Reconnect with your child using these 12 fun recycling activities for preschoolers. Turn the TV off and ditch the gadgets to make your home more sustainable for future generations. Recycling projects make for inventive experiences that children can turn into lifelong habits.

Instead of buying new resources, explore craft ideas for kids with waste material. You don’t have to wait for Earth Day to try recycling things. Do them now by collecting items from around your home and by sorting out your rubbish before it goes in the trash.

Recycling with kids is an important activity both at home and at childcare. It shows children how we can save resources and reduces our impact on the environment. By reusing what we already have, we’re leaving more resources behind for a sustainable future. By recycling you:

  • Encourage your child to think about sustainability.
  • Reduce household waste going to landfill.
  • Save money by reusing materials for crafting ideas.
  • Involve the whole family in fun activities.

Childcare outdoor play area showing recycled tyres, ideal spaces for recycling activities for preschoolers.

What can you make out of recycled things?

There are many things that you can make out of recycled things at home, from decorations and art, to compost and planters. We’ve detailed 12 recycling ideas for kids below that you and your family can try around your home.

Sometimes, all you need to do is provide children with recycled or “found” materials. Their curious nature will do the rest. You can prompt their imagination with questions like, “What could this be?”

1. Playtime shop fronts and furniture.

Cardboard boxes are a child’s creative boon. They can turn boxes into anything, including: cubby houses, cars and shopfronts. Instead of throwing out a large packing carton, imagine all the things it could become with your child.

You can also make cardboard boxes into make believe furniture, like: washing machines, refrigerators and dryers by drawing on buttons and cutting out the door. By recycling cardboard, you can teach your child about how to act safely around white goods.

A cardboard bread and coffee shop front made from recycled things to spark childrens' imagination.

Recycling projects in your backyard.

Children love to play outdoors and where better to plan a family recycling project than in your backyard. You can recycle so many useful things, including tyres, clothing, food, bottles, tops and lids.

2. Repurpose old tyres.

Tyres have many different applications from garden beds, to sculptures and swings. If you have an old tyre or two hanging around, instead of throwing it out, think of all the different things it could become. They’re great for obstacle courses or hanging plants.

3. Build a scarecrow.

This recycling activity for preschoolers is bound to be a favourite. Build a scarecrow out of things you no longer need around the house. Decide what to use first, like some old clothing, a pair of old boots and a hat. Then work out how will you fill it out and hold it up.

4. Make garden pots, vertical gardens and terrariums.

Old containers like plastic milk cartons, soft drink bottles and ice cream containers can be repurposed into garden pots, either for hanging or placing on the ground. Decorate the recyclables with your child for an additional recycling activity.

5. Turn food waste into compost.

Creating a worm farm and compost bin for recycling your household food waste is a fun recycling activity for preschoolers. Children love to help sort out their leftovers into what’s good for the plants and what’s not.

You can also create an outdoor worm farm from an old washing machine or fridge. Get professional help to degas old refrigerators and make them safe for children.

 Scarecrow and flower pots make great recycling projects for children.

Craft ideas for kids with waste material

Plastic, rubber, glass, paper, cardboard, metal, and materials are all waste materials that we can reuse around the home for recycling projects, craft and art activities.

6. Reuse glass jars.

Glass jars, short or tall, can be recycled into craft ideas or repurposed into useful holders. Next time you need a new pencil caddy, reach for an empty jar. Decorate the outside with paint or add a painted-paper insert to brighten up its look.

You can also reuse jars for:

  • Home-made jams.
  • Snow globes.
  • Glitter or galaxy jars
  • Terrariums.
  • Holding and cleaning paint brushes
  • Storing oils and spices.
  • Vases.

7. Craft with ice cream containers.

Ice cream containers are another useful item for recycling. You can combine them to make a paper rubbish bin, or cover them with felt and other material to make them into fancy arts and crafts like these DIY Santa Claus heads.

8. Build a robot from boxes.

Build a robot out of cereal packs, cardboard tubes and other small cardboard boxes like those used for toothpaste packaging. With some sticky-tape and glue, ideas are as endless as a child’s imagination. For a finishing touch, paint the final creation.

9. Create a diorama with a shoebox and loose things.

Dioramas are 3D models of a scene, which can be made from shoeboxes. Pick a theme, paint the background inside the box using poster paint then reuse other small boxes and loose recyclable material to create the scene.

Child sits at desk facing recycled pencil caddies made from glass jars a craft idea for kids with waste material.

Other recycling ideas for kids

Rather than throw out the old, you may find a new way for it to be reused. Before you discard it, ask your child “Would you find this interesting to play with?” If it is safe to use still, even if it doesn’t work the way it once did, it could still have a purpose in your household.

10. Reuse old kitchen utensils

Instead of throwing out old pans and pots, you can reuse these in the garden as flower pots or give them to your child for sensory play with sand, mud or water. They’ll also be over the moon to have real pots and pans in their pretend-play cardboard kitchen.

11. Recycling ice cream lids.

If you’re looking for something to mix paint on, ice cream lids make a useful paint pallet, especially when showing how to combine colours like red, yellow and blue. You can also use ice cream lids for decorations and coasters.

12. Repurpose old typewriters and electronic gadgets.

A child can have hours of fun roleplaying with old typewriters, keyboards, calculators and mobile phones. Add them to your cardboard playtime shops. These old gadgets are not finished yet as they can also be used to encourage a preschooler to learn letters and numbers.

For your child’s safety, remove old chords and batteries from electric gadgets.

Child sits in front of a typewriter learning letters. Use old gadgets for fun recycling ideas for kids.

Nurture your child’s love for nature at Petit Early Learning Journey

At Petit ELJ, our programs are supported by early childhood education and care pedagogy and the Early Years Learning Framework. This includes our interactive naturalistic outdoor playscapes where children’s ideas, curiosities and imagination inspire our curriculum.

If you’d like to learn more about creating experiences for your child using recycled materials to nurture their creativity and thinking, and how we encourage connections with the natural world, come for a tour at your nearest centre.

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