do NOT throw away your mascara wands. Instead, clean JUST THE WAND with dawn soap, place them in a ziploc bag and mail them to a Wildlife Refuge accepting donations. These little wands are able to be upcycled to clean away oil, larvae, fly eggs, mites, infections, mud and other contaminants from wildlife. Works great for medical care and wound treatment

    Pick your refuge to mail to:

    Appalachian Wild
    P.O. Box 1211
    Skyland NC 28776


    Wildlife Wands
    P.O. Box 1586
    Southwick, MA 01077.
    • Bare B. 3 months ago
      I work in skin care and use TONS of these wands. I can only use them on one client then I have to trash them. What a wonderful idea! Thank you!!
  • Leanne S. 5 months ago
    When I was in middle school, I made one of those stress-relief type "wave" moving liquid bottle things to mess around with , if anyone remembers those from the 1980s or 90s. Any bottle or jar that you can seal back up would work, I used a 2-liter soda bottle I believe. You fill it halfway with vegetable oil and most of the rest of the way with water mixed with food coloring to make it bright and contrast from the oil. I suppose you might need to leave a little air in the bottle, but perhaps not, hmm. But so the oil and water do not mix of course, and the idea is that the brightly colored (blue, say) water appears to be the only thing in the bottle when you move it around, and it is making waves and whatnot. That's a crappy description based on a 30-year-old memory, but I do remember they sold similar things in stores, and it was really fun to see the illusion of the water kind of defying physics and moving so calmly.
    I am going to go try a miniature version of this, although I'm not sure my red food coloring will provide such a calming atmosphere. :)
  • Henry L. 1 year ago
    Put all your decorative wine and other glass bottles filled with water on the window sill and let the sun heat up the water in the bottles and then the heat will radiate over night in the house to keep it warm.
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