If you are running out of things to keep your kids occupied then I’ve got some great, free recycled craft ideas for kids made from the contents of your recycling bin for your kids to tackle. All the crafts are super fun and great for nursery school-aged kids and up (although adult supervision and in some cases, help, is definitely required).
6 Recycled Craft Ideas For Kids
Here are the six recycled craft ideas for you and your kids to try out:
1. Tin Can Telephone Craft
The old favourite. This one needs a fair bit of help from adults but is great fun. Wash out two tin cans (that ideally have been opened with a smooth edge tin can opener to avoid any sharp edges. Although covering the edge with tape is good too). Then use a nail and hammer to make a hole in the bottom. Tie a long bit of string between the two (with the knot on the inside of the can) and start talking.
Sticking with cans for the moment, they also make great stilts. Larger tins are best for older kids if you have them, otherwise, stick to small cans for littler people. Again, an adult is needed here for this particular kid’s craft idea: use a nail and hammer to make two holes on the bottom edge and try a loop of string through for your kids to hold on to. The decoration is then all down to your kids.
Image via The Mud Pie Makers
3. Crafty Toilet Roll Owls
Empty toilet roll tubes make great owls and are a simple craft idea that kids will love. Simple push two edges together at one end to make the ears and then grab a pen and start colouring, or some coloured paper and start cutting and sticking. You can even hang them up afterwards with some string.
If you happen to have a couple of plastic bottles in your recycling (I like a bit of sparkling water now and again – a guilty pleasure – so often have a plastic bottle kicking about in the recycling bin) then collect them up to make your own recycled bowling set.
Kids can decorate the outside however they like (although a fun way is to squirt a bit of paint inside, screw the lid on tight, and then get your kids to shake it until the inside is completely coated) and when they’re done, line them up and use a light ball as your bowl. Striiiiiike!
5. Crafty Bottle Cap Memory Game
For this craft idea for kids, you’ll need quite a collection of identical bottle caps for this game.
Inside each one stick a bit of paper with a number on it, or a small picture (as long as you have a duplicate). Use each number/image twice and then lay them out neatly. You turn over two each go, and the aim of the game is to pick two of the same. When you’ve picked a pair, take them out of the game and keep on going. The person with the most pairs at the end wins.
Another old kids’ craft favourite. A drum, made from a tin can and a balloon. You can add some stale rice into the mix too if you’re in the market for a headache, or if you’ve got a babysitter/grandparents coming around! Add a handful of rice or lentils to your empty can. Cut the end off the balloon and then stretch this over the top of your can. Secure it in place with an elastic band. Some chopsticks or skewers will make good drumsticks. However, you might want to cover the ends of the sticks with large balls of plasticine or blue tac to stop them from poking their eyes.
Looking to buy sustainable wooden toys? It can be a minefield, as just because a toy is made of wood doesn’t make it eco-friendly. Here’s what to look out for to help make environmentally-friendly choices, as well as some of my favourite brands.
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Look into any parent of a young child’s home (including ours) and you’ll most likely see a sea of plastic toys.
Plastic toys are cheap to make and buy and are convenient. However, we pay a heavy environmental price for this convenience and low financial cost. Being made from fossil fuels, plastic toys have a heavy carbon footprint.
What’s more, plastic is pretty pervasive, hanging around for hundreds of years. As plastic toys mostly can’t be recycled, unwanted toys that are binned can also contribute to the amount of plastic ending up in landfill and oceans. And if that’s not enough of a headache, plastic toys are full of toxins, and often contain banned chemicals.
What About Wood?
Wooden kids’ toys can be a better environmental choice. Wooden toys are, if you choose correctly, sustainable, and free of the chemical risks that plastic toys possess. They can also be real hand-me-down pieces.
What to Look Out For When Buying Sustainable Wooden Toys
However, just because a toy is made from wood doesn’t necessarily make it sustainable. There are various environmental considerations to be made. These include how the wood has been grown and what paints have been used. Other key considerations include how the workers in all aspects of the supply chain are treated, as well as the company’s own sustainability ethos.
Here’s what to consider and look out for when buying sustainable wooden toys.
Secondhand Wooden Toys First
The most sustainable wooden toys are the secondhand ones. Therefore these should always be the ones that you consider buying first. The good news is that buying secondhand is also the most budget-friendly way of buying them too.
It’s not difficult to source good quality secondhand wooden toys. Charity shops, eBay, Facebook marketplace, Gumtree, and Oxfam Online* are all great places to look. There are even wooden toy buy and sell groups on Facebook.
We’ve found some great secondhand and sustainable wooden toys over the last year. Here is our collection:
As wooden kids’ toys are so durable, they all look like new. We actually found most of these in local charity shops. Meanwhile, the walker came second-hand from eBay. The bus was the only toy we bought new, as a Christmas present, and the jigsaw was a gift from a family member. We’ll keep these toys going for as long as possible and then keep them for a future child. Alternatively, we’ll donate them to a charity shop once they’re done to keep the reuse cycle in motion.
Look for Sustainable Certifications When Buying Wooden Toys
If you decide to buy new, then there are steps you can take to make sure the wooden toys you are buying are actually sustainable.
One of these steps is to look for external certification labels.
External certification means that the company’s toys and their business practices meet criteria that are assessed by an external non-profit organisation.
The Labels To Look For
Sustainable labels to look for when buying wooden toys include:
EU Ecolabel. This is a label of environmental excellence that is awarded to products meeting high environmental standards throughout their life cycle. This covers the raw material extraction right through to its production, distribution, and disposal.
Blue Angel Eco Label. This is an independent, German environmental label for products and services that have environmentally friendly aspects. Its goal is to inform consumers about environmentally friendly products.
It is extremely rare that wooden toy companies would hold all of these sustainable labels. Each certification is time-consuming to achieve and requires many systems to be in place. Each certification can also be expensive to achieve. Therefore, you just need to look for at least one eco-label when buying wooden toys.
Consider Where The Wood Come From
As I mentioned, just because a product is made from wood doesn’t make it sustainable. Some wooden toys contribute to deforestation and illegal logging. This happens when companies use wood sourced from forests managed unsustainably. It’s especially problematic in environmentally sensitive areas such as the Amazon.
Toys made from unsustainably managed forests can result in biodiversity loss. It can also result in reduced ecosystem qualities, and increased greenhouse gas emissions. The very things that you probably wanted to avoid by buying wooden toys.
Instead, when buying sustainable wooden toys, look for wood that is from sustainably managed forests. Rubberwood is a good choice when it comes to wooden kids’ toys. Rubberwood is a waste product from the latex industry, which used to be destroyed once the latex dried up. Alternatively, wood from European sources is often a more sustainable choice.
Five Sustainable Wooden Toys Brands to Look Out For
If you’re looking to buy a special toy for a child in your life then don’t feel overwhelmed. Here is a rundown of some of my favourite ethical and sustainable wooden toy brands available in the UK.
Grimms Wooden Toys
Grimm’s stunning, handcrafted Waldorf-inspired toys are fairly made in Europe. Not only are they EU-made, but the wood comes exclusively from sustainably managed forests in Europe. They are an FSC certified company and are actively engaged in reforestation projects. What’s more, the stains they use are non-toxic and water-based.
Longevity is key for Grimms. As such, you can get a free repair kit should your Grimms toy break.
Haba makes high-quality long-lasting sustainable wooden toys, all with the PEFC seal. Their toys are made in Germany from beech and birch wood. This wood is sourced from sustainably managed German forests. You can read more about their sustainability processes in this lengthy yet impressive post.
The loss of one part of a game can sometimes mean that the whole game can no longer be used. However, a couple of years ago Haba set up a comprehensive replacement service to combat this problem. I love that they have put together a service like this, to help games from being binned.
Indigo Jamm is a small company designing eco-friendly wooden toys in the UK. All of their factories have been visited and inspected by Indigo Jamm, to ensure their products are made in environmentally and socially responsible ways.
90% of their toys are made using rubberwood – a waste product from the latex industry. Their paints are also water-based for extra eco points.
Lubolona designs and manufactures stylish kids’ toys using eco-friendly and high-quality materials. All their products are designed in Barcelona and are manufactured entirely in Europe, from natural high-quality beech wood. Their intention is to keep their environmental impact to a minimum, whilst focusing on fair and local production. What’s more, Lubolona uses environmentally friendly cardboard boxes and fabric bags for its packaging. You won’t find any plastic here!
Shop Lubolona in the UK via Kidly* – with prices starting from £9.
Plan Toys make ethical wooden toys for kids and babies, that are designed to be fun, engaging, and educational. You’ll find cool and unique sets, like this English breakfast wooden toy set. However, if it’s traditional you’re after then Plan toys also has you covered. My kids have especially loved the Plan Toy toy town sets – with their road and rail networks to build.
Plan Toys’ entire range is Fairtrade certified. They are also made in Thailand from sustainably sourced wood and painted with non-toxic dyes. As well as solid wood toys, they also make toys from PlanWood. This is a byproduct of sawdust that their factory produces. This ensures that nothing goes to waste. And if that wasn’t impressive enough, then Plan Toys have also developed their very own certified non-formaldehyde glue.
We’ve bought secondhand Plan toys in the past, and can testify that their toys are high quality and built to last.
I'm Wendy and welcome to Moral Fibres, a UK based eco-blog. I'm a sustainability expert, and my aim is to make sustainability simple, by researching and writing on all things environmental - from product guides to breaking down big ideas - so you don't have to.
As well as the blog I've also written a book on natural cleaning - Fresh Clean Home is out now!
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