Parents | Raising readers & learners.

Home of Parent & Child Magazine

Twice as Nice

Reduce, reuse, recycle . . . to create, build, and learn.

Learning Benefits

Hover over each Learning Benefit below for a detailed explanation.
Problem Solving

Kids see creative potential in the funniest things. Be it paper bags, water-bottle caps, or Styrofoam peanuts, they love to take items we might call junk and magically turn them into wondrous works of art or tools or toys. The activities on this page let you join in the magic, plus they provide a natural way to teach your child about recycling while having a great time together. Finally, inventing new uses out of old materials is an excellent way to practice math, creative thinking, and problem-solving skills.

Bags Reborn

  • Make puppets with small paper bags. Flip the bag upside-down, decorate, and you’re done. For embellishments, try gluing on candy wrappers, bottle caps, and other “throwaway” items.
  • Create large, lightweight blocks by stuffing paper grocery bags with plastic shopping bags. Seal each shut by taping a piece of cardboard over the paper bag’s opening. Build a castle or a fort.
  • Play a mathematical estimation game with plastic shopping bags. Take one and invite your child to “guesstimate” how many others he can squeeze into it.

Styrofoam in the Home

  • Build a sculpture using a big Styrofoam piece (the kind for packaging large electronics) as the base. Your child can stick toothpicks into it and attach smaller foam pieces to the other end of each toothpick.
  • Make necklaces and bracelets by stringing packing peanuts on yarn or with a blunt yarn needle. Then paint each “bead” with nontoxic tempera paint mixed with a small amount of dish detergent (this allows the paint to stick).
  • Carve a design into a foam tray (from produce or fruit packaging) with a wooden skewer. Brush nontoxic tempera paint over the design, place a piece of paper on top, and rub over the design with a spoon.

Double-Duty Containers

  • Invite your child to brainstorm different ways she can use food containers (from yogurt, nuts, etc.) once they’re empty.
  • Show your child how to sort and classify recyclable objects based on size, color, or shape into empty containers. It’s a great math game.
  • Clean empty containers (and their lids) so your child can use them to carry snacks or her lunch to school. Together, decorate the containers with stickers.

The Reading Toolkit