Hands-On Fun with Upcycled Materials

September 23, 2021

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Grab a pile of upcycled materials from your house and let your kids have some hands-on fun with these activity ideas! It doesn’t have to cost you a dime, and your kids can have fun making crafts or experimenting with science.

cardboard tube crafts

Cardboard Tube Crafts Provide Upcycled Fun

Cardboard tubes are one of the easiest upcycled materials to collect in the average household. There are so many fun crafts your kids can make with these tubes. Here are just a few ideas to inspire you.

First, if you have a birthday party or other celebration coming up, you can make cute gift boxes from cardboard rolls. By simply pressing the cardboard roll flat and folding in the sides, you can create a great little package for small gifts or favors. Decorate with your favorite scrapbook paper and ribbons. Get your kids onboard to make a dozen or so of these tiny packages, and you’ll have some of your holiday wrapping supplies ready ahead of time!

Here’s a cute fall craft – Cardboard Tube Owls. Your younger kids will love using scraps of paper and wiggly eyes to create adorable little owls. Create a whole family and enjoy the imaginative play that happens. You might need to grab pipe cleaners and googly eyes and maybe some felt in addition to the scrap paper and paper tubes.

cardboard tube owls

Use some of these resources to learn about owls while you create Cardboard Tube Owls:

If you’re studying sea creatures in your homeschool, then add in this Cardboard Tube Octopus craft. All you need are toilet paper tubes, paint, glue, googly eyes, and mini pompoms. Your children will get to exercise their fine motor skills as they cut the bottom of the roll to create eight octo-legs.

 Check out these ocean resources:

Cardboard Tube Experiments 

You can even use upcycled cardboard tubes for hands-on science experiments. Help your kids create Dancing Puppets and they’ll get to learn about levers and how simple machines work. The arms on their cardboard tube puppets are the levers, and paper fasteners act as the balancing points. Here’s all you need to create these cute puppets:

  • toilet paper tube
  • construction paper
  • paper clips
  • string
  • brads

cardboard tube puppet

For more experiments and projects providing upcycled fun, look at these 25 Awesome Stem Challenges with Inexpensive or Recycled Materials.

Recycled Jars and Cans

Use upcycled pickle or sauce jars to create cute 3D Paint Mason Jars. You can use these for home decor or thoughtful gifts for family and friends. Puffy paint makes a great 3D effect. You could also create leaf votive jars for another crafty spin using upcycled glass jars.

What about upcycled tin cans? Try out the Mr. Potato Head Robot activity with your kids ages 3-11. This project provides a great opportunity to clean out the junk drawer. You’ll want all those bits and bobs that you find. Here are the materials you’ll need:

  • clean, empty tin cans
  • strong disc magnets or thick magnetic tape
  • hardware – pipe cleaners, buttons, corks, screws, bolts
  • hot glue gun

Your kids can design on their tin Mr. Potato Head and then take everything off and start over – because you’re using the magic of magnets! It’s a great way to use upcycled materials.

Mr. Potato Head Robot

Mr. Potato Head Robot isn’t the only thing your kids can make with upcycled tin cans. Here are more Tin Can Crafts for Kids you can try. Want even more ideas? Here are 70 Recycled Crafts for Kids that will keep your recycling bin empty and your kids busy with upcycled fun.


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