Upcycled Summer Craft Ideas for Kids

School’s out for the summer! This is such an exciting time for kids, but it often causes a plight for parents who are hard-pressed to think of things to keep their little ones busy. With the kids home all day, it’s important to stimulate those creative minds with a few summer boredom busters. I personally like using items around the house for kids’ crafts and activities like these. It keeps the cost of crafting down and teaches kids to be creative and resourceful. Here are some great craft ideas and kids’ activities using clothespins, toilet paper rolls, paper plates, and other household items.

First things first, gather ordinary household items – that might otherwise be considered “trash” – and keep them in a bin for easy access. Keeping a box that is easily accessible to the kids will encourage them to make things. Things to look for include the following:

  • Clothespins
  • Paper plates and cups
  • Bottle caps
  • Popsicle sticks
  • Cardboard tubes
  • Small food boxes
  • Plastic jugs
  • Newspaper

Parent's Trash is a Child's Treasure

Some craft supplies are also necessary. You don’t have to spend too much or buy too many things. This short list should last all summer, depending on the number of kids you are entertaining. Items you can buy at the store include the following:

Crafting Essentials

Nature Walk

I have to admit that one of my favorite things to do with my daughter is go on nature walks. A trail near our house leads to the park. I always bring a bag or bucket for her to collect rocks, sticks, leaves, and pinecones as we walk and get some exercise and fresh air; we then use these items for crafts at home. Rocks can be painted and turned into little pets or bugs. Pinecones and sticks can be turned into “pinecone pets.” Use a large pinecone as the body and small pinecone as the head. Glue on small sticks for the arms, legs, and tail, and glue on leaves for little ears. You can also glue on wiggly eyes. Your kids can paint their new pets or leave them as is! Get creative, and make pets that sit up or stand on all fours.

Note: Collecting natural items from trails and the great outdoors is a contentious issue. Please do not pick or destroy living plants or animals, and strict rules may govern what you can or cannot take with you from national parks or protected areas. Always try to leave no trace when gathering crafty items, even from your own backyard!

Clothespin Crafts

If you can’t go outside, you can work on several indoor crafts that are just as fun and amusing. Let’s start with a few clothespin crafts. When I look at a clothespin, I see so many things! In fact, my daughter and I have made many toys using clothespins, such as dolls, airplanes, and caterpillars. To make a doll, paint on a face and use yarn or construction paper to make a shirt, pants, or dress. You can use the split in the clothespin as legs. To make an airplane, cut foam strips for the wings and tail and glue them on. To make a caterpillar, glue mini pompoms along the side of the clothespin for the body. You can add wiggly eyes on the head and use a small piece of twine or pipe cleaner bent in half for the antennas.

Clothespins Crafts

Cardboard Tube Crafts

Just as with clothespins, we are avid toilet-paper-roll and paper-towel-roll crafters in this family. I try to save every single tube. With a little imagination, you can turn a cardboard tube into any type of animal. We have made spiders, bunnies, and even a reindeer. To make a spider, cut two slits halfway up the tube, cutting out a narrow rectangle. Repeat this on the “back.” Cut four slits on the remaining sides to represent eight legs. Bend the legs at the base of the body and at the middle of each slit. Paint your spider black or brown and add wiggly eyes. To make a bunny, use construction paper to make the eyes, nose, feet, and ears, and glue them on to the cardboard tube body so your bunny is standing up. Don’t forget to add some whiskers made of pipe cleaners and a pompom for the tail. To make a deer, cut a toilet paper roll in half. On one half, cut four holes on the bottom for the legs and a hole on the top for the neck. On the other half, cut two holes on top for antlers and one hole on the bottom for the neck. Insert sticks gathered from your nature walk into the holes to make your deer.

Paper Plate Crafts

Oh, the possibilities! Plates can be used to make hats, purses, animals, flowers, and bugs! Using the plate as a head, your child can use paper, paint, and glue to make eyes, ears, noses, and mouths for virtually any type of animal. You can also use a paper plate as the body, and add wings for a bird, chick, or owl or fins for a fish. Fold the plate in half and turn it into a watermelon, an orange, or fruit slices. Another option is to make a purse by gluing the sides together and leaving an opening at the top. Punch holes on each side and use yarn to make a strap.

Recycled Craft Games

You can also make games with your treasure chest of recycled goodies using these three fun ideas.

  • 1) Cut the centers out of a few paper plates to make rings, and then paint the rings. Make a ring toss by securing a paper towel roll onto a weighted food box and having your kids throw the rings onto the paper towel roll.
  • 2) Cut 3-inch holes in the centers of two paper plates. Glue the insides of the plate together at the edges to form a Frisbee. The kids can paint or color them any way they choose.
  • 3) Paint 10 empty plastic bottles. Place sand, rocks, or pebbles inside each bottle (about a third of the way full) to weigh them down. There you have it – instant bowling!

Easy Upcycled Ring Toss

Summertime offers a fantastic opportunity to get creative with your kids and make some lasting memories. As you can see, you can make many great crafts with kids of all ages without spending a lot of money. This summer, take the time to turn something ordinary into an extraordinary work of art and turn trash into treasured memories with your kids.

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