Feeling creative this winter? Wanting to make use of everyday recyclable products? Put your recycling to good use with our crafty crate of conservation-themed creativity!
For families that love outdoor adventuring, winter can seem pretty glum at times. But endless rainy weekends stuck inside can be the perfect time to try your hand at getting arty and crafty. And by setting up a conservation-themed craft crate, not only can you bring the outdoors inside, but have some educational fun!
You don’t have to be an expert crafter; children are naturally creative, so let them take the lead. You might just need to help them out with any tricky cutting or sticking bits, especially if glue guns are involved. And children of all ages can get stuck in at their own pace if you provide the ‘raw’ materials.
Setting up your crate well means you’ve done all the hard thinking up front. Then every time it comes out, there’s a new adventure and a new lesson just waiting amongst the recycled treasures.
First you need a large box, plastic or cardboard. Make it special by decorating it and labelling it. In fact, setting up your crate is the first fun activity!
what to put in your crate
Keep an eye on your every-day rubbish for things that could be recycled into the conservation craft crate. Look out for items that can have multiple uses. For example, a milk bottle top is a good base for bugs and spiders, octopus, or as googly eyes for robots. Toilet roll holders can be bodies for everything from butterflies to penguins or the trunks of trees!
Some useful items to include are:
- Cardboard: cereal boxes, shoe boxes, toilet roll tubes, egg cartons, takeaway coffee holders.
- Old cards from birthdays and Christmas, wrapping paper and envelopes, ribbons and tissue.
- Old magazines or junk mail flyers, lolly wrappers and foil.
- Plastic bottle tops, twisty ties and plastic bag fasteners.
- Buttons (although not suitable for under-2s), scraps of wool, lace, felt or material.
- Corks, blocks of wood, sponges or old toothbrushes – all good for stamping or painting.
- Plastic containers recycled from laundry soakers are useful to for keeping felt pens and paintbrushes in – decorate these too if you like.
- Before you throw any magazine away, rip out any pages with interesting pictures and sort these into large recycled envelopes, labelled by theme (animal, floral, vehicles, etc) – or by colour.
You will need to pack some basic craft essentials in the crate:
- pva glue and cellotape, glue stick and double-sided tape
- scissors and hole punches
- coloured card
- felt pens, paint brushes and paint, sponge stamps.
- stock up on accessories like eyes, pipe cleaners, feathers, beads, glitter, stickers, etc, when you see them on special. Keep little items like these in a multi-compartment sewing or tackle box.
Include any scavenged items from trips outdoors – shells from the beach, pebbles, driftwood, dried leaves or pressed flowers. Photos of some of your adventures are always inspirational as well.
Your crate could also include a special CD – pick one that inspires creative thinking or compile your own themed soundtrack to go with each theme card. For example, an ocean-themed soundtrack could include ‘Octopus’s garden’, ‘Yellow submarine’, ‘Beyond the sea’ or any song from Disney’s ‘The Little Mermaid’.
themes help parents become teachers
Include some theme cards to help you decide what to make each time the crate comes out. Each card has a heading and a list of ideas of things to make and do. Don’t forget to decorate them.
The theme cards help you focus the craft activities so it becomes more than just making stuff to fill in a day, but another opportunity to learn in a really fun way. Parents play a really important role as first teachers, particularly when it comes to instilling conservation values.
Some suggested themes could include: life under the ocean, animal homes, colours of the forest, magic gardens, our greatest adventure, nightlife, become a geologist, forest bird masquerade!
The possibilities are endless, but think about whole ideas that allow you to explore some concepts like habitats (where things live), the web of life, or biodiversity. For example, if you make some bugs, make them a garden to live in too. Ask the children for their ideas too.
expand your ‘library’ of craft ideas
Keep looking out for new ideas for craft activities in parenting magazines, books from your local library and websites; for example, the ‘Recyclopedia’ (www.reuseit.co.nz) is a great resource. You can photocopy or print off the best ideas and keep them in a clear-file folder in the crate so it’s all in one place. Alternatively, you could include the URL of the website or blog on your theme card lists so you can find them again later.
Some of my favourite website or blog posts are:
- Reuseit.co.nz – home of the Recyclopedia
- Artfulparent.com – blog
using your crate
Save your crate up for really special occasions when it’s particularly stormy, when everyone is particularly glum, or particularly inspired.
Go through the theme cards and pick your Theme of the Day.
Spread newspaper out on the floor, put on some music and then help your children create exciting things using the materials.
When you have finished with the rainy day conservation crate, everything should be cleaned and packed away nicely so that next time you open the box, it’s just as exciting as last time.
here is one theme with some crafty ideas to get you started!
Glamour bug garden
Ladybug – cover a milk-bottle top in red or gold foil. Blacken the tips of a bread-bag tag and glue it to the front of the bottle top as feelers. Cut wings out of card and glue those on top – don’t forget the spots. Attach six legs underneath using black twist-ties or pipe cleaners.
Spiders – paint your bottle top and sprinkle with glitter, add some googly eyes and attach eight legs.
Toilet-roll butterfly – either paint the toilet roll or wrap in wrapping paper – we used the wrapping from a bunch of flowers. Use wrapping paper for wings, draw or glue on googly eyes, add pipe-cleaner feelers.
Egg-carton caterpillar – cut up the carton into compartments, then paint and decorate. Punch a hole in each piece and thread together with wool or ribbons; knot inside each piece. Make a face on one end; attach pipe-cleaner or twisty-tie feelers.
Now make them a glamorous garden to live in. Cut open a large cereal box as the base of your backdrop. Paint, draw or glue on tissue paper for flowers. Bottle tops can be flower centres. Let your bugs explore. Maybe put on a show and tell a story!
Sarah Mankelow has worked in conservation for over 15 years and is mother of two nature-loving, crafty kids.
more craft ideas from tots to teens: