Category Archives: Art of Recycling

Scrap Paper Masterpiece

If your children or students work with construction paper often, you probably have a constant supply of colorful scraps that you either recycle, or hoard for a future projects. Here is a project perfect for using those scraps while introducing an art masterpiece – Pablo Picasso’s “Main aux Fleurs”. We used our scrap paper to create our own compositional arrangement.


For inspiration we looked at the Picasso and discussed it. In “Main aux Fleurs” one friend gives another a bouquet of handpicked flowers. The four amusing flowers are brightly painted blue, yellow, red and orange as the bouquet is passed from hand to hand.

We gathered our scraps and found flesh colored paper for the hands, traced the kid’s hands and cut them out. Then they cut and tore out shapes for the flowers, leaves, and stems. They glued the “receiving” hand down on a sheet of white paper and then started to arrange the stems, flowers and leaves and glue them in place. Finally they glued the “giving” hand on top of the arrangement.

We also read a few children’s books about Picasso and a creative spirit:

  • When Pigasso met Mootisse by Nina Laden
  • Picasso and the Girl with a Ponytail by Laurence Anholt
  • Ish by Peter H. Reynolds



We learned a few fun facts about Picasso in the process, such as:

  • Picasso’s full name included 23 words – Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Martyr Patricio Clito Ruíz y Picasso.
  • Picasso’s father was a museum curator and art teacher
  • Picasso got in trouble a lot at school because he did not like to be told what to do and “For being a bad student I was banished to the ‘calaboose’ – a bare cell with whitewashed walls and a bench to sit on. I liked it there, because I took along a sketch pad and drew incessantly … I could have stayed there forever drawing without stopping”

Because my children enjoyed this project I intend to introduce more masterpieces to the kids this way and share them here – so stay tuned!

The Tin Forest

tin forest

My daughter and I loved “The Tin Forest” by Helen Ward.  In this book a man builds a beautiful tin forest from rubbish. He lives in a gray and rainy junkyard and is very unhappy. He dreams of living in a tropical forest – a paradise of trees, plants, flowers, and animals. But he spends his days sorting, sifting, burying, and burning things no one else wants. Then a piece of junk inspires an idea. The old man begins to build a forest from all of the garbage. Gradually he makes a sculpture garden from recycled junk.

What a lovely message – make the best of what you have, without forgetting your dreams. If your children enjoy picture books with a magical story and engaging artwork, take a look and let me know what you think!

Geodesic Playhouse

My kids are constantly creating. My kindergartener produces things that resemble castles, computers, rockets, etc. with no prompting. My pre-schooler produces as much, or more, art from trash and while his creations are not always recognizable, he does provide a detailed description of his elaborate creations.

Apparently, the only thing that slows them down is when I get in the way and impose a project! Recently, I was quite taken with a blog on building a geodesic dome out of rolled up newspapers. I could not wait to build this with my kids! They would learn about the strength of triangles, reusing materials, and get a play structure out of it, albeit a delicate one! However, I found this project to be a bit ambitious with my 3 and 5 year old, who were more interested in stepping on, and sword play with, the paper logs than construction of a geodesic dome. While they were capable of rolling the newspapers into logs, they found it interesting for a total of one log. It got a little more exciting for them when they saw the triangles start to come together and then the string of triangles altogether. They quickly used them for hop scotch, dragged them around the house at top speed, and of course tug of war. Due to rough handling of the “walls” during construction, most of the pipe cleaner connections ripped and were removed and replaced with dozens of staples!

Perhaps this project is better suited for older children. “We” did conquer it however, and the kids were delighted with the end result! Whatever the age of your child I encourage you to try this activity at home – preferably while the kids are at school!

6 Ways to Reuse Holiday Cards

Have you noticed just how overflowing trash and recycle bins are at this time of year? We produce a whopping 25% more waste between Thanksgiving and New Years than any other time of the year (EPA).  That means an extra 25 million tons of garbage heading to landfills across the nation, with an estimated 38,000 miles of ribbon, and 2.65 billion Christmas cards (Stanford).

This is a great time to thoughtfully sort and save items from this holiday season to be reused. Because they are prolific, not to mention beautiful, holiday cards are ripe for reuse. Save them for crafts throughout the year – colorful cardstock never goes out of style!

When you are feeling crafty you can transform your holiday cards into:

  • a scrap paper tree
  • a gift pouch
  • an advent calendar
  • a gift tag
  • an ornament
  • a postcard

The tree shown here is made from scrapbook paper, but would look equally lovely using holiday cards. Both the scrap paper tree and the gift pouch could be made relevant to the current season, depending upon the material you are reusing!

scrap paper tree (everydaymomideas), gift pouch (wikihow), advent calendar (scribbit)

Elegant gift tags can be as simple as cutting out a fun shape and stringing a few beads onto craft wire.

gift tags (bhg), ornaments (scoutiegirl), postcards (makingthishome)

Please share your favorite holiday card reuse ideas, and have a very happy New Year!

What is Upcycling?

Upcycling inspires creativity, inevitably results in super unique and sometimes funky objects, and means fewer items in landfills.

Upcycling is the act of creating better things out of trash and everyday items. While this concept is not new, the term is relatively new. It was coined in response to what was deemed a wasteful and destructive approach to recycling. Recycling tends to degrade objects to lower quality ones. Upcycling has become synonymous with reusing objects in thoughtful and even artful ways, resulting in items with greater use and value. What a great way to inspire young environmentalists and artists!

A number of businesses have sprouted up around this concept. Often these businesses highlight the fact that old objects have been creatively repurposed, attracting customers that appreciate this practice.  Think Esty!

Just for inspiration for your own upcycle projects have a look at these wonderful upcycled items!

pop top tote bag (Escama Studio), paper wreath (Esty), & cardboard sculptures (Mark Langan)

Trash or Treasure? The Art of Recycling

Recycling is cool. It has definitely caught on. People reuse, recycle, and upcycle. I am personally fascinated with ways to upcycle. Making a new object out of what would otherwise become trash is a creative and noble pursuit, IMHO. It just makes sense, especially in school settings, especially in today’s economy. Reusing items from around the house for art projects can save money and make children more aware of the environment. The plethora of possibilities presented by paper rolls, berry baskets, jars, caps, broken crayons, egg cartons, cardboard boxes, milk jugs, fabric, etc. is simply limitless. A quick scan on the internet proves that. What is even cooler is that presenting children with these materials ignites their imagination. The creative thinking cogs can almost be heard out loud! As a mother of two young children and a classroom volunteer, I find watching children create original art work uplifting. This blog is dedicated to sharing cool upcycling projects that can be implemented in the classroom or at home.

Where to start? Before you are ready to launch your next art project just look to the bin! Children naturally love to explore trash and are super creative in their use of recycled materials.

Start your own Art Recycling Boxes

  1. Set up a reuse boxes that children can draw from when needed. Create separate boxes for your recyclables such as single-sided paper and construction paper, bottle tops and jar lids, and paper rolls.
  2. Have the children label and decorate the boxes with samples of the items that go inside.
  3. Discuss with the children a list of ways to reuse materials.
  4. Devise a way to generally keep track of how much paper, plastic, metal, and glass you save.
  5. Use boxes that are an accessible size for children. They should be kept in a place where children can add and take from very easily.
  6. Lead by example. Add the first few items to your box, and before you know the children will be thinking of all sorts of the things to add.

Once you have gathered a few items, explore the materials, see what you can create! Inspire the kids!

Talk to Children about Recycling

Make sure to talk to the children about ways to recycle and why we recycle. Younger kids will especially love their roll in keeping their planet clean and beautiful. Keeping it positive and within their control is the best message to keep them engaged and interested in recycling. For preteens and teens, fashion, school clubs, and community groups can be a great way get involved with recycling. Creative projects could be a first step to a life-long love for eco problem solving!