Kids Booklets

Recipes for Reuse
Educating Children about Recycling
Earth Friendly Activities for Kids

The Garbage Guru's Guide to "Wastruments"

In order to get into the right attitude, one must first take a trip to the landfill. Pass the recycling center and head straight for the hole. See all the garbage. Smell the rubbish. Imagine all the waste. When you are thoroughly disgusted, turn around and retreat to the recycling center. See the reuse table, see all the saved items temporarily redeemed from a sentence in the hole. Now, realize that you can finally give these items full salvation by taking them home and using them. Yes, you can complete the recycling arrow loop by reusing these discards. You can make this waste into musical instruments- musical "Wastruments" for your very own parade!

P.E.T. Shaker- Collect non-deposit plastic number 1 P.E.T. bottles and containers. Look for the number 1 on the bottom of the bottle/container. Add old dried beans, lentils, peas, etc. into the bottle for a great shaking experience. Use your imagination, and item will suffice if its small and numerous enough. Gravel is always a good standby. Be sure to tape the lid closed so you don't have a blow out mid-parade!

Twig Shaker- Named after Bend resident Jamie Branch. Collect any Y-shaped twig or branch. Collect used bottle caps and old thin gauge wire (old bike brake cable works). Find an old block of wood, big ol' nail and hammer. Use the hammer to first flatten the bottle caps on the block of wood. Then drill a hole through the bottle caps by hammering the ol' nail through the caps into the wood block. String the wire through the bottle caps like you were making a piece of garbage jewelry. Instead of wearing it, tie it between the fork of the Y-shaped branch so that it looks like a high wire spanning the great Y river.

Beat Bucket- Collect 5-gallon plastic buckets. Old paint buckets at construction sites work, as do pickle/sauerkraut buckets from restaurants. You may want to wash them out first. When the lid is removed, the bottom of these buckets make beautiful drum-like sounds. They can be played in like a conga with bare hands or old salad forks, serving spoons also make great drumsticks. Use old rope or an old bicycle inner tube to thread through the bucket to keep the drum waist high throughout the parade. For decoration, you can wrap the bucket in old wallpaper.

Jug O' Water- For the resourceful. If you can find any old plastic 5-gallon water containers (i.e. plastic carboys)- then you got yourself a gem of a "Wastrument". Simply screw or fasten an old bike inner tube around the body of the jug and wear waist high. The tone of the bottom is exquisite. No sticks necessary; fingers will do.

Sink O' Rhythm- For the brave. If you have hands of steel (or wrap them sufficiently) you can play the most melodious "Wastrument" of the group. Find yourself an old metal dual basin sink. The lighter the better, but leave the faucet on if you can for style points. With rags, wrap the edge that will press against your waste. Fasten two bike inner tubes around the basin so that the sink is suspended from your neck and rests against your waist. Use your hands to play the sides of the sink. Each side (8 total) will have a unique and awesome resonance.

Trash ellaneous- A catch-all term for all of the gems that can be created with a little creativity. Collect things like neglected tea kettles and rusty metal bread pans, string them together with old shoelaces. They sound delicious when played with a kitchen fork. Make washboard-type rhythm with old derelict shudders and a scraper.

Some wise words on "Wastruments"

If you can walk, you have rhythm. If you have a heartbeat, you have rhythm. So beat, shake, and pound to your own rhythm and have a ball at the parade. You will feel good knowing you gave some garbage a second chance and you will sound good to all the envious spectators.

Source: Earth Friendly Pre-Kindergarten Activities, Campus Recycling

8 Recipes For Reuse

Here in the United States, we have a particularly large problem with waste, for example:

One important thing we can do to improve this is to teach our children, and set the example, of living in an environmentally sustainable way. This is a collection of "recipes" that reuse things that may otherwise be garbage. We hope that this will send a message to children to Reduce, Reuse and Recycle their waste now and in the future.

Using two large empty tin cans, punch two holes one on each side of can near unopened end. Cut rope long enough for child to stand on can and hold in hand. Put rope through both holes and make a big knot on both sides.

Bean Bags
Using heavy cloth, such as an old dishtowel, cut into a rectangle (5x10 or 7x14). Fold in half and sew 2 of the 3 sides shut. Fill with beans; sew the remaining side shut. Now you're ready to make a target (see BeanBag Target activity).

Rhythmic Shaker
Using varying sizes of containers, such as frozen juice cans, fill with pebbles and tape lid on securely. Decorate container. Shake and enjoy!

Sock Puppet: Take an old sock. Put it on your hand and decorate using felt, markers, and anything else you want!
Finger Puppet: Take an old glove and cut off the fingertips (except the ones with holes!) Put them on your fingers and decorate!

2-Liter Plant Holder
Cut a 2-liter bottle in half, cut holes in the bottom and fill with soil. Plant you favorite plant and watch it grow.

Milk Carton Piggybank
Using a well-washed milk container cut a hole big enough to slide your coins in. Decorate the container. Put a coin in whenever you Reduce, Reuse or Recycle something!

Bean Bag Target
Using a large old box cut a hole big enough to throw a beanbag through. Turn the hole into a mouth and paint or draw on a face. Toss the beanbags into the mouth!

Styro Boat
Cut a piece of Styrofoam into a shape that looks like a house or an open envelope (a square with a triangle on top). Using an old Popsicle stick and a rectangular piece of old cloth, pierce both ends of cloth with stick and insert it into the middle of the Styrofoam. Floats great and will last hundreds of years!

Source: Kim Letven & Shiho Matsumoto, "8 Recipes for Reuse" Pamphlet

Educating Children About Recycling


Kids are the world's future recyclers! They can grow up without the throw-away mentality that is difficult for the Earth to support. This booklet offers some fun, informative ways that kids can be taught how and why to recycle. So simple, it works!

Activity 1: Learn About Sorting!

First, discuss the materials that can be recycled in your area. Then, visit your local sorting and recycling area, whether in your home, childcare center or community. Make sure the kids help you sort materials and find easy ways to identify which materials go with what.

Activity 2: Paper Making

This activity is great for illustrating the process of recycling. To make paper, follow these steps:

    1. Tear pieces of paper from your recycle bin and place in blender until 1/3 full. Add water until blender is 2/3 full
    2. Blend for a few seconds, until mixture looks like mush
    3. Pour into a pan, add about an inch of water
    4. Hold frame screen side up, spoon mixture onto screen and let the water drip off
    5. Place blotting paper on top of mixture and flip screen over, blotting paper side down
    6. With sponges, blot up moisture that comes through the screen
    7. Lift up frame and place blotting paper on top, making a blotter sandwich
    8. Iron both sides, using the wool setting
    9. Peel off blotters
    10. Iron paper to dry completely

Activity 3: Litter Walk

The idea of this activity is to illustrate the amount of material that is discarded as useless waste. Take a walk and bring a sack with you. Collect all of the litter that you find. At the end of your walk, look at what you've collected and recycle all that can be recycled.

Activity 4: Web Of Life

Take a long piece of twine and a pencil (or any object you like). Ask the kids as many questions as you can come up with about the object. For example:

    1. What are pencils made from?
    2. What else is made from wood?
    3. Where does wood come from?
    4. Where do you see trees?
    5. Etc, etc, etc.

For each child that answers your question correctly, give her/him a piece of twine to hold. The effect is a web-like structure that helps to illustrate the interrelatedness of life.

Activity 5: Garbage Sort

Dump your garbage can and separate your garbage according to different types of materials. Have the kids help you draw a big picture of a garbage can and then draw pictures of your waste, as proportionally as possible. This is the typical break-down of garbage:

Remember! 75% of the garbage we throw away is recyclable.

Activity 6: Compost Extravaganza

Visit your compost bin with your youngster(s). If you don't have your own bin, there's bound to be a neighbor or local farmer who does. Examine the critters living in your compost bin, try to find the larvae (baby worms) and explore the different types of food and/or yard waste being composted. Explain that this is a very natural way of recycling. Using the composted material: Take a milk jug and cut off the top, fill with a mixture of composted material and potting soil. Plant a seed and watch it grow.

Activity 7: Visit Your Dump

Take a tour of the dump and find out where all of our garbage goes when we're done with it. If there's a Recycling area at your local dump site, observe the different materials accepted. Discuss the amount of land and resources saved by recycling instead of throwing away materials. In Lane County, 1 million pounds of garbage are put in landfills every day. In Oregon, over 2 million tons of waste are deposited in landfills every year.

Activity 8: Mock Recycling

Using moldable material (like Playdough), have each person shape a milk jug, bottle, etc. When finished, ask if the Playdough should be thrown away or if we should smush it down and use it to make a new milk jug, bottle, etc. Do this activity several times, trying to replicate as many different recyclables as possible.

Recycling Facts:

Source: "Educating Children about Recycling" Pamphlet, Campus Recycling

Earth Friendly Kids' Activities

Activity 1: Seed Planting

Empty and clean 1 pint milk cartons (or another reused container)

Activity: Cut the tops off of the containers. Fill the containers with soil and have the children plant a seed in each of the containers. The containers can be decorated with reused paper or other materials. The plants should be cared for by the children who can watch them grow. After the seeds have grown the children can take them home to plant them, to add longevity to the experience.

Objective: Instead of recycling the milk containers that the children drink out of during lunch, they can be used as planters. This will educate children about the life and maintenance of plants, as well as show them a new way in which common objects such as their milk cartons can be reused.

Activity 2: Paper Airplanes

Paper that is used on one side
Decorating materials

Activity: Reuse paper by making paper airplanes, which can be decorated and, of course, flown.

Objective: This activity will teach the many ways which things can be reused. You can ask the children to come up with other ways to reuse paper, which may be a good introduction for the papermaking activity in this packet.

Activity 3: Know your food containers

Various food containers composed of different materials such as cereal boxes, milk cartons, glass bottles, plastic containers, aluminum and tin.

Activity: Present and talk about the different kinds of food containers and how they are recycled if they can. Afterwards, the children can use all of the old food containers to make a pretend store for fun.

Objective: This activity should give children an opportunity to think about all of the different household materials that can be recycled. They can also think about how they can be reused.

Activity 4: Paper Recycling

Paper that is collected from your center to be recycled.

Activity: Take paper that is composed of different sorts of recycling categories and sort it to be recycled. Begin by giving a presentation on the types of paper to be recycled and why it needs to be recycled the way it does. Also, explain to the students what sort of things can't be on the paper, such as food waste, and why.

Objective: This activity should teach children not only how to recycle, but also the various kinds of paper that can be recycled. Ask them to think about how much of the paper they use gets recycled.

Activity 5: Paper Bag Masks

Used paper bags
Markers, crayons, paints, feathers, stickers, etc.

Activity: Cut faces in the paper bags by putting eye, nose and mouth holes in them prior to the activity as it isn't safe for the children of this age to cut the mask themselves. The children can then decorate the masks as hey wish. While they are decorating, the facilitator can discuss the other reuses of paper bags and other things that we can make by reusing things.

Objective: This activity will give children an opportunity to learn about reusing items that they would normally throw away. It should be a fun activity that will also allow them to think about reuse on a bigger scale.

Activity 6: Milk Carton Banks

Used individual milk cartons
Decorating materials

Activity: Wash used milk cartons out with water and tape them shut. Cut a slit in the top large enough for coins to fit through. Have the children decorate the boxes. Use this time to discuss other things in our daily lives we can reuse, such as other food containers that can be cleaned and used to hold other things. The children can use their banks to hold the change they receive from returning their bottles for deposit.

Objective: This will be a fun activity that will allow the children to see how they can create useful items out of everyday materials that might otherwise get thrown away.

Activity 7: "Garbage is Resourceful" Game

2 sets of cards (one will have various products that we use and the other will have the natural resources that those products are made out of)

Activity: The object of this game is to match the cards with the products on them to the cards that have the natural resources on them. It is important to explain the game simply and quickly and to get to the matching of the cards. A handout is included at the back of this packer with suggestions for cards.

Objective: This activity will show the children all the different natural resources that are used to make the products that we use everyday. This will help them to start to realize how quickly our resources are being depleted.

Activity 8: "The Four Friends"

Handout at the back of the packet

Activity: Read and discuss the story, "The Four Friends". It is helpful to bring a plastic bottle, a soda pop can, a newspaper and a glass bottle to serve as the characters. Again, this can be combined with another recycling project depending on time constraints.

Objective: Hopefully, this activity will show the children how we can work together to help the environment. Discuss this concept with the children.

Activity 9: Poem & Discussion

The poem "Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout Would Not Take The Garbage Out" by Shel Silverstein (found in the handout section of this packet)

Activity: Read the poem aloud to the children. Afterwards, go through the garbage listed in the poem and discuss the sorts of things in there that can be recycled instead of contributing to the landfills.

Objective: This activity will get the children excited to help decrease the types of things they are throwing away and recycled and what things cannot.

Activity 10: Recycle Mobiles

Wire hangers
Scrap papers and other recyclables

Activity: Cut scrap papers into different shapes prior to the activity, as the children aren't able to cut safely themselves. Have the children attach the paper shapes to the wire hangers to make decorative mobiles. While the children are working, discuss the other things that they can use everyday that can be reused.

Objective: This activity will give the children an opportunity to think about the different things that they throw way everyday that may be reused to make other items. Discuss these other items with the children.

Activity 11: Litter Walk

Bags to collect litter

Activity: Go on a short walk and pick up litter along the way. Tell children not to touch broken glass, gum, cigarettes, etc. With each piece of garbage that you pick up, tell the children about what that litter can do to animals. Also, take multiple bags and sort and recycle those things that can. Encourage the children to never litter and to pick it up and throw it away when they see it.

Objective: This activity will show children the importance of keeping the environment clean. It will encourage them to pick up litter whenever they see it. The children will also learn how litter can harm animals and others.

Activity 12: "Recyclers"

A wagon

Activity: This activity was originally done under the context of other lessons concerning future jobs. The children were "recyclers". First use the newspapers to make "recycling" hats. Then load glass, plastic, tin, and paper into the wagon and take it to a recycling area to be stored.

Objective: This activity will show children that there is a future in recycling and will get them to start thinking about how they can incorporate recycling into their future careers.

Activity 13: Milk Carton Structure

Lots of cleaned pint milk cartons
Hot glue gun
Tempera paint
Scraps of paper, rug, wallpaper, etc.

Activity: Open the tops of all the cleaned milk cartons. Fit the open end of one carton into the open end of another. They will form a rectangular block. Using the hot glue gun, arrange the blocks in whatever shape you want them. They can be made into a castle, puppet stage, etc. The children can help with decorating the structure, and play with it.

Objective: This activity will offer the children new examples of all the ways things can be reused. The end product can be played with and added to all year long.

Activity 14: Bottle Recycling

Glass bottles
Discussion handout on bottle recycling

Activity: Use the handout at the back of the packet to discuss bottle recycling. Talk about the process of recycling them and why it is important. The children can color in the handout as well.

Objective: Teaches children the process of recycling and shows them what happens to the bottles.

Activity 15: Film Canister Basketball

Old film canisters
2-3 large, used cardboard boxes

Activity: Cut holes in the boxes for mouths and let the children decorate them as animal faces, for example. After decorating is complete, the children can play a game of throwing the film canisters into the open mouths.

Objective: This activity will show the children how creative games can be made out of materials that would usually be thrown away.

Activity 16: "Web of Life"

Spool of string
An object, such as a pencil, an eraser, a coffee mug, etc.

Activity: Begin by holding up an object, such as a pencil, and begin asking the children questions about it such as where it came from, what it's made of, etc. As the children answer the questions, they are given a piece of the string to hold. The end product is a huge web of string that connects all of the children.

Objective: This activity shows the children how humans and the natural world are really interconnected. The children can think about how the use of one item can affect many other people.

Activity 17: Rhythmic Shaker

Old cans or other metal containers
Used paper
Pebbles and/or beans

Activity: Fill the cans with the pebbles and/or beans and tape the lid securely. Then, wrap the cans with the used paper and let the children decorate them. Discuss how they are reusing things to make new projects that they can play with.

Objective: This activity will show the children how everyday items can be used to make new things instead of using more resources.

Activity 18: Finger-Puppets & Sock-Puppets

Old socks
Old gloves
Decorating materials

Activity: Decorate old socks and the fingers of old gloves with magic markers, felt, etc. Put on a puppet show/play for the children, or have them be involved in the production.

Objective: Again, this is an activity to get the children to discuss uses for other discarded things.

Activity 19: Stilts

Large, empty cans
Rope or twine

Activity: Using two large empty cans, punch a hole on each side of the unopened ends. Cut the rope long enough for a child to stand on the can and hold the rope in their hand. Put the rope through both holes and make a big knot on both sides. The children can then stand on the cans and walk around on them.

Objective: This activity will show the children how old materials can be used to make fun and useful new items. This will get them thinking more about reuse and recycling.

Activity 20: Bean Bag Target

Old heavy cloth, such as a dishtowel
Old cardboard box

Activity: Cut the cloth into 5 x 10 or 7 x 14 inch rectangles. Fold in half and sew two of the three sides shut. Fill them with beans and sew the remaining side shut. Then, using an old cardboard box, cut a hole big enough to throw the bean bags through. Draw a face on the box with the mouth as the big hole and let the children try to toss the bags into each mouth.

Objective: This is another activity to get the children to think about reuse.

Activity 21: Styro Boat

Piece of old block styrofoam
Popsicle stick
Old rectangular piece of cloth

Activity: Cut the styrofoam so that it has a point on one end. Using the popsicle stick, pierce both ends of the cloth and insert it into the middle of the styrofoam. It floats great and lasts for hundreds of years!

Objective: This activity will show the children how many items can be used more than once, which is especially important with things that take so long to decompose.

Activity 22: Liter Plant Holder

2-liter bottle
Plant or seeds

Activity: Cut a 2-liter bottle in half and cut holes in the bottom. Fill the bottom of the bottle with soil and plant a seedling. Decorate the "pot" and watch the plant grow in a few weeks.

Objective: This activity will teach children how to take care of our natural world. This hands-on activity will enable them to get involved with and care about the environment.

Activity 23: Paper Making

Scrap paper from recycling bin
Blotting paper
Cookie cutters (optional)

Activity: Technique 1: Tear pieces of paper from your recycling bin and place in blender until about 1/3 full. Add water until blender is 2/3 full. Blend for a few seconds, until mixture looks like mush. Pour into a pan, add about an inch of water. Hold frame screen side up, spoon mixture onto screen and let the water drip off. Place blotting paper on top of mixture and flip screen over, blotting paper down. With sponges, blot up moisture that comes through the screen. Lift off the frame and place blotting paper on top, making a blotter sandwich. Iron both sides, using wool setting. Peel off blotters. Iron paper to dry completely.

Technique 2: Place paper pulp directly on the screen, without diluting it. Using this method, the children can blend colors and make shapes on the screen. The rest of the stages are the same; cover the paper with blotting paper, flip, wipe off excess moisture through the screen, remove screen and let paper dry. Using cookie cutters to form shapes works really well.

Objective: This activity will demonstrate to children how paper is actually recycled. Many children know about and use recycled paper, but may have no idea how it gets recycled.

Activity 24: Calendar Making

Non-bleached recycled paper
Decorating materials

Activity: This will allow the children to make their very own recycling calendar. They can each draw something that represents earth-friendly activities. Use the drawings as the pictures and draw out the months. Staple together and post in room so that the children can see what they did every month. Use the drawing time to discuss different activities that the children can do that are good for the earth.

Objective: This activity will allow the children to be reminded of what activities are good for the earth, it will also be something that they will see every day and be proud of.

Activity 25: Valentines

Used paper
Decorating materials

Activity: Use discarded paper taken out of the recycling bin and teach the children to make their own valentines by cutting the paper into heart shapes and decorating the unwritten side.

Objective: This activity will show the children how things that they can buy in the store can easily be made with a few decorating items. It may also give them gift ideas for family and friends in the future.

Activity 26: Cards

Old greeting cards

Activity: Cut the fronts off of already used greeting cards and have the children decorate the backs for holiday cards or just as a fun craft activity.

Objective: Children will learn to use things more than once rather than just throwing them away and adding to the landfills.

Activity 27: Paper Maché Dino

Flour and water
Balloon for Dino head
4 short cardboard cylinders for legs
2 long cardboard cylinders for neck and tail
1 big cardboard box for Dino body

Activity: Mix a very large bowl of paper maché using equal parts of flour and water. Get a big bundle of newspaper from the recycle bin and tear it into strips. Prepare the Dino frame in advance by securing the legs, neck, head, and tail on by using tape or whatever will work. The children can paper maché the Dino, which is messy but fun. Allow the Dino to dry and then the children can paint it. If the Dino is made sturdy enough, the children should be able to sit on it.

Objective: This activity will show the children how fun toys can be made at home without buying new ones that will eventually be thrown away.

Activity 28: Garbage Pouch

Paper bags
Safety pins

Activity: Pin the paper bags onto the children's pant at the beginning of the day. Instruct them to collect all of their trash throughout the day and to keep it in their bags. At the end of the day, examine the trash that they collected and talk about what things can be recycled or reused.

Objective: This activity will show children what things can be recycled out of all of the things that they throw away every day. It will also show them how much trash they add to the world everyday.

Activity 29: Trash Sort

Trash collected from a local can
Gloves for sorters
Covering for the floor

Activity: Ask a few of the children to volunteer to dig through a bag of trash and sort the things out that can be recycled from the things that cannot. The other children can help them to decide.

This activity will show the children how much people throw away that can be recycled of reused in some way. It will also get them to think about recycling more of the things that they throw away.


Activity 30: Compost

Compost pile
Small shovel
Magnifying glass
Food waste

Activity: Visit your compost pile, or a local compost pile, in order to give the children an idea of how food waste can be recycled. Take time to examine all of the living creatures in the compost by using the magnifying glass. Discuss the process of the worms eating the children's garbage and turning it into fertilizer so that other things can grow. Have the children feed the worms and help you stir the compost.

Objective: This activity will show children alternative ways of dealing with garbage. Perhaps they would encourage their parents to help them start one at home.

Activity 31: Paper Hats

Colorful papers

Activity: Cut strips of paperboard into strips big enough to fit around the children's heads. Decorate the paperboard with any materials you'd like. After you're done decorating, staple the two ends together to make a crown.

Objective: This activity demonstrates how playthings can be made out of reused materials.

Activity 32: Paper Vests

Used large brown paper bags

Activity: Cut the bottoms out of the brown paper bags and cut a slit all the way down one side. Cut out arm holes. Have the children paint their vests and wear them after they dry.

Objective: This activity will show how simple costumes can be made with already used materials. Tell them how this will help cut down on waste.

Activity 33: Collage

Pictures cut from magazines of recyclables and non-recyclables

Activity: Hold up each picture for the children to see and ask them if it is recyclable or not for each item. Then, paste the picture on the matching side of the paperboard.

Objective: The children will learn what things can be recycled and what things cannot. By seeing the pictures first hand, they will better remember to recycle later when they see some of the same things.

Activity 34: Paint A Forest

Materials: Large sheet of paper


Activity: Spread the sheet of paper out on the floor. Ask the children to list all of the things that they would find in a forest. Let them paint all of the things that they listed. Explain the concept of diversity to the children while they are painting and then hang the picture up in the room when it's dry.

Objective: This activity will allow the children to think about all of the different things that are found in the forests and it is important to protect its diversity.

Activity 35: Plant A Tree

Pine tree seedlings
Spoons for shovels

Activity: Give the children the seedlings and take them to a place to be planted. Tell them to dig small holes with the spoons and place the trees in the holes. Then have them bury the seeds.

Objective: This activity will encourage the children to appreciate trees and encourage them to plant trees in areas that have few.

Activity 36: Terrarium

Clear globe-shaped glass bowl
Potting soil
Small shade and moisture loving plant
Plant misting bottle
Small clear glass plate

Activity: Rinse the gravel and place it in the glass bowl 2-3 inches deep. Cover the gravel with 2-3 inches of soil and arrange the plants in the soil. Next, cover the soil with moss and mist thoroughly with water. Cover the bowl with the glass plate. Set the terrarium indoors in a shady spot. Water the plant once a week and feed with plant food. Remove the dead leaves as the plants grow.

Objective: This activity will teach children how to take care of nature and our environment. Children will learn how things grow and how they need to be protected.

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