Toddler Activity Ideas - From the Recycle Bin

by Stephanie Goins on July 01, 2011

We aren't just all about wall stencils and wall decals for kids! Our Summer Arts and Crafts Fest continues.


Upcycled Crafts With KidsNewspaper Superheroes
This is easy, cheap, and quick entertainment. Make 3-inch-wide newspaper bands for your child's wrists and ankles. Use a scarf or bandana for a cape, and you've got an instant Superhero. What will your superpower be? Aluminum foil also creates an instant space man.

Recycled Storybook
Have your child help you go through the recycle bin and cut out pictures from objects that can make for a fascinating story. When you start paying attention, you'll be amazed at all the interesting pictures on a simple carton of milk or clothing catalogue. Then bind together 10 or 20 half sheets of construction paper. You can bind easily by hole-punching three holes in each sheet and then using twisty ties or ribbon. Next, have your child help you glue the objects on the pages of the book, and you've got your own recycled storybook! Finally, have your child tell you the story that she has created.

Egg Carton Caterpillar
Cut an egg carton lengthwise so you have a strip of 6-egg cups. Turn strip upside-down to form the body. Add pipe cleaners for legs and googly eyes, and you've got a cute and simple caterpillar.

Box Car Train
If you have a train-obsessed little one, here's a simple one (s)he'll love. Gather up some small empty food boxes (mac-n-cheese, cereal, crackers, etc.). Cut out holes in the top of each, big enough so that little stuffed animals can fit.  Next attach them in train-style with yarn or string or ribbon and have your child find the passengers (i.e. stuffed animals) for the train. Your child will enjoy pulling this homemade train around the house. You can also do make a similar train with large cottage cheese and yogurt containers.

Grocery Store
Go through your recycle bin (or pantry), and select items from the grocery story your child will easily recognize. Then turn your hallway or living room into a grocery store aisle by lining up the items in a row. Use a shower caddy or plastic bin for a "shopping basket," and have your child select several items to buy and place in the basket (or ride a tricycle down the aisle with shopping basket in hand). You can be the cashier, and when your child is done shopping, all purchases are taken to the cashier. Depending on the child's age, you can use real or fake money and discuss costs, change, etc. Have a paper bag ready to fill. Repeat until all items are purchased.

Bowling With Creamer Bottles
Coffee creamer bottles make great bowling pins. Once you have collected 10 bottles, remove labels and add a little sand or pebbles to the bottom so they won't knock over too easily. With a permanent marker, draw two stripes around the neck of each and label them 1 through 10. Set them up in the hallway, find a ball, and bowl!

Recycle Bin Blocks
You can create blocks out of a good majority of the boxes you'll find in the recycle bin. They don't have to be perfectly square to classify as blocks. Cereal boxes, mac-n-cheese boxes, and milk cartons all work well. Tape up all the openings and then cover with construction paper or felt (or paint them, number them, color them, etc.) Stack them up and knock down again and again.

Tin Can Blocks
Gather up some empty tin cans (of varying sizes). Tape up the sharp edges with duct tape. Cover with construction paper and color or decorate with pictures from magazines. Stack up and knock down!

Recycle Bin Poster

Recycle Bin Poster
This is good for younger children. Go through your recycle bin and cut out recognizable objects from boxes, papers, and cardboard. Then tape them all to a poster board. Discuss, ask questions about them, point out similarities, etc. Hang up as wall art in your child's room.

Decorated Containers
Go through your recycle bin and find things that would make good containers for your child’s artwork or school supplies (round oatmeal boxes, shoe boxes, Pringles cans, etc.) Then cut out pictures from magazines and decorate.

Using a tissue box (rectangular shaped, opening on one side only), 6 rubber bands, and an empty paper towel roll, you can make a homemade guitar. Cut a hole in one of the sides of the tissue box and insert the empty paper towel roll. Tape in place. Wrap rubber bands lengthwise around the tissue box, so that they are in front of the hole in the tissue box. You'll be pleasantly surprised by the sounds that your child produces with this simple and easy project!