Crafts for Children with Waste Materials

Written by gretchen martin
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  • Introduction

    Crafts for Children with Waste Materials

    Waste materials can get a second life as free supplies for children's craft projects that yield teaching opportunities regarding both the environment and art. By recycling common materials into creative objects, kids produce a work of art while engaging with parents and teachers in a dialogue concerning individual responsibility toward reducing society's carbon footprint.

    Teach kids about environmental issues with crafts made from reclaimed trash. (recycle with different colour in white background image by Kirubeshwaran from

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    Milk Container Masks

    Gone are the days of milk delivery in recycled glass bottles. Nowadays, too many milk containers end up in landfills. Instead of adding more to the pile, collect your plastic milk containers and cut them in half vertically, then paper mache and paint either half to create a mask inspired by African art. Glue embellishments like beads and feathers on the mask to accentuate the tribal feel. Collect several containers for a group activity. If you have any leftovers, discard the caps, rinse the jugs, crush them and take them to a recycling centre.

    Inspiration for A Milk Container Mask (thai mask image by mansa from

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    Milk Carton Bird Feeders

    Paperboard milk cartons have an excellent natural shape for creating a house-like bird feeder. Paint the carton however you wish, then cut out a heart-shaped or round hole wide enough for birds to get in and out of the container. Poke a few ventilation holes in the top and a few drainage holes in the bottom. Fill the carton with birdseed up to the bottom of the entry hole and hang it on a tree limb with some string. You can compost unused paperboard milk cartons, just discard the plastic cap.

    Inspiration for A Milk Carton Bird Feeder (bird feeder image by tomcat2170 from

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    Glass Container Vase

    You can decorate any glass container to create an attractive vase. Découpage a club soda bottle, a jelly jar or whatever glass container you're about to throw away by gluing strips of coloured tissue paper onto the glass, allowing different colours of paper to overlap. The resulting bud vase will resemble a mosaic or stained glass. If you can't find any use for empty glass containers, take them to a recycling centre. They often have refund values--another motivation that encourages your child to recycle.

    Inspiration for Glass Vase (red vase image by Greg Peterson from

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    Oatmeal Container Piggy Bank

    Those refund coins need somewhere to go. Turn an oatmeal carton onto its side and paint it like a piggy bank, a school bus, a caterpillar or any other shape that appeals to the child. Add legs and a snout, wheels or pipe cleaner appendages as suits the design--and don't forget to create a slit for inserting coins.

    Inspiration for Oatmeal Container Piggy Bank (piggy bank image by Pershing from

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    Cap and Lid Lockets and Frames

    What do you do with all those bottle, carton and jar caps once you've recycled their counterparts? Plenty. Bottle caps make great lockets for necklaces. Bind two bottle caps together by gluing a small piece of ribbon to the inside of two adjacent edges. Insert a photo on the inside of one cap and craft a design on the outside of the other for the locket's face. You can do the same with carton lids, and jar lids make nifty small round frames.

    Inspiration for Cap and Lid Lockets and Frames (putten image by Charlotte Erpenbeck from

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