5 Upcycled Activities for Kids

It’s easy to get wrapped up in entertaining our kids with the latest and greatest toys and technology, but the fact is that some of the most memorable moments of play in our own childhood came from the simple things. Sometimes getting crafty and sustainable can be your child’s best friend for fun! 

Looking around your home you may find plenty of opportunities to be both sustainable and intentional about creating learning fun for your little ones through repurposed play! 

#1 Plastic Jug Planters

Children love to learn about the growing world around them! Repurpose an old jug to create a one-of-a-kind planter they can watch come to life each week. 


  • 1 Gallon Milk or Water Jug, Empty and Clean
  • Scissors or Box Cutter
  • Acrylic Paint
  • Paintbrushes
  • Soil
  • Seeds or Potted Plant

Safely cut away the top half of your jug just above the handle, enough to allow for planting of the soil and seeds. Let your child select paint colors of their choice and start working on their masterpiece! (Maybe lay something under the jug to avoid staining the area surrounding it while they paint!) After letting it dry, let them scoop the soil halfway into the jug and plant their seed. Make sure to help water it and pick a place where it can get plenty of sunlight, so your child can watch it grow! 

#2 Rainbow Bowling Cans 

So many vegetable and soup cans get tossed out every week, but here’s a simple activity that may strike up some fun!  


  • 10 Empty, Clean Cans
  • Spray Paint, in Colors of Choice
  • Rubber Ball(s) 

First, you’ll take all your brushes and paint can and lay them somewhere safe to paint, making sure they are clean and dry before doing so. You can let the kids add fun designs by using painter’s tape before spraying or a Sharpie marker after they dry. Create a point system, line the cans up or stack them and get ready to take aim with your ball! See who gets a strike or a spare! As a safety note, be sure to use pull-tab cans or use a can opener that leaves a smooth edge on lids to avoid any sharp edges that could hurt little fingers. 

#3 Cardboard Shape Spaceship 

3…2…1 Blastoff! Take your kids to outer space for an afternoon after putting to use all those Amazon boxes you’ve been putting off breaking down for recycling! 


  • Old Cardboard Boxes
  • Packaging Tape or Glue
  • Markers

Depending on the age of the children, you can do all the cutting or get them involved! Cut out different shapes, both big and small, and let the kids decorate them. Find pieces that will work for the main body and wings, so they can create any specific designs they want. Tape or glue together all the spaceship pieces, letting younger kids identify shapes as you go! 

#4 Paint Swatch Scavenger Hunt

Little ones learning their colors? Take those old paint swatches that are sitting in your junk drawer or garage and have some fun exploring. 


  • Paint swatches 
  • Optional: prizes

The perfect activity for a neighborhood walk as a family! Grab a handful of different paint swatches for your child and have him or her find items that match the color on each swatch. You can even provide a prize for the most items collected, once the hunt is over! 

#5 Formula Can Idea Jar

It seems that children will always need something to do to keep them out of trouble! Creating a DIY idea jar with fun things to do can be just the ticket! 


  • Empty Formula or Coffee Can
  • Wrapping Paper
  • Popsicle Sticks
  • Paint
  • Marker or Pen

Measure the length and width of your empty can by rolling and tracing it on your paper. Next, cut out and tape the wrapping paper to cover and decorate your can. You child can then paint each popsicle stick, and once dry, write down ideas that you brainstorm together for fun activities on each one. Keep their new idea jar somewhere close by for those days where they say, “I’m bored” and need something fun to do. 

Remember, your kids greatest learning opportunities will come from having fun with you and being able to explore the world and see it in new ways! Have fun this month trying out one of these repurposed DIYs, or come up with one of your own! 


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