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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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  • Trish D. 5 days ago
    Old towels, sheets, blankets ect....the obvious is to donate to shelters as they are much needed all the time. However, once in a while they are to tattered or stained to do donate. One of my favorite activities I did with my troop as a girl scout leader was turn them into "sit-upons". Get your old aforementioned items and a roll of designer duct tape. Fold it up however it'd be most comfortable for your kiester and wrap the tape around and around until it's all covered and even. I prefer to do it twice then coat it with a mixture of 1 part clear silicone 2 parts mineral spirits (left over from home improvement projects) to make it waterproof and viola! Outdoor cusions that don't look like a Florida tourist and costs almost nothing!
  • Sue C. 5 days ago
    My Mom cross-stitched a Cat pillow for me and stuffed it with old stockings she no longer was wearing. I really like some of these kid friendly ideas for making the summer more worthwhile.
  • Penny H. 5 days ago
    You can use old T-shirts and socks for dusting and cleaning. You can also cut up fabric to making stuffing for cat beds. Wooden chopsticks from restaurants can be used to hold up small plants or to stir small cans of paint. You can also mix together partially used cans of paint to come up with an interesting color and to make enough paint for a project. Left over paint can also be used to paint card board boxes to use for decorative storage or for craft projects.
  • lisa b. 5 days ago
    I almost always rinse old jars and reuse for decorating, storing leftovers, putting homemade scrubs in...There's always a use for them!!!
  • tommy b. 5 days ago
    Today
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