Sunday, January 13, 2008

Kids Turn Crap Into Crafts And Much More

The "Art" of Re-Using

I'm just two days into Chile Chews Rethink-It Challenge and I've had an epiphany. While the little rascals generate a lot of waste, children are invaluable in their ability to take complete and utter trash, literally and figuratively, and have fun turning it into something meaningful or, at least, memorable.

Broken chopstick? A la kids, it is a stir stick for the stepping stone kit they got for Christmas. Heck, that kit also made me wish I had saved my son's broken ceramic piggy bank and all other pottery shattered in the last year.

Empty frozen pizza box (yeah, you caught me)? Turn it inside out and it's an extra large piece of cardboard begging for some drawing.

Got the bug to draw some more? The long butcher block type paper that comes in some shipping boxes is the cure. Better yet, you can use it as a fire starter when the kids are done (and not looking). In fact, I save almost any kind of paper used for packaging because it is usually much larger than normal and can become a cool map, or "deerskin" or what have you.

Bean bag chair too flat? No problem, just re-use the cover to corral the stuffed animals your little one collects.

Too much art work? Doh! Here's where you get some real insight into my parenting. Ask yourself: how much of your child's art work do you want to keep? Both my kids go to preschool where they prolifically fashion seasonal bits of art (some meaningful, some not) and then come home and create some more. I save the most precious and send some to grandmothers and great grandmothers around the state. As for the rest, it gets disassembled into its various parts and re-used, recycled or tossed as appropriate. The googly eyes, plastic buttons, fake gemstones and pipe cleaners go into the "craft bin" in my sons' closet to await the next masterpiece. What's left is recycled, if it can be, and if it cannot, alas, to the dump it goes.

Yogurt container? Perfect paint holder. Old toothbrush? Here's your next paintbrush.

The list could go on and on forever but, to be honest, a pack rat I am not. I'm only a fan of keeping stuff for re-use if it can be easily organized (meaning it is fairly small - think googly eyes), will actually be used and will be used this century. I don't have much interest in a garage full of empty bulk sized yogurt containers and toothbrushes. The beauty, though, is this is where the schools come in.

That's right! If you have kids and they go to school, you can foist off a ton of items for re-use on their teachers and thereby ease your environmentalist's conscience. (Of course, it is better to reduce than to re-use but you get the drift).

Wine corks become reindeer or branches for fall trees.

Strawberry baskets are Easter baskets (though I prefer to return these to the farmer's market).

Egg cartons convert into seed starters, bell shaped Christmas ornaments, tulips, caterpillars etc.

Oatmeal and coffee bins transform into drums.

Toilet paper rolls are binoculars, paper towel rolls are telescopes and wrapping paper rolls are swashbuckling swords.

Paper bags are used for returning school work to the rightful family.

Plastic bags house dirty diapers.

Plastic wipes boxes store crayons, markers and such.

Pie tins turn into paint trays.

Holey socks? Yup, they'll even take those or other too well-worn clothes or shoes and use them as "school clothes" for when a child needs a change of clothes that the parents haven't provided. I know because my youngest came home in "school socks" filled with holes after a certain incident last week. Wish I'd know that the week before when I tossed a pair of child's threadbare socks.

Plastic lid from a wipes container? Now this I'd never seen before until a particularly ingenious teacher used them to create "secret doors."

This list is just the tip of the quickly melting iceberg but I will say that Chile's Challenge got me re-thinking. Some of this we were already doing but now, whenever I go to put something in the can, I'll look at it more closely and wonder "what can the kids do with this?".


Chile said...

Dang, Green Bean, this post almost makes me wish I'd had kids just to be avid little re-users. Almost. Since I didn't, I'll re-think what I could donate to the nearby school when I don't have a use for it. Good job!

Raw Vegan Mama said...


I love your ideas! We do many of them, and I used to donate tons to the schools, too!


Ruthie said...

Green bean,

I am new to your blog and TOTALLY digging it. It has inspired me SO much so far! I already read your entire archive. You go girl!

Green Bean said...

Thank you, Chile and RVM. Once you start thinking about re-using, it's amazing what you actually do re-use. Loving the challenge, Chile.

Ruthie, welcome! I'm so glad you've made it over here. :) I can't believe you've read the entire archive already. You rock! ;-)

arduous said...

What a great post! Like Chile, this post almost made me want to have babies now! Almost. I think I'm going to have to stick to my original plan of waiting until I'm settled. ;)But, when I do have kids, I'll be thinking re-use, re-use, re-use.

RecycleCindy said...

Great ideas and I love trash to treasure posts. May I add recycled plastic bag crafts to your list? Children can crochet or knit cool bags and totes from plastic bags. I have many different free patterns which can be used for children's crafts. Here is the pattern link page

Best wishes on your site. I really enjoyed reading your blog site!

Green Bean said...

Thanks Cindy! Love the idea of using recycled bags to crochet and knit. Thanks for sharing.


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