Updated: May 5, 2020
One of the silver linings of not being able to shop as easily is an increase in our creativity! Many of us are putting a little more effort into looking around the house to see what can be repurposed before heading to the store.
Parents may have even more reason to think outside the box. I know I am constantly trying to find unique ways to keep my kids engaged and out of each other's hair. Luckily (yet unfortunately for the Earth), there is no shortage of trash, even with today's shopping limitations. If something is going to be tossed or recycled anyway, why not use it for an activity first?
Below are two of my favorite materials to repurpose and three activities you can do with each. But why stop there? There are thousands of crafts and other activities one can do with recyclable materials. See what you have lying around!
Cardboard Egg Cartons
There are several activities you can do with egg cartons, some of which must be done with the biodegradable variety (see below). Here are three of my favorite activities to do with egg cartons. I will typically buy eggs that come in a cardboard, recyclable carton, but browse around online for other ideas if you happen to have plastic or styrofoam cartons.
1. Flower Mobiles
Cardboard egg carton
Paints, markers, or crayons (any kind)
Yarn or string
Cut each "cell" apart, dividing the bottom half of the egg carton into 12 pieces. Cut triangles out of each side of these cells leaving "petal" shapes. Allow children to paint or color the flowers. After they are dry, roll each petal around a pencil to give it a nice curve outward.
When each of the flowers are done, poke a hole through the bottoms and string several onto one string. I like to make mine asymmetrical, stringing one with 3 flowers, another with 4 flowers, and the center string with 5 flowers. Tie these strings from a stick to complete the mobile!
For more details and pictures, check out this link where I found the idea.
2. Seed Starters
Egg Carton (must be biodegradable)
This one is pretty simple! Start by cutting the lid off of your egg carton. With a pencil or other pointy object, poke holes in the bottom of the egg cells for water drainage. Place the lid underneath the bottom to catch excess water. Fill each cell with soil and plant your seeds, following the instructions on the seed packets for planting, watering, positioning, and relocating. These biodegradable cells can be planted right into your garden bed after the seeds have sprouted! Tear away at the bottom of the cell before planting to help the roots establish.
Want to take your recycle gardening up a notch? Try regrowing some of your vegetable scraps! Here is a list of some of the plants you can grow from food you may have already purchased.
3. Bird Feeders
This final activity is also super easy! Simply string yarn from the edges of your egg carton, fill it with birdseed, hang and enjoy!
Be sure to remove and properly dispose of your egg carton once it is empty or if it gets saturated by rain. You will not want to reuse this bird feeder, as bird waste and bacteria can collect, posing a risk to the birds.
Empty Paper Towel or Toilet Paper Rolls
1. TP Binoculars
2 Sanitized toilet paper rolls
Markers, paint, or colored tape
String or yarn
Begin by decorating the toilet paper (or cut paper towel rolls) as you would like. This can be done with colored tape, paint, markers, stickers - whatever you'd like! Keep in mind that wetter mediums like watercolor paint may cause the rolls to bend and buckle. Allow the rolls to dry before hot gluing the two rolls together. Other glue can be used, but will need a longer drying time. Use a hole punch, tape, or glue to secure a string from one end to the other, leaving enough length that the child can slip the string over their neck and allow the binoculars to hang.
Watch children carefully as they play with their binoculars to be sure the string does not tangle or catch on anything. Alternatively, the strings can left off for a safer option.
2. TP Owls
Paper towel or toilet paper rolls
Start by pressing down two edges of one side of a TP roll to create a curve along the top and two "ears". Cut the yellow paper into tiny beaks and talon shapes to be glued on to the roll (interesting fact: owls are zygodactyl, meaning they usually stand with two toes forward and two toes backward!). Next have the kids glue on the eyes and feathers to finish their owl crafts.
Take this activity one step further by teaching the kids about owls as they create their own! See this link for 13 Fun Facts About Owls.
3. TP Bird Feeders
Paper towel or toilet paper rolls
*Use honey or sun butter for a nut-free option
Using a craft stick or butter knife, spread peanut butter (or your nut-free option) around the toilet paper rolls. If you're using a paper towel roll, it may be easier to cut it into smaller sections. Pour birdseed into a bowl or plate. Roll your peanut-butter-covered rolls in the seeds until all sides are covered. Hang strings through the rolls and tie them onto branches! It may take a few days for birds to discover the feeders, therefore watch for rain and bring them inside until the storm passes. Upon clear weather, the feeders can be placed back outside for hungry birds!
Be sure to collect and properly dispose of empty TP rolls and string.