Recycle Box Challenge for kids

Sep 13, 2014

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 As a way to try and re-use more of our waste on a more consistent basis (instead of just storing handy bits for those "one day" projects), I started up a weekly Recycle Box Challenge for my kids.

I love that this challenge encourages my children to think creatively and look "outside the box." 
It allows them to practice skills such as cutting, painting and fine-motor. It allows them to test ideas, to problem solve and to put designs into action.

The end result is never the main focus, however. It is the process, including both the cognitive and physical processes, that an open-ended activity such as this provides, that is important.

How to set up a Recycle Box Challenge for your kids.

Doing a weekly recycle box challenge with your kids couldn't be easier. In a basket or a box, put some basic arty/crafty supplies that your children can use to help transform the recycled goods into creations from their imagination. Then, as the week goes by, add any random bits of recycled packaging straight into their challenge basket. The great thing about this is that the combination of materials is always changing, which means the possibilities for creations, is always changing too.

Every week, our recycle challenge basket contains:
  • Paints/paintbrush/paint pallet 
  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • Some variety of string/ribbon
Each week, various recycled goods are added such as:
  • plastic bottle tops
  • foil/aluminium packaging
  • plastic bottles/containers
  • wrapping paper
  • cardboard boxes
  • ribbons
  • divided containers
  • clean washed cans/tins
  • string bags
Keeping the combination of materials different each week will encourage your children to look for different ways to use the materials.

One of my favourite parts of the experience is watching them dive through the box/basket to see what's in there. I love popping the odd sparkling treasure or something a little special in the bottom on occasions to see their delight when they discover it. Sometimes, it's almost like you can see the wheels of their mind turning with each piece they discover as they start formulating ideas about how they could work together and what they could create.

Handy Tips:

Simplify this activity for younger children by providing less materials and your assistance. Give children creative control over the pieces they'd like to use and how they'd like to use them but be there to help with taping things together, holding things in place, etc. 

Extend this activity and take the learning further by first encouraging children to look through the materials available and then formulate and write/draw a plan or design of their creation. They can then work from this plan and evaluate what they need to adapt and see how it evolves as they create. Children can also write about their end result and the process they took to get there. Did their end design turn out as they originally planned? Why/why not?

Get well set up before they start. Creativity can be a messy process so be prepared before you start by putting down splash mats and having cleaning supplies like a damp cloth and something to mop up spills at the ready.

Talk with your child about what they are doing and ask them questions. This will help them understand the physical and mental processes they are going through as well as giving them the vocabulary to describe it. While children are being creative and focused,  it can be a great time to talk about sensitive issues and their feelings. (Obviously children also just need the time to be left alone with their thoughts and creative processes so don't feel the need to talk or ask them questions the entire time)

- Use new language and descriptive words like, "creating" "design" "process" etc. This will help with their language development.

- Still feeling creative? Here are some of our other creative ideas for kids. 
(click on the pictures to go to the post)

 art for kids, fun art, canvas art   painting activity, kids activity, activity for kids  activities for kids  kids art

More activities using Recycled Materials

Would your kids enjoy a recycle box challenge?

Happy creating,
Debs :)

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  1. Love this and will definitely have to try it! Thanks for sharing xx

  2. That looks like so much fun. We had a 'useful box' prior to moving but most of it ended up in the recycling bin so I will definitely have to start one up again. Thanks for the reminder :)

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  9. Thanks for the great article. I will definitely use the tips indicated in the article! I am of the opinion that children need to be taught and explained that the environment needs to be taken care of, that garbage and old things are not needed, toys need to be recycled .

  10. Hello everyone, I recently played a similar game with my child. And I'll tell you it was definitely cool. We visited friends in West London and our child gave them his products from recycled bottles. They were delighted with such a lovely gift. This made our communication even more intimate and pleasant. Thank you for the idea.

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