20 art and craft projects for kids using recycled materials

Children’s imagination and creativity have no limits, and I’ve learned that when it comes to art and craft projects it’s always useful to have all sorts of materials at hand: from egg cartons to paper tolls, from plastic bottles to milk cartons. Keeping these gives the children the opportunity to create a new toy, a new design, a new decoration, and also teaches them about recycling.

I’m passionate about recycling, my kids have become too (inspired also by their teachers and schools as well), so we are always creating something using recycled materials. Some of our projects have been created about 4-5 years ago and we still have/use them, so I will show three of them below. Also, I want to share with you other great ideas, maybe they will inspire you as they’ve inspired me. Therefore here is a list of 20 art and craft projects in total, showing what can be done using recycled materials.

So, you and the kids can:

Turn a chips tube into a caterpillar

This is a ‘caterpillar’ I made about 5 years ago with my son and it’s been played with by both my kids. It’s really easy to make, as all you need is:

  • chips cardboard tube
  • paper (green and red)
  • glue
  • googly eyes
  • pipe cleaners
  • scissors

So all you (or the kids) have to do is cover the tube in green paper and glue it. Then glue red paper onto the lid and cut an opening in it (this will be the mouth). Cut the pipe cleaners as long as you want them and glue them on the ‘head’. Glue the googly eyes onto the lid and that’s it.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar made by us

Now, with this ‘caterpillar’, you can play a game which also includes the Very Hungry Caterpillar book (affiliate link – read about what this means here): you can cut out pieces of paper and draw on them the foods the caterpillar eats. Then, while you read the book, the kids can actually ‘feed’ the caterpillar apples, pears, prunes and so on, while learning to also count. Recycling can be fun, don’t you think?

Turn a paper roll into an octopus

This activity is one that can easily be done by very young kids, as they love to paint, and also great for older kids to practice those cutting skills! All you need is:

  • toilet paper roll
  • paint and brush
  • googly eyes
  • scrissors
Paper roll octopus made by my kids

Turn a paper cup into a penguin

Or maybe I should’ve said ‘into a Christmas Tree Topper”, as this has been ours for the last 5 years.

The project is cute and the kids will love it. All you need is:

  • paper cup
  • white paper
  • glue
  • felt (orange and black)
  • googly eyes or felt

Cover the paper cup with white paper and cut the felt, making a beak, two wings, a circle for the belly and two feet. If you are not using googly eyes, cut some felt for the eyes too. And then all these need to be glued to the paper cup and your penguin (or tree topper) is done!

Christmas Tree Topper made by us

Turn a toilet paper roll into a butterfly

Recycling the toilet paper rolls, kids can paint and cut and decorate to build beautiful shiny butterflies like the ones below. All you need is toilet paper roll, glue, glitter, pipe cleaners, scissors, clear, contact paper and kids’ creativity.

Project and photo by savvymamalifestyle

Or into a witch

A toilet paper roll can also become a friendly (or scary) witch if you use a piece of toilet paper roll, a piece of green and black construction paper, googly eyes, a roll of orange yarn, scissors, hot glue and a permanent pen.

Project and photo by funthriftymom

Turn a bunch of toilet paper rolls into a bunch of flowers

A project for younger kids to paint or older kids to do all by themselves, the bunch of flowers needs 4 paper rolls for each flower, a stapler, a stick, paint and glue (or any other decorations). All you need after the art and craft project is done is a vase to display the beautiful creation!

Project and photo by emmaowl

Speaking of flowers

Egg cartons are another great recycled material that can be used to create colourful flowers, like the ones below. Besides egg cartons, acrylic paint, yellow pom poms, paper straws, scissors and glue are needed.

Project and photo by glitteronadime

Turn a plastic container into a bird feeder

This activity combines the use of recycled materials with the fine motor skills of threading beads, and in the end you have a lovely bird feeder:

Project and photo by justalittlecreativity

Turn a cereal box into an aquarium

A family art project for younger kids or a challenge for older fish lovers, this project is a fun way of reusing a cereal box, or any other box. The aquarium can be displayed on a shelf or in the kids’ bedroom afterwards and it can be as colourful or as full of fish as kids want it to be.

Project and photo by thebestideasforkids

Turn an egg carton into a turtle

This project is really fun to make and it only need a few materials – egg box, green cardboard, pom poms, googly eyes, pain and glue.

Project and photo by emmaowl

Turn a plastic egg into a glowing firefly

I was lucky enough to have seen fireflies a few times in my life, but I havenโ€™t yet been able to show my kids some real ones. So I just know they will love to build some glowing fireflies while recycling plastic Easter eggs!

Project and photo by emmaowl

or into an egg cup or a pot

Since plastic Easter eggs come as a set, you might be left with some eggs after creating the firefly, and you can use them to create egg cups or even garden pots for grass or herbs.

Project and photo by littlehousebigalaska

Turn a drink carton into a herb garden

Speaking of herbs and garden, do you want to grow your own herbs and maybe even some strawberries but donโ€™t have a garden or have no space in the one you do have? Create a small garden and get the kids involved, as they will also love watering the plants and watching them grow. But first, make the ‘garden’ using a milk or juice carton. I just saved a milk carton this morning and plan to use it with the kids to grow some basil in it!

Project and photo by boulderlocavore

Turn a cardboard into a pirate ship

And yes, I will have to save another milk carton as my kids will definitely love building this pirate ship. It will be a team project, I will cut, my kids will paint, glue and decorate, and then we’ll all play together with the ship!

Project and photo by redtedart

Turn an old CD into a spinner

Are your kids fascinated by things than spin and also love beads? Than this project is for them!

Project and photo by chickenscratchny

Turn a plastic bottle in a wind spiral

And since we are here talking about things that spin, how about turning a plastic bottle into a beautiful wind spiral? All you need is plastic bottles, scissors, markers, a stick and some strings or ribbons.

Project and photo by letscampsmore

Turn a cardboard into an ornament

Do your kids love to decorate their room or the entire house? Yeah, I thought they would, they all do, don’t they? So, here is a very cute and simple art and craft project that requires a cardboard in order to obtain a lovely Llama ornament!

Project and photo by natashalh

Turn two cereal boxes into a foldable doll house

Yes, I did write ‘foldable’, because this is what you can obtain by using two cereal boxes: a house that can be folded and taken along!

Project and photo by RedTedArt

Turn a cardboard into a shield and sword

Cardboard must be the most versatile recycled material, don’t you think? So far we’ve seen how to create doll houses, pirate ships and ornaments, but what do you think about this shield and sword?

Project and photo by RedTedArt

Turn bottle caps into magnets

Fridge magnets from bottle caps can be a fun project and can lighten up the kitchen. All they need is bottle caps, round magnets, clear glue, yellow spray paint, black paint marker and small googly eyes. And of course, a fridge where these cuties can be displayed!

Project and photo by mixedkreations

Except the first three project ideas, the others were kindly shared with me by their creators to share them with you on my blog. Hope you enjoyed this collection of ideas and I’m now curious which project will you try first from this list?

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