Four fun waste-to-craft projects for children

Liam Johnson
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Household waste is a problem in every part of the world. Every year, we throw away food, packaging and other unwanted items, and all of this has a negative impact on our planet. Whilst recycling can go a long way to reducing the carbon footprint of our households, there are still many items that cannot be recycled or countries that don’t recycle as much as they could. The truth is that the best way to have a positive, long-lasting impact is to reduce the amount we use overall, but transitioning to a circular economy is a huge societal change. 

Using certain waste materials can be a fun and budget-friendly activity to do with children. Not only will you get more life out of items like plastic bottles and cardboard, but for older children, it’s a great way to teach them about the importance of recycling and cutting down the amount of waste we generate. Here, we take a look at some fun projects to get you started.


Paper roll creations


The cardboard tube inside a toilet roll is something that we all have plenty of over time. Whilst you can recycle them relatively easily, they make a great addition to any craft project, as they can be painted and cut to shape by children. They also make the perfect base for larger creations – why not save them up and use them to build a robot?

One fun thing to do is to get children to create their own pet or mystical creature, using a paper roll as the body. Cut up a cardboard egg carton into each of the individual pockets, and use each of these as feet or a head. Children can also cut up cereal packets to create shapes to add to their animals, like ears. Just make sure that you have some colouring pens or paint to bring them to life.


Trashion show


For older children, getting creative with some of the items in your recycling bin can cross over with fashion. Get friends or family members involved if your children would rather skip the modelling. Encouraging the children to repurpose items into clothing, such as creating a shirt out of milk bottle lids, or making a hat will both get their creative juices working and keep them entertained. 

If they (or you) are up for it, you could even put on some music and create a catwalk for the model to strut their stuff on. Put some energetic music on and turn it into a fun afternoon activity.


Plastic bottle bird feeder


Plastic bottles are well-known for causing environmental problems – they can take 450 years to decompose when put into landfill. Repurposing them into a bird feeder is a great way to both get more life out of the ones that you do buy, and teach children about nature at the same time. 

Cut a rectangle out of the front of the bottle, and make sure to sand off any sharp edges. Insert a pencil or stick below the rectangle to form a perch, and then fill the bottom of the bottle with bird seed. You can then use a craft knife to make small holes at the top of the bottle – thread some string through so that you can hang them in the garden, or on a windowsill. 


Tin can creatures


If your children have an active imagination, they might like to have some little animal friends to join them in the garden or in their room. Most people will have some sort of tin cans in their recycling or waste bins, and they can easily be repurposed. Just make sure that any sharp edges are softened off, or sealed – if you want to create a lid, cut a circle out of cardboard and then glue this on the open end so that it can’t hurt little fingers. 

Get hold of some paint, and let their imagination run wild. Painting the tin yellow, and then adding black stripes can be the perfect start for a bumblebee, and glueing on wire or pipe cleaner wings will add to the effect. If you have a garden, why not attach the ‘animals’ to a stick and put them in the ground so that they look like they’re flying?



Worldwide, we produce 2.12 billion tons of waste. Crafting with these items can be a great educational opportunity, as well as a low-cost activity for a range of children. Hopefully, this will encourage everyone involved to think of new ways to reuse things that would have otherwise been thrown away.



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