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Honoring Earth Day shouldn't mean a trip to the store to stock up on craft materials. Earth Day is the day we remind ourselves to focus on the eco-friendly and the sustainable, so put that shopping list down and take a trip to your recycling bin. These activities are all about reducing, reusing, and recycling—making new from something old, giving new life to something tired, and having a whole lot of fun as a family while you're doing it.
Here are 19 of our favorite environmentally friendly projects to celebrate Earth Day. All you need is glue, scissors, and a few other supplies, and you're ready to go!
1. Cereal box guitar
What you'll need: Cereal box, paper towel roll or spaghetti box, rubber bands, two crayons or two cut drinking straws
For an outside-of-the-box take on a musical instrument, up-cycle an empty cereal box. This simple tutorial will take you through the basics. You can customize the look of your guitar with paint, craft paper, photos, stickers, washi tape—you name it. Your little one can use anything that inspires them to jazz up and personalize their new guitar.
2. Tin can wind chimes
What you'll need: Tin cans of varying sizes, string, something to hang them from (wire hoop from an old lampshade, a needlepoint hoop, a wire clothes hanger), hammer and nail
Finding a crafty use for all those empty tin cans will be music to your ears. Here is a simple and colorful way to put a new spin on the thing that's probably taking up the most space in your recycle bin. If you don't have string or anything to hang the chimes from, make a mini drum kit out of the cans and hand your kids some wooden spoons to bang out some beats.
3. Homemade Mother Earth crayons
What you'll need: Old crayons, muffin tin or silicon candy molds
Give all of those broken crayons new life. Chances are a fair amount of your kiddo's crayons have seen better days. Instead of tossing those busted and broken nubs, melt them down into colorful new works of art that not only serve a purpose but look cool, too.
We love melting our old crayons into fun new shapes in silicone molds, but if you really want to celebrate Earth Day with a blue and green theme, head on over to this tutorial at Sandy Toes and Popsicles, which takes nothing more than a few carefully chosen crayon nubs and a muffin tin.
4. Rain sticks
What you'll need: Paper towel roll, aluminum foil, rice, paper, tape or rubber bands
Bring the outside in with these easy, homemade rain sticks. This kid-friendly craft makes a real rain stick that sounds so much like the real thing it will have you thinking Mother Nature came inside for a visit.
5. Bread tag village
What you'll need: Bread tags, construction paper, glue
Who knew bread tags could be so cute? This is a sweet little project that's perfect for newly developing fine motor skills and leaves kids with a whimsical and colorful work of art. Take it up a notch and come up with a story or a fairy tale about who lives in these wee houses and what they do in them.
6. Cork stamp
What you'll need: Wine corks and paint
Since most of us are drinking our wine at home these days, you may be finding your cork collection multiplying a bit more rapidly than expected. Put those corks to good use with these wine cork stamp ideas. From pigs to shamrocks to cherries to turtle shells—start with a simple stamped circle and let your child's imagination run wild. This is a cute and colorful start to any crafting day.
7. No-sew T-shirt bracelet
What you'll need: Old cloth and a bangle
Kids grow out of their clothes like crazy. Here's a great (kid-friendly) way to repurpose those old shirts and leggings and whatever else you've got. All you need to make a bold new accessory is some old fabric and an equally old bangle. This craft is so simple that you can even make your really little kids exert their own sense of fashion in the name of Earth Day.
8. Cereal box puppet theater
What you'll need: Cereal box or any other box, paint, construction paper, glue
Most kids would eat cereal for breakfast, lunch, and dinner if they could. Put those boxes you're burning through to good use with an imagination-sparking puppet theater. This perfectly portable theater lets kids take their imagination with them wherever they go and is a fun prop for impromptu performances.
9. Paper beads
What you'll need: Paper, a toothpick, skewer or the thin handle of a paintbrush, glue
Turn those old catalogs and magazines into something new. Paper beads are simple to make and can really be made of any paper you have handy—even junk mail. They are the ultimate up-cycling craft that even a kindergartner can master. Once they are made you can string them on anything—yarn, twine, or even torn pieces of fabric.
10. Milk and vinegar plastic
What you'll need: Milk, vinegar, Sharpie markers, a round cookie or biscuit cutter or a plastic cup cut up as a mold
Your little one's mind will be blown by the wonders of simple chemistry with this easy, two-ingredient project. This one will take a little bit of planning and patience, but the pay off is both surprising and sensational. Kids can make their very own plastic models of earth with little more than vinegar, milk, and some permanent markers.
11. Tissue paper summer lanterns
What you'll need: Tissue paper, a jar, Modge Podge or a 50/50 solution of water and white glue, a candle or LED light
Usher in the warmer weather with some DIY outdoor lighting that your little one can proudly create. This summer lantern tutorial is so simple and results in such a forgiving craft—mistakes are virtually non-existent and the messier you get, the prettier the result. If you don't have tissue paper, you can color a coffee filter with a marker and let the wet glue help the colors bleed to get the stained glass effect.
12. Recycled book jacket puzzle
What you'll need: An old dust jacket, a magnetic sheet or cereal box, glue
If you don't know what to do with that collection of dust jackets that keep falling off of your kids' hardcover books, or if you have a ravaged book that really can't be read anymore, make your child a nostalgic puzzle that mimics a cover or a page of their favorite story. This is a fun tutorial to make a magnetic puzzle, which, admittedly, does break our promise of not having to buy anything new for an Earth Day project—but since this will last a long time we felt like it was worth it.
If you want to stay completely green, you can repurpose either an old cereal box or cardboard box by pasting the book jacket or page onto the stiffer paper stock before cutting.
13. Earth Day sun-catchers
What you'll need: Plastic egg carton, markers, hole punch, string or yarn
There are so many projects for cardboard egg cartons, but this makes use of the plastic ones, re-purposing them for a colorful craft to harness the rays of the sun or to create wearable art. This is an exciting STEAM activity that combines color with science. Kids will love seeing the plastic form condense, curl up, and unfold into a wearable or hang-able work of art.
14. Coffee filter Earth
What you'll need: Water-based markers, coffee filters or paper towels, a spray bottle of water
The magic of water makes this earth-friendly craft so engaging to little ones. All it takes is markers, coffee filters or paper towels, and a bit of water to explore this soluble science experiment that results in a pretty craft project. Once the colors bleed and blend into each other, the Earth comes to life.
15. Spring discovery bottle
What you'll need: Plastic bottle, rice, acrylic paint, sticks, rocks, beads, anything else you'd like to hide
Take a backyard hike with your kids and make your own spring discovery bottle with all of the treasure you find. Leaves, dirt, sticks, and bugs transform into a magical bottle terrarium. This simple tutorial takes found nature treasures and an empty plastic water bottle to make for a pretty piece of art and a cool science observation piece all in one!
16. Milk carton bird feeder
What you'll need: Milk carton, sticks, glue, paint or stickers for decorating
Welcome in the songbirds of spring and let your kids see nature up close with a bird feeder made from last week's milk carton. Milk cartons make for so many fun crafts, including city towers and race cars—but this milk carton bird house is perfect for celebrating sustainability while also giving a bird's-eye view as to why we honor Earth Day to begin with. If you're more of a milk jug kind of family, there's a tutorial for that, too.
17. Backyard safari binoculars
What you'll need: Two toilet paper rolls, glue or staples, paint or construction paper, yarn or twine
What better way to investigate all the Earth has to offer than with some fresh new binoculars, made from rolls from all that toilet paper we stocked up on. This pair has a cute Earth Day vibe, but the possibilities are endless. You can go from incredibly simple to safari-themed to sophisticated and somewhat high-tech. Whatever design you go with, send the kids out in the yard or neighborhood for a nature-filled scavenger hunt where they can through their new spectacles.
18. Bubble wrap jellyfish
What you'll need: Bubble wrap, a paper plate, glue or staples, paint
Allow your craft to be a lesson in oceanographic sustainability. Don't toss that bubble wrap from all those mail deliveries. The inevitable pop and the tactile texture of bubble wrap makes it a favorite with kids. In this project, the bubble wrap mimics the texture of a jellyfish's tentacles while a paper plate becomes its body.
19. Upcycled necklace
What you'll need: Old T-shirts, clear take-out container lids, markers or paint
Transform a tired old T-shirt and a plastic takeout container into the ultimate, kid-friendly upcycle project. The T-shirts are the chain and the container transforms into cute charms for durable and wearable jewelry fit for a day at the beach.
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