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Eco-Friendly Fun: How to Create Fun Play Activities Through Upcycling!

Charlotte Grainger

Written by Charlotte Grainger

8 min read

The UK has a plastic problem. It’s estimated five million tonnes of plastic are used every year in this country, much of which ends up in landfills. While packaging and other plastic goods play a role, we shouldn’t overlook the impact of toys and games. 

In 2018, British consumers spent a whopping £370 million on new toys, many of which were plastic, according to a report from the BBC. Buying new things for our kids each year could have a catastrophic impact on the environment. So, how can we cut back?

Finding eco-friendly activities for our kids is one way to go. If you have small children, there are plenty of ways to keep them entertained that don’t have a negative impact on the planet. What’s more, showing your little ones how to upcycle could instil them with an understanding of sustainability that they can use in years to come. Here are seven ideas. 

7 home play ideas for toddlers and preschoolers which are planet-friendly

1. Pipe cleaner creatures

Pipe cleaners are bendy and oodles of fun. If you’re looking for an eco-friendly way to keep your kids entertained, here’s something that they are sure to love. This challenge is creative and will allow your little ones to flex their imagination. 

You will need: 

  • Colourful pipe cleaners 

What to do:

1. Lay out the pipe cleaners on a table. Set a 20-minute timer.

2. Tell your kids that they have to create a creature using the pipe cleaners. They might want to make an octopus, a kitten or even a unique creature from their imagination. 

3. You can also make a creature during that time and show them how it’s done! 

4. When the time is up, have your kids showcase their creations and tell you about them. 

2. Toilet roll tube castle

Keeping those toilet roll tubes is a smart move when it comes to fun activities for your children. Why not work with your little ones to make something truly magical? Here’s a fun eco-friendly activity for kids that you can try at home. 

You will need: 

  • 15 or more toilet roll tubes 
  • Reused card
  • Glue 
  • Paint (optional)

What to do: 

1. Put all of the equipment on the table and tell your kids it’s time to make a castle.

2. Start by glueing some upright toilet roll tubes together to make the base of the building. You can use a four-by-four design to create a square here.

3. Glue the reused card to the top of the square to make a solid base for the next step.

4. Next, add the towers to the top of the castle. Simply glue upright toilet roll tubes to the top of each corner. Let the glue dry!

5. Optionally, you can have fun painting the castle with your kids to finish the job! 

3.  Tin can wind chimes 

Fancy making some DIY wind chimes for your garden? All you need for this fun eco-friendly activity is some clean tin cans, some paint and a whole lot of imagination. Your children will love seeing something they have helped make outside the house!

What you will need: 

  • 3-4 empty and clean tin cans 
  • Paint
  • String  
  • Scissors
  • Knife 
  • Newspaper

What to do: 

1. First things first, you have to think about safety! Make sure that there are no sharp edges in the tin cans that could be dangerous. Use the knife to poke a hole in the bottom of each can. Supervise your kids at all times. 

2. Put some newspaper, paints and tin cans on a table. With your kids, paint each can so that it is bright and colourful. You might want to go with a polka dot or striped design. 

3. Leave the paint to dry. Next, thread the string through the hole that you poked and tie a knot to secure it.

4. Tie each of the tin can creations up outside so that they are close enough to hit one another. When the wind blows, listen to them chime! 

4. Sock puppets 

Don’t overlook the classics! Sock puppets are strikingly easy to make and your kids will have a blast with them. Find some old (but clean!) socks and get started. Bonus: You and your little ones can put on shows with your creations afterwards. 

What you will need: 

  • Recycled socks 
  • Recycled buttons 
  • Marker pen 
  • Glue 

What to do: 

1. Start by laying everything out on a table and explaining what to do to your kids.

2. Glue the buttons onto the socks to make eyes. (If you can’t lay your hands on recycled buttons, you can use googly eyes instead!)

3. Use the marker pen to create fun faces on the socks and give them some personality.

4. Add any extra decorations you have lying around the house. From string to tin foil, there are plenty of ways to make your creation come to life. 

5. Teddy bear car 

Got an empty cereal box and a whole load of imagination? This next eco-friendly activity for kids is sure to be a winner. You can make a DIY car for your children’s favourite stuffed toy in mere minutes. It’s super easy and loads of fun. 

What you will need: 

  • Teddy bear
  • Empty cereal box
  • Scissors 
  • Recycled card/paper
  • Glue  
  • Pen
  • Ruler

What to do: 

1. Put the cereal box on its side and cut a square into it. Use the ruler and pen to draw out the shape first and make sure that the space is big enough for the teddy bear.

2. Use recycled paper to cut out some headlights and wheels for the car.

3. Next, let your kids decorate the car using recycled paper or card. You can help them glue the pieces to the box.

4. Let the glue dry and then place the teddy in the box. Your kids will love pretending that teddy is driving around town. 

6. Paper plate pictures 

What you will need: 

  • Paper plates 
  • Paints 
  • Glue 
  • Extras (e.g. shells or pasta pieces)
  • Newspaper 

What to do:

1. Get started by covering a table in a newspaper to protect it. Next, place all fo the equipment on the table. Give each child a paper plate as their canvas.

2. Tell your kids to create a picture on the plate. You might want to try a theme such as ‘under the sea’ or ‘the great outdoors’.

3. Use extras, such as shells or pasta pieces, to bring the picture to life. You can make the creations 3D by glueing these things to the plates. (Help your children with this step!)

7. Plastic bottle planes 

Have you got some old plastic bottles lying around? If you’ve kept these items to recycle them, why not try this fun eco-friendly activity for kids. You can transform the bottles into amazing planes in mere minutes and your little ones are sure to love them. 

What you will need: 

  • Empty plastic bottles 
  • Recycled card 
  • Glue 
  • Colourful pens
  • Scissors 

What to do:

1. Start by cutting the card into shapes. You will need two wings for each plane, a large piece of card to cover the body, a slim rectangle for the propeller and a triangle for the tail.

2. Let your kids decorate the pieces of the plane using colourful pens.

3. On each bottle, wrap the large piece of card around its body and glue it in place. Glue the wings to the side of the bottle and the tail to the back.

4. Cut a hole in the propeller. Unscrew the top of the bottle and slide the propeller over the neck. Screw the bottle top back on to hold it in place. Voilà!

The takeaway! 

Ready to get started? It’s time to get creative with the things you have lying around your home and put them to use. Fortunately, there are plenty of eco-friendly activities for kids that you can try. Why not give one of these options a shot today?

Practise #earlyyears skills, while learning about the planet and sustainability with free eco-friendly focused activities, ideas and tips on our app! Download on the App Store