Beyond having a recycle bin in the kitchen, how can you help your kids learn to live in a more sustainable way? One way is by simply encouraging them to use their own natural creativity in a greener way. Every kid loves arts and crafts, but it's not exactly sustainable to purchase a mountain of construction paper and a river of glitter every month. Here are a few craft ideas to get you - and your kids - thinking in terms of reuse and recycle, but more creatively than just pitching the old stuff in the recycle bin.
Recycle Paper Waste: Valentine's or Other Holiday Cards
Local grocery store ads, sales flyers and catalogs fill your mailbox everyday. Consider them as holiday-themed fodder for your kids' creative card-making. Generally, your area stores will be advertising seasonal items anyway. You know how the circulars go red-and-white-and-pink just before Valentine's Day, green near St. Patrick's Day, and so on. So you have an automatic "Holiday Theme" if there's a holiday in the near future. Give your kids a template to work from: some brown craft paper, construction paper, cardboard or card stock. Then help them cut and paste pictures from the mailers to create cards for friends and family.
Reuse Old Clothes: Doll Pillows and Blankets
If you've cleaned out your closet lately, you probably ended up with a few boxes and bags full of stuff you don't want or wear. Before you haul that stash off to your local charity thrift store, pull out some of the clothes with a soft feel or pretty print and help your kids make pillows and blankets for dolls. Depending on the age of your children, you might have to do the actual sewing; older children can sew with some assistance, just be close by to supervise and assist.
For doll pillows, cut out two squares of fabric in the desired side. Put the squares together with back of the fabric facing out; sew three sides together, then flip it so the front of the fabric is out. Stuff the pillow with other fabric scraps and sew the last side shut.
For a blanket, you can simply cut out a square. Hemming or adding ribbon to the edges is optional. Get as fancy as you and your kids want.
By the way, this is a great craft idea for boys too. You can use more "masculine" fabric and help your boys get the valuable life skill of being able to sew on their own buttons or patch their own pants.
Repurpose Food Containers: A Custom Doll House
This craft can be as simple or complex as you want it to be. Older children can grasp the idea and create all sorts of structures. Younger children, who will need more hands-on help, can have fun creating a simple structure. Here's what you want to do:
- Gather up all the empty food containers you can find. Anything goes: cereal boxes, cardboard boxes from crackers, breakfast bars, and so on. Yogurt cups. Plastic sour cream containers. You get the idea.
- Next, get your decorating supplies: markers, paint, glitter, glue, and anything else that appeals. You can also take the recycling up a notch by using paper waste and old clothes as redecorating material.
The idea is simple. From the assortment of cleaned out food containers, kids can decorate and build their own custom doll house. Or castle. Or pirate ship. Or fort. Or train station. It's about whatever your kids are into.
- Help them remove flaps or edges that get in the way (sharp scissors or an X-acto knife make this job easy, that's why you'll want to help). The next step is decorating. Anything goes. Then help your kids stack containers up to create a structure. You can help them cut out windows and doors, and glue the boxes together if they want; or they can keep it simpler and construct different versions.
Any of these crafts can be simply a starting point. The concept is to look around your house for what you already have before you make a run to the store for more art or craft supplies. Chances are you'll find lots of options and spur that creative action on even more.
image: Urban Woodswalker