Kid Activities
1000's of Ideas for Childcare Professionals & Teachers!

Recycling Trash to Treasure! Page 1

October 21, 2009 19:10 by Barbara Shelby


Do you have a recycling project in the works?
If so-- you’ll end up with large quantities of bottles, cans, paper, and cardboard. Before you have it collected by a recycling company, challenge your kids to build with it!

Do you have a theme going? If so can they make something to go with the theme? Could they build Egyptian pyramids? A scene from a book being read? A mosaic map of your state made from bottle caps?

One group of fourth graders centered on a social studies curriculum focused on Ancient Greece. To go with the theme, they built an 8'x4'x4' Parthenon out of bottles and cardboard recyclables! When ideas and learning become physical through hands-on building, kids have fun and concepts are more deeply understood and connected.


MAKE GAMES (Craft ideas are below games) 

Required: Gripper Soccer Ball, Volleyball or rubber ball
Players: Small to large groups
A fun, all-involved game that builds soccer skills. Place teams at opposite ends of a gym or field.

  • Place FIVE 2-LITER PLASTIC SODA BOTTLES (This is the re-cycled part)in the center of the field. A little gravel in the bottle helps it to stand up and creates more noise and excitement when hit.
  • At the start signal, players kick balls from behind their line trying to knock down a pin.
  • The player who knocks down a pin must run out and set the pin back up.
  • Score 1 point for each pin knocked down. First to get five wins.
    You can adjust the game for age level---by placing more skilled players farther from the pins.
    It can also be played with four teams arranged in a square around the pins.


For a COIN TOSS, you have children
toss pennies at a large coffee can, a muffin tin, or even an empty egg carton, depending on their age and skill level.


Making a RING TOSS game is also simple. First, shape rings from aluminum foil. (... this is an excellent way to recycle clean foil! ) Next, turn a chair upside down so that the legs make suitable targets. (You can also throw the rings on pop bottles.)For added challenge, designate specific points for the furthest chair legs.



Rug samples can be put together and used outside for a giant game board for checkers! Collect large bottle lids--paint and use them as the game pieces!


Materials: Clear contact paper, used wrapping paper with many designs of small and a variety of pictures on it, scissors, cardboard or tag board

  • Cut out a piece of the wrapping paper to make the game board. Glue it to the cardboard/tag board a then cover it with clear contact paper.
  • Next, cut out objects from another sheet of the SAME wrapping paper. Cover these with contact paper, too.
  • Children then match the cut-out pieces to the designs on the game board; they put the cut-out on the board when they find a match.
  • Tip: Laminating the board and pieces will give you a game that lasts quite awhile.




 You can also make a memory game much the same way as the sample shown. Use spray adhesive to glue wall paper or fabric onto cardstock. Make two of each pattern and play the traditional Memory Game!



Form as many teams as needed.
Kids on each team take turns running to the recycled storage area and take a variety of materials such as plastic containers and boxes. Each team works together and builds the tallest towers possible!


Turn mate-less socks into BEAN BAGS
(cut one at the ankle, fill with beans, then sew or glue it closed).



Make paddles simply taping tongue depressor sticks to the back of paper plates. Use the paper plate 'paddles' to keep a blown up ballon up in the air--This game can be played in a gym or outdoors--- played individually or in a group! It's also a great way to repurpose  paper plates and balloons! Images by


An idea inspired by World Pre-School Mom is to use fly swatters (Dollar Store - 2 for $1.00) Children simply hit the balloon back and forth to each other!


TRASH TO TREASURE CROQUET: This is an easy and different game…
You'll need croquet mallets and balls, but not the standard wire wickets. Instead, look for household items and recyclables that a croquet ball could pass under or through, such as:

  • An oatmeal container with the top and bottom removed
  • A cereal box with a hole cut on each side to make a tunnel
  • A child's plastic chair
  • A laundry detergent bottle with an arch cut from the bottom.
  • Set up a course that circles the yard. Use at least a dozen creative wickets, including one brave adult with his or her feet spread wide.


Need: Golf clubs (or sponge and yardstick), golf ball or rubber ball, masking tape, glue, scissors, markers, shoe box. cardboard, Coffee can.

  •   Use your own clubs, or use masking tape to adhere a new sponge to a yardstick
  • Build your course (see ideas below) using the coffee can for the final hole.
  • Take turns playing your way through your course.
  • Save your obstacles for the next rainy/snowy day.


  • For a tunnel, cut out the bottom of an empty oatmeal box, and place the box on its side.
  • To make a house, turn a shoe box upside down and cut out an entrance from one end, and the exit from the other end.
  • Fold a piece of cardboard in half and set it up like a tent for the ball to go through.
  • Place two or three Frisbees on the floor to form a curved fairway for the ball to go through.
  • Make a ramp by scoring (run one point of the scissors in a straight line without cutting all the way through) a piece of cardboard twice. Bend slightly at each score mark to create a upside, flat, and downside to your ramp. Put some books under the center section for support.
  • For a straight fairway, use two rows of building blocks.
  • Make a sand trap from a hula hoop.
  • For a pipe use paper and tape it.
  • Put a chair or stool in the center of the room for the ball to go under.




An adult needs to punch the holes in the cans and cut the rope.
 2 large unopened juice cans (about 24 oz.)
 Hand bottle/can opener (with the triangular end)
 2 long pieces of rope
 Heavy duty scissors to cut the rope 
Various colors of electrical tape or various colors of paint and paint brush

  •  Use the bottle/can opener to punch 2 holes in either side of one can towards the top.
  • Repeat with other juice can.
  • Let the juice drain out of the cans (save it in a pitcher, container, etc.). Rinse out the cans with water and allow them to air dry.
  • Cut 2 pieces of rope long enough to go through the holes in the can and up to child's hands to hold on to.
  • Thread each piece of rope through the holes in the cans.
  • Tie the two ends of each piece of rope together. You should have a loop of rope going through each can that is long enough so your child can hold on the the rope as handles.
  • Use the scissors to cut the different colors of electrical tape and decorate the cans. You can also use the paint to decorate them.
  • These stilts were made by Suzanne brown. She painted the tops and covered the plain cans with stickers!


  • Using two 1-pound coffee cans, turn each can upside down so that the plastic lid is on the bottom.
  • Using a screwdriver, poke two holes, one on each side of the can.
  • Using rope or several strands of yarn braided or twisted together--- thread through holes in cans; tie it off inside the can.
  • Cans can be decorated if you like.



MAKE A MANCALA GAME (Kids really like this game! It looks long-but it is NOT complicated)
Mancala is a game that has been around for centuries. Forms of this game were played in ancient Africa and Asia. There are many different names, boards and rules of play for Mancala. . . but most are played on wooden boards with beads, stones or glass game pieces. Children in Africa would play by scooping holes in the dirt to create a game board.

  • This version is one that you make with a Styrofoam egg carton, two applesauce (or pudding cups) and dried beans. Of course, you can use anything for game pieces, beads, pennies, or anything small and easy to scoop!
  • You will need 48 dried beans to start the game - 4 in each cup. Two people play at a time.

Set up:
Place the board between the two players so that the long sides face the players- and the two applesauce cups (Mancala cups) are on the right and left. You will have six cups of beans facing each player. Place 4 beans in each cup. Each player has a Mancala cup - which is the applesauce cup on their LEFT. This cup is where they put the beans they collect.

Object of the game:
Each player takes a turn and tries to collect as many beans as possible in their Mancala cup before the other player clears their side of the board.

How to play:
One player starts. In his or her turn, they pick up all of the beans from one cup on their side of the board- Then - going clockwise- they place one bean at a time in each cup- including their Mancala (collection cup) until they run out of beans.

  • If you go first and pick up all the beans in the cup on the far left- you would drop one bean in your Mancala (collection) cup and one bean each in the cups on the other side of the board.
  • You must put one bean in each and every cup you pass over- EXCEPT for the opponent’s Mancala cup. You just skip that cup.
  • If the last bean a player has drops into their Mancala cup, they get to go again! (Strategy here would tell you to start with the fourth cup from the left. . . which would let you drop your last bean into your Mancala. . . then you get another turn.

Also- in this version of the game, if you drop the last bean into a cup that already contains beans-- you pick up all the beans in that cup and keep going. Your turn ends when you place the last bean into an empty cup! Then, it’s the other players turn.

The game ends when one player has no more beans left in the cups on their side of the board. The player with the most beans in their Mancala cup wins!



  • Give each child a piece of cardboard, scissors, and glue.
  • Have them choose a picture from a magazine, calender or card; the children then glue their pictures onto cardboard. (The sample to the right is a picture drawn and painted by a child on heavy cardstock.) 
  • When the glue is dry, have kids draw puzzle shapes on the back of the cards. Next cut the cardboard into the shape of jigsaw puzzle pieces.
  • When kids have finished, have them trade puzzles and have a race to see who finishes first.

TIP: Keep all puzzles in individual marked plastic baggies.



Need empty cereal boxes and scissors.

Cut the fronts of large cereal boxes into pieces; base the number and shapes of the pieces to the age of the children. Store the pices in a baggie or large envelope with a picture of an identical cereal box front attached to it.

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Use them as weaving boards for yarn, grass, or strips of paper; cover them with construction paper for buildings; add a string handle for a carry-along treasure basket. You can also print with them by painting the bottoms and pressing them onto paper.


Scoop those leftover sequins, pieces of felt and pipe cleaners into  zip-top bags and containers. When it's full, challenge  kids to use the contents of your "RAINY DAY GRAB BAG" to make something new, such as a collage or free-form sculpture. Larger pieces of unwanted artwork can be cut into strips or squares and used to make collage cards or decorate a back-to-school book holder or pencil pot. Betsy/Maine




Baby food jars or jam jars
Scraps of tissue paper
Diluted paste or glue
Votive candles

Clean the jars well and let dry. You can use small jars...but check the size of the votive candle to make sure it will fit.

  • Have the children  brush glue onto the jar and place different colors of tissue paper over the glue, overlapping so the entire jar is covered on the outside. When brushing the tissue with glue be sure to do so gently so it doesn't tear. If it tear, remove or leave wrinkled.

The glue will appear to be white but will dry clear and when a candle is lit inside will give off a pretty color and design.
Great for gift time!
    ♥ Mother’s Day: Use Mom’s favorite colors 
   ♥ Christmas: Use red and green 
   ♥ Valentine's Day: Use pink & red and so forth...



Materials: Clean baby food jars, scraps of ribbons, seasonal stickers, votive candle

Have children wrap a strip of ribbon around the rim of a jar. Decoarte with the stickers and insert the candle! It's that easy!



 Need: Baby food jars or other jars, colored sand or sand and tempera paint

If not using purchased colored sand, compine the sand with the dry tmepera paint. Make a variety of colors. Salt also works for white.

Layer the different colors of sand into the jar. (Using small funnels to put the sand into the jars keep areas neat.) You can also use a straw or kabob stick to 'poke' through desired layers of sand to make designs.


ANIMAL JARS Try this craft from Making Friends  It can be adaptd to just about any animal or holday theme!

1. Remove the label from a clean baby food jar. Remove label. Fill the jar with pompoms to match your animal's face. Put the lid on and turn it upside down.
2. Glue on wiggle eyes.
3. Cut ears (or beak) out of foam and glue in place.
4. Add pompoms if desired.
5. For whiskers, cut pieces of craft lace and glue one end under pompom nose.
6. Cut a strip of craft foam 1/4" wide and glue around edge of lid. Original idea from Lisa  Anniston, Alabama



Cover the jar lid with material, felt or paper; decorate the lid with ribbon and/or flowers. In the jar place safety pins, thread, needles, straight pins and other sewing notions. This makes a nice gift


 STAR JAR...(On the left in image)

Start by placing 2 Tablespoons of Hair Gel in the jar. (Dippity Do is the brand used in this sample) Carefully place beads, sequins, etc. through out the gel. Keep repeating with gel and objects until the jar is full. Cover tightly. (This sample was made about 15 years ago!) The thickness of the gel keeps anything that is placed in it from moving around! Complete by covering the lid of the jar with material and ribbon along the lid edge.

This idea can also be adapted to seasonal themes. Example--For Halloween one would place small items such as a plastic spider, pumpkin, orange and black sequins and beads!

Like the bottle to the right? Also a simple idea! Just hot-glue flat gems from a craft store onto a bottle or jar... (image by





  • Save the stubs of candles. When you have several saved, melt them together in a double boiler.
  • Color the wax by adding bits of crayon to the mixture.
  • Pour the wax into glass jelly or mason jars-- or metal cans.
  • Use cotton yarn for wicks, or you can purchase a roll of wick at a craft store.
  • Decorate the outside of the candle holder with acrylic paints.



 Cover a jar with many pieces of radomly cut masking tape. When the jar is covered, wipe shoe polish paste all over the tape. Wipe on and wipe off until you have an effect that you like.

If budget allows and this is a gift from the children to ____, place a few sprigs of eucalyptus leaves in the completed vase! These last forever. This sample was made about 20 years ago! (Image by



Collect an assortment of jars. Have children fill the jars in layers with a variety of shapes and colors of pasta. The jars make pretty decorations for kitchens, etc. Nice to give as a gift...




Clean Baby Food Jar (no top needed)
5" Paper Doily
Rubber Band
Ribbon Rose
Low Temp Glue Gun

  •  Fill jar with potpourri.
  • Cover with a paper doily or tulle.
  • Secure with rubber band.
  • Tie a ribbon around the jar to hide the rubber band.
  • Optional: Hot glue ribbon rose to area.



Recycle a jar into a pretty gift vase or pencil holder...
Clean, empty jar
Acrylic or liquid tempera paints
Paintbrushes or cotton swabs
White glue
Clear glaze (available at craft stores)

  • To make the paints stick to the glass, first mix the colors with some glue. Keep the paint thick so it won't run.
  • Use brushes or cotton swabs to paint a design on the jar.
  • To erase a mistake, use a paper towel to wipe off the paint before it hardens.
  • LET THE PAINT DRY, then seal the finished design with a coat of glaze.


RAIN STICK #1 (Heavy-duty)
1. Hammer nails into Heavy cardboard mailing tubes 1/8" apart, using the spiral seam of the cardboard.
2. Add several handfuls of assorted filler material (rice, beans, etc)
3. Seal each end of the tube securely with tape.
4. Decorate your stick with raffia, ribbon, adhesive-backed shelf paper, wrapping paper or a jungle print or decorations.


Materials: Paper Towel Roll, Tape that can be painted, Paint, Glue, Uncooked Rice, Toothpicks...

  •  Pre-poke holes into the side of the paper towel rolls.
  • Have children poke toothpicks through the holes and glue each end of the tooth pick.
  • Next- tape one end of the roll closed.
  • Add rice and tape the other end.
  • Children can paint their sticks as they choose.
  • Last, cut off the toothpicks that stick out from the tube.


Put used clothing such as jeans on your program wish list!  With material, children make a purse, pocket memo holder or community quilt!  (Doreen Z-MI. /Florida 

Materials needed:
• Old pair of jeans (you only need the back pocket.)
• Ribbon, yarn, or roping.

Cut out the back pocket of the jeans around the seams.
2. Cut from the inside of the jeans so you have the entire pocket,
both front and back.
3. Decorate with paint, beads, trim, etc.; add ribbon, yarn, or roping for a shoulder strap by sewing or tying
it to the sides of the pocket.
4. This makes a cute little pouch to carry small items.


Hang an array of COLORFUL TWIRLERS from a window frame, tree, ceiling, party room, or front porch. (I made some and they're really fun!) See photos in the Red, White and Blue Category!

Materials: Plastic coffee can lids (Lids come in a variety of colors)

1. To make one, use a nail to poke a hole in the center of a plastic coffee can lid.
2. WITH A MARKER, draw a spiral that starts 3/8 inch FROM THE HOLE (it keeps going around itself in circular pattern) and gradually extends to the rim---then cut along the line with scissors.
3. Knot an end of a piece of string, thread the other end up through the hole in the center, and the twirler is ready to hang up and spin.
To spin, grasp each one at the bottom, twirl it around and around until the string is wound tight, let go and enjoy the show.




Paint an empty and rinsed out tuna can with spray or acrylic paint. Decorate with glitter and glue, pom poms, buttons, lace, or stickers. These make cute holders for barrettes, pony tail holders, paper clips, rubber bands, keys, jewelry, or other small items.Using the same ideas, paint a soup or vegetable can to make a pen or pencil holder.


2.) COFFEE CAN WISH BANK to take home

  • Have the kids cut pictures from old magazines or draw pictures of something they want.
  • Decorate the cans with glitter, pictures, stickers or anything else you have. 
  • Cut a hole in the plastic top of the can for kids to deposit money.
  • Each time they add money to the can, they are contributing a little bit more to the "wish" item.
  • A great way to teach kids to save money! (I like this one! Barb )

1. Clean the can being careful of the edges!--Sand the lip of the can with your sand paper, to smooth sharp edges.--Rinse any shavings off of the can
2. Fill a paper towel with a layer of noodles
3. Coat the outside of the can with glue, using a paintbrush
Tip: Leave a half an inch or so on the top and bottom of the can without glue, so it won't pick up noodles and you can handle it more easily)
4. Roll the can in the noodles covering the can; make sure the noodles are stuck securely and let them dry.
5. Spray paint the outside of the can any color you like (Most of the kids here liked gold)
6. Let them dry and use them to fill with flowers or pens and pencils, or whatever you like!
They make great gifts!!!

Turn empty Kool-Aid canisters into piggy banks that the kids design and create. Simply peel the outside label off the plastic canister. Wash the canister and dry completely. Once dry, arrange the various paints and brushes... Children can use their imagination to make an animal, face or ________? Cut a slit in the top of the canister.




Children today are still delighted with simple tin can telephones. You can make a set n with two empty tin cans that have smooth edges.

1. Punch holes in the bottom of the cans.
2. Thread twelve feet of wire through the holes.
3. Wind each end in and out of a button, which acts as a stopper.
4. One child talks into his can while the other child holds his can over his ear to listen.
5. The vibrations travel along the taut wire. (Photo from Indoor Crafts)


6. ALTOID TINS make wonderful containers! (Gifts too!)
Empty, clean Altoid mint tins (other brands will do), acrylic paint, Paint brushes or sponges.
Decorative options: Ribbon, buttons, craft foam shapes, pom-poms, photos, magazine cut-outs, glitter glue, feathers...the possibilities are endless!

  • First paint the tins using acrylic paint.
  • After the paint is dry, it's time to decorate. You can use a glue-gun, glue dots, craft glue or even sticky backed craft foam! It's that easy!
  • Fill your new tins with barrettes, paper clips, earrings, postage stamps, lost buttons or make a mini-sewing kit for traveling.
    (It wouldn't cost much to turn it into a SEWING KIT as a gift)


From: Leslie S. /Minnesota
It works nicely as a SMALL FIRST AID KIT for the car!

  • Paint the tin white--when dry add the large red cross in the center
  • Fill it with  some "FIRST AID SUPPLIES".
  • I used sticky-backed red craft foam to make the cross, so no glue was necessary. Then, I filled the tin with Tylenol type tablets, disinfectant wipe and a couple bandages.


#7 TIN WORK...

known in Mexico as 'hojalata', goes back to the 16th Century. It's used widely by artisans and craftsmen to form both useful and ornamental objects ranging from purely fun to elegant and delicate. Only hindered by imagination, tin artists produce candelabras, frames, ornaments, jewelry boxes, figures, lanterns, and bowls. Introduce tin art to your kids...




1. Look for cans that have plain sides without any ridges. These make the nicest lanterns. Remove the label from the can. Scrape and clean any glue that is still on the can.

2. Draw a pattern of dots on the outside of the can with a permanent marker. Be careful NOT to smudge the dots before the ink is dry. Challenge kids to come up with patterns such as stars, flowers, circles, etc.

3. Fill the can with water and put in freezer for at least 24 hours-until frozen solid.

4. Place the can on its side on a folded towel. Use assorted nails (also screw driver tips make a nice look) to pierce through the pattern of dots that have been drawn. Hammer the nails in just far enough to pierce the metal. If the ice is melting too quickly, return the can to the freezer for a few hours.

5. When done, melt the ice in the can. Dry the lantern. Caution the children to take care and not cut or scratch themselves on in edges inside of the can.

The lantern is now ready to place a votive candle in it. Several together make a lovely night-time light! (Lantern Images: Star- Seven Impossible Things Blog; Luminary from Svanes on flickr) 


#8. TIN  HANGING ORNAMENTS (Using juice lids)

Pierce a pattern of holes in the metal top of a frozen juice can. (The lids that are held in place with a plastic strip have the smoothest edges.) Place the lid on a work surface that can sustain the pounding of nails. Besides the design, pound a hole in near the top of the lid to string fishline or yarn from which to hang.

 Several lids hung together make a nice mobile.


Start with the lid of a margarine or yogurtcontainer and a favorite photo.
Cut the photo to fit the top of the lid and glue it down.
After the glue dries, seal your new coaster with a water-based sealer.
Glue cork to the bottom of the lid to give thecoaster a solid base.
IDEA: If you're making them with your own children, make a different one for every family member and present them at the next dinner.


***Idea: OLD SOCKS  Make SOCK ELVES OR ZANY PUPPETS using whatever recyclables you have on hand.



Empty cereal box
Construction paper
Yarn (optional)

  • In order to make the puppet, find the middle of the box and cut across the width and down each side (only one side of the box will remain uncut). Next, bend the box over the uncut side. You now have the puppet created - place your hands in the open ends of the cereal box.
  • To decorate your puppet, use the construction paper, scissors and glue. First glue construction paper over the outside of the cereal box (you may need to cut the construction paper to make it fit). Next cut out eyes and any other features you want the puppet to have. Glue them onto the puppet. You can use yarn, macaroni, old shredded rags etc. for hair.



Our center is really on a tight budget--so I'm always looking for very inexpensive activities for the children.
Required: Magazines or newspaper, paper, glue, scissors, and Popsicle sticks.

Have the kids go through magazines looking for pictures they like. If the picture is really thin and doesn't stand straight up-- glue to a thicker piece of paper first.
Once the glue has dried cut out the picture and glue to Popsicle stick.

Have children brain-storm a play or story --and use their puppets. (Source: A KidActivities Visitor)


Old flattened cereal box
Two foot piece of kite string or gardening twine
Marker or crayon
Juice can or oatmeal canister to use as pattern tracer
Sharp pencil

  • Using the base of the juice can as a template, trace a circle onto a flat area of the cereal box. Cut out the piece of cardboard.
  • Use the sharpened pencil to punch two holes in the center of the disc.
  • With crayons or markers, draw a spiral design on the plain side of the disc.
  • Thread the string through both holes and tie the ends together to form a loop.
    To Use:
    Hold both ends of the string with your fingers, keeping the disc in the center. Flip the disc around and around like a jump rope, to tighten up the string. Once the string is tight, gently pull the string outwards to make the disc spin.


This is an easy way to make a toy town using old boxes, cartons, colored paper, scissors, tape, paper tubes, and crayons. This can be an on-going activity--that is constantly added to! Just add plastic figures, cars and trucks to the community!
To make buildings:

  • Wrap up boxes and other empty containers with colored paper.
  • Carefully cut out doors if wanted.
  • Use tissue tubes for chimneys.
  • Decorate with windows, flower boxes, etc.
    To make trees:
  • Use a tissue paper tube for the trunk.
  • Draw a green blob on stiff paper or cardboard for the leaf canopy and cut it out.
  • Tape the green canopy to the tube.



Need boxed large enough for children to fit inside.

Paint about three boxes to resemble train cars. Punch a hole in the front and back of each car; use a rope to connect the cars. The kids can have great fun using their imagination! 



Materials: Heavy weight holiday or occasion cards, glue, yarn, masking tape and scissors

For stability, glue together the front and back of cards. Punch holes around the outside edge of each card (or if there is a very large design such as a tree, puch holes around that.) The children can then sew around the cards with yarn that has masking tape wrapped around one end as a "needle".

You can also cut the cards in to holiday shapes such as a candy cane, star or tree. 



This project can be as simple or elaborate as you choose to make it. First, decide how many rooms (one shoebox per room) you want the dollhouseto have.

Cut squares in the bottom of the box for windows. Add miniature furniture and decorations. Put the boxes in the order you want the rooms and glue them together.

Take two of the box tops and lean them against each other over the house. This creates a vaulted ceiling and an attic pace above the rooms.


Materials: Egg cartons (cardboard), Scissors, Glue, Green flexible straws, Colored markers
To make a TULIP: Cut an individual cup from a carton. Trim the sides of the cup to form petals (the ends can be rounded or pointed). For a finishing touch, use a colored marker to accent the edges of the petals.


For a DAFODILL: Start with 2 cups from egg carton. Prepare one as described for the tulip. Trim the second cup so that the edge is even & the sides are about an inch tall. Fit the short cup into the first & glue in place. Last, make a small slit in the bottom of each flower & insert the end.



Materials: Styrofoam egg cartons, scissors, construction paper and decorating odds and ends (Good for young children)
Cut a styrafoam egg caron into two-cup sections. Fold each section in half so that the cups are touching. Poke a fingerhole in each cup to hold the finger-puppet and make it 'talk'. Decorate as desired.



Materials: Cotton balls, egg cartons, paint/markers, google eyes, pipe cleaners, construction paper, glitter, any other material the children may want to use.
Cut the egg cartons in separate 1 to 3 hump-pieces and put them out with a variety of the above supplies. See where the children's imaginations will take them


Plastic-Foam meat tray
Hole puncher
Yarn and Pen

  • Cut circles from a thoroughly sanitized plastic-foam meat tray.
  • With a hole puncher, punch a hole through the center of each circle.
  • Tie a knot in one end of a piece of yarn.
  • Push the other end of the yarn through the hole in each circle.
  • When your caterpillar is as long as you want, knot the second end of the yarn, leaving some yarn behind the knot for a tail.
  • Draw a face on the front circle. You now have a Caterpillar!
  • You can also make the caterpillars with long sections of egg cartons-such as the above bugs!




Materials - A variety of  Craft Items such as:

Paper towel and tissue paper rolls
Pipe Cleaners, String, Yarn, Buttons, Glue, Scissors, google eyes...
Using craft supplies and imagination create your own Litter Bug. Be sure to make it an ugly little bug. Use this bug to show young children that this is what people look like --when they don’t throw away trash!



Paper towel tubes, paint, google eyes, decorations of choice

•Cut the paper towel roll into six sections of similar width.

•Paint the sections- decorating with glitter glu, and other details as desired.
•Once the paint is dry,apply googly eyes and glue a red felt forked tongue to the 'head' tube section.
•Loop yarn around last section and tie
•Thread the yarn through the rest of the section, leaving it loose at the head as a leash to pull the snake. Idea/Photo is from FreePreschoolCrafts by Devanie Angel


Decorate an old shoe box and lid with construction paper, markers, paint, glue and glitter, crayons, googly eyes, stickers, lace, doilies, or whatever else you can find. Be sure to put the child's name inside the lid. (This could be a great box for treasures found out in the yard, on the way home from school, or anywhere else children "hunt".)



1. Paint the inside of a shoe box with black or dark blue poster or acrylic paint. OR...glue black construction paper inside the box.

 2. Using white crayons or stickers, make a night scene with stars and the moon on the black background.

3. Get creative… use small plastic toys to create a scene inside the shadowbox or have children make their own with construction paper and glue.

4. Cut out small pictures from coloring books or magazines and color and adhere to the scene.

5. Hang a spaceship or shooting star from then top with a piece of string and glue. (Sample is step 1 and 2)



Materials: Shoes boxes, playdough, paper or string, scissors, twigs and small stones

Use one shoe box per cage. Have children make playdough animals or use small plastic/rubber animals. Turn the box on it's side --and encourage children to create a habitat with the stones, twigs and perhaps some sand. For bars on the cage, attach paper strips or use string to the open side.



You know the OLD PAINT CHIP CARDS you used when you were trying to decide what color to paint? They can be turned into great book marks (gift tags too)...Put a hole in them with a hole puncher, string ribbon through them! You now have great book marks!
Tip: Add paint cards to your "Parent Wish List"! 



This simple project comes from myplumpudding--it saves books from dog ears and recycles cardboard from the trash!

1. Simply pull out your colorful cardboard packages, flatten them out and cut them into strips about 1 1/2" x 6". A paper cutter will give you a more consistent cut. And any size strip will do--as long as it fits in your book.
2. Trim corners with a corner rounding tool, scissors or an X-acto.
3. Punch a hole in the top and thread it with a matching ribbon

Visit 'Bookmark' making page  for other ideas...


  See page 2 of Recycled Materials Ideas (This is page 1)

Click here to visit KIdActivities Wish List to Parents! Lots of great item ideas to make  Recycled projects!

Click here to return to top of page


Trash to Treasure Page 2

October 10, 2009 02:28 by Barbara Shelby

Page 1 here...


Wondering what to do with all those odds and end of wrapping paper?  Make a collage with them.  Use craft or scrapbooking glue to adhere the pieces together and let dry completely.  You can really get creative and mix and match patterns.


MAKE A COLLAGE BOX and fill it with recycled materials!

COLLAGE BOXES are containers for storing all those odds and ends that are perfect for creating collages. As you find scraps of lace, buttons, even pieces of foil or drinking straws, place them in your collage box. Also put in lids or extremely clean Styrofoam meat trays suitable for being the base of the collage.

  • Leave it in your art center or occasionally place glue, scissors, and the collage box on a table.
  • You'll see your children's imaginations at work, as they combine the various contents into a one-of-kind masterpiece.
    Tip: Before you place the art supplies on the work table, spread a few layers of newspaper, a plastic table cloth, wax paper or tray on its surface. This will make messy glue spills a breeze to clean...

TEN THINGS TO COLLECT for Making Collage Art...

1. Torn up bits of old paintings and drawings you don't want to keep.
2. Labels from boxes, cans, candy bars and bottles (soak them off then dry them).
3. Used postage stamps, especially from all over the world.
4. Shiny Mylar foil balloons that have gone flat.
5. Short pieces of string, yarn, thread, twine, ribbon and lace (short pieces...don't keep too much).
6. Words cut out of magazine headlines and ads.
7. Maps.
8. Broken jewelry.
9. Seeds from flowers, kitchen spices, leftover garden.
10. Used tickets from shows and sports events.

...AND #11. Things you can glue collected from Trips and Vacations! As the above sample photo shows, some will come out so nice --that you'll want to frame them! (Made by Jenny Nance, Keego Harbor, Michigan)


Do you have a lot of magazines?! MAKE A MAGAZINE HOUSE!

  • Using an old catalog or magazine, cut out pictures of chairs, tables, curtains, bathroom fixtures and other furnishings.
  • Spread out a large sheet of drawing paper. Sketch an "open sided" house.
  • Have children place the pictures of the furnishings in the rooms of their choice. They can cut out more pictures to redecorate their house, cut out pictures of people, toys, pets, and anything they like!



Do you have lots of wire hangers? You've got the first ingredient for a mobile. Using photos, homemade pictures, or any other paper items, punch a hole in them and tie a string or piece of yarn in the hole. (Paper will be more stable if forst glued/mounted to card stock)

Tie the other end of the string on the wire hanger, spacing three across the bottom of the hanger. If you really want to get creative, hook two other wire hangers on the bottom corners of the first hanger for an even bigger, more inventive mobile.



1. Take the paper off old crayons
2.  Break them into pieces.
3.  Spray muffin/cupcake tins with nonstick spray or lightly coat with oil----OR---Line the cups of a miniature muffin tin with aluminum foil cupcake liners of regular liners 3 each deep.
4.  Put crayon pieces into muffin tins and melt in an oven at 250 degrees until just melted can mix the crayons in the tins but you may want to have separate colors as well.
Let tins cool.
5. Turn over and rap back of tins hard.
You can use a toothpick to make a swirl effect in the wax before it cools. Just be careful, the wax is very HOT!



This is another way to recycle old crayons! Peel the paper from the crayons. Put bit of crayons in individual disposable cups or empty egg carton sections. Place this outisde on a very hot and sunny day where the crayons will melt. After melting, let the crayons cool overnight and 'pop' them out the next day. You'll have mew 'cool-shaped' crayons!


Small paper plates
Play dough
Pipe cleaners
Pony beads
Cereal with a hole in center

First of all make play dough instead of buying it! (Click here for more than 40 play dough recipes!) When your play dough has begun to outgrow its usefulness---remember this idea! 

  • Give each child with a small paper plate containing a ball of play dough about the size of a golf ball. Have the children flatten the ball out just a bit.
  • Provide the children with a variety of colored feathers, pipe cleaners, pony beads, cereal, etc.
    Some things they can do:
    Wrap pipe cleaners around pencils or their fingers to make spirals; thread the beads onto the pipe cleaners and stick the feathers and pipe cleaners into the play dough. Now, step back and watch them create some of the most interesting sculptures!! (I just did this with two children ages 3 and 5--make sure the dough is more rounded than flat or when dry it will crack.  It took several days for the sculptures to harden. It went quickly once they were placed on a raised wire cookie tray. Air was able to then circulate underneath.)





Put out a variety of decorating items such as pom-poms, beads, jewels, pipe cleaners, etc. Have kids bring OLD SHOES and watch creativity explode! Depending on the material of the shoes-use either a good white glue or hot glue. (Hot glue will dry faster) Photo from Carleton Place Public Library summer project.



The biodegradable packing peanuts MADE FROM CORNSTARCH can be assembled into fascinating sculptures simply by moistening one end of each piece with a damp cotton swab (the moisture melts them and makes them stick together.) Use these and other (bottle caps, twist ties, rubber bands) and stay busy for hours.



Assuming you can stop the kids from popping it all, paint a section and use it to make polka-dot snake skin-like prints.



Using the TOP of tissue paper boxes, cut pieces to frame small pieces of art! You can also cut out the tops from a variety of gift boxes. Cut out the center so that it is slightly smaller than the art to be displayed.


***MISCELLEANEOUS IDEAS Also check the Frugal and Program Money Saving Tips Category-- Some really wonderful Recyled Ideas are also in there!


Children love to pretend they are building. Hammers, nails, and a handy block of Styrofoam or soft block of wood can be wonderful tools for fine motor skills. This is an activity that should be closely supervised. It would be fun to create a wood working area in your program.


When children ask, "How does this work?"
help them to find out. Provide non-working toasters, clocks, VCR’s, tape recorders, radios and other appliances to disassemble. You can put these items on your wish list to parents.

Remove electrical cords and establish guidelines for taking things apart (only with adult supervision, at this table, no more than 2 children at a time, etc.) Caregivers can teach safe use of tools at disassembly stations where screwdrivers, pliers, and bins for sorting screws and small parts are stored.


JUNK MAIL JEWELRY (For older school age to adult)
Letters, fliers, and brochures sent by direct marketers are often very colorful. We can help the environment and save landfill space by making paper beads from it. Many of the mail pieces you receive are varnished, making this type of paper expensive to recycle. Because of their coated surface, however, beads made from junk mail are very strong and fairly waterproof.

You will need: Junk mail with a coated, shiny surface, Newspapers to keep area clean, Broken jewelry to string with paper beads (optional), Ruler, pencil, and scissors, White glue, Round tooth picks, Strong, thin string, such as kite string, Needle for threading beads

1.  Cut the paper into small strips approximately 3/4" wide by 41/2" long. Roll each bead by wrapping it tightly around a toothpick. Complete the bead by gluing the last 1/2" of the strip. Remove the toothpick and repeat until all the beads are made.

 2. Beads of different sizes may be made by varying the dimensions given. To make the beads bigger, use longer strips of paper. Change the width of the strips to make wider or narrower beads. (Chunky beads are from longer triangles while narrow long beads are from short triangles.)


3.  When stringing beads, alternate handmade paper beads with beads rescued from broken necklaces and bracelets, or make your own with pulp paper Mache mixture. Tie a knot in the string to complete the necklace, or use a professional clasp which may be purchased at a craft store.

You can also use magazine covers and other slick papers to make beads. Even materials with some printing will do, since only the last inch or so of the bead is visible.

Someone actually made me the above necklace about 15 years ago! (Angie Dockter at Brooklands School- K-Club)-and it's beautiful! As you can see in the photo-they look like real beads! Thank you Angie! (Barb) Image by
Source: "Schoolage note of the day 5/20/08

  • Gather used wrapping paper/old magazines, scissors, glue sticks, one drinking straw per child and yarn.
  • Cut triangles from the paper that are approximately 2 inches across the bottom and 10 inches tall. Each triangle makes one bead.
  • Place the triangle wrong side up on the table. Lay the straw along the wide end of the triangle. Tightly roll the strip around the straw twice.
  • Put glue on the remainder of the triangular strip and continue to roll the paper evenly.
  • Finish the bead by gluing down the narrow end and holding in place until the glue sets.
  • Slip bead off of the straw and repeat this procedure until the desired number of beads are created.
  • String the beads on the desired length of yarn and tie the ends together



Take a piece of a jigsaw puzzle, or several pieces glued together, paint it and decorate it with beads, glitter, sequins, etc., Glue a jewelry pin on the back.


aterials Needed:
Toilet tissue tubes
Wax paper
Crayons (Paper removed)
Potato peeler
Rubber bands

1. Cut wax paper into rectangular pieces that when folded, will fit over the end of the toilet tissue roll.
2. Have children cut tiny pieces of tissue and place on wax paper. They can tear it if they can't control scissors. Another variation is to have the child grate peeled crayons with a potato peeler onto the waxed paper.
3. Fold the waxed paper in half and press with a warm iron until the paper sticks together. Child can do this carefully.
4. Fasten the waxed paper to the end of the toilet tissue roll with a rubber band.
5. Hold up to light and see the various colors.


Materials: Paper towel tube, cardboard, construction paper, yarn, poster board

1. Tape or glue a round piece of cardboard to each end of a paper towel tube.
2. Cut a slot for the clown's mouth, Make it large enough for coins to go through.
3. Paint the tube white, Glue on yarn hair and features cut from the paper.



(Uses "OLD" tennis balls)
    •Materials: Old tennis balls (If no one in your program plays tennis, put them on your wish list! Red paint and a paintbrush (You can skip this part if you're able to find red tennis balls--look at pet-toys)
    •Brown pipe cleaner
    •Scrap of green felt
    •Two large wiggle eyes
    •Masking tape
    •Tiny red pom-pom
    •Black marker
    •White glue or thick blue glue gel
    •Newspaper to work on
    •Plastic-foam egg carton (for drying the tennis ball on)

1. Have an adult use a sharp knife to cut a slit across the lower half of the ball for the mouth and to poke a small slit in the top of the ball for the stem. If you have a shop vise, you can use it to hold the ball steady while you make the cuts. The deeper the mouth cut, the easier it will be to squeeze the mouth to open it.

2. Paint the ball red. Let it dry on the plastic-foam egg carton.

3. Stick a piece of masking tape on the back of each wiggle eye to create a better gluing surface. Glue the eyes on the ball above the mouth.

4. Glue on the red pom-pom for the nose.
5. Cut a 2-inch piece of brown pipe cleaner for the stem. Push the end of the stem through the hole in the top of the apple.
6. Cut a leaf shape from the green felt scrap. Cut a tiny slit at the base of the leaf. Slide the leaf down over the stem through the slit so that it sits on the top of the apple.

7. Use the black marker to make a line over the cut mouth to accentuate it.

8. To make the mouth of the apple open and close, squeeze the ball on each side of the mouth.

This little apple puppet can pick things up with the mouth and swallow them. You might want to make a game of seeing how many things the puppet can pick up and swallow in a set amount of time. Try picking up small pom-poms or popcorn kernels, bits of cereal and raisins. The kids especially liked to play the 'apple eats your nose game'." More than one group reported apple puppets nibbling at other kids with much giggling--- a part of the game.


Cover the table with newspaper. Put out poster paints and brushes. The kids can decorate the balls to look like faces, animals, or designs of their imagination. Be sure to use old tennis balls and let them dry before using them... This project gives triple use to the balls- you first recycle the ball as an art project, and then recycle it again as a tennis ball!


Need tennis balls and tennis ball containers to play or make projects?
Go to local tennis courts (clubs) and ask them to save the containers from the balls. Kids can decorate them with permanent magic markers then go outside and collect bugs. They are adorable and FREE. Also, I didn't realize people only use the balls one time. The balls can be used outside and for crafts. From Mrs. Z in Michigan /Florida



Old Tennins Balls
Sport Sock (We all have the loan mate of the one the washing machine ate!)

You won't believe how great this feels! It really does get out all thee knots in your back! Take a sports sock and place two tennis balls into the sock and tie the top of the sock up with either a elastic bandor a knot. Lay on top of it on the floor and roll yourself back and forth. You could also have someone rub it over your back, legs, etc.




Decorate old CDs to hang from the ceiling…

Cover the printed side of the discs, using construction paper and a glue gun. Use markers, crayons, paint, glitter pens and stickers to turn the discs into works of art. This CD is painted with acrylics.

  • Punch holes in the tops of the CDs and hang them with fishing wire or string.
  • They could also be used as coasters if you don't wish to hang them!


2 old CD's
Tacky glue
Yellow construction paper
String or yarn
Yellow sharpie marker

  • Cut triangles with about a 1 ½ inch base out of yellow paper.
  • Spread tacky glue onto printed side of CD. Place triangles onto the outer rim of the CD (where the base of the triangle is at the edge, but into the glue).
  • Place the end of the string/yarn onto the glue about 3/4 of the way into the glue, let the rest hang out.
  • Spread a little glue onto the printed side of the other CD. Now sandwich the CD's together (printed side/glue sides together).
  • Write child's name on the CD with the yellow sharpie marker. You have a sparkling sun to hang in a sunny window!


Does anyone still use film? If so – save those film canisters!
When you're ready to load your camera, don't toss out the film canister. The plastic container makes a lively finger puppet that's easy and fun to make. All the dressing material can be used from previous craft projects.

If you don't have canisters, put them on your wish list- or ask a local photo store if they have discarded canisters to donate.

Film canisters,
Colored plastic tape (electrician's tape),
Tacky glue,
Collage materials (yarn bits, ribbon, buttons, sequins and wiggle eyes).

  • Wrap the tape around the canister's top or bottom to distinguish the body from the head of the puppet.
  • Add hair and a face, and decorate the body using whatever collage materials you like.
  • Turn each canister over to fill it with a small amount of fiberfill to give the puppet a snug fit on a little finger.
  • Use the canister lids (slide them on the closed end) to make delightful hats for the puppets.
    One child used yellow pipe cleaners for a sporty flipped-up 'do,' wiggle eyes, and sequin leaves for a stunning gown. The film canister top looked really cute on top like a beret!
    From: Cassie/Mi.



Empty film containers or salt shakers with holes punched in tops.
A variety of scents such as: lemon garlic, vanilla, peppermint, cinnamon, coffee, etc.

Put a different scent in individual containers. Have children smell the containers and guess what each contains. You can also use a variety of essential oils on cotton balls and place them in the containers



Put up decorations made from recycled or reused materials. Instead of using crepe paper, cut strips of used notebook paper or construction paper and glue them together to form colorful chains to hang from the ceiling. Be creative!




TP tube or paper towel tube cut to desired height (Paint the tubes before decorating)
Paper heart doilies or construction paper heart shapes
Google eyes (for butterfly #2 )- black marker for simple version)
Pipe Cleaner
Decorations as desired

Kid Activities believes that children's projects are best when they are open-ended. For this activity a variety of supplies were put out. (Crafters had a visual sample-but were told to create their own version.) Two samples are shown here...

1. Both 'Butterflies' are similar but 'R' added a head and double wings. The wings have been cut out from the center of heart-shaped Doilies-however-construction paper hearts can also be used. The wings are glued over each other onto the back of the paper tube.
3. The pom-pom head sits on top of the tube and a full length 'pipe cleaner antenna' fold into the tube. (It's size and thickness holds it in place) The mouth and nose are made from t 'bits' cut out of foam.
Small 'stick on' foam hearts decorate the wings.

The more simple version for a 'younger child' uses one set of wings. In place of a pom-pom head--eyes and mouth are drawn on with a black permanent marker. (Images by


Click here to see this site's Wish List to Parents! Lots of great items for Recycled projects!

Click here to go back to 'PAGE 1 of RECYCLED IDEAS!

Make Musical Instruments with Recycled Materials!


Our 'Wish List' to Families and Friends!

August 22, 2009 14:38 by Barbara Shelby


A great way to supplement 'Trash to Treasure' and 'Arts and Craft' Supplies is by putting out a request list! You can make and do all kinds of wonderful things with some of the below ideas! 


  • Old jewelry
  • Dress up clothes, purses, scarves, shawls, high heels
  • Old costumes
  • Dance recital costumes
  • Ties, Men's jackets



  • Outgrown-good shape under-wear in a variety of sizes
  • Outgrown-good shape children's pants and t-shirts in variety of sizes
  • Mittens, hats
  • Socks
  • Boots



  • Toaster oven
  • Crock pot
  • Toaster
  • Electric mixer
  • Blenders
  • Electric griddle or fry pan
  • Electric hot plate
  • Micro-wave
  • Hot gloves/hot pads
  • Kitchen towels
  • Rags
  • Sponges (Also to shape for art stamping) 
  • Large mixing bowls
  • Spoons, spatulas, measuring spoons and cups



  • Tape recorder
  • T.V. with video/DVD player
  • G-Rated DVD's-Videos
  • Children's Books
  • Unused birthday and holiday cups and plates
  • Unused birthday and holiday napkins
  • Gently used games
  • Gently used toys of all kinds
  • Homework Supplies
  • Small appliances to take apart and/or recreate




  • Small to medium gift boxes (for gifts and creating building projects)
  • Shoe boxes (dioramas and games)
  • Corks
  • Buttons, beads 
  • Paper towel and tissue rolls; paper tubes of all kinds
  • Dried beans, seeds rice and grain for art/collages
  • Christmas general, and birthday wrap (gently used)
  • Wallpaper, wallpaper books 
  • Ribbons
  • Crochet thread (strings for weaving)
  • Yarn, yarn, yarn 
  • String
  • Rubber Bands 
  • Fish-line
  • Paper doilies
  • Tinsel, garland
  • Old clean socks (for indoor or warm-winter State snowball fights and making puppets)
  • Mittens, hats (for crafts)
  • Plastic serving trays
  • Margarine bowls, cottage cheese containers, etc (for crafts or holding supplies)
  • Pringles cans – Lays Stax – Whiska snacks containers (any plastic container with lid)
  • Coffee cans with lids
  • Zip-lock storage bags
  • Old magnets from fridge
  • Tissue paper from gifts
  • Wire hangers
  • Sewing items-yarn, thread, needles, pins
  • Fabric
  • Silk flowers (all sizes)
  • Straws
  • Shaped unused pasta noodles, dried spaghetti noodles
  • Left-over craft supplies
  • Magazines, magazines, magazines (check for appropriateness)
  • Old calendars with nice pictures
  • Old coffee table art books
  • Flat bed sheets (use outside or inside for kids to play on/with)
  • Books from hair stylists
  • Old animal books or animal magazines
  • Blankets
  • Paper bags (all sizes)
  • Old bingo dabbers
  • Envelopes (makes great little gift sacs)
  • Different size smooth stones
  • Small sea shells
  • Flour, corn starch, salt, corn syrup, Kool-Aid, cinamon, etc. for goop/slime and play dough
  • Dryer lint (for play dough) 
  • Film tubes
  • Card board (small to 16 x 20)
  • Corrugated cardboard
  • Canvas boards 
  • Clean nylon stockings (for wire and stocking sculptures)
  • Unscented and scented baby wipes
  • Aluminum foil, wax paper, paper towels, facial tissues
  • Wood scraps – interesting shapes – small wood scraps (any wood crafters in your district?)
  • Plexiglas (any sizes)
  • Bottles, baby food jars, old vases
  • How to Art books for program library  
  • Plastic table cloths
  • Eye droppers
  • Paper of all kinds: Copy, lined, index cards, colored 
  • Office supplies
  • Pliers - any kind – hand tools (hammers, screw drivers)
  • Old file cabinets


 Eleven Things to Collect for Art Collage...

  • Torn up bits of old paintings and drawings you don't want to keep.
  • Labels from boxes, cans, candy bars and bottles (Soak them off then dry them).
  • Used postage stamps, especially from all over the world. 
  •  Shiny Mylar foil balloons that have gone flat.
  • Short pieces of string, yarn, thread, twine, ribbon and lace (Short pieces...don't keep too much).
  • Words cut out of magazine headlines and ads.
  • Maps.
  • Broken jewelry.
  • Seeds from flowers, kitchen spices, leftover garden stuff. 
  •  Used tickets from shows and sports events.
  • Things you can glue--- collected from trips/vacations.


To use some of these items, you may want to check out the Recycled Category and Art Category.  Many of these supplies can be used for some of the craft ideas on this site!

Other Pages that may interest you:

  • Crafts of all Kinds
  • Crafts for crafts or Crafts that are great as Gifts
  • Children's Crafts that Smell Good! 
  • Homemade Musical Instruments
  • Windsocks and Wind Chimes
  • Make Bookmarks
  • Also...each and every 'Theme and Holiday' have Art and Craft activities that use recycled materials!