In our own personal dwellings many of us rely on our family members to pitch in and help keep our living areas clean, healthy, and tidy for all of us. Regardless of the chore- big or small, we all play an essential part in keeping our homes running smoothly. We also teach our children to pick up after themselves, personal responsibility through chores, and how to be considerate of their surroundings and others in their environment. Well, the planet on which we live is much like our own homes. We all must play a part to ensure that the Earth remains a healthy and thriving place, and that effort includes our children.
Most kids show little to no interest in things like fuel emissions, pollution, or the extinction of entire species. Which is understandable. Why would a child worry about oil spills affecting an ecosystem when they have way more fun things to worry about like video games, dolls, bikes, and toys? Honestly, our environmental issues shouldn’t be their problem because after all- they are just kids and they have played no part in causing these issues. It is however, a problem that they will inherit from us one day and regretfully so, but what if there was a fun and easy way to make our children an effective part of the solution?
What if we taught our children important values like reducing waste, horticulture, and caring for the Earth without them even knowing that they were learning a lesson? Just like any other chore, kids have a lot more fun when you make a game out of it, and through playing and learning our children can develop healthy habits that will last them a lifetime, even when it comes to caring for Mother Earth.
In case you missed last week’s article- Our Planet, Their Future, I had outlined some awesome crafts for kids of all ages that can help children to develop these healthy habits in a way that is entertaining and exciting for the whole family. These tiny little habits and tidbits that they learn when combined, make a monumental effort toward preserving the planet and quite literally one day will make “all of the difference in the world”. Here are 5 new and creative ways to teach your kids how to upcycle, recycle, and give back to the environment while enjoying themselves at the same time.
If you are anything like me, you have at least one stack of dusty or already read magazines lying around your home. While all paper products can be recycled through your regular trash, why not recycle them into a beautiful piece of art that you and your child can create together instead?
What You’ll Need: Magazines/newspaper/printed graphics of any kind, scissors, a pencil, construction paper, computer paper, glue.
Have your child skim through the magazines or newspaper for any fun shapes, words, or patterns that they like. For the little ones, parents can choose to pre-cut graphics and images out for them.
On a piece of computer paper have your child make a collage out of these images. Fill up any blank spaces and overlap as many images as they’d like until they are happy with the overall look of their collage. Glue each picture down as they go. If they have favored images they want to showcase -have them put those ones on top of the collage and towards the middle of the page. That way you don’t lose them when cutting out your stencil shape later. Bonus points if you use a recycled piece of computer paper (like a misprinted page for example). Whatever image or print is on the paper will be completely covered by the collage so no worries.
While your child is working on their collage, the parents will be making a stencil. For this particular project, it is a silhouette of a child but you can choose any shape you’d like. (Examples: an elephant, a teddy bear, a robot, etc.). You want to go for a simple shape that will be easily recognizable by just the outline. An easy cheat is to trace or print an image off of the computer, but if you are feeling artistic go ahead and draw one yourself. Cut out the image when you are finished as neatly as possible- creating a stencil.
Once the glue has dried on your child’s collage, use your stencil to cut out the image in your desired shape. Do not worry about where on the collage you place your stencil or the parts cut away, the randomness of the graphics is part of the effect.
For the last step, carefully place and glue the silhouette collage to a colored piece of construction paper. Black gives a dramatic effect, but any color will do. Hang your combined work of art to proudly display and make sure to recycle the scraps of paper left over as well.
Coffee Can Compost
This is an awesome craft for your little gardener or for the kid that loves to play in the mud. Compost is a great resource in any garden, large or small. I happen to live in an apartment so I don’t have a large garden. I have a small patch of soil in the front of my building that my mother uses for her garden, and flower pots throughout my house. Naturally, that means I also don’t have room for a compost bin. So instead I’ve improvised and used a coffee can compost bin, including my kids in on all the gross and yucky fun.
What You’ll Need: An empty coffee container, a scissor or knife, compost materials.
All you need to make a small discrete compost bin of your own is to take a coffee can and poke some small holes into the lid. The coffee can itself will hold in the smell of the compost bin very well, so keep the holes small for this purpose. About 12 holes should do the trick. You can begin your compost pile with basically any scraps in your kitchen but no meat or dairy!
Sprinkle a small amount of soil into the bottom of the can to get things going. Only use items that are biodegradable and break down into soil like eggshells, coffee grinds, vegetable scraps and things of that nature. As your family adds more stuff to the can, be sure to aerate the compost. With a small tool or utensil, gently turn the contents of the can, like a garner would soil. This will help to produce compost faster by letting air in to work its magic. Snap the lid on and in a few weeks you will have a renewable tool that will improve any small or large garden.
This is a great lesson for your kid’s on what types of items are biodegradable and that are safe to return into the Earth, as well as which items will not break down and should be recycled or discarded properly. For extra gross fun, you can add earthworms to your compost can and they can aerate your soil free of charge.
Plastic Bag Jumping Rope
I’ve seen plastic grocery bags upcycled in many ways but this one is by far the coolest. This is a craft that any child capable of making a braid can create.
What You’ll Need: Plastic grocery bags, scissors, duct tape, a rubber band.
Lay the grocery bag flat on a table, lining up the edges so it is even. Cut vertical strips of plastic bag, each about 1.5- 2 inches wide. Do not cut the bag horizontally; you want to keep the bag together at the bottom so that the strips are doubled up and less fragile. Repeat the process with as many bags as you think you’ll need to make the desired length jump rope. Parent’s may want to help out with this part.
Next, you are going to make three seperate sections of the “rope” so that they can be braided together. Take each doubled up strip that was made and tie one end to the end of another strip. Repeat this process until you have a section of the “rope” that is just a little bit longer the desired size of your actual jump rope. You want to have three sections all together for your braid when you are finished. If your child is capable of tying a secure knot, they can handle this part of the craft solo, but feel to get in on the fun anyway.
Join all three of the sections that were just made and tie the very ends on one side together with the rubber band.
Now you are ready to start braiding them, just as you would for a braided hairstyle. Help your child by holding on to the end with the rubber band so that while they braid their jump rope, it will come out tight and neat. Continue the braid as far down on the rope as possible.
With the duct tape, wrap the ends of each side of the braid to secure them and to make handles for the jump rope. All that’s left is to go outside and play!
Plastic Bottle Piggy Bank
If your child is involved in any type of sport or physical activity, chances are you have an empty Gatorade bottle or two lying around your house. Well now that bottle can be put to good use. Not only when saving the planet, but to save up spare pocket change as well. Piggy banks are great for kids for a number of reasons. Learning how to count money and the value of saving are amongst the top two in my book.
What You’ll Need: A clean regular sized Gatorade bottle, scissors, ribbon, four small water bottle caps, glue, construction paper.
First, begin by stripping the label off of the bottle and washing it thoroughly. Let it fully dry before you begin the craft.
Parents- with a scissor, cut a slit in the side of the bottle (going vertically on the pig’s back). You want the slit to be big enough to easily fit folded paper money through as you would any other piggy bank, but not too large as to where change can easily fall out.
With the side that you made the slit on facing up towards you, lay the bottle down. On the top of the bottle there is a round bubble will be the head of the pig. You are going to make two small slits for the ears of the piggy bank. Make the slits about midway on the bubble and about 2 inches apart from each other. These slits will not be straight lines like the rest. Instead they will be on a slight angle. On the very bottom edge of the bottle, make one final small slit for the piggy’s tail.
With the construction paper, cut two large “leaf” shapes for the ears of the piggy bank. Next cut a circle large enough to cover the top of the bottle cap for the nose. You can outline the shapes for your child to cut out with pen if they need assistance. Cut two smaller “leaf shapes” for the inside of the ears. Glue them on top of the larger leaf shapes, setting them aside for later.
I prefer to use a hot glue gun for the next part, but any type of strong glue or crafting glue will work. Turn the bottle over so that the slit is now facing down on the table. You will be using the four water bottle caps as legs for the pig. You want them to be towards the bottom of the bottle, but also close to the sides as well. Try your best to glue each set of the feet evenly across from each other in a straight line. That way the pig’s feet look proportionate and correct. You can make small dots with a marker to help guide your child where to glue the bottle caps if needed. Once that dries, you can flip your piggy back over.
Now your child can give their piggy bank all of it’s charming details. Glue on the nose, taking a pen or marker to give it nostrils like a pig’s snout. Insert one side of the leaf shape cutout into each of the slits along the top part of the bottle. You have just created your piggy bank’s ears. In the last slit on the bottom of the bottle, feed a small piece of ribbon through. Leave the longer length of the ribbon on the outside. Keep the ribbon about 5 inches long so that you can curl the end like a pig’s tail.
Parents- to curl the end of the pig’s tail. Hold the ribbon tightly on both ends and carefully run it against the blade of your scissors. Be mindful to fray or cut it. This will give the tail of the piggy bank it’s curly effect.
Your child can tie a decorative piece of ribbon for a bow around the piggy bank’s neck if desired, or decorate how they wish. Now your little one is ready to start saving in recycled style.
Almost every pantry has at least one or more items that comes in a can. Most of the time, once a can is opened and used, its thrown in the trash. Here is a way you can recycle those cans in your home and create beautiful custom storage holders.
What You’ll Need: Any size silver cans, glue, scissors, crafting supplies of your choice.
First, rinse and clean out all of the cans, removing the labels. Make sure there are no sharp edges that can hurt your little one.
There are hundreds of ways your child can decorate the cans so let them get creative. They can paint them, wrap them in wrapping paper, make them into robots or animals just to name a few. The possibilities are endless and there are tons of great ideas on the web if you need inspiration.
When your child is done decorating their cans, they can arrange them however they’d like, wherever they’d like. Attach them to a wall horizontally for a trendy storage area for arts and crafts supplies. Arrange them in varying sizes on a desk in a bunch to sort office or school supplies. Or use a singular can for pens and pencils on a desk or table. This craft leaves a lot up to the imagination so let them run wild. Creating a personal storage space for your kids also helps teach them important organizational skills as well.
The fun doesn’t stop at just arts and crafts. There are many more ways to get your little one’s involved and interested in the world around them. From nature walks, arts and crafts, to caring for animals, or planting a garden. Kid’s can make preserving and loving our planet a top mission without losing out on a minute of play.