Reuse Before Recycle: 11 Materials to Repurpose With Your Children

Chances are, those modern day children of yours have been given a great education on the importance of recycling. Do they also know how to reuse everyday materials around the house? Before setting out bins for curbside pickup or making the weekly haul to the recycling center, check to see if your family can waste less (and save money!) by using household odds and ends in all kinds of cool ways.

  1. Cereal and cracker boxes. Cut out the big sides and use the blank inside as the perfect painting canvas to keep colors from bleeding through. If all the pieces are cut to about the same size, these can easily be stored in a drawer. Cut out the top flap lids to decorate and use as bookmarks.

Reuse Recycle art supplies for kids

  1. Paper towel rolls can be turned into: rain sticks, drumsticks, a telescope, a megaphone, a marble run, stamps, a birdfeeder, paint stencils, and about a thousand more things. Google it, Mamas. A whole world awaits you.
  2. Shoe boxes. Don’t toss these in the recycling bin just yet. Slide these handy boxes under the bed for storing small toys and collectibles, or use as Lego display cases by cutting down one side for viewing. Shoebox lids can be used as a tray to hold small building blocks while playing. When playtime is over, put the pieces inside and the lid on top. Voilá! Simplest toy storage ever.
  3. Single serving yogurt containers. Clean these out, and keep a handful in the car and the travel bag to use as snack containers.
  4. The blank side of all those mailings. One person’s junk mail makes great space for a child to practice drawing or practicing alphabet letter writing.
  5. Envelopes that come with bills. You’re paying bills online now. Children can write notes and to family members in the household, or mail the notes via snail mail. It’s an opportunity for them to practice addressing envelopes, adding stamps, and mailing letters.
  6. Plastic cups—the ones you get as party favors and in swag bags. Keep a stash to set up as bowling pins in a hallway or on the driveway outside. Building up and balancing the cups is great fine motor practice for little hands. Keeping score is optional.
  7. Soup cans. Much smaller than a baking sheet, soup cans are a handy place for kids to play with all kinds of magnets. Fill with alphabet magnets for a long road trip, and a lot of fun.

Fun Recyled Object projects for kids

  1. Old/vintage muffin tins. Before getting rid of those hard-to-clean tins, use a permanent marker to write sequential numbers in each space so young children can practice counting out seeds or coins. Of course, if you give a kid a muffin tin, he’ll probably want some actual muffins to go with it.
  2. Plastic bags. Hand a bag to each child and let him use it to collect trash from the car during a long train wait, or as a regular job at the end of each week. In the house: set the timer for five minutes and give children free reign to find all the trash they can in and among those neglected couch cushions. Help out their motivation by telling them they get to keep any money they find.
  3. Newspapers. Think outside of the (litter) box. This is your chance to say “yes” to the child who loves to draw with markers. Stack several newspapers underneath to protect surfaces so the kid can scribble all over last week’s headlines.


Shopping at Rhea Lana’s is the ultimate way to reuse and recycle. Check out our calendar of events and we hope to see you there!

RL Blog Contributor Rhonda Franz.