Recycled Art and Your Child   


"One man's trash is another man's treasure"


Most of us are probably aware of the need of recycling and how it helps our environment. We are running out of landfill spaces in the United States and by recycling products, not only do we diminish the amount of trash going into our landfill spaces, but we save our natural resources by making new products from discarded materials.

Children can be taught to recycle from an early age and encouraged to use their imagination by examining the trash they are going to throw away to see if it can be used as a resource and therefore turning trash to treasures.

Since long ago Artists have used discarded materials to create wonderful works of art. Their fresh and whimsical art has become popular and now we can find art exhibitions of purely recycled art as well as competitions.

Creating art from recycled materials is very inexpensive and the artwork can vary from very simple to complex. Kids can express their creativity by using newspapers,

A) When you find an object you want to use for art, make sure that it’s safe for kids to use. Although broken dishes or pottery can be used to make wonderful mosaics, it’s best to keep kids away from sharp objects.

B) Make sure that the object you will use is completely clean. If it’s made of something you cannot wash and it’s dirty, do not use it for art. If you can wash the item with soap and water than go ahead.

C) Keep the recycled materials you will use for art in a box marked “For Recycled Art” so they will not be thrown away by accident. You can probably decorate your box very nicely with recycled items!

With that in mind, you are ready to fill your Recycled Art Box full of things. Here are some items you may have around your house and some ideas for your recycled art projects.

1) Paper-Scraps of good paper, magazine pages, junk mail, newspapers, gift wrap paper, old greeting cards…etc.

Projects: You can make collages, paper mache sculptures, paper beads for jewelry, decoupage items that need a new look, make a mask out of a trash bag or try paper origami. Make a caterpillar our of egg cartons, a mosaic artwork or even your own paper for greeting cards or gift wrapping.

2) Fabrics-Any scrap of fabric can be used for art projects.

Projects: You can use old socks or stocking to make puppets, collages out of fabric, cover boxes with nice material, cover a picture frame out of cardboard with fabric. You can also frame beautiful clothing that has meaning to you but your child has out grown and turn it into a piece of art.

3) Cardboard-Shoe boxes, left over cardboard, toilet or paper towel rolls, etc.

Project-You can paint or decoupage boxes for storing all kinds of materials such as your own photo box, art supplies or sticker collection. Use toilet paper or paper towel rolls to turn into kaleidoscopes, animal figures or make music instruments. Use cardboard as a canvas.

4) Glass bottles-From soda bottles to baby food jars. 

Projects: You can use glass paint and turn a bottle into a vase, use tissue paper with glue on the outside of baby jar for a candle holder, or fill it with color sand.

5) Yarn-Strings or old shoe laces

Project: You can teach kids to weave by using a cardboard as a background and yarn to weave a small piece, make a mandala with two sticks and yarn, glue yarn on paper to make a shape, wrap it around bottles or wire for a pretty design. String some beads for jewelry.

6) Leaves-Twigs and dry flowers or petals.

Project: After you dry leaves completely between the pages of an old book, you can draw a mural with pencil and then glue the leaves on the wall or closet door to fill in your design. You can use plain white glue to protect mural when finished. You can use them to decoupage boxes or collages. You can also do “rub on art” by placing a piece of paper on top of the leave and rubbing a crayon or pencil and see the leave appear before you very own eyes.

7) Styrofoam- Cups or from packing materials.

Projects: You can make doll furniture by gluing pieces together, gluing paper on the surface and then painting them. Cover a big piece with fabric to make it a Pin board for your artwork. Cut into shapes and dip them into paint to make stamp art.

8) CD’s-Put all those free CD’s to use.

Project: You can paint the CD with Acrylic or oil paint and do scratch art. You can do a kid’s mobile, a wreath, paint and seal for coasters. Use them to draw perfect circles for your artwork or turn them into Christmas ornaments.

9) Wire-Coat hangers, florist wire or left over hardware wire.

Project: You can bend the wire into a nice shape such a flower, wrap it around a pebble or piece of wood for the base and use it as a picture holder. Make a sculpture. Put the wire through beads and make a key chain or jewelry. Wrap an old wire coat hanger with yarn to turn into a pretty new coat hanger.

10) Tin Cans-Food cans and other aluminum products.

Projects: Make a drawing on a piece of paper that you can wrap around the tin can and turn it into a pencil (brushes and pens too) holder. Use tin cans to mix paints. Fill it with water, freeze it, draw a design with markers and parents can take it outside and use a nail and a hammer to trace the design and turning it into an outdoor candle holder.
These are only a few of the many items you can recycle to make great pieces of art. There is no limit to your imagination, so go ahead and do your share of recycling trash into treasures!



Gladys Jimenez is a mother,  artist, and author. She currently lives in Escondido, California. You may contact Glad by email at or visit happy

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