Recycled Educational & Art Activities

When trash isn't trash, we all win! Today, I'm sharing some of our favorite activities using recycled "trash". Before we get started here are a few of my favorite things to save for educational and art activities: caps, cardboard, bottles, empty tubes, bubble wrap, egg cartons, newspaper, phone books, rubber bands, popsicle sticks, toilet paper rolls, cereal boxes, and egg shells.

Egg Cartons

Plastic or cardboard, save them all! Egg Cartons are great for math, science, art, and nature activities.


Use plastic egg cartons for colored salt rainbows and acid-base reactions using vinegar and baking soda.


Use as is for collecting nature treasures, or add a nature hunt sheet for a scavenger hunt. Better yet, keep it colorful and add colored dots to each space and collect a rainbow of nature treasures.


Simply cut one column off the end of the carton and you've got yourself a DIY ten frame.

Paper Plates

Whether you use plastic or paper, keep them both! I will be totally honest here, we don’t use many paper plates, which means most of our act are done on new plates. But did you know most paper plates with a shiny top can be lightly wiped after using and preserved for activities? Plastic ones are obviously easier to clean. Save those plates!!


There are so many possibilities here! Use them to practice number matching or one to one counting. For two halves matching activities, consider using colored dots on the back side for an easy answer self checking system.


Instead of matching numbers, match upper and lower case letters.

Packing Supplies

These things can sometime be over looked, because the kids often get to them before I can use them for an activity. They love popping, stomping, and stabbing the packing supplies. We often use these supplies for fun games that involve math, literacy, and even some gross motor skills.


We love the big packing bubbles for practicing simple math problems. Solve the problem and you get to pop the bubble. For younger kids simple number recognition is great. When it comes to styrofoam, toothpicks + styrofoam were a match made for each other. Write numbers on the styrofoam and add the matching number of toothpicks.


Packing bubbles and bubble wrap are a win when it comes to literacy. You can add sight words, letters, or even a full sentence. For cleaner letters on bubble wrap, write on the backside, but don't forget to mirror the letters when writing them. Yup a little tricky writing practice for parents too!

Gross Motor

Don't skip out on this one, just because there's no photo. Lay a long strip of bubble wrap across the ground. Tape in place so it won't move. Drum roll please.... and ride your bike or scooter across the strip. Seriously this one is a huge winner!


Cardboard is one of those things we can't get enough of. We use it for homemade resources and big giant larger than life art!


Use stickers to make some homemade math resources. Add clips for matching numbers to the stickers for added fine motor strengthening.


As far as art goes, this is a huge (and I mean HUGE!) hit! Open up a box so that it's a large canvas. I like to draw shapes using India Ink in a dot bottle on the canvas prior to letting the kids loose.

Egg Shells

I know this a bit of a weird one, but seriously, SAVE YOUR EGG SHELLS! Be sure to rinse and dry shells before storing. I usually just keep ours on a plate on the counter and when the plate is full we use them.

Math & Literacy

My kids favorite activity is crack the egg. They are always blown away when I say "yes you can smash the egg". Write letters, CVC words, Numbers, or simple math problems on the shells. Solve the problem or read the word and you get to smash the egg.


Create an egg shell masterpiece. Hot glue a few egg shells to a cardboard canvas. Using glue, add glitter and sprinkles. The end result is gorgeous!


Flip the eggs over and experiment with baking soda and vinegar for some acid-base reaction fun.

Cardboard Tubes

Save the cardboard tubes from toilet paper, paper towels, tape dispensers, sticker rolls, and any other round cardboard pieces. We mostly use cardboard tubes for art, but we also have a fun literacy activity up our sleeve.

Math & Literacy

Add dot stickers with uppercase letters to the tube. Have the child match the lowercase dot sticker to the correct letter on the tube. The same setup can be used for simple math problems. Apply dot stickers with simple math problems. Have the child match the answer dot sticker to the correct problem on the tube.


Tape the tubes to the wall in various directions to create a marble run.


Cardboard tubes are great for open ended art activities. We've also made bracelets with the larger cardboard circle leftover from clear tape. Our favorite July 4th activity is making fireworks with cut up toilet paper tubes.

Recycled Art

When you have boat loads of recyclables piling up, make a giant recycled canvas. Cardboard and kraft type paper products work best for this activity. Glue recyclables to a large piece of cardboard, then paint and decorate. This activity is great for collaborative work!

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