Raid the Recycling Bin

Last time we talked about culinary creations using what you have on hand. Now let’s turn trash into treasure with projects and experiments!

Recycling is a great way to keep some items from the landfill, but an even better way is to give those items new life. From cardboard tubes to plastic jars and containers, your family can find lots of uses for items that are otherwise destined for the recycling bin.


Though not exactly “fun,” many of the items that get recycled can be used as storage. Jars make great homes for bouncy balls and other small items. Yogurt and fruit cups can be used to organize drawers. Cardboard tubes can be turned into pencil holders. Challenge your kids to find new and creative ways to keep their areas tidy using nothing but recyclable items.


Instead of running out to buy supplies, some recyclable items can also be used to assist in other projects. Plastic cups and dishes, for example, make great water cups when little artists paint. Paper plates make great palettes. Newspaper is great as a protective surface for any creative project that can get a little messy. What else can you reuse rather than purchase?


Now onto the fun stuff. Many sites and posts from other blogs have been dedicated to craft projects using recyclable materials. I will share some below. But it can also be fun to simply dump out the recycling bin and let your kids have fun with it! What do you think they could create?

Compile some supplies, based on what you already have at home: scissors, tape, glue, paint and brushes, markers, crayons, yarn or string, paper clips, stapler, etc. These will become your child’s work tools. Then let them explore and experiment to create something beautiful and/or useful. You can print some pictures as inspiration if you’d like, or just let them use their imaginations.

If you or your child prefer clear instructions, here are some of those sites as promised:


If your child isn’t interested in crafts, rest assured there are plenty of activities they can still do with recyclable materials! Here are some of my favorites:

  • Make a marble raceway. Cardboard tubes, bottles, cups, and other items make great marble tracks. Masking tape helps them stick to walls for a vertical track that can inspire STEM-based learning. Cut tubes in half lengthwise, make holes, make funnels, and see where your marble will travel. Anything you have on hand is fair game when it comes to making a marble track.
  • Get musical. Fill glass jars and containers with water and tape on them to make music! Use different amounts of water, different size jars, and experiment with how different items sound. You can also make instruments with cardboard tubes, food containers, jar caps, and more. Check out these sites for inspiration:
  • Start a garden. If you’re getting ready to start a garden, recyclable materials can save you time and money. Turn plastic bottles into self-watering planters or mini greenhouses. Turn a milk jug into a watering can. Use egg cartons or cardboard tubes as seed starters. For info on these and other projects, head to Red Kite Days for details.
  • Take on some STEM. Try some science experiments using recycled materials. Build cars. Create your own building blocks. For these and more ideas, check out Little Bins for Little Hands. You can also explore simple machines with these projects from 123 Homeschool 4 Me.

Encourage your child to come up with new ideas. Pick up an item and ask “what could this become? What could we do with this?” Then see where those amazing brains lead them!


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