At my children’s school, first and second graders do 2 projects with recycled items every spring. One is a group effort with first grade students bringing in items from home to create robots with other students. Parents come in one afternoon to help the student groups build their robots. The best robot wins and is displayed at the school’s Brain Fest in May.
In first and second grade, the students create animals or objects at home from recycled materials with the help of their parents. This year, the theme was dinosaurs. Last year, it was animals, and previously, hats. My son decided to make a Tyrannosaurus Rex which involved some engineering to make sure the dinosaur remained upright. We held our recycled items together with masking tape, and didn’t cover up the objects. Some students cover theirs with paper mache or yarn.
The second graders also worked together in groups to create cities with recycled boxes and items from school and items from home, mostly toys.
Inspired by their older brother’s dinosaur sculpture, my 6 year old son and 5 year old daughter went through our recycling trash cans and built tanks with guns from what they found. Did I mention military history and weapons are big in my home?
Making Your Own Recycled Sculptures
Putting together your own recycled sculptures is a great summer project for a rainy afternoon if you have room for mess inside. Otherwise, take the building outside on a sunny morning, and let the kids have at it.
- Make sure all the items are relatively clean, especially if you plan on keeping the sculptures. Nobody likes ants crawling around inside their recycled sculptures. I would avoid items that had cleaning products in them, unless the objects are absolutely clean. Even environmentally-friendly cleaners are not generally meant to be touched by humans, much less children who are less careful about putting stuff in their mouths.
- When securing items, masking tape and duct tape are simple, effective, and easy for kids to use. If you want to add texture to a permanent sculpture, paper mache is the way to go since it can be used to hold things together plus it can be painted when dry.
- If the projects will remain small, then set out some stickers, markers, and crayons for decorating the finished sculptures. For larger sculptures or paper mache, set aside time later in the week to do the decorating with paint. Tempera paint works fine. Make sure kids have paint smocks on, or old t-shirts in case of messes and accidents. A flannel-backed tablecloth should go over the work surface; remember to wipe it clean before putting it away at the end of the decorating/building session.
If you need inspiration, Pinterest is a good place to search for recycled item projects for kids. This mini bi-plane from U Create looks good for an 8 year old with some assistance from an adult. Quirky Mama has recycled toys for the little ones, some of which could be made by their older siblings. Toddler Approved has a post about organizing your supplies and a list of what to collect from the trash.
Go forth and have some frugal art fun making sculptures and toys from recycled items!