6 Great Recycled Crafts

Before you toss it in the bin, or break it down to fit into your recycling can ask yourself what can I use this for? What can I make with this? That was the inspiration for these 6 great crafts using regular old recyclables from around the house.

  1. DIY Jar Lid Stamps
  2. Rainbow made from craft supply left overs.
  3. Milk Plug Ring
  4. Pretend Play Campfire
  5. Juice Jug Rocket
  6. Milk Carton Fire Station

Recycled Paper Hearts

handmade recycled paper

I have been meaning to make recycled paper with my son for ages. Finally after finding way too much scrap paper in my art closet when I cleaned it out I knew there was no time like the present ,especially with Earth Day only days away.  This was not a hard craft but it does require adult participation. I have done it in a class without the use of a blender by soaking the paper for days.

  1. Gather your materials. You will need scrap paper, newspaper,a bowl , a blender, water , towels and a window screen. I also used a plastic cutting board to dry the paper on.
  2. Start by ripping your scrap paper and newspaper into small pieces. The smaller the better.
  3. Add water . We used a bottle from our recycling bin to help ease the mess.
  4. Squish, let soften for as long as your child will wait. We didn’t wait too long but the blending is easier the squishier you get the “pulp”.
  5. ADULT ONLY – using a blender blend the water and paper pulp.
  6. Put towels ( old ones from when your husband went to Mexico on Spring break in college) under your screen.
  7. Pop the pulp on it.
  8. Press the water out. We just used a dish cloth ( smooth cotton not fluffy).
  9. Flip onto a cutting board and let dry.
  10. We popped ours in our laundry room and let dry for 2 days.
  11. Then cut them out into hearts and added some ribbon and gave them to some dear friends.

Earth Day Books

This post was originally written for earth day but has been much more popular at Valentine’s Day in the past few years…. Loving the earth is good any time of year though. As always our book lists include affiliate links.


The EARTH Book by Todd Parr is a great Earth Day book for preschoolers and young elementary aged kids. It focuses on small everyday steps kids can take to help the environment as well as how these little everyday measures help. The way the text is written it begs for discussion whether you are reading it to a class of 25 or in bed with your only child. Add om Parr’s wonderfully whimsical, bright, bold illustrations and you have a super Earth Day book.

Love Your World by Dawn Sirett is a how to manual for kids who want to be good environmentally responsible citizens of the earth. The text is lack luster at times but the message , tips and overall presentation is still worthwhile . It is a little longer and doesn’t have a warm fuzzy story book feel but would be great to kick start a unit of teaching for 4-8 year olds about conservation.

Gabby and Grandma Go Green by Monica Wellington is another wonderful book from one of our favorite authors. In the book Gabby and her Grandma spend a day together  dedicated to going green. First making a great reusable bag and then using it all around town. I love that they go to the library and that is portrayed as a way to go green as well as a place to learn more about environmental efforts. Also showing ways to make a difference at the grocery store is perfect for young kids who are often tagging a long with parents on these errands. I can’t end the review without also mentioning the baby sibling who is sleeping in a sling at the end of the book , I love seeing baby wearing in books!  This is a great environment themed book that works all year round not just for Earth Day.

Upcycled Mat Roadway

I love making things with items that would otherwise end up thrown away and with Earth Day coming up now is as good a time as any to reuse things for fun!  This isn’t the first roadway we’ve made, we made this one ages ago and it’s still played with daily . If your child wants design and to make it go for it, my son decided he’d “Be the boss.” Which I am sure was a great change from being a kid and he still felt ownership and pride while playing with it knowing he was the designer. He’s already deemed this to be only for big kids and he is right – the tape used on this craft is not safe for babies or toddlers . If you are making this for a toddler I’d do this toddler friendly one instead.

  1. Gather your materials. You will need a green kitchen or door mat, black duck tape, additional colors of tape of your choice, permanent markers and  scissors.
  2. Start by making a plain black road. I wrapped the tape all the way to the underside to prevent it peeling up.
  3. Now add the yellow lane markers.
  4. Time to talk about what sort of buildings to make. A fire station was not surprisingly my son’s first choice.
  5. Next up a police station.
  6. He couldn’t wait to get his vehicles on !
  7. A super market complete with parking lot was next.
  8. Here he is deciding where we should put houses.
  9. We also added a school, and a pond with fish.
  10. It was an immediate hit!

In The Town All Year Round (a perfect book match for this activity).

In the Town All Year ‘Round by Rotraut Susanne Berner is amazing.It’s premise are the comings and goings of a town in all four seasons. There is limited text, which serves only to steer readers to look for specific people in the highly detailed illustrations. Each season has multiple pages and the people remain constant throughout the seasons. So you see inside an apartment building , the town square, the park, railroad station etc… in every season. You see the changes in town, the progression and of course the distinct weather in each section. The pictures also progress within the seasons, so a fire truck with a flashing light can be seen on every page in one season with the last page showing it getting to the fire . I can’t possibly explain the amazing detail and sheer number of things to find, make up stories about and spark your child’s imagination in this book. My son adores it. After renewing it multiple times from our library I bought it as his 2010 Valentine’s gift. It goes everywhere with us, perfect for long drives , waits in the Ob’s waiting room and plain old playtime he picks it up every day and finds something new.

What I really love is that because there is no text but still multiple story lines it’s helped my son to understand that literacy isn’t just about words, it about explaining what’s going on, and reading the pictures too. The absence of text has allowed me to really show him that . Now he has started grabbing books with text and telling me he’d read me the pictures, which boosts both his confidence and his enjoyment of independent reading.

Edited for 2011: My son is still crazy over this book. When I am desperate for him to chill out so I can get my daughter down for a nap nothing keeps him occupied ( and quiet) like this book. It’s magic!


Superhero Cuff Craft

Dressing up is a must at our house. My son is never just chilling in his own clothes there is almost always a costume, some accessories or at the very least a hat to support his pretend play that starts when he wakes up and ends when we wrestle him into his PJs for bed. This craft was done spur of the moment when my scarf wrapped around his shoulders was simply not enough costume to be a superhero. It was so easy and if you don’t have foam on hand , felt, paper or even stickers would be great options. The foam has held up really well , we made this almost a month ago and it’s still going strong.

  1. Gather your materials. You will need a toilet paper roll ( or wrapping paper / paper towel tube ), some paint , sparkly sticky back foam ( great option for those afraid of letting your kids loose with glitter shakers), scissors and a paint brush.
  2. Start by cutting some buttons out of the foam. I asked my son what shapes he wanted but did the cutting myself.
  3. Next cut the roll open. Round the edges with scissors.
  4. Add the foam. When making props to play with skipping things that need to be glued on is usually a safe way to go. Also anything they have to peel the backing off is a great fine motor skill activity so it’s fast and worthwhile!
  5. Add paint – this is optional. We chose to paint after the foam because sticking the foam on wet paint is futile and painting around the shapes is another good fire motor skill activity as well as hand eye coordination which is your child is a beginning writer like mine they will benefit from as much pressure free  practice as possible.
  6. Let dry … a little tip I use sometimes when I need things to dry faster for pictures … or eager kids who want to play superhero before bedtime( can you tell he was crying in the picture above? The tears were instantaneous when I told him he’d have to wait for the paint to dry.) Take some paper towel and blot the paint. If you are careful only the excess comes off.
  7. Play!

Superhero Picture Books

Super Duck (Duck in the Truck) by Jez Albourough was ok, I liked it but my little man didn’t.  Here’s the thing the book is part of a series and we haven’t read the other books, we grabbed this one because of the super hero theme and Super Duck was only kinda super . I likes the rhyming text it flowed well, the rhymes were never forced but it was just too young for my son who is 4.5  to enjoy it. He didn’t find Duck funny, but I am sure other kids would. It’s a fun silly book, just don’t grab it for a kid who is expecting body armor, x-ray vision and golden lassos.

Supersister by Beth Cedena wasn’t full of x-ray vision or super powers either but my son adored it. Kids are unpredictable. This story though is sweet and also has a little but of mystery to it , which upon reflection could be one reason why my son liked it so much. Supersister is a little girl who is brave and helpful and we witness that when she lovingly ties her moms shoes for her before zooming off to school. Okay so I preach about pre reading books, but rarely do it and reading this I was so worried the mom was going to be in a wheelchair or hospital bed and that’s why she needs her daughter to tie her shoes.  I lean towards the dramatic so I doubt you’d even be thinking that and my son didn’t either. No nothing tragic has happened to mom , she is just very very pregnant. Supersister is practicing her role as a caregiver and older sister! My son loved that since he takes his still fairly new role of big brother very seriously. Cute book for new siblings especially!

Eliot Jones, Midnight Superhero by Alex Cottringer was exactly the kind of superhero book both my son and I were looking for. Eliot is just a calm quiet boy by day but by night he saves the world!  It tapped into my son’s imagination right from the start and he was hooked. He loved the action and I loved that unlike the more character driven superhero books the plot is high on action and saving and low on violence and aggression. My son loved that scientists were working with Eliot, and that he had to travel to the Himalayas as part of this mission to save the world. I loved it to because it totally promotes and makes science and geography extra cool!  All in all a great book although the text would have been too long for my son a year ago at 3. I’d keep this one for the 4 and up crowd.

Trash Rainbow Craft

trash collage rainbow craft for kids

I love rainbows. With St. Patrick’s Day around the corner rainbows have been popping up every time I sit down to brainstorm activities. This one was particularly fun because it used things I am cleaning out of my craft dump closet , incorporates my son’s incredible love of pretend play ( he’s a garbage sorter) and most every preschooler’s desire to sort.  You can do this in 2 parts sorting one day, making a rainbow the next or if I was still teaching I’d do this as a cooperative group project. My 4 year old did all the way up to putting the trash on then lost interest until I started putting some on and he ran back to the table saying he could do it better (is everything a competition in your house too? Sigh) so we did the gluing together.Make sure whatever materials you use that they are safe for the age/ ability of child you are doing this with.

  1. Gather your materials. You will need a large piece of paper ( I used a grocery bag cut open ), glue, scissors, colored pencils/markers , 7 small containers, small squares of paper in the colors of the rainbow, a mixed mess of “garbage ” -paper/ buttons/foam/plastic toys/ribbon in the colors of the rainbow.
  2. Next fill a container up with all the “garbage”
  3. Start sorting by color.
  4. I was so pleased with how much he liked this part of the activity. It seemed to go on and on forever as he pretended to need a coffee break from his job at the garbage sorting factory. We are not short on imagination in this house.
  5. While he returned to work I made the rainbow with colored pencils.
  6. Time to add glue. We added two glue for a few colors at a time.
  7. Add the objects! We did this part together
  8. Add more glue.
  9. Add more objects.
  10. Let dry.

Books About Rainbows

All our book lists include affiliate links.


Duckie’s Rainbow by Frances Barry is a clever little book , you walk with her as she passes things like a yellow cornfield and blue pond until the pages above create a rainbow . I love the idea but reading it with my son ( who was 2 at the time) all he wanted to do was turn the pages as quickly as he could to make the rainbow. Not a big deal but this would make a better story time book then a bedtime one for that reason.

Planting a Rainbow by Lois Elhert is a wonderful book to use for teaching about flowers and colors. The illustrations are bold and bright, perfect for little curious minds. I have always liked this book because you can sit down and dive into it reading each flowers name on every page , or browse it more casually with a younger child simply noting the colors.

This project too complicated for your toddler? Yesterday in my Link &Learn weekly linky this awesome rainbow project from Toddler Approved was linked. When I saw it after writing this post I knew it would be a perfect link to share as an option for younger kids so I added it in .