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The List: 5 Recyclables to Craft for Bored Kids

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Stave off summer doldrums with these fun craft ideas using recyclables.


Day 1 of summer vacation, 8 a.m.: My 7-year-old daughter Sadie announces, “I’m bored.”

Pinterest and my recycling bin to the rescue: After a quick breakfast, I had both girls happily dipping newspapers into a glue mixture to make a paper mache lamp.

The dog days of summer can quickly become the “dull days” of summer if you don’t plan enough fun activities for your kids. But instead of running to the craft store for kits and supplies, take stock at home first. Household objects, recyclables, and kitchen staples can all be used for crafting, which helps teach kids that they can give old stuff new life.

Inspiration comes from many sources, but Pinterest is my favorite resource for getting kid-friendly, upcycled craft projects. Take a look at some of my favorites, then grab your kids and start digging through your own recycling bin for treasures!

Glass Jars: Save up those pickle and jam jars and turn them into garden lanterns with a little tissue paper, or even create an aquarium for a “pet fish” that really moves. Or create a terrarium inside a jar.

Tissue Boxes: Don’t recycle those tissue boxes! Don’t you know that they could become a whale, monster feet, or a marshmallow catapult? Musically inclined kids might also like to try their hand at turning empty tissue boxes into a guitar.

Old T-Shirts: For T-shirts of all sizes that are stained, outgrown, or worn-out, there is plenty of opportunity to use them for craft projects. Older kids will enjoy cutting them into strips and weaving them into baskets or using them to make bangle bracelets (hit the thrift store to find inexpensive bangles you can use as the base). Or, with white T-shirts, tie-dye the easy way by drawing designs with Sharpie pens, then spraying with rubbing alcohol.

Newspaper: Roll up big sheets of newspaper to make a large-scale building set, or let them channel their inner designer to create costumes for a newspaper fashion show. You can also decoupage the newspaper onto balls to get a head start on making ornaments for the tree or fold newspaper into little starter pots to grow some seeds.

Shoeboxes: Sturdy and sized just right, a shoebox makes a great starting point for a wide variety of crafts and projects. You can make a parking deck for Matchbox cars, a bedroom for a favorite doll, or even a light-up theater.

Help us keep boredom at bay! Share your favorite crafts with recyclables 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.

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  • Dorota Nowak B. 7 months ago
    love the ideas as a kid that's what we did now a days kids have iphones, tablets and computers it's hard to get them to do anything
  • Al T. 8 months ago
    Kid asks dad: did you have a tablet when you were a kid?
    - No, says dad, we had no computers then.
    - So where did you play?!
    - In the yard!
  • Lee M. 8 months ago
    We turn the plastic peanutbutter jar into terrarium or lightening bug holders for an eve of fun. Punch holes around the shoulder of the jar just below ihe lid. Don't forget to release before bath time. safe for all.
  • Dianne C. 8 months ago
    My empty tissue box becomes a recepticle for my thread cut offs and other trimsmings when I am sewing. Insted of having a big waste basket, I can set the box right next to the sewing machine and it is handy to dispose of the small trash items. When full. I toss the whole thing and start a new box.
  • Lawrence D. 8 months ago
    Question: I get hundreds of points by clicking my mouse while my computer chews up electricity yet I only get 51 points a week for my actual physical recycling. Don't you eco-freaks kinda get the hypocrisy in all this brain washing? Or are you too far down the rabbit hole?
    • Sharmon L. 6 months ago
      Someone dear to me caught on......she does not do the physical but has more points than me........lol
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